Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Adventures in teaching:making handmade etched dichroic glass pendants

My latest class at Maple Grove Cemetery was my most exciting yet! I had my students design glass pendants using Armour Etch Cream.

I was a bit nervous about actually hosting this class because the etching cream is extremely potent. After all, it's made to dissolve the outer coating on dichroic glass. You can get injured if it comes in contact with your skin or you breathe it in, so I had my students "suit up" with protective gloves, surgical masks and goggles.

This time, the class was so full, we occupied every seat in the conference room. Several attendees came from neighboring towns, which was really nice. Maple Grove is quickly gaining a reputation for its arts and cultural programs.

I did a demo and showed the students how to apply the etching cream. Because this stuff acts immediately, I like to lay down a very light layer to map out my design. After that, I gently dab a couple of coats onto the lines. The trick is to apply a thick coat of cream, but to not goop it onto the glass. I use thin brushes so I can keep the lines as fine as possible.

One woman hadn't realized exactly WHAT we'd be doing and was nervous about using the cream. Still, she gave it a shot. She was reluctant to add too much and her designs came out too light, but she had a great sense of humor about it and joked that hers were the "ugly pieces." I disagree! She need practice, but well, that's what the class is for -- and her pieces really weren't bad.

A couple of other students caught on right away and came up with amazing designs. I'm so proud of them!

Unfortunately, I screwed up in a big way. One of the most important things to keep in mind when fusing glass is that you need to give it time to anneal and harden. If you bake, you know that the cake needs to cool before you add icing or else the icing will melt over the top. Cooling glass too quickly leads to it breaking.

I'd warned the students ahead of time that I might have to fire some pieces at home, but I still got a lot of, "Is my piece done? Is it cool?" I really should've stood my ground and said, "No. It takes about a half hour." However, I wanted to please everyone and rushed the process. I stuck a few pieces under cold water to speed up the cooling ... and they all snapped in half. I'm so angry with myself.

Meantime, I'd put the hot lid down on a towel... and it burned a hole right through the cloth. Have you ever smelled burnt terrycloth? YUCK! A clump of black goop was left behind. It was so disgusting.

Fortunately, the students were understanding. The "Ugly Piece" woman burst into giggles. The others simply shrugged and glued their pieces back together. They were really nice about it.

The hosts, Helen and Carl, also forgave me for ruining their towel. "It's from the dollar store," Helen noted. Whew! I totally blame myself for these mistakes. As a teacher, it's up to me to stay in control and concentrate, and to keep everyone safe. I can't get flustered, even when the session is hectic. I'm still learning myself.

Happily, everyone had a great time. Several people told me how much fun they'd had and asked when I'll be having my next class. Since etching went so well, I'd like to try it again with stencils. This way, my students can create more complex designs.

Most people chuckle when I tell them I teach at a cemetery, but I'm so grateful to Helen and Carl for giving me this opportunity. I'm so proud to be a part of Maple Grove's programs.

Check out the rest of my work at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

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