Wearing thick gloves and sunglasses for protection, glass artist Peter Patterson dips a stainless steel tube into a furnace that holds glass heated to more than 2,000 degrees.
The glass is gathered then blown or rolled on a metal table. With the skill of a surgeon, hot glass is shaped with a variety of tools from jacks to shears. The surface of the glass is layered with bubbles and color which makes it come alive.
Patterson, who works from a studio in Mundelein, has been refining his glassmaking skills for the last 35 years.
"The thing I like about glass so much is that it is very fluid," Patterson said. "When it's hot, it moves and you can shape it the way you want. It's very lustrous."
Patterson said people are drawn more to glass artwork because of its aesthetic properties.
"If you put a piece of glass next to a ceramic everyone kind of goes toward the glass because it's so transparent and shiny," he said.
An avid scuba diver, Patterson gets much of his inspiration from the sea.
"I've done different series over the years. I always go back to the aquatic or nature images because I think glass lends itself that way. It looks like water," Patterson said. "I scuba dive and have a lot of fish tanks at my home, so those are a lot of inspirations for my work."
One of Patterson's trademarks is putting phosphors in glass, which makes his pieces glow in the dark. The chemical properties of the phosphors give the glass a quality of luminescence.
While he continues to create new works of art in the studio, Patterson has recently turned a lot of his attention to teaching.
"People come in here and they're always awed by what I'm doing," he said. "When they actually do it (make something from glass) and you see the light bulb go off in their head and expression on their face ... to me that's very satisfying."
Patterson's love for sharing his art is just as satisfying as creating his own pieces.
"I'm giving a little piece of myself back to the community," Patterson said.