SkyLab Glass Arts teaches the art of hard glass
By Gina Purcell
SkyLab Glass Arts, which began in a Maple Grove resident’s garage, will soon open its doors in Golden Valley.
David Schuster, former owner of a Mankato Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, grew bored of his absentee owner role and decided to take a glass blowing class at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
Art was nothing new to Schuster. Throughout high school at Armstrong High, Schuster took pottery for many of his elective credits.
He met three men in his college class who were majoring in the fine arts program with an emphasis in glass. Soon the men learned how difficult it would be to earn a living with their specific skills in soft glassblowing.
“It’s almost impossible to sell soft glass vases when people can go to Pier 1 Imports and buy one for $30,” Schuster said.
The group decided to switch their focus to hard glass.
“Hard glass is Pyrex,” he said. “It can take the shock of going from hot to cold really well.”
Schuster also believes hard glass is easier to work with than soft glass.
“When you’re using molten it wants to fall off that rod and you’re always spinning it,” he said about soft glassblowing.
Products made from hard glass are not often sold at brick and mortar businesses, but rather on Etsy.com, a global online commerce platform, or Instagram, a social media platform.
Hard glass is used to create beading for jewelry, marbles, pendants, ornaments, hummingbird feeders and more items.
For more than a year, the three artisans have used Schuster’s garage as an art studio.
“I have a three-car garage and can’t fit any of my cars in it,” he said.
In December, Schuster sold his Jimmy John’s store and used some of the proceeds to purchase studio space at 8838 Seventh Ave. in Golden Valley, the city where he grew up.
But he did not stop there.
Materials and tools needed for making products from hard glass are also difficult to come by. According to Schuster, materials are usually purchased online from North Carolina, Colorado or Oregon. Shipping the heavy glass is expensive.
In addition to providing artists with studio space, Schuster will provide a retail shop where artists can purchase these materials without paying for the expensive shipping.
There is currently enough studio space to have eight monthly renters, with the option of expanding to 10 renters. Each renter has 24-hour access to their own dedicated space, unlimited propane and oxygen and the use of an annealer. There is also large Skutt Scarab kilns, and torches and tools can be supplied if needed. Artists who rent space monthly can sell their products on skylabglassarts.com.
A large training table that seats eight people is available to the general public to use in three-hour blocks when there is not a class. Each station at the table is equipped with a torch, basic tools and oxygen and propane. Schuster asks that anyone renting a station have experience with lampworking prior to making the reservation. Stations will likely cost approximately $35 for three hours. For those with no experience, introductory classes will be available.
Schuster anticipates hosting many classes on weekends.
“I’ve had a lot of interest from local and national artists who want to do classes or teach classes,” he said.
Class prices are yet to be determined.
SkyLab Glass Arts will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
For more info, visit skylabglassarts.com.