Touch Of Light to Close

Touch Of Light to Close

0 2049

“IT’S BEEN A GOOD RUN,” says John, who has been producing and selling glass artworks at 23426 Woodward Ave. since 1984. “I’ve been in Ferndale through a lot of changes – the revitalization of the downtown area, the beginning of the Dream Cruise here in Ferndale, the city growing into an incredibly diverse and vibrant community. Thirty-one years ago, Ferndale was a totally different place, sleepier and not so much going on.”

John has done it all in blown glass – producing a wide variety of work from his modest storefront right on Woodward, selling from his gallery, wholesaling to galleries around the country, traveling to art fairs, developing custom work, and providing classes to the public.

“A group of Chinese high school exchange students, arranged by a customer of mine, came in and blew some bubbles,” Fitzpatrick recalls, “and I later learned that one of those students actually went back to China and pursued glass-blowing, as a result of this experience.” Some students in his classes advanced to the point where they put their own work into galleries. “I worked with a couple different high school students in my classes with making some work for their art college entrance portfolios, and yes, they got accepted,” he says. “I had student exhibitions and sales in my gallery.”

Over the years, Fitzpatrick has won numerous awards, including a Best in Show for glass at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. He has been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles. He has displayed work in many churches and institutions, including the University of Detroit chapel, St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Oak- wood Hospital. He has demonstrated glassblowing for all sorts of groups, giving even children a chance to blow a bubble. Volunteers at the Detroit Institute of Arts were among the studio visitors over the years who got demonstrations in glass processes.

“I actually ran into my Boy Scout Troop assistant scoutmaster and his wife, who I had not seen in over
30 years,” Fitzpatrick recalls. “He remembered me because my patrol were always the best cooks. The
adults always rotated through the patrols, on camping trips for their meals.”

John had a circuitous route to glass, starting his career in the family boat business (Jim Robbins Marine & Sport, also in Ferndale) at age 15 working summers for his dad. He graduated in 1974 from Aquinas College with a degree in business and economics, with the hope that he would eventually take over the family business. He became a certified outboard motor mechanic and got a private pilot’s license.

But in 1977, he told his father he was leaving the business and enrolled at the Detroit Waldorf Institute. There he began to study arts and crafts, including painting, sculpting, music, spinning, weaving and pup- petry. He also had his first class in stained glass.

The following year, he attended the Center for Creative Studies (now the College for Creative Studies) and blew glass for the first time. Soon he took off for Europe, eventually starting glass work at Bergdala Glasbruk in southern Sweden.

He spent five years in Europe learning to blow glass, primarily in Sweden and Denmark, including at the famed Orrefors Glass School. He also worked in Germany and Holland and visited glassworks throughout Eu- rope, spending time on Murano in Italy.

“I had a business on the Danish island of Bornholm, where myself, another American, a Danish woman and an English woman designed and produced glass for a season.”

After having blown glass for 37 years as a livelihood, Fitzpatrick says it’s time for a change.
“I’m grateful to all the great folks who have supported me and my art through all these years.”

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