Instructors and Visiting ArtistsExplore the “Fire Arts” of glass & metal! Our qualified instructors will guide you through the exciting learning process of working in the fire arts. Learn to blow or cast molten glass, weld and hammer metal, form glass beads over a torch, or create a colorful expression of yourself in our fusing and mosaic studios. Select from a variety of classes or schedule a private experience for your group.
Water Street Glassworks Instructors
Eli Zilke began his glass journey at Water Street Glassworks at the age of 12 when he joined the Fired-Up! Program. It was love at first “gather” and really became more of an obsession. After a couple years in the program Eli started training as a studio technician and eventually a teaching assistant under Jerry Catania. In 2013 Eli departed Water Street Glassworks to Co-Found Hot Shop Valpo a production glass studio in Northwest Indiana. During this time HSV installed several large architectural installations and supplied over a dozen galleries across the region.
In 2018 Eli returned to Water Street to assume the position of Studio Manager/ Production Designer as well as the core glassblowing instructor. Eli is excited for the re-launch of the Fired-Up program and hopes to launch the passions of new generations of glassblower for years to come.
Tina is an artist, instructor and jewelry mentor for the Fired Up! bead studio. "I love teaching and making art, which is perfect because I am an art teacher in Dowagiac Public Schools. I have three great kids, one cool dog and have lived in and love the area my entire life." Tina offers adult classes at Water Street Glassworks including Torch Fired Enamel and Light Metals for the jewelry studio, specializing in metal finishing techniques and jewelry construction.
For as long as she can remember Gina Edwards has liked to create things. It wasn't until she discovered the joy of melting glass that she finally felt she could be an artist. "Glass is such a satisfying and unique media to work with," she says. "There is always a new technique to try, or I'll see something that sparks an idea. I've been working with glass for 18 years and it continues to inspire and challenge me."
Gina has been teaching at Water Street Glassworks for several years. She has a relaxed and enthusiastic teaching style that she hopes conveys her passion to her students. "Working with the torches and molten glass can be intimidating at first. I believe my relaxed style helps the student get past that so they can focus on the glass and experience the joy that comes with working with it."
Gina has been experimenting with mixed media art pieces - creating with re-purposed wood, metal, paper, and fiber. She believes that anything has the potential to be an art supply. "But," she says with a laugh, "it almost always comes back to glass."
Gina lives in Sodus with her husband. She has a glass art studio where she meets with people by appointment. You can find her on Facebook @ Merehawk Designs.
Jackie Baker started in enameling with a class at Water Street Glassworks with Neil Kraus. Prior to this she had made jewelry for about 15 years, and hoped to incorporate enameling in her business, Dragons Fly Beads.
Unlike other glass forms, enameling gives instantaneous results. It is forgiving and one can redo almost anything if the results are disappointing. “I learn something every time I fire my kiln.”
Jackie has taken an additional enameling class at OxBow with Veleta Vancza and learned to torch enamel from Tina Tavalocci at Water Street Glassworks.
Ekin Aytac and Josh Davids have traveled extensively through glass, first meeting at the International Glass Symposium in Novy Bor, Czech Republic and developing a working relationship during that time spent at the Glass Furnace in Istanbul, turkey.
The pair have currently settled in Southwest Michigan. Drawing inspiration from natural forms as well as unique visual properties inherent to glass, the design team develops work ranging from functional vessels to abstract and monumental sculpture.
Harnessing the unique experience of each individual, the pair works to develop techniques stemming from the Venetian, Czech, and American glass art traditions. One of the most important traditions of the American Art movement that they hope to emulate and carry on is the art of sharing their love for art, glass, and glassmaking.
A professional studio artist for over 20 years Robin focuses on creating artwork that is unique and beautiful, yet always functional.
Pulling from a graphic design background, she mixes a love for color, texture, and patterns with technically advanced kilnforming printmaking, and coldworking techniques to create one-of-a-kind pieces.
Robin has a BFA from Washington University in St. Louis with additional studies completed under many leaders in the glass industry.
She teaches both graphic design and kilnforming technique classes throughout the Midwest.
John Ryskza II began working with glass at Vincennes University, where he took Scientific and Decorative Glass Blowing as an elective. During that same time, John saw an exhibit by an artist whose work included sculptures with incorporated neon lights. John says he couldn’t stay out of the gallery and would make detours in his schedule just to catch a few more glimpses of the moody, aura-involving art. This exhibit, together with the scientific glassblowing class, had such an impact on him that he decided to study neon instead of graphic art.
John enrolled in the National Neon Institute in Benicia, CA, where the love of glass would take hold of his life. In Benicia, John immersed himself in glass. He studied neon and flameworking, started fusing glass, and frequently visited the glassblowing studios to watch and to learn. In 2003, John moved to Phoenix, AZ, to become a fulltime neon tube bender at Neon Nightscapes. He has continued his studies at the Mesa Art Center, the Sonoran Glass Art Academy, J Street Glass, and most recently in Murano, Italy. In 2007, John began teaching at J Street Glass. John now owns and runs Glass Phoenix.