A sixth-floor aerie in the California Building was the setting for a Valentine’s day-themed glassmaking class on Wednesday, Feb. 14. Malcom Potek’s Potekglass Studios offers “Try-It” introductory classes. This one was called “Hearts and Wine,” and its nine students included couples who were there as gift recipients.
Potek, who has occupied the corner space at 2205 California St. for 14 years, holds an average of four classes a week, and guesses that thousands have attended since he began them. His studio produces commercial art glass for customers and holds residencies with schools and other groups.
Students sat around a long table in the middle of the large studio. The table was covered with metal sheets, and each setting had a box of tools and an oxygen-propane bench burner. After some safety instructions, Potek had the group light their burners using the acronym “POOP” (propane then oxygen on, oxygen then propane off) and practice getting what he called a neutral flame.
The evening’s task was to get each student to learn to make a colored glass teardrop-shaped pendant. Over the next two hours glass rods were heated and melted into “gatherings,” pressed into “marias,” and colored and shaped into spheres and then teardrops.
A recent Potekglass Studios residency took place at Jenny Lind Elementary School, where fourth-grade students and others worked on a glass project linking birds and a fountain as reminders of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s soaring “I Have a Dream” speech, juxtaposed with photos of “whites only” drinking fountains in the South.
Potek and his wife Kara van Wyk, an artist and public-school teacher, plan to buy the empty building on the Northeast corner of Monroe and Lowry later this summer with Josh Blanc and Layl McDill of Clay Squared to Infinity. They envision larger studio and classroom space, as well as gallery and shop areas, and some retail rental.
Below: The class from above, Erica heats a color rod, teardrop pendant with a loop, and Malcom Potek helps with adjusting the flame.