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Creative Escape Glass offers unique opportunity to create masterpieces

Aug 08, 2023

When you’re the only glass fusion studio in the region, you’re going to draw in customers from a wide area. That's the case for Creative Escape Glass LLC in Springfield.

"We’ve got a customer that lives near Sedalia that comes down," Rebekah Santiago, co-owner and artist, said while taking a break from making a fused glass American flag. "I’ve got a regular that comes up from Joplin. I’ve got a few that come up from the Branson West and Table Rock Lake area."

And then there's her regular customer from Alaska. Yes, Alaska.

"She's got family in the area and she comes to visit twice a year to see her family," Santiago said. "And she always comes in and makes something when she's here, so she's a regular from Alaska."

They come from far and wide to create masterpieces in what is a relatively new art form. In glass fusion, pieces of glass are joined together and heated in a kiln, creating a bigger piece of artwork. It's a medium that can take on an unlimited number of forms, like wall art, jewelry, dishes and Christmas ornaments.

"Glass fusion just gives you the option to make things that you wouldn't normally be able to make," Santiago said. "You can lay out very intricate designs. It's similar to stained glass in that you’re cutting glass, but you’re not soldering things together. You’re layering things and letting the heat of the kiln fuse the glass together.

Mark Priebe, 49, was crushed by a vehicle on June 9, 2020, in the driver's deliberate attempt to harm him outside the Springfield Police Department.

"And speed isn't required. With glass blowing you’ve got a small window to work in. With (glass fusion) you can move at your own pace and it's definitely more accessible than other forms of glass art."

Glass fusion was a hobby before it became a business for Santiago and her husband, Rafael. They got their first taste at a studio in Durango, Colorado, an hour's drive from their home in Farmington, New Mexico.

"My husband and I both got addicted to this very quickly," Rebekah Santiago said. "We both got so completely addicted that we ended up building a studio in our backyard. We lived an hour away from where the studio was and were just spending way too much time driving back and forth. Way too much time.

"And that way we could have some more control and have more space, because we have learned that when my husband's working on a project, oh my goodness, he just takes over the whole studio."

When the Santiagos relocated to Springfield, they had to decide if they wanted to re-create their studio space in their new house.

"We were looking at different options and then we decided that we would rent a little retail space," Santiago said. "This was something so different from what we’d been doing in our real lives, work-wise. And it was just such a stress reliever, just using a side of your brain that you haven't used for years. The studio is a place for us to de-stress and we decided to share that with others."

Creative Escape Glass launched in September 2015 in a small shop on Commercial Street. Six years ago, the Santiagos moved their shop to 1700 S. Campbell Ave., Suite H, in a shopping center just north of Sunshine and Campbell, behind the Rib Crib.

"We just needed more space," Santiago said. "This is centrally located and has great parking. And last year we actually purchased our space, so we’re not going anywhere."

Santiago offers classes at Creative Escape Glass and is happy to instruct and assist customers as much as they need. She also features a "Project of the Week" that you can make. This week it's nightlights. There are more informal options, too.

"We don't require that people stick with (the ‘Project of the Week’)," she said. "There are just some people that like a little bit more structure. People have flexibility as far as what they want to make. We’ve got lots of options. Most customers come in for a single visit and then they get their project back in about a week."

Need inspiration? There's plenty to be found inside Creative Escape Glass. Santiago sells her finished pieces in the shop, which you can recreate.

"All of the pieces are labeled with a ‘Buy me’ price and a ‘Make me’ price," she said. "Customers can make whatever they want."

And they will travel for hours to do it.

"It's not a medium that is readily accessible, so having this in Springfield is really unique," Santiago said. "Normally you don't get to play with glass in a safe environment. And we’ve found that it's incredibly addictive, at least for a lot of people, because there are so many different techniques, so many different things you can do with glass. This is a place to come, make new friends and just relax and be creative."

Jeff Kessinger is the Reader Engagement Editor for the Springfield Daily Citizen, and the voice of its daily newsletter SGF A.M. He covered sports in southwest Missouri for the better part of 20 years, from young athletes to the pros. The Springfield native and Missouri State University alumnus is thrilled to be doing journalism in the Queen City, helping connect the community with important information. He and wife Jamie daily try to keep a tent on the circus that is a blended family of five kids and three cats. More by Jeff Kessinger