Glass gallery offers more for students

The art of glassblowing has fascinated humans for centuries. Local shops are keeping the art form alive and well.

Bern Gallery, a glass shop in Burlington not only offers a wide selection of handmade pipes, but also repairs, creates custom pieces and offers glassblowing classes.

The gallery is owned by Tito,  who prefers to use a single name like many others in the glassblowing world, and his wife, Mikeala Boman.

Before starting Bern Gallery, Tito said he and Boman got into the business by driving their van around the Northeast to sell their glass to various stores.

“And then we realized that we felt like we could do a better job than half of the stores that we visited, so we opened the Bern Gallery,” Tito said.

The Bern Gallery has profited from being so close to UVM, Tito said, as the shop sees many students come through its doors.

“I like [Bern Gallery] because everything is made in Vermont and that’s very different from some of the other shops downtown,” first-year Michayla De Jong said.

Tito said that the in-house glass blowers sets the gallery apart — they are one of very few shops in the world with this setup.

“I tried to get us to be a part of CATscratch but [the University] wouldn’t accept it.” Tito said. “They definitely just let us do our thing without giving us any problems.”

The shop also sees a lot of students coming in to take glass blowing lessons with the Bern Glass School, Tito said. The school is run out of the gallery.

The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation offers grants for non-degree students to take lessons with Bern Gallery, Tito said.

“It makes it hard for UVM students to get their foot in the door here, harder than it would be for non-degree students,” glassblower Takoda Madrona said.

Madrona said he learned to blow glass with the Bern Glass School when he was 16 years old and after graduating began working for the gallery and teaching lessons.

“The majority of the glass blowers we have now actually graduated [from Bern Glass School] and then we hired them after they finished,” Tito said.

Both Madrona and Tito help create the pieces in the gallery. The two have collaborated on pieces, a trend that Tito said has been growing quickly.

Madrona said that collaborations between glass blowers are a balance between both artists’ strengths.

“To stay credible, to stay fresh and to stay current you have to be collaborating with other big guys in the industry,” Tito said.

Tito said he plans to expand Bern Glass, opening shops all around the country.