Class in glass is a colorful challenge for pupils


November 22, 2001|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CHILDREN AT Fulton Elementary School have spent the past month learning about balance, symmetry, colors and white space.

Sounds like a typical art curriculum, except that no paints, pastels or markers were involved. Instead, these lucky pupils learned visual art concepts through a quite different medium: stained glass.

Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders worked under the tutelage of glass artisan Mark Carson, a resident of Jessup and owner of Timeless Stained Glass Studio in Columbia. He teamed up with art teacher Jeff Dombek as part of the school's Artist in Residence program, organized through the PTA's Cultural Arts Committee.

"Working with glass is something that students don't have the opportunity to be exposed to in the normal school setting," said Carson, an adjunct instructor at Howard Community College.

If you're envisioning the serene stained-glass panels of an old cathedral, you're in for a big surprise. The designs the youngsters created on glass squares are bright, vibrant and dynamic. As Carson puts it, "We're teaching them rhythm and movement on a stationary object." Through his program, dubbed "Jazz in Glass," he teaches pupils to create visual "movement" using repetitive patterns and colors.

Third- through fifth-graders made decorative pins on 1 1/2 -inch glass squares. Fourth- and fifth-graders created designs on larger glass tiles that Carson will attach -- like panels of a quilt -- in his studio, using lead. Next month, he plans to install the fourth-graders' panels on the upper third of the art room windows and the fifth-graders' panels in the school's cafeteria, permanently and completely covering existing windows.

"We're going to add some color to the school," said fifth-grader Megan Bishoff as she toiled over a sailboat-themed design on a 6-inch square.

The process is painstaking, requiring a controlled hand.

Tiny bits of pulverized glass, called frit, and delicate rods that resemble uncooked spaghetti, called stringers, must be carefully placed on a glass base using tweezers. They are secured using a small dab of glue.

"It's exciting, but it takes a lot of patience with the gluing," said Brendan Fennessy, age 10.

Larger glass shapes must be handled with utmost care, and the children were required to wear protective goggles while they worked. Carson later fired the pieces in a kiln at his studio.

A group of parent volunteers took turns assisting Carson. They were Suzanne Gordon, Sheila Bishoff, Melanie Brohawn, Sue Mullinix, Sharon Brader, Stacey Berger, Sarah Park, Cathy Painter, Wendy Tyrrell, Pam Weldy, Aimee Hermina, Sandy Postman, Vicki Baxter and Cindy Monroe.

Monroe, cultural arts chairwoman for the PTA, is impressed by how well the children responded to Carson. "It's amazing how attentive they were," she said. "They were so in awe of his work."

Carson says the feeling is mutual. "I've had a great time," he said. "The kids tried things with glass that I never would have thought would work. They opened my eyes up to new possibilities."

Kicking off the holidays

For some, today kicks off the Christmas season, and what better way to start the holidays than by taking in a performance of Handel's Messiah? The Columbia Pro Cantare chorus will perform portions of the epic oratorio Dec. 2 at Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts in Columbia. Donald Butler of Jessup will be among the vocalists.

A lecture is to begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m. Complementary refreshments from Elkridge Furnace Inn will be served during intermission.

Information or tickets: 410-465-5744 or 410-799-9321.

Kicking off a new column

Moving isn't easy -- but moving from my Tuesday east Columbia column to Friday's southern Howard County column is a relative breeze. No boxes, no moving vans, no change-of-address cards. This move means that I will now be writing about you, my neighbors in southern Howard County, where my family and I have lived for six years.

Call me at 301-725- 6424, e-mail or flag me down when you see us hiking the Savage trails with Willow, our Chesapeake Bay retriever.

Parting words

Eric Goldberg of Jessup says that last year's Thanksgiving was probably his best. That's when he marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as a handler for the new Mickey Mouse balloon.

"Until you get underneath one of those balloons, you don't realize how big they are," said Goldberg, 39, who was one of 60 people charged with keeping Mickey grounded for the trek down Fifth Avenue to Herald Square. It was bitter cold, but Goldberg worked up a sweat.

"I had to use all my might, especially in the intersections," where the wind would tug at the balloon, Goldberg said.

He said that one of the best parts was seeing the spectators' expressions. "The kids' and parents' faces just lit up," he recalled.

And the other best part? He made it back to Maryland in time for turkey dinner with his family.

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