Blow in Bloomington

Make ‘gourdgeous’ glass art off campus

Looking for a new, creative hobby? Or to contribute to a cool, artistic cause? Or maybe you’re just looking for that final, colorful pumpkin to complete your glass gourd collection?

The Bloomington Creative Glass Center has got you covered.

When I first met the BCGC Director Abby Gitlitz at a local arts festival, I thought it was too good to be true. She was offering to teach me to blow glass? For free? And she was calling it “volunteering?” As any sane person would do, I signed up without giving it much thought and figured I’d never hear from her again.

Instead, I’ve been drawn into a colorful world of glass pumpkin bliss, and now I want to share all the reasons you should get involved — as if “to play with molten glass for free” wasn’t enough.

Meet awesome people

Surprise! There are fun, young people in Bloomington that aren’t other students (though some of us are)! One of my biggest problems with joining new groups is that the people are often boring or hard to talk to. I guarantee you, that is not the case here. Center Director Abby is one of those unique individuals who is truly interested in getting to know you and is passionate about her work and sharing her excitement with you — not to mention great travel stories and food. I’m not exaggerating when I say we instantly became friends. Silence is simply not an option whilst in her presence.

Who else gets involved? All sorts of people. According to Abby, participants range from bus drivers, to stay-at-home moms to students to elementary school teachers.

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Abby adds color to a pumpkin base.

Abby adds color to a pumpkin base

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Learn a unique skill in a fun, fast-paced environment

I assumed that our introduction to molten glass would be slow — it does start off at something like over 2000 degrees, after all. Again, I was wrong. Instantly the room takes off in what seems at first like an uncontrolled frenzy, but I soon realized was a purposeful dance, loosely choreographed with a fair deal of improv and an underlying rhythm that the whole group works to. This includes, of course, the actual dancing we do during spare moments.

The room is relatively quiet aside from music and the occasional “Dude, get out of the glory hole, I need to heat up my pipe!” (How cool is it that you can say that and it’s totally acceptable?)

IU student John cautiously enters his first glory hole.

IU student John cautiously enters his first glory hole.

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Here I practice an intricate glass blowing dance move

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IU student participant John holds sports safety goggles, a spoon, and a blow torch - would you be able to guess what he's doing?

IU student participant John Kearney sports safety goggles, a spoon, and a blow torch — would you be able to guess what he’s doing?

Contribute to a great cause

Abby has been blowing for years since receiving her MFA in glass. Upon moving back to her hometown of Bloomington, she noted the severe lack of glass blowing education available to local residents. She created the BCGC with a mission “to provide high quality affordable hot glass arts education to southern and central Indiana.” The one problem — it’s hard to blow glass without a glass blowing studio. To overcome this problem while continuing to educate those interested in the craft — her true passion — Abby combines learning with fundraising. In order to raise money to build a studio in Bloomington (we currently carpool to a studio in Indy), participants learn glass blowing via creation of glass pumpkins that are sold at the annual glass pumpkin patch in downtown Bloomington.

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Here’s how you can get in on this

Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that you need glass blowing in your life, get involved! Abby has a go-to shortlist: “Come help us make glass pumpkins, join our apprenticeship program, become an intern for the organization.” Of course, don’t forget to attend the glass pumpkin patch every fall.

To contact Abby Gitlitz, call 812-345-2470 or email her at [email protected] More info is also available on their website.

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