It can be liberating to try something you’ve never done before. (Unless, of course, you try to learn how to waterski at the age of 53, an unmitigated disaster.)
A few weeks ago I tried my hand at glass fusing at an arts studio in nearby Royal Oak. In addition to paint-your-own-pottery, they offer classes in mosaics, beading, painting, hand-thrown pottery and something curious called wax hands. Having painted platters and pitchers in the past, I was after something completely different. An afternoon of glass fusing fit the bill. This involved layering bits of glass over a mold (a clear glass disk in this case) and then heating the whole shebang in a kiln until all the little glass pieces melt together. Hopefully I would end up with something beautiful, or at least pleasant to look at, and useful to boot. If I didn’t, that was OK, too. What I was after was losing myself in a new experience.
And lost I became. I chose my plate, gathered strips of glass in a variety of blues and greens, got a forty-second lesson on using this nifty nipper tool to cut the glass into various shapes and set to work. At first all I could manage were squares and rectangles but bit by bit I graduated into triangles, made some rounded corners and attempted a circle or two that came out more octagonal than anything. There were to be three layers of glass, so I also had the challenge of placing my pieces so their colors would show through one another once the plate was fired. Which ones would create new colors? Which ones would be visible over and under one another? It was lovely to focus intently, alone in my little space while all around me kids and their parents were involved in their own creative endeavors.
I also experienced some of that frustrating what-do-I-do next? paralysis. Way too many of us have our creative sparks extinguished early in life by callous adults. It can take years, if ever, to chance reacquaintance with our inner artist. Every piece of glass I layered onto my plate, every color I juxtaposed and envisioned melting into a new shade was a “So there!” to the adults who told me once upon a time that I was tone deaf and couldn’t draw.
After a while, the plate felt finished. There was little room to place any more pieces of glass, it was getting late. Time to clean up and head home. Two weeks later I went and got my plate. It’s pretty, useful, and a forever reminder of a fun afternoon spent playing with the artist within. Next time I just might try the mosaics.