Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Herstory of Glass

So, when I retired at 53...yeah...I'm lucky...I wanted to be sure I didn't just up and rot, especially after moving into a new community, and away from everything I was familiar with. I wanted a hobby that would be emotionally rewarding and that would occupy my time in a positive way. I had never been artistic, but I had never explored that aspect either.

Glass in various forms has always drawn me. I knew I didn't have the room or the equipment to blow glass..something I didn't want to try to learn by myself, and I didn't know much about fusing or slumping glass. For that matter I didn't know much about stained glass either.

So, like so many, I bought a few books, a few tools, a little glass, and tried to put together a little project. I was so proud. I gave it to my friend, Kim, and she smiled and said "thank you" like a true friend should. Truth is... it was awful.

After that I decided to take a class, so I signed up for a project class in Astoria. I enjoyed it very much and learned a lot, but the distance (60 miles each way) and the winter weather and road conditions made it difficult get to. So I kept doing projects with only mediocre satisfaction. I just couldn't get the pattern pieces to transfer true to the glass. The pattern shears seemed very inaccurate, but if I used regular scissors, my project grew and grew in size.

I decided to make a surprise for Ed. Many years prior, he made a stained glass mirror, that he reluctantly sold when he had a commercial glass business. He had fondly kept the pattern, which I discovered in a box. "Hey.." I thought, " I'll make this for Christmas and surprise him with it." And I'll be darned if it didn't come out ok..not good...but ok. Breaking the strips was a nightmare, and prayers were said at every snap. The solder is a mess. But Ed was very gracious, and built the cedar frame for it and hung it up.

After that, I found a pattern that was similar to the barn we were building, so I tweeked the pattern a bit and did that one. As most things, practice helps, so the barn came out better. Ed says "You didn't put on the cupola or the dormer windows." I just gave him The Look.

And again, he made a beautiful frame out of old cedar fence boards that work perfectly.

But I was still having the same problem with having the project grow, filling in badly fitting spots with solder, and the pieces just not fitting together right. I wasn't happy with how the pattern shears cut out the pattern pieces.
There are several early projects that I don't have photos of. I made that "Angry Bluebird" for my daughter Ellen. That one is pretty rough! And an angel that I made for my daughter Aimee. I also made a Chantal Pare celtic thistle circle for my sister. I've slowly learned to take photos of each piece, even if it's just to show the learning curve.

I started looking around for another place to take classes. Maybe if I learned a different way of cutting out the patterns, the projects would go together more smoothly.

I thought I would try a glass shop in Vancouver for supplies. The Glass Lady is owned by a very nice lady, Lori Alwine, who showed me a completely new way to cut pattern pieces for more accurate glass pieces. I won't go into it here except to say that it involves fasson paper and cutting out one pattern piece at a time, instead of cutting them all out at once, and uses regular scissors rather than pattern sheers. I chose this simple pattern for a class, since it had long narrow cuts as well as round ones. It has made the difference between glass being a frustrating experience to becoming a consuming joyful hobby. I'll give more detail during my next project, but if you live in the Portland/Vancouver area (it's 90 minutes for me) go check out her shop and maybe sign up for a class. They're wonderful folks.

With renewed confidence, I wanted to make our friend Dave, who is a SCUBA diver, a birthday present. And what better present for a diver than a shark? So after an internet search for the appropriate subject, I found a tiger shark that I liked and went to work. (Tiger shark, great white..what do I know?) Plus, this was the first pattern that I made myself... I was pretty stoked. See that tan glass at the bottom that makes the sand? Well if you double click on the photo you can see the detail (don't look too close.) The back of that glass is wavy, and when you cut it... that edge is like a serrated bread knife. I had bandaids everywhere. But it made perfect sand. Once again Ed stopped his other projects and made a frame for me, and we sent it to Dave.

After than I started a project for my granddaughter, Elicia. She will be moving into a house soon from an apartment, and I wanted to make her something for her room. Now Elicia is the glass had to be pink too. But I also wanted her to remember that she's never alone, even when she feels lonely, so .. here it is. The dove was taken from a beautiful work by Olimpia Perez. You can see more of her glass at And while I'm at it, I should mention, that I now know it's very bad glass manners to use someone else's pattern without purchase or permission.

We have a Dollars for Scholars Sturgeon Derby and Rods and Reels car show here each year to raise scholarship money for local kids. I've volunteered the last several years and had a really good time. Nice folks run it and nice people show up. They raffle off items and have an auction. This year I thought I'd do a stained glass piece and donate it to the car show fundraising effort. It was raffled off and did relatively well. I think next year I'll also do a fish-themed piece as well and donate it for the auction side. I was pretty happy with how this turned out. My soldering is getting better, although some days are better than others. I used wire to make the steering wheel and door handle.

Finally I had a lull. I was looking at a magazine and saw a picture of Picasso's "Portrait of Francoise". Well it was gorgeous. Ordinarily I'm not a big Picasso fan, but the drawing was just striking. Maybe it was the beauty of the young woman. Maybe because my daughters have hair just like hers. All I could think about was doing that portrait in glass. So I started tracing. I'm no artist, and I'm still a beginner in glass, but I was driven to do this project. Now it's my favorite.

We had friends come up for July 4th this year. They were married last October in Carmel on the beach under a monterey cypress tree. Well, I though, maybe I could find a picture of the beach... I'm finding that making my own patterns is very rewarding. There are so many things that I can't make patterns of, and so many talented glass artists that make beautiful patterns and share them, Chantal Pare, for example. But when I can, I enjoy making glass projects from my own patterns.

The most recent is also for a fundraiser. The River Life Interpretive Center is a very small local museum. It used to be a school, and a meeting hall. The community works hard to keep the building in shape, and the Interpretive Center hosts many art and historic displays each year. They have an annual Wine Tasting and Auction. So, I found a good photo of the Center.

Yeah, thats me. The auction is in September, and I'm hoping it does well for them. I think the next project is going to be for my brother-in-law, Gene. His birthday is in October. I've got to give it all away..I'm out of windows!


  1. Mom I am so proud of you. You are so talented. I always tell Dan that I want to be good at SOMETHING. Like really good at one or two things. Anyways I love your artwork and your seriously could be a writer...maybe your next hobby??? I will send you pictures of the angel and the mad bluebird soon!! Love you lots!!

  2. Theresa, I think your glass art is coming along really nicely and you are becoming quite a pattern maker too. Keep up the good work :)


  3. Nice work Theresa, and nice blog!

    I look forward to seeing more!