Rose-colored Glass, Part 2

Pittsburgh Glass Center

I did not cry.  I only teared up once on the car ride…when “Our House” by CSNY came on the iPod, because it’s what I sing Leo at bedtime and he loves it.  (Though it hurts my feelings, he likes the CSNY version better than mine.  Rotten kid.  What does HE know?)  Anyhow, it was a really nice ride to Pittsburgh – June, great weather, music, solitude, blah, blah, blah.

I wrote about the 30+ years that led up to this June ride in my last post.  In case you haven’t read it, or don’t want to, here’s the short version.

At the age of 42, I got ready to take a week-long intensive glassblowing class at the Pittsburgh Glass Center after having studied and loved glassblowing since I was 10.  The end.

I pulled up to the efficiency I rented for the week and unloaded – sorta REALLY feeling like a college student in that I realized I’d be living in a basement apartment for a week, like I did my entire sophomore year in college.  Two tiny windows, one filled up with an air conditioner and the other basically looking up at the sidewalk.  No matter, though – I was only going to sleep and shower there and very little else.

My expectations and hopes for the class were very simple.  I wanted to get better at the basics.  I wanted the process to become more intuitive for me, as in, knowing more of what step comes next all by myself.  To become more independent as a glassblower.  I was perfectly happy with the idea that I wouldn’t come home with much actual glass – that practicing fundamentals over and over again is not glamorous, nor does it yield a high volume of finished pieces.  I just wanted the practice and the experience.  And to get better.

Next morning (Monday) began the real adventure.  The class met and got to know each other for a bit.  Everyone in it seemed great.   They ranged in age from 20+ years my junior to maybe 10 years my senior.  A few full-time college art students, one high school student, one guy who manages a glass studio elsewhere, and some recreational amateurs like me.

The teachers, young guys in their 30s, Ben Cobb and Alex Stisser, had worked together for a time in Tacoma at the Museum of Glass.  Ben is still there, and Alex became a corn farmer in Idaho, or Iowa, or Ohio, or Ottowa or something.  Ben seemed like the crunchy kind of guy who might wear those weird shoes with toes, and Alex was clean-cut and looked like he voted Republican.  They both had young families, and were incredibly nice and approachable.  Then the work began.  For four days straight, this would be my schedule:

8:15 – Breakfast at vegetarian bakery place across the street from studio.

9 am – 12 pm – Watch Ben and Alex making basic and advanced glass pieces and narrating/lecturing/teaching as they do.  None of us 14 students feels intimidated by their insane skill.  Not one.  Nope.  Noooooot at all.

12 pm – 1 pm – Lunch in the conference room (was brought in by different restaurants around town.)

1 pm – 5 pm – Partner with another student (really nice college girlie) and work on our skills.  Teachers walk around helping when needed.

5 pm – 6 pm – Dinner at one of the vegetarian/vegan places within walking distance.

6 pm – 10 pm or midnight – Casual practicing with our partners – teachers still around, but less formal instruction going on.  We are free to not attend these evening sessions, but most of us do.  Sometimes in these evenings, the teachers do amazing demos of their own types of work.  Here is some of Alex‘s work from his website.

Beautiful color work and stem work.

I watched him make several of these, and still didn't understand how he made them work.

Here is some of Ben‘s work from the Traver Gallery website.

Sculptural vase with window, dropped glass feet, and color threaded throughout.

He makes these pieces with "windows" of clear glass within the color. Amazing.

None of us 14 students feels intimidated.  Not one.  Nope.  Noooooot at all.

(Yup.  Sorry.  To be continued…again…it’s just too much to fit into one blog post.)  :)

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  • http://www.kenyagjohnson.com/blog Kenya G. Johnson

    Ok, I’m enjoying the subscription. I’ll be patient. Had a good laugh at shoes with toes.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theworthingtonpost Aliza @ The Worthington Post

      Thanks, Kenya! I promise you won’t have to wait another 4 days for the next installment… :-)


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