I started making fused glass jewelry Fall 2008. I sat in on a two hour fusing class, as an observer. I brought home class notes and my friend, colleague and gallery mate, Deb Brewster, helped me get started. A stained glass shop was going out of business, and they had a corner with limited fusing glass that was on sale. I spent $70, and said to myself, “Let’s see where this takes me”. The high school in our district had a glass fusing kiln, which Deb let me use. After a couple months, I figured out how to fuse in the clay kiln I had in my elementary classroom.
My fellow teachers, a few students and my family became my first customers. With a few fusing books as my references, I began doing 6-8 inch pieces. I purchased molds. I experimented with painting on glass. And, I began looking for upper level classes I could afford.
With that time period being the big recession, money was super tight. Our salaries at school were frozen for four years, yet food, gas, utilities and property taxes were going up. I already had a roommate and a second job. The second job used to be so I could afford to make my art. Now, I had to make my art pay for itself. I began doing craft shows and home shows to market my wares.
During this time, I happened to discover that Penland School of Craft offered K-12 teacher scholarships. I applied with the hopes that I would fit more than one scholarship criteria and they’d take a risk on me. Well, I lucked out. In 2012, I was awarded a work-study scholarship for a 2.5 week class. My first workshop at Penland was with Beth Lipman. (bethlipman.com)
Most of the people in our 14 student class were in college or right out of college with years of glass study under their belts. The first week, our focus was on screen-printing enamels on glass and the second week, we were experimenting with our enamels in the hot shop. The hot shop is furnace glassblowing with a vat of molten glass and a pipe and traditional tools.
This was a dream come true for me. I had wanted to do this since I was 10-12 years old. I remember visiting Corning and watching the glassblowers doing demonstrations. I would say, “I want to try that!” And, of course, if you could afford it, you could take a class, back then (and you still can now, of course). I remember my dad saying, “When you make your own money… You can.” Thirty plus years later, I got the chance.
At some point during the middle of the session, Beth was giving us a “kiln talk”. We discussed firing schedules, types of kilns, mold making, free form molds, etc. I voraciously ate it up. I asked questions and had the most stimulating conversation of firing glass. Some of my classmates were kind of zoning out, as this was not their cup of tea. For me, however, it was like everyone else disappeared and this talk was just for me.
The following day, I requested a smaller kiln in the corner for my project. There was a brief discussion about needing to share kilns, and then, Beth asked what I was doing that was different from others. In sharing, Beth asked “How did you decide on this?” I explained that I had done the other techniques and I shared some of my portfolio. This conversation with Beth is my Phoenix rising. I left Penland realizing that I had so much more knowledge than I gave myself credit for. That pivotal moment gave me confidence and set me in a new direction as an artist.