Student Janet Fine's rendition of a stage, photographed by Sandra Frank.
An exquisite square of carnelian glass with many fused inclusions of brilliant color lived for a few days on a table beside the kiln, then exploded while it was being slumped (melted again into a shape) and now exists in jewel-like shards. The artist was stunned at first, then stoic. Then she began to think how to use the glittering remains.
This exacting toll of the kiln gods was only one of the dramatic events that punctuated a two-week intensive workshop in the Visual and Performing Arts 3-D building of Cabrillo College, which was otherwise closed for winter break. Beginning Jan. 3, 24 students, three teachers and two assistants commandeered the usually bustling welding, metals, wood and jewelry studios. Four kilns operated continuously at a low hum as students learned about the fickle process of creating artworks using glass and about designing lighting with everything from incandescent lamps to LEDs and neon. The kiln hum was constantly pierced by the buzz of wood saws and the lisp of welding torches, the grating din of grinders and the roar of a forge. Meanwhile, someone was always in the throes of quiet deliberation, cutting glass, designing templates, overcoming the obstacles that are always present when ideas exceed skill and experience.
Participants ranged from teenaged to elderly. Well-known artists worked side by side with students who had never worked in three dimensions. Two sets of fathers and daughters learned together in touching accord, students helped each other generously and kept the five staff members running breathlessly. The class consumed an imponderable amount of glass, lights, wire, steel, wood, screws and lighting parts. Students pounced on the small amounts of neon available for their use.
A one-night opening event on Friday, Jan. 14 celebrated the outcome. It was a glorious display of multicolored glass and metal wall sconces, dazzling hanging lights and sculptures using lighting and glass. Inevitably there were works that didn’t succeed—this was, after all, a workshop introducing new media to people of varied skill and experience—but such intense creative stimulus provided with such extraordinary support is a jumpstart for the spirit and a way to dust off internal cobwebs. The creative arts cut a direct neural pathway to the psyche, though learning anything new with enough support and harmonious company can cause the same awakening.
Cabrillo College’s spring session begins in February. Mountain Arts Center offers impressive programs year-round. The Art League has a catalog of classes, as does Louden Nelson. University extension classes and municipal adult education courses begin soon. All offer opportunities to stretch into the new year in a learning community.
Images from the Warm Glass/Lighting workshop can be found at KUSP.org/exhibitionist.