By Katie Drews
Pat Meo pressed a sharp blade steadily down the surface of a turquoise sheet of glass. Gripping a pair of pliers at the edge of her cut, she held her breadth. Everyone else in the room put down their tools and watched in anticipation.
Breaking glass is not as easy it sounds.
During the score, people sometimes push too hard or rub the knife back and forth.
"All of those things are wrong," said Cecilia Hardacker, co-owner of Two Fish Art Glass, 7401 W. Madison St. The glass will get "confused" and instead of a clean break following the artist's pattern, the pane could crack and shatter.
Inside the art studio, 56-year-old Meo, still a newbie to the world of decorative glass, finally squeezed the pliers. Snap! A long, thin rectangle of glass popped off, the edges clean and straight.
"Now that's a successful score!" said Hardacker, who co-owns the shop with partner Tonya Hart. "It makes everyone smile when it happens. Yeeee-who!"
Hardacker, 50, first learned the craft while in her 20s as an apprentice at a small studio in Omaha, Neb., but for the past 12 years, she's been the teacher. At Two Fish, Hardacker runs classes and workshops in mosaic, stained glass and beadmaking for all skill levels. From designing to soldering, students learn the techniques to make their own glass projects from start to finish. For some, that could be a sun-catcher. For others, it could be stained glass windows for their homes.
"This is my happy place," said 50-year-old Lee Coleman, who has been a regular student for two years, driving from her home in Chicago's South Loop. "I find it very calming. It's fun breaking glass in a controlled environment."
Along with instructing, Hardacker also works on her own art. She recently completed a major seven-month project for a multi-million dollar home in Indiana, which included 20 wall sconces, 16 windows and 40 light fixtures, all custom-made. She also said Forest Park homes are "filled with the Two Fish touch."
"The thing about glass is that it comes alive when you put it in the sun," said Hardacker, a Berwyn resident. "It's just one of those gorgeous moments."
During the day, the Two Fish showroom, filled with stained glass fixtures, lights up as a testament to her words. The store is preparing for a major transformation, though. It's time to bring out the Christmas decorations.
Hundreds and hundreds of glass ornaments and gifts will take over the showroom on Oct. 23, culminating after a year of planning, designing, creating and -- dumpster diving.
"Everybody expects a lot from us now because we do such amazing decorations," Hardacker said. "We'll basically be transforming the showroom into Santa's workshop."
The holiday makeover will feature themes in all of their creations: Mary Modernist (a sleek, contemporary look with tons of silver and sparkle); Kitschmas (a retro-Christmas feel with lots of bright colors); and Flora and Fauna (natural elements using earth tones).
Once the elaborate display is up at the end of the month, Two Fish will host a big party, which has drawn 5,000 people in years past, according to Hardacker.
"This is our time to be real busy," she said. "It's really something."