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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Positively FUN with Glass

by Mauverneen

Sue Regis working on her glass  
A couple of weeks ago I joined my daughters and some friends for a fun afternoon at a glass firing studio in Joliet, IL, owned by Sue Regis. Sue offers classes, demonstrations and workshops giving anyone the opportunity to create your own handcrafted piece of glass. She has given hands-on sessions not only to groups like ours, but also to families and for date nights.  I have always wanted to try my hand at stained glass or glass blowing so this sounded like a perfect opportunity to venture into some basic glass work.

Raquel, Linda, Jolene, Maureen, Rachel, Amber, Shannon, Gia, Melissa, Danielle
Assembled around the work table full of glass rods, glass pieces, and fire
We are ready to get creative!
We convened at the studio on a Sunday afternoon, and at Sue's suggestion brought snacks and wine to turn our experience into a real party. Tiny bits of colored glass were laid out for us to choose our colors and Sue gave a brief introduction to the art of flameworked glass. We each were given the option of creating a pendant or a wine stopper.

Pendant vs wine stopper - decisions, decisions
While we relaxed over wine and hors d'oeuvres Sue got the torches ready and then demonstrated how it was supposed to be done. Glass rods of varying sizes are used, heated to melting temperature, then rolled on to colored glass bits (called frit), then put back into the flame.

Rolling a very hot piece of glass onto the color
 (the ball is not orange, it is clear like the rod - it is just very, very HOT)
Heating the tube with a torch gets the tip of the glass rod hot enough to melt, forming a ball. The trick here is to keep turning the rod to keep the molten glass attached to it. If not done correctly, it will just fall off. When rolled in the frit, some of those pieces attach themselves to the hot glass and it all then melts together when put back into the flame. Sue took over to finalize each piece by fusing a second piece of glass with the ball to stretch and form a 'hanger' - a nice loop from which to hang our pendants.  With Sue's guidance we all managed to turn out a wearable piece of glass art.

The wine stoppers were a little trickier and took just a bit longer. The basic steps were the same, but the finishing was different and being thicker, took more time to cool down. Handling them too soon runs the risk of having the glass crack.
One of the special things Sue does is create beautiful glass objects using cremains. With just a small amount of cremated remains from a loved one or a beloved pet, she can create a unique piece of jewelry or other object, such as a paperweight, to become a special memorial treasure.

These are some examples of her memorial jewelry
It was not only a fun day but a learning experience too. And, best of all, we each have a truly special, hand-crafted piece of art that we can proudly say "I made it myself!" (With just a little guidance from Sue of course.)

All photos are my own, unless otherwise credited

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