Glass blower wants cut of renaissance

In the shadow of new luxury town houses on Cleveland's near West Side, an artist works in an unkempt, graffiti-splattered garage amid head less mannequins, shattered glass and rusted metal.

It's probably not the best environ ment to attract the neighborhood's newer residents, who are settling in upscale housing and shopping and dining at the West Side Market and new multicultural stores and pubs.

Glass blower Michael Kaplan was not about to be left behind, toiling unseen in The Glass Bubble Project, his 1920s-era garage on Bridge Ave nue. He wanted to tap into that new money.

"I'm cleaning up for people who might be intimidated by the gritty side of my art," Kaplan said.

So he hauled his finest creations of glass and steel up the street to West 25th Street to a bright gallery he shares with fellow glass blowers Terry Kavalec and Dan Rushin, Web designer Colin Toke, painter Bridget Ginley, metal sculptor Chris Topher and tattoo artist Natalie Roelle.

Kaplan and company are calling their creative-services facility Nim bis, because nimbus, the cloud, was already taken as a Web site name, he deadpans.

The shop with a name that is not a word features art that is not the norm: framed voodoo dolls, shadow boxes, lamps and chandeliers made of twisted iron and odd-shaped glass, ornate glass bowls and a chair made of plumbing, car and motorcycle parts. Richfield farmer Jim Fry sells smiling sun faces he made from rusty tractor gears.

Prices range from $10 for a small glass piece to $5,000 for a one-of-a- kind chandelier.

Kaplan is one of just a handful of artists in Northeast Ohio who teach glass blowing.

Kaplan and Topher also teach welding and spend some of their time combing through scrap yards and alleys, collecting broken glass, metal parts and objects flattened by traffic.

They call their creations "found" art.

Kaplan turned a giant wheel from a factory-size knitting loom into a display shelf. He has stockpiled squashed aluminum cans and a road- killed duck for his latest project, a collage of stuff from the street.

600450 Glass blower wants cut of renaissance
Date: 30 June 2003

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