A Brooklyn-based glass studio is working to make the art of glass making more accessible to crafty New Yorkers.
Shiny Sparkle Labs is the creation of Dorie Gutherie and Matthew Day Perez, both of whom are art educators and formally trained in the glassmaking space. They both attended Illinois State University and found themselves both in New York City years later.
“Over the pandemic, we identified that space is untapped, and it was a place where we wanted to be. We wanted to be less reliant on other public access studios,” said Perez.
The result was Shiny Sparkle Studio, which recently grew into Shiny Sparkle Labs. Located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the lab offers glass making classes for beginners so they can make a piece of glass art of their very own.
“I think it’s a diverse medium. I think it’s magical putting it in a kiln and seeing it flex or bend or melt or slide, it’s very alchemical in a way because you’re using this primordial material in a way that a lot of people don’t engage with,” said Perez. “We have a lot of glass in our life, all over the place, in cellphones, cars. But you never get the chance to manipulate it in the way that we do.”
“[Working with glass is] so challenging, you are constantly learning,” said Gutherie. “It’s humbling.”
Right now, Shiny Sparkle Labs offers Fuze & Booze classes where participants can make charcuterie boards, coasters, holiday ornaments, or whiskey glasses while enjoying snacks and drinks from local purveyors. The lab also has Weekend Workshops where students can learn other glass making skills such as creating rubber molds.
When it came to creating the classes, Perez and Gutherie wanted to make sure that glass making was not only fun, but accessible to their students.
“I think it’s making it accessible, creating a gradient of levels and layers. The Fuze & Booze class is really like a teaser course that’s meant to be very fun and very easy and I think post-pandemic, people want to get out and do things,” said Perez. “I think crafting is really big right now, so things that are accessible, engaging and fun and you get this piece of glass sent over to you afterward is pretty fun.”
“We’ve been in education for a really long time, so it just made sense to us. I think people also want the experience. For instance, there was a lady, she brought her two mid-20-year-olds, she said I don’t want birthday presents anymore, I just want experiences with my family,” said Gutheries. “So creating that experience together I think is really special, too.”
Classes are available to those 21+, particularly for the Fuze & Booze classes. After finishing your creations in class, it takes about a week for them to be available for pick up or to be shipped to your home.
For both Gutherie and Perez, seeing it all click together for those who have never thought to work with glass before is the most rewarding part.
“I think it’s really wonderful to see people come in that are intimidated or shy or just really get their hands in it and see what they create in the end because everyone is usually pretty excited by their creations when they get them back,” said Gutherie. “For me, as a teacher, I love to see them be timid but by the end of the class, they’re just like, ‘Yes, I did this!”
“And the learning curve is the opposite of steep, people get a really good grasp of it,” Perez added. “By the end of three hours, it’s amazing to watch people dig in.”
Classes first started in October and have since sold out through December. For the future of the shop, both Perez and Gutherie hope that the studio can grow to not only offer more classes, but also to grow steady roots in the community.
“Some day we would love to have a little residency program because glass takes a long time figure out, so having a lot of time for people to figure out and just use the material,” said Gutherie.
“I think this is a really great opportunity for Dorie and I to put together our ideas and feels about how pedagogically we want in the glass world and how to build meaningful relationships with community members and underrepresented partnerships, people who are trying to do something a little different and offer something a little different,” said Perez. “We’re still very much in our infancy so it seems like we’re very much this and that, but for the long term, we’d love to have scholarship programs with community partners, working with youngsters, younger kids, and we’re figuring out ways to diversify our field.”
Shiny Sparkle Labs is located at 185 Van Dyke Street in Brooklyn. For more information, visit shinysparklelabs.com.