PEORIA (AP) — Meiosha Zobac might be hooked — her first class with glass artist Jeremie Draper will likely not be her last.
"I plan to come back for at least the next class," said Zobac, who made a multi-colored glass paperweight in Draper's shop at Studios on Sheridan on Dec. 13.
Zobac wielded a variety of tools to manipulate the glowing-hot glass on the end of a long rod held by Draper. Zobac and three other students — all co-workers from Caterpillar Inc. who took the day off to attend the class — learned how to add layers of color to clear glass, trap air bubbles inside the orb, and smooth the piece into its final shape.
"Do you want an egg or a rounded shape?" Draper asked the next student after finishing Zobac's piece.
Draper has been teaching individual students for several years, but her recent move to a bigger space at Studios on Sheridan has allowed her to expand. The space is actually big enough to accommodate large groups, a fact Draper plans to take full advantage of — she's already started hosting glass parties.
"Glassblowing demos provide entertainment for the guests," explained Draper. "Or the birthday girl can go on stage and blow, pinch or cut the glass." In an adjoining room is seating and a banquet table to hold whatever foods and beverages the host desires.
Glass and catering are the perfect combo for Draper, the catering manager at Echo Valley Meats since 2007. Catering has been a way to make a living, but glass is Draper's passion. She's combining the two in an effort to spend more time on her passion. She recently went part-time at Echo Valley Meats.
"I thought the time is now or never. I'm not getting any younger," said the 37-year-old artist.
Draper is offering tours, demonstrations, classes, team building workshops, family outings and parties, all with the option of catering from Echo Valley Meats.
Guests learn about the art of glassblowing in a fun, social atmosphere.
The idea came to Draper early this year after she answered an advertisement seeking glassblowers to do demos on cruise ships. While at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York auditioning for the Glass at Sea program, she realized that glassblowing has serious entertainment potential.
"We did 11 to 13 shows a day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays big tour buses would come in," said Draper. "I was seeing how excited people were getting watching the shows."
She saw a niche she could fill in Peoria.
"One in 20 people I've talked to have never seen it live — most people in the Midwest have not seen it live," said Draper, who was so excited about the idea she put the Glass at Sea gig on hold and came home to look for a bigger studio and plan the new venture.
Draper, who grew up in Pekin and graduated from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, has deep roots in the area. She moved away for several years to work with glassblowers on the East Coast, but late in 2006 the lure of family and a full-time job brought her home.
"For six years I had been struggling, doing the starving artist thing," she said. Since she's been working at Echo Valley Meats, Draper has learned a lot of skills that will help in her new endeavor. She also benefited from the mentoring she received from Echo Valley Meats owner David Alwan, who helped her through the process of getting a business loan and negotiating the purchase of used equipment for her first glass shop.
Draper hosted her first party at her new studio this fall. Her clients have been people she met while selling her work at the Riverfront Market over the summer. Draper hopes to reach more people through the CIAO First Friday events where she will be doing demonstrations, giving the general public a chance to see how art glass is made.
"At this point I find satisfaction in bringing services to central Illinois," said Draper. "The interaction that people get when they're in the studio — they just get lit up. It's like Christmas. That's very exciting for me."
Source: (Peoria) Journal-Star, http://bit.ly/KfNSb2
Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com
This is an Illinois Exchange story shared by the (Peoria) Journal Star.