Exploring a New Medium: Stained Glass class at the Museum of the AACM

It can be necessary to step out of your comfort zone and try something new, not just as artists, but as humans. This month, my mother and I took a stained glass workshop at the Museum of American Arts & Crafts Movement in downtown St. Pete. If you haven’t made it there yet, the architecture alone is worth a visit. 

Inside of museum, looking down from fifth floor.

The stained glass workshop was a gift for my mother and I, and an entirely new medium for us both. My mother is an oil painter, and I’m a printmaker. We were both a little nervous going in that first morning to do something we’d never done before. Having worked primarily with paper and ink, I’d never cut glass, or so much as held a soldering gun. Despite the butterflies, I found being a student and the excitement of learning something new a refreshing change of pace.

I’m usually on the opposite side of the classroom in my role at Print St. Pete, as well as in my career as a Librarian. I’ve been instructing workshops and teaching for nearly a decade, and it’s incredibly rewarding and integral to the work I do. I love sharing my knowledge and passion for print with the community, and collaborating alongside artists and writers to make their visions tangible. Seeing someone’s eyes light up upon pulling their first print never gets old.

In the Stained Glass workshop, I learned how to score and cut the glass, and then how to grind it down until it’s smooth. I was amazed to find how, once I worked through the initial fear of breaking the glass, it was easily manipulated. “You tell the glass where it breaks”, Carlos instructed us. Carlos is a gem. He’s a third-generation glass worker from Colombia who is incredibly skilled, as well as a patient, encouraging, and fun instructor. 

The following week I learned how to foil, solder, and patina the finished panel, which was inserted into a base to function as a table lamp. Foiling my glass pieces felt like wrapping precious truffles, but the soldering intimidated me at first. Carlos made it look effortless, the way he controlled the beads of hot lead. In my printmaking, I work with lead in the form of handset type, as well as lead slugs, or the pieces of lead that go between lines of type. In this class, I learned to work with lead in a different way, soldering it from a spool into little “pillows” along copper foiling to connect the pieces of cut glass. 

Overall I highly recommend the stained glass workshops at the MAACM. Not only was it a perfect way to spend time with my mother, and expand my knowledge and skills as a creative, but I took home a piece of functional art. I think everyone should give themselves more opportunities to discover things for the first time. As artists we often get tunnel vision and hyper focus in our little bubbles. We might even become complacent. But trying something we’ve never done before can improve our self-esteem, and reassure us there is always more to explore.

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