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From Canyon To Cove: Making 'guacamole' in glass

August 25, 2011|By Cindy Frazier
(Don Leach )

Glass is a mysterious substance. I never realized how interesting it was until I took a class in fused glass from Maggie Spencer, a Sawdust artist.

Glass, as Maggie explained to our small "Girls Night Out" class, is neither liquid nor solid. It's "amorphous," or formless.

Yet glass is one of the most common substances in our lives. If you look around, you'll see at least two to three, or more, forms of glass on your wall, on your desk, on your kitchen table.

It's not "formless" at all; it's able to take many forms.

And yet, as Maggie explained, when left to its own devices, glass tends naturally to take a quarter-inch, round shape. That's what it wants to be, and over time, glass will "melt" into a roundish shape, such as the glass on an antique piece of furniture or windows on a very old house. It will ripple and lose its hard edge as it succumbs slowly to gravity.

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Our task in the class was to take a flat piece of clear, square glass and, using the principles of glass, make a decorative "origami" bowl or sushi set (curved plate and small dipping bowl).

I've always admired the fused glass pieces at Sawdust and the other festivals, as well as those found in many galleries. They seem to have an endless possibility for shape, design and color — a vast playground for the imagination. So I was delighted to be able to take the two-hour class, which is being offered virtually year-round at Sawdust through its Studio Classes as well as other programs.

I soon realized — when faced with a stack of square, brightly colored pieces of glass an eighth of an inch thick with which to "play" — that glass is probably the most dangerous artistic medium aside from maybe a blowtorch on metal. You can't do much damage with watercolors or oil paint (unless you decide to snack on it or drink paint thinner), and clay is pretty benign, but cutting and breaking off bits of glass — especially while ruminating about design effects and being "creative" — was a bit daunting at first.

Maggie had tipped us off that we might be putting a little blood as well as sweat (but surely no tears) into our work by noting that each work station came equipped with a Band-Aid. I looked down at my table and saw small shards of glass from previous users and immediately grabbed a pair of gloves. I was glad I did.

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