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.
One of my favorite memories is of a group of adult students at Bank Street College of Education as we began a course in teaching art to young children. Our professor felt that the best way to teach us to teach was to have us experience an art class as young children would. It was like magic. In moments, a group of adults were transformed by our professor’s manner and approach into youthful, experimental artists who could “let ourselves go” even if it felt a little scary. When we left on that first night with our torn-paper collages, everyone shared that they wanted to go home and put theirs up on the refrigerator. I did.
Oh Beth, what a wonderful memory. Thank you so much for sharing this. We should all still be able to “potchkey” and lose ourselves to that free inner child.
What fun! And the end result, so beautiful. I’ve joined a small group of like minded friends who gather every month or so and spend the morning and afternoon working on art projects.
We share coffee, ideas, techniques and supplies. Then, we have a little lunch and get back to work. Okay, sometimes we go on a field trip for inspiration, but we always head home happy.
May I join your group? Sounds like heaven! I remember the “altered journals” evening you
once gave us. I loved that experience enormously.
You’d be a welcome addition to our play group! Next meeting, Wednesday, Feb 29th at my house. I think the start time is 10:00 a.m. Everyone brings whatever they’d like to work on. If you don’t have a project in mind, we’ll provide the ideas! Lately, I’ve been making memory garlands for friends and my girls. If that sounds interesting, let me know and I’ll tell you what to bring. Be forewarned, the group will probably take a field trip to the Paper Source store in the afternoon!
What a beautiful bowl!
Wow — where in Royal Oak did you take this class? I would love to try it. As you know, I have been spending more time with my artwork than writing, at times, and I find that both writing and art are enhanced when I alternate between the two. That’s just me, but it works.
There’s something soothing and wonderful about the visual arts and crafts. Everyone’s writing and blogging these days, and sometimes I need a break from all the “voices” talking all at once and overwhelming me in cyberspace. Color, shape, and texture are soothing and wonderful. Love your glass piece!