In 2000 I toured the Corning Museum of Glass in NY. It was not a planned trip – we were driving from Point A to Point B dropping our children off at college and saw a sign for the museum. I convinced Dan to make a detour even though we really did not have time. IT WAS FABULOUS! They have glass walls and glass floors (you could see the people on the floor below you!) and wonderful color everywhere. We watched a glass blowing demonstration and I told Dan I wanted to move to NY so that I could take classes. He laughed. I was half serious … I instantly became obsessed with glass! At that time I was a decorative painter (self-taught) and had been working with wood for about 5 years. Dan cut the wood shapes I designed and I would paint them. Prior to working with wood I had painted ceramics for about 10 years and had never thought about creating a craft that did not involve painting.
Flash forward about 5 years … my inspiration seemed to have dried up, I couldn’t come up with any new designs. About that same time the Christmas Tree Store had opened in Scarborough and they sold junky, wooden imports that were mass produced in China. While selling my products at a craft fair a few people said to me, I can buy that at the Christmas Tree Store for $1. Well, not really, as my designs were unique and handcrafted, but yes, they could get junky wooden ornaments for $1. It was a sad time for me as I was very discouraged and decided to give up on the whole craft thing. But how could I? Making crafts had become an integral part of who I am and creating was my source of relaxation and much joy. That was in December.
With the new year came new inspiration. I saw an advertisement and decided to take a stained glass class, which was funny because I have never been a person who wanted to have stained glass sun catchers hanging in my windows … too fussy for me. But I remembered that visit to the Corning Museum of Glass and thought, perhaps I, too, could play with glass. I learned how to cut and solder glass and then my imagination took hold … more on that in another post.
Stained glass, as a raw material, is very expensive and it bothered my frugal Yankee soul that I had all these bits and pieces that were not getting used. That was costly waste! I knew that glass could be fused and decided that would be a good way to use the scrap, so decided to take a class. Unfortunately the fused glass classes did not line up with my work schedule, so I bought my first kiln to figure it out on my own. AND I DID! Well, I did after many trials and even more errors.
What did I learn very quickly? You cannot fused just any glass, it has to be stained glass that is specially formulated to go into a kiln. Traditional stained glass cannot handle the heat, so it does not work. I still have buckets of scrap from my traditional stained glass work, but I have an idea for it … some day when I have more time.
I truly believe that because I am self-taught I was not influenced by the work style of the instructor. Instead, I blazed my own trail, came up with colorful, wacky designs, and perfected a style of fusing I call “crunchy.” My designs typically have texture. Other fusers often ask me what I use for a firing schedule to achieve the crunchy look. I smile and say, sorry, it’s my signature.
So the bottom line: If you are not afraid to venture down a new path knowing that you will make errors along the way as you acquire your new skill set, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!