When the Half Day Creative scheme was announced I knew straightaway that white water rafting or paragliding off a cliff were out of the question for me – after all, there’s being out of your comfort zone and then there’s being totally paralysed with fear.
So I started to explore other options …
Anyone who’s met me will know that I’m the least practical and artistic person going. Take the time, I was drawing animals with my five year old niece – she took one look at my cat and said ‘’Mmm, I’ll show you how to do paws, Auntie Lindsey! Or the memorable moment in a school woodwork lesson when I managed to get my hands varnished to the desk! Yes, words are definitely more my thing.
Anyway, after a bit of googling, I came across a beginner’s workshop in glass fusing. Work approved my proposal, recognising immediately that this would put me well and truly out of my comfort zone. Although I think one or two colleagues thought I was going to be doing glass blowing in some fiery furnace!
And so, off I set for a morning’s workshop in Holmes Chapel, where Patricia Lee specialises in contemporary mosaic and glass art. I was looking forward to trying something new but must admit as I got closer I did begin to feel a little nervous;
- would the instructor discover how totally inept I was?
- would it be really technical?
- would I cut myself?
- would everyone laugh at my unartistic designs?
I needn’t have worried. Patricia made us all very welcome with a mug of coffee and put us at ease. The five of us were ushered into a lovely studio, with a work station for each of us equipped with the necessary tools. Behind the studio was a veritable Aladdin’s cave with all manner of different pieces of coloured glass.
Patricia began the workshop by explaining a little bit about the theory and giving some safety rules. Glass fusion is the process of using a kiln to join together pieces of glass. If you apply heat it will soften. Eventually, it will become molten and the pieces of glass will stick or fuse together, making one unbroken piece when cooled.
We also learnt about the Coefficient of Expansion or CoE.
This was moving me yet further out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t expecting to have to do maths! But the CoE just refers to the degree of expansion of the glass when it is heated, divided by the change in temperature.
Patricia taught us about the different types of glass – float, bullseye and spectrum – and explained that they all had different CoEs so couldn’t be mixed together as would not be compatible and would shatter.
We also learnt about slumping, inclusions, frit, stringers and noodles! A whole new vocabulary for me! We were taught the main techniques, such as scoring the glass with a glass cutter and breaking it along the score with pliers.
The other participants had all come prepared with specific designs they wanted to make – one lady made a set of lighthouse/beach hut coasters, one a gecko wall hanging, one a Kiwi coaster for her son getting married in New Zealand and one a candle holder among other things – as you’ll see all a bit more ambitious than me!
So what did I make? Well, at the beginning, I was completely lost for inspiration but soon got used to cutting shapes and made two little dishes. I then graduated to using coloured spectrum glass for a coaster and did a beach scene with some quirky houses. And finally, just to finish off, a little bird decoration. Patricia was great at giving guidance and suggesting things to try.
We were also kept fuelled throughout with some delicious cupcakes and brownies – the perfect aid to creativity!
The time flashed by and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s certainly a very satisfying feeling when the glass actually breaks along the lines you intended. It was great to have the opportunity to try something totally different and I was pleasantly surprised with the finished articles.
So, I’d thoroughly recommend giving glass fusing a go even if you’re as impractical as me! Maybe, next time I’ll try a full day workshop. There’s one coming up on glass clock making …now, that would put me out of my comfort zone!