I’ll admit it: I’ve never cracked open a Harry Potter book, but I’m definitely a huge fan of the old-school, rabbit-and-hat variety of magic. So when our writer Ken Schneck invited me to test out the new glass wand-making class at Larchmere Fire Works with him, I was in faster than you could say, “Presto!” (After all, we can all use a little more magic in our lives.)
One of my favorite things about the Larchmere neighborhood is that many of the homes on Larchmere Blvd. double as businesses, and Larchmere Fire Works is no different. Owners Cassidy Anderson and Tina Haldiman stay, work, and play in the charming 1910-built home that also houses their glassblowing and blacksmithing workshop. The pair have been in the space since 2016.
We want to be Tina and Cassidy when we grow up.“Art isn’t a big moneymaker, but because we live and work here, we can afford to have it,” shares Haldiman.
And what a cool space it is—from their groovy loft atop the storefront showcasing various glass-blown items like vases and tiny cats to the backyard workshop that houses a 2,200-degree glassblowing furnace, “glory hole,” kiln, and other equipment (much of which Anderson built from scratch). The space also houses Anderson’s blacksmithing equipment, which he inherited from his late mentor and master blacksmith Art Wolfe.
“We acquired a lot of [Wolfe’s] equipment from his widow, so we’re kind of carrying on what he started,” says Haldiman. Adds Anderson, “People ask, ‘What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever made?’ and I reply, ‘You’re standing in it.’ This whole shop was just an empty cube of nothingness before.”
Tina shows Ken how to gather the glass from the crucible.Now it’s home to Larchmere Fire Works, where Haldiman and Anderson make their works of art and teach others how to do the same. And, on this day, Ken and I were there to learn how to make...a magic wand! The process started by gathering molten glass out of the crucible, and then adding color via various bowls of powder. (For my wand, I mixed and matched yellow, red, and orange, while Ken went for an amber-colored serpent-inspired look.)
The rest of the process involved a back-and-forth circuit of reheating the molten glass and rotating it in the “glory hole” (which sparked a lively debate about the appropriateness of the term), and using various tricks and techniques to shape the glass into a wand. One such technique involved swinging the scalding-hot glass mass from side to side pendulum-style, which looked intimidating but was actually super-easy. (Right, Ken?)
While we worked on our wands, I got to learn a bit about Haldiman’s and Anderson’s love story. They first met in 2012 at the Glass Bubble Project, owned by Anderson’s father Chris Topher. Anderson had moved to Cleveland from Rhode Island that year to forge a relationship with his father, while Haldiman worked at Glass Bubble Project to support her five children.
“I had worked at the Glass Bubble Project for years before Cassidy ever met his dad,” shares Haldiman. “We worked together at the ‘Bubble’ before we even started dating.”
Now they’re loving life as a committed couple pursuing their art and running a business together in Larchmere. Anderson handles “the technical stuff,” while Haldiman manages the store, class lineup, and marketing and social media efforts. “Our biggest strength is the fact that we’re so passionate about this,” says Haldiman. “We can’t help but get excited when people want to learn and try it.”
Our wands cool down to form the finished product.And now that I’ve gotten a chance to try my hand at glassblowing—with a shiny new magic wand to show for it—I’m pretty excited about it myself.
If you're interested in making your own glass wand, you're in luck: Larchmere Fire Works is hosting two upcoming events for doing just that. On Sunday, April 28, the studio will be hosting a Harry Potter Glassblowing Party from 12 to 6 p.m with a candy buffet from All City Candy, photo booth, themed cake pops, goodie bags, and of course, a wand of your very own to take home. The cost is $60, and registration is required. (Buy tickets here.) On Saturday, May 4, a glass wand-making class will be held from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. with four different time slots. The cost is $40, and registration is required. (Buy tickets here.)