Blowing at Bern: earning a degree in class

At Tito Gross glass blowing school at the Bern Gallery, anyone can learn the art of glass blowing.

The Bern Gallery, located at 135 Main St., has offered glass blowing lessons since 2001, but it was approved by the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation to allow qualified Vermonters to apply for grants that would pay the cost of lessons four years ago.

This grant is offered to Vermont residents that are not a full-time student of a degree-granting university, according to the Bern Gallerys website.

While the grant excludes full-time UVM students, those interested in the fundamentals of glass blowing said they still view glass blowing lessons as a worthwhile investment.

It was really interesting learning how to work with such a beautiful medium and rewarding to finish with a functional product said sophomore Peter Elgert. The Bern Gallery is one of my favorite places.

The shop has 30 minute classes in which students can learn how to make a pipe or pendant from between $60 to $100 per lesson, the website states.

There are also beginner classes for $60 apiece and intermediate classes at $100 apiece, both of which introduce the basic methods of glass blowing, the website states.

We start from scratch using a hollow for and we use basic pipe theory; what makes a pipe good and bad, said Tito Gross, the co-owner of the Bern Galley who goes by Tito professionally. The intermediate classes will go on to more difficult things like pattern work.

Tito said the school educates about 20 students a year, with the majority opting for one-time classes. While the Bern Gallery artists are content with the schools progress so far, he said he hoped to expand it and feature the work of certified students in the store.

We have plans to feature well-known artists from around the country, Tito said. We also hope to get more students involved with the store after they finish our classes.

He said there is not just one demographic of students interested. The shop has educated everyone from college students to people over 80 years old.

In an August 2008 Seven Days magazine article, Tito said Burlington was fast becoming a hub for budding glass blowers, and that many who trained at the Bern Gallery had gone on to work for the company.

And even for those who dont aspire to become professional glass blowers, glass blowing still remains a spectacle.

The Bern Gallery sponsors a Pipe Classic, the only glass-pipe-making contest in the nation, the third week of September every year, where the first-place winner receives the Delta Mag, a $4,500 glass torch sponsored by Glass Torch Technologies.

My favorite piece Ive made was a Star Wars-themed double bubbler that reacts to your touch, Tito said. It was a collaboration piece that we did in the store and it took us 250 hours to make.

For more information, visit http://135main.wix.com.