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The Blade: Downtown glass studio carries on Toledo tradition

Across Huron Street from Fifth Third Field’s springtime bustle, a quiet glassblowing studio carries an American tradition into the 21st century.


“They’re just a little secret in Toledo that everyone should know about,” Julie Beckert, 60, of West Toledo, said of Gathered Glassblowing Studio at 23 N. Huron.


Set between century-old brick walls showing their patina, Gathered Glassblowing draws in customers with winking sparkling glints of sunlight caught in the glasswork’s labyrinthian layered translucence.


“They are mind-blowing good,” Susan Lackner, a frequent customer of the studio from Northwood, said to commend the duo who started the studio a little over a decade ago.

Adam Goldberg and Mike Stevens, Gathered Glassblowing’s co-owners, graduated together with bachelor of fine arts degrees from Bowling Green State University and formed the studio in 2012 with another friend, Eli Lipman, who has since pursued a career in education.


Mr. Goldberg said their venture serendipitously started with buying some used glassblowing equipment and staging some demonstrations during the Glass Art Society’s 2012 conference in Toledo. After that, they “decided just to keep it going.”


Toledo’s association with glass goes back generations to Edward Drummond Libbey's industrial impact with his glass factories.


Mr. Libbey’s facilitation of the Toledo Museum of Art left a legacy that helped spark the American Studio Glass movement in the early 1960s, when Harvey K. Littleton, a ceramicist, worked with the art museum to develop a studio methodology for glassblowing in America.


Those same practices are on display at the museum’s Glass Pavilion and are featured in the works of Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Stevens.


“Everything we make has careful consideration taken into it,” said Jake Jones, a full-time studio assistant at Gathered Glassblowing.


Glowing furnaces gave a warmth to the studio space, as the owners worked with two studio assistants to craft pieces with a mundane expertise.


“People will sometimes say that, ‘Oh, it's so great that you get to be a glassblower, and you get to do what you love.’ But at the end of the day, it is a job,” Mr. Goldberg said as Mr. Stevens descended into the studio’s basement to deal with a septic problem.


While some may choose to romanticize what they do as “Glass artisans from the Glass City,” much of what they have built over the past years has a stark business practicality to it.


“We get a lot of orders from museums, stores, or galleries across the U.S. that we supply,” Mr. Stevens said. “It's all wholesale through that aspect of it.”


Larger installations from the duo decorate parts of the Toledo Zoo, Hensville, and the Renaissance Hotel, but their success doesn’t stop them from being accessible to the public.


“I've probably done 20-plus workshops,” an excited Ms. Lackner said about Gathered Glassblowing’s hands-on approach to public education. “From the first time I absolutely loved them. They were so helpful and so friendly and kind, and they were awesome.”


With no previous glass-working experience, Ms. Lackner took a workshop on a whim five years ago and was instantly hooked. She has since become a glassblowing apologist, buying countless items from Gathered Glassblowing, and she plans to take another workshop as soon as her schedule allows.


Another frequenter of the downtown studio, Ms. Beckert described their work’s personal touch: “When they make something, you feel like they're putting a little bit of their heart into it.”


These two have spread their heart out to the community, working on community projects, sharing their time, and highlighting up-and-coming artists, said Ms. Beckert, a member of the Arts Commission’s board of trustees.


“Being in Toledo and having that history has helped our story progress a little bit more,” Mr. Stevens said, reflecting on the growth and changes throughout the years.

Even though its works are generally priced between $50 and $100, Gathered Glassblowing will hold its annual warehouse sale from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday with “extras” and seconds left over from its commissioned projects.


“When we make orders, and do orders and fulfill orders, we always make extras, just in case something happens in the kiln or something happens after the fact,” Mr. Stevens said. “We want to make sure that we don't have to go back and remake something.”

Luckily for her own productivity, Ms. Lackner doesn’t work downtown, where the studio might otherwise be a distraction.


“I’m one of those that wants to stick my nose on the window and watch them all the time.” she said.


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