Here's why we did it.

We developed the Glass Academy into the business it is today after years of trial and error.

At first we thought it was for the love of glassblowing but years into our business, we realized it was a way to connect to the community, with hot glass being the tool.

 Let me explain, blowing glass is fun.  It’s exciting, challenging, creative and beautiful, and you work with a team of craftsmen to create your projects.

 The problem many glassblowers run into is that they are seduced by the process but they don’t know how to sell what they have created. An item sold here and there doesn’t pay for the studio costs involved in manufacturing.

 We recognized this could be a problem early on in our career and so we solved it by holding on to our day jobs until we established a strong enough clientele that one of us could quit our day jobs. That was almost 10 years for Chris, and about 4 years for me.  My full time job was at the Henry Ford, working in the glass shop as a production glass blower producing early American reproduction glass to sell in the gift store.  I worked there for 8 years, perfecting my glass skills, and eventually managing the studio before I left to work full time on our glass company.

 From 1996-2002 we attended wholesale shows to sell our line of glassware. The wholesale market is like a large styled ‘art fair’ but they are designed to sell strictly to the trade, gallery owners, catalog buyers, and museum stores.  The goal is to set up a booth of your products and take wholesale orders at the show. At this point in our career, we sold wholesale to over 300 galleries across the nation.  After the show in February, we’d go back to our Detroit studio, manufacture, ship, and process each order in the quiet confines of our studio until the next year when we’d do it all over again.

 What I began to notice, was that we enjoyed talking with the other glassblowing vendors and networking among them more than we did the gallery owners.  Something about manufacturing in the confides of our studio wasn’t fulfilling our souls as we thought it would, we craved more interaction.  We weren’t connecting to our customer and we felt it.

 So we started throwing parties to get our friends to the studio. We did a few local art fairs and some in Florida so we could travel.  And the main reason we did all of this?  It got us back in front of our customers.  Directly- one to one, and it was there we could listen and develop products and services that they needed, and for us, the sense of community that we craved was restored.  We even signed up to be the glassblowers at the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly.

 It was right around this time we decided to start the Glass Academy.  Those early years 2002-2004 we worked out of our Detroit studio and began the transition to Dearborn, but that’s a story for another day, because shortly after moving in, the recession hit us.  And how do you operate a 14,000 sq. ft glass shop when no one has money to buy anything? Stay tuned for that story in an upcoming blog.


Percolla Reeds


As much as we love them, Percolla Reeds may not be the most useful items. They don’t do much more than look cool and bring people joy. They’re decorative, colorful, and unique to our Dearborn studio and our designs. Meant to adorn houseplants with an extra pop of color—and sometimes even provide physical support for growing plants—they’re always a reliable conversation starter.


I’ve used glass accents like this since the moment I was introduced to glass, at both the Henry Ford Museum and at CCS in downtown Detroit, when I was there in ‘92. Anything that hit the glass shop floor was fair game. By collecting small discarded scraps off the hot shop floor, many students in glass are inspired to create new color patterns, projects, and shapes. I took these same kinds of scraps home, keeping my favorites as the years went by.


In 1993, I attended Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, an art school in Maine. I studied under Lino Tagliapietra and in one particular class, he was making cane work for goblets using traditional Italian techniques. A cane is a long strip of glass with colored threads enclosed inside.


Lino gave us the extra scraps he didn’t need that summer and for years I enjoyed these canes in our houseplants. They were little decorative accents that I could reflect on with fond memories of learning in Maine, of good friends, good times, and experimentation in glass.


While in this particular workshop, as a beginning glassblower, I was limited to the work I could make at the time, so I focused on hollow glass “reeds” that I filled with found objects, like natural seeds and shells. The hollow reeds reappeared in my work again in 2005 as I made prototypes for lamps as seen here. (image being held in box)The lamps never evolved into finished products, but making the reeds inspired us to use them in our interior design work. The reeds grew in size and became part of installations in bars, private residences, one golf course, and a Marriott hotel in Ohio.  


