Instructors and Visiting Artists

Explore 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, Glassblowing Instructor

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 Tavolacci, Jewelry InstructorTina 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.


Gina Edwards, Flameworking InstructorFor 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.


Jewelry Instructor Donna Sauers

My introduction to working with hot glass was the year I was given a glassblowing workshop for Christmas at Fiasco Glass (Jerry and Kathy Catania's glass studio in Glenn MI). I didn't know it at the time, but it was also the event that would eventually lead me to a career change.

You could call it serendipity that I was introduced to an artist who taught lampworking and I found it was a way to create tiny glass gems out of my home studio. That experience led to designing jewelry and creating a line I sell through fine art shows and galleries. I recently started creating sculptures and a new body of work with welded metal, blown glass and casted glass pieces because of classes I took at WSG and the inspiration from fellow artists. I always encourage people to take a new class and try new mediums, because those experiences may impact your work in ways you never imagined.

Jackie Baker, Enameling InstructorJackie 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.


My love of all things glass began over 20 years ago after taking stained glass instruction in the Kalamazoo and Lansing areas. I continued to experiment with the medium over the years, studying the works of other accomplished mosaic artists, while learning different techniques in design and composition of glass art. I have taught mosaic instruction for several years to children and adults in Plainwell, MI, as well as the Gull Lake Partnership in Bedford, MI.  I love sharing in the excitement my students feel as they take shards of glass and create a beautiful work of art! I now reside in the St Joseph area, continuing my work in my home studio, selling at area art shows, various shops, and private commissions. I am excited to continue my exploration of glass work at Water Street. 


Heidi Martin Stained Glass Visiting Artist

As a little girl I remember a beautiful stained glass piece that hung in the kitchen window above the dinner table. My mom had purchased it at an antique store and was told it had come out of a Firestone estate in Ohio. It was that window that sparked my love for stained glass. All of the colors, textures and shapes were absolutely gorgeous in the sunlight and filled the kitchen with a kaleidoscope of colors. While attending Western Michigan University to become a teacher, I learned stained glass from a neighbor artist. Since that time, I have been creating and selling stained glass pieces at artisan fairs, and teaching beginning stained glass for the Berrien County Partnership Homeschool Network. My two passions came together when I was hired to teach children the art of stained glass.