Retired-Marine, son look to start glass blowing shop in Valpo

2014-03-30T00:00:00Z Retired-Marine, son look to start glass blowing shop in ValpoPhil Wieland, (219) 548-4352

VALPARAISO | A retired Marine and his son plan to open a glass blowing business in Valparaiso.

David Lee spent 22 years in the Marines before settling in Valparaiso and has worked in real estate for the last few years. He now works for a real estate asset management company, but he and his son Bryan got interested in glass blowing about four years ago.

Lee said his love of the art of glass blowing was inspired by Dale Chihuly, a world-renowned artist. After he and his son visited a show of Chihuly's works, they decided to take a class in glass blowing and discovered a mutual interest in the art.

"He's 21 and he loves it, but there is no place to blow glass anywhere near here," Lee said. "Most people have never seen it done or considered doing it, so my thought was to find a location in Valparaiso or Northwest Indiana to open a hot shop."

That's what they call a place where they blow glass, and the Lees plan to call their new business Hot Shop Valparaiso.

"We've already secured a few installations, and we haven't even fired up the shop yet. A lot of our work will be on custom wall art, lighting, art glass pieces, like tabletops...the full spectrum of art glass. What we will really focus on are larger pieces. You will see large bowls and art pieces made of blown glass.

"We are working with glass as an art medium," Lee said. "As an artist, you can manipulate what you are doing as a metal sculptor or with painting or granite. You can work on it for a while and leave, and it stays the way you left it. Glass continues to work against you until you can solidify it into the final piece. It's a much more challenging medium than most encounter. It always comes down to the last 20 or 30 seconds."

Unlike those other media, if a glass sculpture doesn't turn out right, you can recycle the material and use it again.

Lee and his son will be working with Eli Zilke, of Benton Harbor, who has been doing glass blowing for about 10 years. They plan to move into a former professional woodworking shop on Kinsey Street. Plans for the business will be discussed at Tuesay's meeting of the city's Site Review Committee. In the meantime, they have been getting equipment together for their venture.

"We're very excited to bring this type of art to Northwest Indiana," he said. "Our hope is, by bringing in an art studio like this, it will encourage other artists to seek out Valparaiso and the area. The area has an art deficit.

"The reason my family stayed here is because of the environment to raise kids, and we love the area. It feels like old home, and that's a great place for artists to work and ply their craft."

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