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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

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In Marketplace

Soulshine owners Debra Ember and Willo Sernovitz.

In Marketplace

Soulshine's glass making furnace and "glory holes."

In Marketplace

The gallery space is warm in ambience and with heat from the glass furnace.

In Marketplace

Customers can learn how to blow their own glass ornaments.

In Marketplace

The studio is cozily tucked into Downtown Cedarburg.

Glass blowers shine in Cedarburg


Willo Sernovitz and Debra Ember make everything together. The couple, who have been together seven years, are making a new home together in Cedarburg, as well as making glass art, at the couple's Soulshine Arts Hot Glass Studio and Gallery, W61 N513 R Washington Ave.

The hot glass studio, which is located down a long driveway behind Cedarburg's Real Fitness center, has an industrial-looking space – the row of super-hot furnaces and "glory holes" (heat sources that keep the glass malleable) – right alongside its comfortable gallery and showroom space.

The couple is quite content, living what Sernovitz calls "a little dream that we spun up" in Cedarburg and keeping the ancient art of glass blowing, which originated over 2,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, alive and well at Soulshine.

Specialty lighting needs for homes and restaurants currently provide the main customer base for the couple's art. Ember says people will often bring in something already in their homes, such as a piece of tile, and ask for a glass piece to complement it.

Most of the lighting is custom made, but they do offer a variety of pre-made sconces which are made standard-sized to fit most fixtures.

Soulshine also has glass blowing "adventure" classes for people who always wanted to try glass blowing but never had the time. These introductory classes last an hour and cost $50 per person. Sernovitz recommends kids be 13-years-old to blow the glass, but says younger kids can come and help out their older siblings or parents.

There are many aspects to glass blowing that don't involve reaching into the incredibly hot furnaces. Sernovitz says they recently had a Girl Scout troop come through that did "an awesome job."

Soulshine also offers couples glass blowing classes in the evenings. Billed as an "alternative date night," the classes cost $150 per couple and result in a collaboratively produced piece of glass art. The classes include wine and cheese.

Advanced classes are available, as well as private lessons (at $65 per hour) and studio space for experienced glass blowers. All classes are by appointment.

The studio is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and the couple says people can come in anytime to watch glass being blown for free.

Sernovitz and Ember restore antiques and do custom metal work and Ember has been making jewelry for many years.

Soulshine has glass jewelry available, $25 for a standard glass pendant and $30 for dichroic glass, which is glass that contains layers of metal or oxides and provide for the appearance of different colors. Sernovitz breaks dichroic down better for the layperson, stating it is simply, "shiny stuff trapped inside the glass that does interesting things with light that passes through it."

Examples of jewelry are on Soulshine's website.

Sernovitz and Ember make glass ornaments every December holiday season that sell for $20, along with glass pumpkins around Halloween (they just sold their last pumpkin a couple weeks ago). They started offering classes for people to blow their own ornaments this December.

Ember attended Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif. Sernovitz, who is a Milwaukee native, attended the University of California-Santa Barbara, and then moved to Seattle where he started blowing glass at the renowned Chihuly glass production studio.

"I learned wonderful things from many wonderful artists there," says Sernovitz.

The couple has what they call an "open approach to art glass," in that they believe everyone should share art making skills. They have developed their skills over time through contact with other artists and they intend to keep that tradition going in their own studio.

The couple relocated from northern California last December, moving first to Milwaukee where they were blowing glass for three months at a location in Walker's Point.

Upon visiting Cedarburg the couple remarked that, "this would be the coolest town to have a glass shop in." They started renovating the Cedarburg building in April, 2011 and opened Soulshine in August.

The couple says their glass studio has been well-received and that they have really good neighbors. "People here are excited that we have beautiful art for their homes," says Sernovitz.

Sernovitz has two kids living in Portland and Ember's three children live with them in a house just down the street from the glass studio, which makes for an easy commute.

"Everyday we come in and paint our dreams," says Sernovitz.


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