Art classes can show kids a touch of glass

Columbia artist's workshop teaches jewelry, mosaics, glass fusion

July 21, 2006|By SUSAN GVOZDAS | SUSAN GVOZDAS,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Some children sought advice, others worked quickly, confident of their designs and color choices.

Peihao Yu, 10, of Woodstock did not speak to his classmates, as he was too busy gluing dozens of light-brown tiles to form the base of snow-capped mountains. A bald eagle flew over them.

"Don't rush. We have plenty of time," art teacher Mark Carson said, noticing that Peihao was plowing through his assignment.

Peihao and his classmates, ages 9 to 11, were part of the two-week art glass studio class at Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City. Students learned how to make glass jewelry and add mosaic tile to everything from mirrors to flower pots.

"I'm trying to challenge them, and it's working," Carson said. "So far, they haven't let me down."

The center sought Carson as a fill-in for a regular teacher who took a summer-long vacation, said Amy Poff, deputy director of the Howard County Arts Council. Center staff had heard rave reviews of Carson's two-week residencies at area elementary schools. The Columbia artist makes and sells art from his studio -- Timeless Stained Glass Designs -- and teaches classes in stained glass for Howard Community College.

"I actually like kids more because they don't know what they can't do and they just try," Carson said.

Poff said she loves the class because it provides an opportunity the students could not get at school. On one occasion, the children were able to see glass melting in a portable kiln that Carson brought to class.

"There's this sort of `wow' quality about it," Poff said. "They are seeing that `a-ha' moment."

The center typically offers three two-week summer sessions. This year, the center added a one-week session so that Carson could teach a third class of art glass basics. On average, the center normally has between 475 and 500 children enrolled in its summer camps, Poff said.

During the first week of the July 10 session, students in the art glass studio class worked on fused-glass projects. The process entails melting or fusing different colored glass together to form multi-layers or blended swirls. On one project, students glued colored glass on top of 5-inch-by- 5-inch glass panes to create scenes. The panes were heated to 1,450 degrees in a kiln and allowed to cool slowly. The glass panes will be used to form a frieze along the front windows of the art center for its 25th anniversary.

"I think it gives them a sense that they can do something in a lasting way," Poff said.

Students also made fused-glass jewelry. They picked the glass colors. Carson melted the layers in his kiln and then added backings and hooks to create earrings, necklaces, pins and refrigerator magnets. Students had to choose one piece of jewelry to donate to a nursing home.

"So it's a really neat lesson in progress for them -- creating something you like and parting with it for someone else," Poff said.

During the second week, students worked on mosaics. On Tuesday, Carson went around the classroom answering students' questions, offering advice as students worked on their mosaic glass panels.

The children placed glass panes over designs they sketched and began to glue tiny pieces of colored tile over the lines and shapes. Students put on plastic goggles so they could use a tool to cut the tile more finely.

Jennifer Hudson methodically glued tile to form the brown-and-white head of her greyhound, Max. She finished before her classmates and sketched a family of wolves to pass the time.

The mosaic was not finished. Jennifer still had to add black grout to fill the spaces between the tiles, but that would wait until the next day. Jennifer, who paints and draws at her Ellicott City home, can't wait to get to class every day.

"I've never seen glass made into art before," she said.

Her mother, Barbara Hudson, was hoping her daughter would choose the glass studio class. The elder Hudson wants to take Carson's adult class through Howard Community College. Hudson said she has been impressed with the projects in the class. She admired the mosaic-tiled mirror and votive holder that Jennifer had made.

Carson likes to tell his students they are painting with glass.

"There's always one or two who say, `No, you can't paint with glass,'" he said. "But by the end, they find out they really can."

The next art glass studio class with Mark Carson will be held from Aug. 7 to 18. The class is for students ages 12 to 14. Information: Howard County Center for the Arts, 410-313-2787, or www.hocoarts.org.

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