Former Ravenswood Xylophone Factory Now Turning Out Glass Art

Leslie Speicher and a large kiln

Leslie Speicher and a large kiln

Leslie Speicher loves glass. And she’s partial to glass fusing and casting. It’s a technique that lets the artist “glue” pieces of glass together using a high-temperature torch. The result can be a simple bowl or a large-scale architectural element.

Novice glass fusers and experts alike now have a comfortable, inviting space to practice their craft at Speicher’s Chicago Glass Collective (chicagoglasscollective.com). She opened the facility in a the historic Deagen Building (1770 West Berteau Street), a former xylophone factory—in South East Ravenswood.

Leslie Speicher - owner of Chicago Glass Collective

Leslie Speicher – owner of Chicago Glass Collective

“There was a huge need and a void for a place to fuse glass, especially since Chicago is starting to build up a following of glass artists,” Speicher said.

The Chicago Glass Collective opened in November, 2012, and nearly every table was being used the snowy night I visited. There’s enough space for eight people to work on projects at once, with all the equipment needed, and raw materials available for purchase.

Collective members can create artistic elements by melting and forming glass rods into shapes with a high-temperature torch. Casting equipment is also available, including kilns ranging in size from an 8″x8″ test kiln to a large 18″x40″ oval kiln. Artists can rent the kilns and the fusing equipment, or join as a collective member to save on equipment use.

Speicher also offers workshops and classes for new glass artists. They range from introductory beadmaking to a full four-week glass fusing course.

“My goal is to give people enough information so they can develop their own style,” she said. “We have students from all walks of life — a chemist, a social worker, a scientist.”

Instructing new artists is a role Speicher is well suited for, since she spent much of her career as an art teacher. The opportunity to open Chicago Glass Collective came when her full-time job as a high school art instructor ended last year.

Opening a studio was always something she wanted to try.

“I figured, it was now or never!”

Building - home of Chicago Glass Collective

Building – home of Chicago Glass Collective

Bill Motchan

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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