Artist teaches glass blowing in Indy

The artist took a glass-blowing class as an elective in college and found her passion in life.Lisa Pelo-McNiece, an artist from Indianapolis, majored in creative writing at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and never did a thing with her major.

Instead, she creates glass art and teaches others her craft at the Indianapolis Art Center. Pelo-McNiece's artwork is on display in an exhibit titled "Glass Flowers and More" now through March 14 at Inspired Fire Glass Studio and Gallery on St. Road 25 South in Lafayette.

Pelo-McNiece said the first steps of learning to create glass artwork are learning safety and the process of glass blowing. Next comes the creative aspect of learning form. "You have to resolve that part. You just have to figure it for yourself. Nothing will tell you how to do it like ruining numerous pieces," she said. "You'll end up pitching a lot of stuff when you try new things."

When Pelo-McNiece sets out to make a new piece of art, it is 50 percent what she plans for it to be and 50 percent what it turns out to be. "That’s the most exciting aspect of it," she said. "When you go in and try new ideas, you can feed from one experiment to another and see what comes out of it."

Pelo-McNiece said she sells most of her work at this point in her career. "All the pieces I have at my house either have something wrong with them or I'm not satisfied with them," she said. "Even my most successful pieces go out the door. I like to find a good home for them."

Sharon Owens, the owner of Inspired Fire Glass Studio and Gallery, said she had seen some of Pelo-McNiece's work in Indianapolis and thought that it was beautiful. "She's very very talented and that is why I wanted her work (at the gallery)," Owens said. "She does very unique work. Her flowers make such a strong statement. They're very creative."

Owens, who is a glass artist herself, opened Inspired Fire in August of 2002 and has more than 20 artists' work on display in addition to Pelo-McNiece's work. She has drawings, paintings and glass from artists as near as Lafayette and as far as Murano, known as the "Island of Glass," in Italy. For the opening of Pelo-McNiece's exhibit last Friday night, Owens and some other artists from her studio demonstrated glass blowing for those attending. Owens held a tube of Pyrex glass in a blue flame and stretched, pulled and prodded the gooey, orange-glowing glass until she had an ornate Christmas ornament.

Owens said Inspired Fire is one of only about 24 glass studios across the nation that teaches glass blowing and most of those places are on the coasts in cities such as Seattle and New York City. "This is the only place that teaches with these torches in Indiana outside of universities," Owens said. "I have some Purdue students taking classes right now," Owens said. "I had an engineering student who wanted to see how glass moves and experiment with it without having to commit to an entire semester. And it's a lot of fun too."

Jean-Luc Howell, junior in the School of Liberal Arts, is taking one of Owens' classes. "Glass art is an interesting medium," Howell said. "There are not many opportunities to learn about it and study it. A lot of artists kind of keep to themselves and haven't really openly taught glass blowing to the public. It's a great opportunity and it's really close, too."

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