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Hands On Taos: Learning the art of fused glass

fused glass after firing
fused glass after firing
(c) Neala McCarten

Taos is one of the art epicenters in New Mexico offering a laid-back charm combined with plentiful art. That would be art to both admire and create.

Visitors can take week-long or multi-day art classes, photographic workshops, metalwork and jewelry making, or even do some serious cooking, but for those of us who just want a fun artful afternoon, there is little that can beat a fused glass workshop with Delinda VanneBrightyn of the Taos Institute for Glass Arts

Long fascinated by the color and translucence of glass, I was eager to try my hand at making a piece of glass art. Delinda offers Tapas on Glass as well as Sushi on Glass workshops. Both include instruction, materials, firings, mailing and delicious food – served, of course, on fused glass plates. The workshops last about three hours and guests can linger over the delicious drinks and food. Contact Delinda for class information and cost.

Delinda’s introduction to fusing glass was thorough and fascinating. I learned about the strict requirements of the glass and its characteristics when fired in the kiln (and what can go wrong and why). The quality of glass is crucial and the good quality glass can be costly.

There’s all kinds of ways to form patterns with all kinds of glass. There’s everything from frit (fused granulated glass) that can vary from essentially ground colored glass powder (always use a mask) to coarse pebbles. There’s strands of color from thin spaghetti to noodles, to hunks of glass that can be cut to size. And the array of colors outshines a rainbow. Want something more personal? Create patterns in fused glass, break it up, and use the pieces to create even more diversity of design.

By the time Delinda explained all the possible materials and how we could work with them I was eager to start playing. But what to create? Others had clear ideas about what they wanted to do. Mondrian-like designs, star bursts, and more. But with an artist palette of colors, forms, and textures, it proved impossible for me to limit myself. My original idea of creating a peaceful ocean scene became a chaotic ‘scape of mountains, water, sunshine. Then, bits and pieces of glass that simply looked interesting became incorporated. Frit, powder, spaghetti strands of color, pebbles, all of them ended up on my square piece of glass

It was invigorating and intimidating. And above all, incredible fun. And after our glass art was done (and awaiting its turn in the kiln for firing and then slumping to make that lovely gentle curved piece) we all sat down for tapas, wine, and conversation.

It was incredibly satisfying and when my glass plate arrived it took its place as a cherished serving piece. And a fond memento of Taos. The photo above is the finished plate.