Most people have no idea what glass fusing is and often think it’s the same thing as glass blowing. Fusing is a very different process.
Glass fusing is a form of melting glass in a kiln. A special type of glass is made for fusing. It comes in sheets of different sizes, colors and price ranges. The sheets of glass can be as big as 3 feet by 4 feet or as small as a few inches. The glass also comes in different forms – crushed small bits, powdered glass, glass flakes, glass rods, and much more, all of which can be added to a glass creation to form different types of fused glass art.
Then the creative process starts. What should I make? Dishes, bowls, platters, plant stakes, pieces to be used in jewelry, sun catchers, coasters or a stand alone art piece? Sometimes the design in the glass itself leads to a creative idea. Other times I get ideas from things I see in nature or around me. Then I determine what the shape and size of my project will be and the colors of glass I will use. I cut the base glass, grind the edges to take off jagged or sharp parts, and cut more glass pieces to make my “picture,” which is layered on top of the base glass.
When my design is done, it goes into a kiln made specifically for fusing glass. This step takes about 12 hours to heat up, melt everything together and then cool. It comes out flat. This flat creation is set on a ceramic mold and goes into the kiln a second time. Now it will “slump” or melt into the the shape of the mold and come out as a bowl, plate, tray or whatever mold was used.
Sometimes things go wrong in the kiln. The glass can turn a color not intended, form big bubbles, crack or shatter. This could be due to human error, something in the glass itself, the melting process in the kiln, the age of the glass, a power outage or numerous other things. I consider everything an unfinished experiment until it’s out of the kiln. It’s all part of the process.
Glass fusing is an expensive form of art, between the cost of glass and all the expensive tools of the trade required to create it, such as a kiln, grinders and molds, to name a few. In my case, I pay a monthly fee to be part of a glass class co-op group that meets once a week for 3 hours. The people in this group share work space for our projects and the equipment to create them. Then our projects are fired together in a huge kiln. This lets us save money on the cost of equipment but also limits the time we have to create or experiment with our fused glass creations.
I have three daughters, Shayla is my youngest. She is so similar to her oldest sister Lauren that we used to joke they were twins separated by 9 years. They both have dyslexia but yet Shayla’s learning journey has been completely different than Lauren’s.
I didn’t know for sure that Shayla had dyslexia but by the time she was in third grade all the signs where there. I had her tested by a professional to make it official. With her form of dyslexia she saw things differently than Lauren. What helped Lauren learn didn’t work for Shayla. She had no younger sibling pushing her to try harder either. As long as I read everything to her, she had good retention and could answer questions. If she had to do it herself, she’d just give up and start crying. Other things were going on in our family that made it harder for both of us to work together. There was a death of a close family member, financial troubles and more. Homeschooling was not working for Shayla. We needed help. I found a small private school that specialized in kids with learning disorders and disabilities. Shayla started going to tutoring two days a week, even though she needed more, it was all we could afford. The next year, the school offered to take her in as a full-time student on a scholarship. That offer was a godsend.
From fifth grade through eighth grade Shayla was surrounded by a wonderful group of caring teachers that not only helped her overcome her reading problems, they gave her a passion to learn. She went from being a loner who was embarrassed because she couldn’t read well to a confident, outgoing leader in this supportive environment. She still loses patience with herself when she doesn’t get a math concept fast enough, misreads words, and spells things wrong but she doesn’t give up easy anymore. The skills she was given in that special small school have given her the ability to succeed with the next part of her learning journey. Shayla will be going to a public high school this year which she is excited about.
Every child and learning situation is different. What works for one might not work for the other. Having three daughters with completely different learning styles, strengths and weaknesses would be a challenge for anyone. In Shayla’s case I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t teach her anymore. Finding a different school environment provided her with the skills she needed to get over her own self doubts. The love and support from caring teachers, family, and friends helped too. Yes, her story is far from over and I look forward to watching her grow up.
2013 Update: Shayla has had a wonderful first year in public high school. The school is very supportive of her struggle with dyslexia. They made sure she was in the right classes and let her know they are there to help her should she have any problems. Shayla makes a good advocate for herself too. She has no qualms about talking to the teachers about what she struggles with. The teachers are more than willing to help a student who wants to learn. So far it is a win-win situation for her.
