New Middletown storefront offers blend of art, free-trade businesses

Two area residents recently collaborated to open their two businesses in the same downtown Middletown storefront.

Located at 1050 Central Ave., Haute Fusion Studio specializes in classes and workshops focused on the discipline of kiln-formed glass art and mosaics, said John Ferrando, the owner and instructor.

The studio is open to the community, and serves as a local retail resource for all things pertaining to fused glass and mosaics. Classes are available from the beginner just starting out in fusing, up to the more advanced skill level glass artist, he said.

Lauren Matus of SoulCraft said her business sells fair-trade certified, handcrafted gifts from artisans from around the world. That includes products made in the United States that are “good for people and good for the planet,” she said.

“SoulCraft wants to encourage conscientious consumerism and provides products to suit that lifestyle,” Matus said.

Ferrando said his interest in opening up his own community-based studio and teach the art of fused glass started a few years ago when he worked for the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

There, he said he helped start what is now known as InsideOut Studio.

“During my time teaching individuals with developmental disabilities varies forms of art, a grant was written to bring in an artist who specialized in glass blowing,” Ferrando said. “After weeks working side by side with the glass artist, I found my new passion and love for all things fused glass.”

Ferrando said he left the board after working their for nine years to pursue opening up my own studio “to give the community a place to come and discover their love and passion for all things fused glass.”

Since then he’s written an instructional e-book based on a popular fused glass technique.

“After selling hundreds of copies of my book to fused glass artist all around the world, studios owner and operators all over the United States have contacted me to come and teach my fused glass techniques to their local glass artists,” Ferrando said. “I have been traveling monthly as a guest artist, teaching for over a year now.”

Ferrando, who is married with five children, said his wife requested he travel less and open a local studio to help with Downtown Middletown revitalization efforts.

“I have been successfully filling classes and workshops here locally, and have artists traveling from both out of state and out of the country, that have signed up and attended my many classes and workshops,” he said.

Matus said the collaboration of Haute Fusion Studio and SoulCraft could not have come at a better time for her.

“I had been operating a small social enterprise but was ready to expand and relocate to focus solely on fair trade and eco-friendly products,” she said. “John and I shared the same mission- to empower and enrich the lives of artisans, both locally and globally.”

When the two decided to collaborate, they knew that downtown Middletown was where they needed to be.

“It’s an exciting time to be in Middletown, and our collaborative studio and retail experience would bring something new to the community,” Matus said.

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