I went to an open house at UrbanGlass—a glass-working skillshare and teaching center—completely on a lark, and it was absolutely fantastic. After touring the space, we watched people making glass beads over blowtorches, and a team of two blowing and shaping a hunk of molten glass into a vase, sliding it in and out of the “glory hole,” a furnace set to around 2000ºF, which is used to re-melt the glass as it’s worked on. It was incredible.
Housed in a historic former theatre, UrbanGlass is huge and hot, filled with kilns and pipes and furnaces and fire, with glass-blowers and glass-firers and glass-fusers in safety goggles and protective gloves all around. It was the first all-access glass center in the United States, and is now the largest, with studio space for more than 150 artists and classes for over 500 students each year.
In addition to classes and studio rentals, UrbanGlass hosts exhibitions, offers a visiting artists program, and even started the Bead Project, a scholarship program to help economically disadvantaged women learn a marketable skill.