Avi Zohar on Elk Creek

Avi Zohar is Elk Creek Glass’s founding artist and instructor. Born in Hawaii and raised in Alaska, Avi became fascinated with light and glass in the long dark Alaska winters.  He started commercial fishing in Alaska at the age of 15. During the long winter off-seasons, he worked as a commercial glazer (cutting and installing window glass) for the largest stained-glass supplier in Alaska.  Eventually, Avi moved south for more sun and to learn how to bevel glass in California. 

In 1990, Avi started Zohar Glassworks in Medford, Oregon. His focus was creating functional art pieces that celebrated light and the role that light plays in the Jewish faith.  He took inspiration from archeologist Samuel Kurinsky (author of The Glassmakers) who uncovered the historical roots of Jewish glass-making in Egypt and Galilee.  Avi was fascinated.  Zohar Glassworks became widely known for beautiful and unique glass mezuzahs, menorahs, and special holiday plates and wine glasses for Rosh Hashanah, Passover, and Shabbat.  His “Ner Tamid” (eternal light) lamps burn brightly in synagogues around North America and the world.  

Throughout the 1990s, Avi was one of the pioneers of working with the new Bullseye CO90 fusing glass, but he was using blown glass techniques to make cane and murine, so they could be fused into the plates, platters, music boxes, and more that he was creating.

When his second child was on the way, Avi cut down his workload, closing his glass studio.  He transitioned to a career in construction management. With his experience in commercial glazing and further education in construction, he became a full-time instructor at Rogue Community College teaching students of all ages and providing shop classes to several rural high schools in southern Oregon.

To continue making commissioned glass art, he began renting time at Red Oak Glass, where he met glass artist Louis Colosimo. He saw how Louis’s love of glass-blowing opened new worlds for Louis’ students.  The magic of blowing glass made it easier for students to apply math, chemistry, and physics concepts.  For the first time for many students, those challenging science and math subjects finally made sense in the context of their passion for glass. 

A strong community of southern Oregon glass artists grew and flourished at Red Oak Glass. Unfortunately, Louis got sick and eventually lost his battle with cancer in 2014.  It was devastating.  Avi remained closely connected with several of the glass artists from Louis’ studio.  Gradually their conversations began to revolve around the importance of not just making glass art, but in teaching this amazing craft, fostering an exciting atmosphere of learning and inspiring each other.  It was the start of a new dream and the second chapter (or maybe third) as a glass artist. 

The new vision involved all Avi had learned from teaching at Rogue Community College, what he had learned running his factory, Zohar Glassworks, and the great energy of a collaborative group of artists sharing space and working together. 

Elk Creek Glass is the next chapter for Avi.  In a beautiful location, he’s built the dream of lovely small studios for fusing and glass-blowing. This private school has small classes. Students get to work glass from their very first time in the shop.  Each course illustrates different techniques and adds to a student’s comfort and skills working glass.  Guest artists/instructors will teach more advanced students and artists. Events for students and artists will help share their knowledge and grow the community. Studio space can be rented by artists and advanced students to create their visionary glass art. 

Avi built the glass-fusing studio and glass-blowing “hot shop” at his home in Elkton Oregon.  He built most of the shop equipment himself, while…thinking “If you build it, they will come.”  Today, Avi is teaching both glass fusing and blowing courses.  He is making custom glass pieces and outlining a more advanced curriculum incorporating math, chemistry, and physics.  Eventually, Elk Creek Glass will be working with school districts providing intensive art glass workshops for high school and college credit.   

Together with his wife and business partner Heather McNeill, Elk Creek Glass is growing a new glass art community and passing along the ancient and magical art of making glass.