Heat of the Moment

Issue Date: April 2010
Emily Garvey

Inside Mike Kaplan and Chris McGillicutty’s Ohio City studio, molten glass is transformed into one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

The studio is housed in a renovated garage. The kiln is fashioned from an old oil drum, and the heat it pumps out not only melts glass, but it’s also used to whip up the occasional grilled cheese sandwich.

The Glass Bubble Project’s Ohio City home isn’t your typical art studio. But glass blowing isn’t your typical art. No other medium finds artists facing down 2,000-degree temperatures to create one-of-a-kind bowls, vases and light fixtures.

“We did a beautiful chandelier made out of bottles and glasses for a restaurant in Cleveland Heights,” says co-owner Mike Kaplan. His Glass Bubble Project has also created pieces for chef Dante Boccuzzi’s new restaurant in Tremont, the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood’s Stone Mad Pub and Ritz-Carlton hotels in both Cleveland and Detroit.

Kaplan, 40, first fell in love with glass blowing while taking classes at Kent State University. The idea for an Ohio City studio came along in 1998, and Kaplan asked his friend, Chris McGillicutty, to be his business partner.

Kaplan never planned to open his own business, let alone in then-desolate Ohio City. “There was nothing on the street,” he recalls. “It was a barren wasteland.”

Despite all the reasons not to, he took a chance on the idea. More than 10 years later, Ohio City has built up around him. Kaplan says most visitors now stop by on their way to other places in the neighborhood.

“People come here to socialize, to hang out, to talk, especially on Saturdays for [glass blowing] demonstrations,” he says.

Demonstration day or not, the Glass Bubble Project is a working studio, so you’ll find one of its four artists creating pieces to stock the attached gallery and store any time it’s open.

And if watching and shopping isn’t enough, the studio offers glass blowing classes for anyone brave enough to face the heat head on. After swinging, shaping and coloring a molten blob, you’ll never look at a drinking glass the same way again.
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2421 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
(216) 696-7043