In 2011, we did our big garden show at Planterra Conservatory in suburban Detroit, showcasing and highlighting the Percolla Reeds in both houseplants and in arrangements specifically designed for gorgeous color and pattern. At outdoor installations for the Troy and Ann Arbor, Michigan, garden shows, some people bought Percolla Reeds but others wanted to MAKE them.


That’s why we designed the Percolla Reed class! Born in the spring of 2013, the class has evolved and grown, incorporating new styles and colors every year. Some Glass Academy patrons make one Percolla Reed every year, while others book a full private session to create three to five reeds, all matched in shape and color, for use together in a single planter.


Because I enjoy the outdoors and the natural world so much, I’ve had a great time photographing the Reeds over the years in different environments. My favorite shots appear over and over in the plantscapes on my personal website.


If you’d like to try your hand at making a Percolla Reed, check out the class schedule and sign up! rates apply when making three to five reeds, so call the studio and talk to Sue for more details. 313-561-4527]


If you’re not in the Detroit area, consider shopping our Percolla Reeds on Etsy! We add new reeds weekly, so take a look at what’s currently available!




Percolla Reed Contest

As always, with the Inside the Oven series, we’ll be having a giveaway. This week, I’m going to give you a taste of my personal style. The winner this week will get a tabletop potted plant of my choice with a perfectly placed Percolla Reed to match it!  


Glass Academy co-founder Chris Nordin his own perspective on the evolution of the Percolla Reed. On Wednesday, March 20th, around 7pm, he’ll be doing a live Q&A on Facebook to address this very topic so be sure to watch it here:


What would you like to ask him? We’ll gather the questions you ask us via this email address and let you know who the winner is that evening! For your chance to win the potted plant and matching Percolla Reed, email your questions for Chris to this address:

Open Hearts

Our Open Hearts


At the beginning of my career in glass, I held a part-time job at Greenfield Village, the collection of historic buildings that’s part of the museum complex now known as the Henry Ford Museum. Within Greenfield Village’s 40 acres of outdoor historical park, there was a craft area that featured textiles, ceramics, a print shop, and a glass shop. At that glass shop, I was introduced to glassblowing. It was there that I honed my skills in both business and glassblowing, before my husband and I opened our own glass shop just five miles down the street Dearborn.


Visitors to Greenfield Village would linger in the hot shop and listen to our explanations of the process. For many, it was their first exposure to glassblowing. Because they didn’t know the medium, they’d stay and watch us make historical early American glassware. BORING! The demos were cool and educational but so slow—and the items we were making then were ugly, thick, and uninspiring. It was a painfully slow process to describe to our share of the park’s 1.2 million visitors per year. 


On my lunch hours, when I was alone entertaining visitors, I had time to practice and perfect my personal glassblowing skills. Reviewing notes from the previous summer’s lessons at various art camps, I would deconstruct ideas to practice on one aspect of the craft. For example, if I’d seen a demo of a goblet with a fancy stem, I’d practice only one part of the stem, learning quickly through repetition, rather than trying to complete a full item. I could focus on a specific skill set and work through details, helping my technical skill to advance in short bursts.


During one of these practice sessions, the Open Heart was born.


Making an Open Heart is a real challenge. The first step, drawing out an even thickness in a rope of hot glass, is a skill in itself. Then bending, snipping, and getting it to stick together while it’s hot is a whole different skill. Producing gentle curves, grace, and beauty with no chill marks or tool marks is yet another difficult trick to pull off. 


I love our Open Hearts. They’re an item that requires a lot of skill, yet they’re quick enough to produce that they remain affordable to all of our customers. And because I designed them, they’re truly unique to the Glass Academy.


I’ve taken the skills and techniques I learned many years ago at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, under the tutelage of Lino Tagliapietra, to the craftsmen of the Glass Academy here in Dearborn. It’s a way of passing on the traditions of Italian glassmaking, which are not always practiced in modern day. With their simple design, and a little bit of love in each one, our Open Hearts make me smile every day!

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