David Schuster’s glass artistry hides along trails around Eagle and Pike Lakes near his Maple Grove home. Consider it sort of a scavenger hunt, says his son Jordan Maxymek. Small pendants and marbles hang from branches or are tucked between tree trunks. “It’s a fun game for us to find sneaky places to hide art, and hopefully, it’s even more fun for the people trying to find them,” Maxymek says.
Schuster’s passion for glass art shines through his business, Skylab Glass Arts, in Golden Valley. Opened in 2017, the 3,000-square-foot lampworking and glass arts facility offers rental space for up to eight artists to ply their craft and an octagonal training table used during classes. Equipped with torches (fueled by liquid oxygen and propane), kilns and raw materials, such as glass rods and tubing, the studio serves both seasoned artists and beginners.
Beginner to experienced classes—taught by resident artists Chris Eberhardt or Alex Kasick—are popular. Besides its calendar of classes and summer camps, Skylab offers community education classes in seven different districts.
“Part of the fascination with creating glass art is the constant change of state of the glass as it reacts with the flame,” says Maxymek, the studio’s content manager. “It can go from solid to liquid and back in a matter of seconds.”
Schuster met Eberhardt and Kasick while taking glassblowing classes at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in 2015. At the time, Schuster owned two Jimmy John’s sandwiches shops, but he was looking to do something creative.
After recovering from cancer, Schuster reconnected with the two men. Schuster bought a torch, a kiln, some glass and tools, and they worked in his garage for 16 months before opening the Golden Valley studio. Schuster owns the business but Eberhardt and Kasick manage the studio when he’s not there. “I wanted to help them do what they wanted to do with their life,” says Schuster, cancer-free for five years. “It turned into helping them and giving us something else to do with our time and life.”
Chris Eberhardt with Ben Vasko and Alex Kasick in the background.
With the emergence of borosilicate lampworking, the trio shifted the focus away from the practice of soft glassblowing to work on the art of hard glass.
“Lampworking is a different type of glassblowing than the soft glass where they have the big, long metal pole and the liquid glass,” Schuster says. “We were doing that at Anoka-Ramsey, but what they wanted to do was work in borosilicate. With that, you take glass, which is already in a hard form, and put it into a fixed mounted torch, and then you melt that glass and manipulate it and color it that way.”
Eight work stations line the wall for artists. Their works—everything from elaborate marbles, pendants, cups and more—are sold elsewhere, at glass galleries across the country and online.
Through the beginner class, students learn how to make a marble. If that goes well, a pendant is next on the agenda. Safety is a priority. “When the torch is 4,000 to 6,000 degrees, the glass gets hot in a hurry,” Schuster says. “With someone as young as 7, the parent is right there taking the class, too.”
From there, Skylab offers intermediate and advanced classes. In one class, participants can make a wine stopper and a drinking straw. In another, they learn to add color and depth to glass by vaporizing pure silver and 24k gold.
“We’ve had people (take classes) from as young as 7 to as old as 95,” Schuster says. “We’ve had a lot of date nights and families booking an entire class.”