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The art of glass

Posted on November 13, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Photo by Richard Amery

Loretta Golby, left, and Kathy Schwarz are members of the Lethbridge Society of Glass Artisans, whose creativity with glass knows no bounds. Members use their talents to create everything from jewellery to multicoloured sinks.

There is more to working with glass than making stained-glass windows. The 25 members of the Lethbridge Society of Glass Artisans (LSGA), formerly known as the Lethbridge Society of Stained Glass Artisans, are exploring all facets of glass, creating art ranging from stained-glass windows, earrings, Christmas tree ornaments and even larger items like multicoloured sinks.

“Glass work is not just stained glass, it’s an art form,” summarized society member Kathy Schwarz.

The local artisans showed off their wares at their annual Christmas Sale of Pottery and Glass Art at the Westminster Community Hall, Nov. 8 and 9.

New members Schwarz and Loretta Golby both began working with stained glass, but soon discovered a cornucopia of other glass-related skills and techniques.

“The glasswork I do is a lot of fun. I get to meet a lot of interesting people who know it wasn’t just about making stained-glass windows,” Schwarz said.

“I was glad I found this group because I get to talk to other people about glass, to people whose eyes don’t glaze over,” she added.

Even making stained-glass windows is a challenge as glass has to be cut precisely and the moulding has to be set just right.

“Stained glass is really very technical. It is a lot like working with puzzle pieces. With stained glass, you always know what you are going to get, but with fusing, it is always a surprise,” Schwarz said.

She noted fusing involves layering several pieces of multicoloured glass and putting them into a kiln. In addition to different colours, the glass also has different textures, which results in different effects after it is removed from the kiln.

They will often use a mould to shape it into their desired forms. Schwarz was heavily involved with the glass-working community in Saskatoon and actively sought out this group when she moved to Lethbridge a year ago.

Upon moving to Lethbridge from Saskatoon and Edmonton respectively, both women were excited to find a group of like-minded artists.

Golby got into glasswork through a friend.

“I run an IT company in Edmonton and wanted to do something that was creative and non-computer-related,” Goby said.

She started off working in stained-glass because she wanted a hobby that would give her instant results.

“I like works that combine a variety of techniques,” added Schwarz, who also started out making stained glass as well, though quickly embraced fusing because she enjoyed being surprised with the result. She noted there are several techniques glassworkers use including stained glass (windows, panels, sun-catchers, lamps, etc.); fused glass (plates, bowls, vases, sinks, jewelry, etc.); etched glass (windows and wall art) and lampworked glass (beads and sculptures created using a torch).

“There are also more difficult techniques like blown glass,” she continued.

Golby was pretty enthused about discovering a new use for recycled bottles.

“You can use a recycled bottle and make useful items like plates. I always like to make more functional items,” Golby said, adding she also enjoys creating multicoloured mosaics.

“I’m a creative person, so I love seeing the results,” Golby said.

“It really was a way to do something besides computer stuff,” she continued.

While members can create a simple piece of stained glass in an evening session, more complicated pieces like one of Golby’s sinks take somewhat longer.

“It takes about a week. A lot of that is waiting for the kiln,” she said.

“A lot of people like making beads and earrings on a torch,” Schwarz added. She is teaching glassworking at Casa, though the LSGA meets on the fourth Saturday of every month at the group’s headquarters at 3622 14 Ave. N., where they have equipment available to members including a kiln, grinders, soldering irons and other tools.

Most of the members have studios in their homes where they work on their own projects, though they will meet monthly to socialize and share new ideas.

“There are three parts to the meeting.

[We begin with the business side of things such as the Christmas sale; the second part is an educational part, where we try to provide someone who can show us a new technique and the third part is show-and-tell where people bring in their works and talk about how they created it,” Schwarz outlined.

The $45 membership fee includes access to the society’s specialty glass tools that are expensive for the average hobbyist to own; an outlet to display and sell your glasswork at various exhibits and sales; educational workshops and other activities including glass swaps, fusing classes and potluck lunches.

More information about the group is available at http://www.LSGA.ca.

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