Glass Blowing in the Glass City: Firenation Studio lights up Toledo

When Matt Paskiet was young, he would go to Cedar Point with his family, like many kids from Toledo. Unlike many kids from Toledo, though, his favorite stop wasn’t the roller coasters or the water park or even the arcade— it was the glass blower’s shop in Frontier Town.

“My family was doing something else down there, making candles or (riding rides). I would always end up (at the glass blower’s), and whenever we were leaving, they knew where to find me,” Paskiet said.

That young obsession has never faded, and it has led to Paskiet making his mark on the Glass City art scene with Firenation Glass Studio and Art Gallery on Front St. in Holland. The studio turns out breathtaking glass works in a variety of styles, from artistic pieces to custom awards and memorials— often with the ashes of a loved one mixed in with the glass.

“It’s a place to find an eclectic mix of handmade items and custom work,” Paskiet said. “I have diverse offerings.”

Lighting the furnace
Paskiet first began studying glassblowing in 1993 with a course at the Toledo Museum of Art. The responsibilities of “real life” would intervene before he could follow his dreams in earnest, however.

“I had a well-paying construction job, I was making good money as a project manager, and I just decided I needed something different. So I just packed up my stuff and moved to Seattle, and started knocking on doors.”

He was hired at the Boathouse in Seattle, the studio of Dale Chihuly— one of the world’s most famous glass blowers— and studied at the Pilchuck Glass School. After years of refining his skills, Paskiet returned to Toledo in 2002, opening Firenation soon after.

“I think Firenation came because people believed in me. And their belief in me let me believe in myself. Because I think they saw in me that the potential was there,” Paskiet said.

matt
Matt Paskiet

An old-fashioned spot
Longtime Toledo residents will recognize Firenation’s location as the site of the former Springfield Hardware store. The space is divided in two, with a storefront featuring a variety of glass works out front and a full studio in back. The studio is similarly divided into the Hot Shop, where the glass is blown, and the Cold Shop, where the resulting works are buffed and polished.

“It’s like an old-school place,” Paskiet said. “You go in for customer service— people ask you how you’re doing, ask you how they can help you. We’ll gift wrap your stuff for you. It’s an old-fashioned spot where you can go and feel welcomed.”

Usually Paskiet welcomes visitors into the Hot Shop to watch the process as well as for workshops, but COVID-19 has put a hold on that. The pandemic has naturally been a challenge for an independent studio like Firenation.

“I had shut down completely— furnace off, everything, doors basically shut. Luckily, I was able to scrape through and this holiday season has been a shot in
the arm.”

An upcoming milestone
Paskiet is hoping to hold an open house in June to celebrate his 19th anniversary— a milestone that he never would have believed his little studio could reach.

“The first five years, I didn’t make a nickel,” he said. “If you had told me 20 years ago, do you think you’d be still in business, or in business at all in 19 years, I’d have been like, ‘Ha! That’d be great if I was, but I wouldn’t expect it.’”

Paskiet also works on other, more personal projects. One of his favorites is on display at Perrysburg Cancer Center. Dozens of glass birds fly in the entryway to the building, in a variety of colors representing cancer support ribbons.

“Everybody who goes through their cancer treatment, when they leave, they get a little bird to take home with them, as a memorial of them fighting cancer and coming out. So that’s awesome to be part of.”

7166 Front St., Holland, OH, 419-866-6288 | firenation.com