Handmade by you

Take a break from cookouts, home projects and museum visits this weekend, and spend a day behind the torch.


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Artist Ryan Hoffman constantly spins a heated glass rod as a small goblet takes shape /Photo courtesy of Volta Glass Studio

Flames explode from a metal pipe, encasing a glass rod.  You blink, and suddenly it is a small goblet resting on the counter – how did he do that?  At Volta Glass Studio, you can do more than watch artists melt and mold glass pieces; now, you can be the artist.

A little history.  Ryan Hoffman, owner and main artist at Volta Glass, began glassmaking 14 years ago in Evansville, and opened his studio in the center of Bloomington in March 2010.

Since then, he’s dreamed of expanding the store.  To Hoffman, expansion is also about sharing his craft, so he has been teaching lessons to anyone who wants to learn.

“I’ve always had an interest and a curiosity in glass,” says Hoffman.  “And I want to eventually do more teaching than torch work.”

Do It Yourself

Hoffman and his apprentices teach small groups how to work with glass for $40 per working hour.  In other words, learning about the tools and practice is on-the-house, while time spent in the studio is by-the-hour.

Hoffman believes motivated students can pick up skills within a few hours.  “Ideally it would be a weekend event where a person could sit down, get comfortable and try to bring something to life,” he says.

Students begin with simple pieces like marbles and small jewelry before “graduating” to wine glasses and ornaments in upper-level classes.

Leave it to the professionals

If the image in your head is too complicated for a weekend trip, Hoffman and his apprentices can capture and transform your vision into a tangible creation right before your eyes.

“Because we do everything locally, nothing is lost in translation,” he says.  “Customers get exactly what they imagined – or as close as it can get.”

What you need to know

  • Glass blowing is a mix of ceramics and welding according to Hoffman, so you have to work with gravity, not against it.
  • The time per piece varies, but apprentice Ben Belgrad says most objects range from 30 minutes to an hour.
  • For custom works, plan your visit a few weeks in advance.
  • The hidden studio is at the intersection of 6th and Madison, just past Bloomingfoods (west side) grocery (405 W. 6th St. Suite D-3, Bloomington).

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