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Getting crafty at the Museum of Glass

Fusing workshop lets visitors get creative

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Brightly colored chunks of glass, frit (crushed glass), stringers, spaghetti noodles, copper foil and shimmery dicro glass. This is the buffet of creativity from which visitors to the Tacoma Museum of Glass's fusing workshop get to choose.

Participants can choose to make a tile that can be used as a coaster or decoration or two pendants that include either an attachment for jewelry or magnets for the fridge.

On a recent sunny day, I attended the fusing workshop, and with the help of two knowledgeable and friendly staff members, Jessica Hogan and Seth Brooks, I was able to make my own beautiful tile using fusing techniques.

First, I chose my background (blue glass on clear glass), then the hard part - harnessing creativity to actually come up with a design. There are many ways to decorate!

You can stamp your design with ink and sprinkle with frit to create a glittery effect; you can layer up to three pieces of glass to create a melty, colorful effect; you can be detailed with fine pieces of glass - the combinations go on and on.

I settled on a little detailing around the frame and some chunky bright reds and yellows for the centerpiece. Using special adhesive, I glued my design to the background glass.  The whole time, Hogan and Brooks were encouraging and helpful:

"Here are some safety glasses."

"Try using tweezers for the small pieces."

"If you want, I can cut that glass to size."

I followed all of their advice, and to my pleasant surprise, the final piece looked lovely.

Hogan placed the tile into a large kiln, where it fuses for 12 hours at 1,450 degrees. Once the process is complete, the museum packs and mails the tiles and pendants to its owners. 

Families and dates make up the majority of participants in the workshop, Hogan said.

As I finish up my time at the workshop, a mother/adult daughter team visiting from Minnesota settles in to get artsy.

"We just came to see the museum and then saw this class and decided we wanted to do something fun," said the mom, Kathy Vongarven.

The daughter, Ashley Tisdell, got straight to business designing her tile, which she explained was going to be a stormy sky blending into a sunny one. (Just like Tacoma, we joked).

All in all, my experience with the glass fusing workshop was that it's fun, easier than expected, family friendly and a great way to personalize gifts and make memories.

Fusing workshops are held Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 pm and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. The workshop starts on the hour and lasts 45 minutes. Cost is $38/$32 members (price does not include Museum admission). The class is suitable children age 6 and older.

For more information or reservations, call 253.284.4719.

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