My first daughter Lauren started talking in complete sentences at a young age. She could repeat whole passages from her favorite Disney movies, write her name and many other short words by the time she was four. When she asked me to teach her to read, I thought, how hard could it be?
I started buying books that taught reading, writing, and basic math. We worked through them and had fun. I read tons of books to her. I met people who homeschooled their kids and it intrigued me. I had another daughter who was 2 by then and I was running a small part-time home-based business. I thought I would give a try and see how it all worked together for us. I registered with a local private school and joined their homeschool support group.
The first five years went by quickly. As we started fourth grade Lauren was doing well with all subjects but was still struggling to read by herself despite her verbal and memory skills. Spelling retention was becoming a problem. She learned her words each week but she would forget them the next week or spell the word right in one sentence only to spell it wrong in the next. When she read back to me, she didn’t see anything wrong with her misspelled words. To her, they looked correct. She still turned letters and numbers around, something I was told was normal for kids through the third grade however it’s a sign of by fourth grade. She was starting to really struggle with certain math concepts now as well. But everything I read about dyslexia at the time said most kids hated reading, were slow learners, and had memory problems. That didn’t describe her at all. Her younger sister who was doing first-grade work was reading already without any problems.
I had Lauren tested. She was diagnosed with dyslexia. She apparently saw mostly consonants when she looked at words. She struggled with phonetically sounding out words. It seemed very easy for her to memorize things. I didn’t realize that she was memorizing everything. When she was reading, if she got to a word she didn’t know, she would guess at it based on the first and last letters and what made sense. Most times she guessed right as she had a huge vocabulary. But if you put a word out there without anything to give it a context and asked if it’s spelled right, she had no idea how to decipher it. They all looked the same to her, especially if it was the same word but spelled incorrectly. The advice that came from the specialist that tested her was to accept that she will always struggle but there were “tricks” to help her learn. Also in today’s world of calculators, computers, and Spellcheck, she’d succeed as long as she was encouraged to.
I went on to find examples of successful people who had dyslexia and told her their stories (Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Richard Branson, even her own pediatrician, to name just a few). I found in my research that many famous actors are dyslexic. Their skill in memorizing greatly helps them with lines in plays and movies. Armed with these stories, we went forward with our continued journey.
Lauren loved to dress up and make up stories. As she learned to type on the computer (which was way easier than writing by hand for her), she would write a short story or add to a story every day. She was discouraged by the fact that Spellcheck seemed to underline almost every word she wrote but eventually she got better. I had her read her stories out loud. She would catch some mistakes that way. We used cooking, something she was interested in to help teach math concepts she was struggling with. She loved to act, so she started taking classes at a local theater. I found she learned better by listening than reading textbooks. We found courses on CD and DVD’s that came with highlighted notes and assignments which we continued to use all the way through high school.
As I look back at the journey we took together, there were things that worked for her situation that wouldn’t work for someone else. My second daughter is three years younger and didn’t struggle with learning. There is no motivation like that of having a younger sibling who can keep up with everything you can do. It made Lauren try harder. She loved being a big sister and teaching her siblings too. By sixth grade, she was finally reading easily on her own and she started to devour books (she lists reading as one of her hobbies today). When she was in 7th grade, she started taking dance lessons. A few years later, she joined a ballroom dance team who performed locally and taught younger kids how to dance.
When Lauren was 15 she was encouraged by one of her acting teachers to enroll in the local junior college theater classes. She started off with two classes. By the time she graduated high school two years later, she had her certificate in theater from the college, had been in several plays and met a great group of friends. She was tested again for dyslexia by the college so she could have access to textbooks on CD, tutoring and other help if she needed it. Somewhere along the line, she decided she wanted to be a teacher. If she could take her love of learning and theater to children who struggled to learn like she did and help them succeed too, she’d have a career and be doing something she loved at the same time. This journey isn’t finished for her yet as she works towards getting her BA and also teaching part-time at the pre-school level.