Taking on a window project

Students, artist team up to create stained glass for front office

December 24, 2006|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,Special to The Sun

Usually, when artist Mark Carson visits an elementary school for one of his stained-glass workshops, the students are given free rein to create their own designs.

But at Bellows Spring Elementary School in Ellicott City last week, the students all worked together to create six themed windows, which will eventually be placed in the sunlit windows by the school's front office.

"It's much more ambitious than normal," said Carson, who does artist-in-residency programs in Howard and surrounding counties. During his workshops, students typically create stained-glass designs, which Carson then leads together to create a patchwork-quilt effect. Having each student contribute to a larger design is new, he said.

Art teacher Becky Rubock came up with the idea of having the students work together to create six themed panels for the windows. She drew the designs on paper, then created a grid over each one, giving each student a square to replicate in stained glass. The window's themes are music, art, physical education, history, science, and language arts and media.

"Each student has a piece of the puzzle," she said. Carson said the project was teaching the kids to work together. "We're delivering more people skills," he said.

Each fifth-grade class was given one window to create. The sixth window was made by a group of students who had volunteered to work on it after school.

Teacher Alison Rudo's class was assigned the music-themed window. "They're loving it," she said. "The kids are really enjoying it, and they're taking it seriously."

She said she talks to her students about how the windows will "stand the test of time" and still be in the school 10 or more years from now.

After the students were seated around long tables laden with boxes of colored glass, Carson walked in to the art room. "Good morning," he said.

"Good morning, Mr. Carson," the students said in unison.

"Today is our last day to finish up our tiles," he said.

Before they began working, Carson reminded the students to leave a quarter-inch space at the edge of their tiles so he could connect them. "Otherwise, we can't get your tiles together to create your windows."

He also told the students to look at what their neighbors were doing. The children were seated so the kids next to them were working on tiles that would line up with theirs. "Make sure your tile looks similar to what it connects with so that the whole thing blends together when we put it together," he said.

Carson visited the school once a week for three weeks. On the first visit, students in third, fourth and fifth grades had created pins out of stained glass. Two weeks ago, he worked only with the fifth-graders on the stained glass. And last week, he again worked with the fifth-graders.

Carson, who lives in Howard County and has a studio called Timeless Stained Glass Designs on Gerwig Lane in Columbia, said he will fire all the tiles in his kiln, then lead the pieces together. He hopes to return in February for an installation ceremony.

Next to the windows will be a sign with the names of the students who created them, and the year they were installed, he said.

Carson said he has been doing residencies since 2000, mostly in elementary schools. Next month, he will go to Waterloo Elementary School in Columbia to work with students on stained-glass stepping stones in a courtyard, he said.

Student Rahul Vazarkar, 10, was absorbed in creating piano keys, but his tile also had guitar strings in the corner. As he marked a piece of glass with a silver marker, he said he was enjoying the project.

"It's really fun," said Michaela Shields, 10, as she worked to create trumpet keys. She said she had never worked with glass before.

The kids weren't allowed to cut the glass; they marked it with a felt-tipped pen, then had a teacher or parent volunteer do it.

One parent, Dulce Marie Boyer, was helping even though she does not have a fifth-grader. Her son, third-grader Jacob Boyer, made a pin, and she was so enchanted with the art form that she volunteered to help the fifth-graders, she said. She even got to make a pin of her own - a turtle swimming in a pond, which she wore to class.

"It's great fun, and the kids are so talented," she said. "It's been a pleasure working with them."

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