LINCOLN SQUARE — John Landin puts his hands on either side of a lit propane torch, his skin just an inch or two away from the 3,000-degree flame.
Not even as hot as a household radiator, he said, but hold your finger in front of the tip of the flame and that's a different story.
Playing with fire comes with the territory for glassworkers like Landin, 39, and Elektra Musich, 25, co-owners of Everlasting Fire Studio, 5036 N. Lincoln Ave., which celebrated its one-year anniversary Saturday.
"It's a very unique art form," said Musich. "There's partly that danger element, that walk on the wild side."
The two specialize in a type of glass making known as lampwork, and no, they explain for the gazillionth time, that doesn't mean they produce light fixtures. The term, Landin clarified, dates back to ancient Egyptian times when the heat for glasswork was generated by an oil lamp, since replaced by the torch.
Lampwork is a smaller-scale version of its glass-making sister, glassblowing, but the process is more or less the same.
"You have a solid turning to a liquid and you're trying to manage it," said Landin.
Musich fell in love with glass as a child, drawn to stained glass, crystal and beads. She took a bead-making class at Lillstreet Art Center when she was 19 or 20 and kept going back for more, to the point where she graduated from student to teacher.
"I didn't stop," she said. "I was hooked."
Landin is a chemist by trade — he has a day job working for a pharmaceutical company — and stumbled into glasswork while a student at Southern Illinois University.
Those glass beakers and flasks stocked by science labs cost in the neighborhood of $70 each, he said, and "if you broke something, you fixed it."
The couple, who are a team personally as well professionally, were teaching at Frankenstone Art Center when the opportunity arose to open their own place.
Musich grew up around the corner from Everlasting Fire's storefront and thought "this section of Lincoln could use some arts-based things."
The studio is half retail shop — showcasing Landin's and Musich's work as well as that of other artists — and half workshop/teaching space/mad scientist lab.
At the moment, business is running 50 percent retail, 50 percent workshop, a ratio the couple would like to see tilt more heavily toward the latter, envisioning Everlasting Fire more as a creative place where glass makers of all levels can bounce ideas off each other and experiment with new forms and techniques.
"There's a ton of lampworkers in Chicago," Landin said. "Most of them work out of their garages and basements. We want to bring them together."
They also want to spread their passion for glass to an ever-widening circle of people.
"We'll talk to anyone about glass for as long as they'll listen," said Musich.
The studio offers a mix of one-day and four-week classes that teach basic skills students can continue to build on.
"For most people, when they come, they say 'I want to melt stuff' or 'I love glass' or 'I just wanted to see what it was.' Usually only the adventurous show up here," said Landin. "We need to raise awareness of our classes."
Though glass making requires a fair amount of skill, it's also quite forgiving, making it less intimidating for newcomers.
"That's the beauty of glass — if you mess up, you can always melt it," Landin said.
Beads and pendants are the most common products of lampwork, along with, admittedly, glass pipes. ("'Water piece' is the artsy term," said Landin.)
Musich also creates stained glass jewelry boxes and Landin has been playing around with marbles — "They're a hot item in glass" — as well as prototypes of mobiles: a glass disk attached to a stick of copper, balanced on a mini-metal sculpture.
Of late, he's been perfecting his implosion technique in which colored glass (which comes in sticks, like long, thin crayons) is melted and dripped onto the outside of a glass bubble and then, through heating and cooling, winds up on the inside having also shifted in hue.
It looks like magic but Landin insisted, "It's science."
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