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The Fire and Glass in Us

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

“I work to express the beautiful soul of the flowers in each piece I paint.” -Sydney Zylstra

Last month I went on an art adventure instead of a yoga adventure. My since-forever friend Beth and I have been going on art adventures for a while now. We usually do something smaller like a paint and sip sort of experience, and we’ve met to create together a couple of times a year since well before the pandemic. Sometimes it's just us. Sometimes we’ve gone with others.

This was the year we decided to go big. She was celebrating moving to a new house and I was celebrating opening the business. Those sorts of events, we decided, needed more than just painting and sipping. They needed fire and glass.

The Hilltop Artist Workshop at the Museum of Glass was exactly the thing.

When we reported to the museum, two young artists came out to greet Beth and me. The four of us marched into the giant cone, down and past the section of onlookers where I’ve sat in the past, and onto the main floor with those giant glass-melting ovens called glory holes.

Hilltop Artists Regan and Zach clearly knew what they were doing and had walked rookies through this sort of adventure in the past. They expertly guided us, explaining as we went along. They did most of the work and let us help so we felt involved. We got to pick the bowl colors, hold the blowpipe, and sit on the benches “where many famous butts once sat.”

I had never really understood what it meant to ‘blow glass’ until I was the one blowing on the end of a pipe with molten glass on the other end, expanding it with my breath into a round ball. The cold metal was not comfortable and clacked on my teeth as I rolled along on the wheeled bench. I’m grateful Zach and Regan knew their craft, so I could try it safely without messing up my bowl too badly.

I took many photos of people on this adventure—something I don’t often get to do. Regan, Zach, and Beth gave me permission to write this up and to use their photos.

It occurred to me recently that I wish I could photograph people like that more often. I understand that people want their privacy, and I also understand feeling self-conscious about what we look like. I’m self-conscious about many of the photos I’m sharing with you here.

In fact, when I was doing my yoga certification, one of my assignments was to take photos of myself in poses to send as proof of my practice. Some days I found this excruciatingly painful. I was paler, chunkier, and more messy-haired than I had wanted to imagine.

But as someone who looks for beauty to photograph on the regular, I honestly also find most people shockingly beautiful most of the time. Many humans around me are glowing like glass with life just like the Rhodesian ridgeback, the fir trees, and the star magnolia blossoms that I feel freer to capture in images. I wish I could tell people this more often and that I could share their images with others like I share those of dogs and flowers.

Taking those yoga photos of myself got a smidgen easier when I started thinking of myself as a tree or a flower in human form. It opened me up so that I could frame the shots and look for the best ways to view myself the was I share photos from my walks in the natural world. Those happily never need a signed release for me to show them to the world.

I’m not yet brave enough to ask the beautiful humans around me for their permission very often or to share my own photos. But I’m working on it.

In the meantime, here are our final creations before and after they spent a week in a cooling oven so the glass could lose heat without cracking. Beth even thought to hold her bowl up against the outside of the museum to put it in the best light possible and to ‘express its beautiful soul’ like my flower-artist mom would say.

I hope you all notice more beauty in others and in yourself. I’ll keep working on doing the same.

*Here's the link if you want to try fire and glass for your own art adventure while supporting local artists. I'm so glad we finally did it!

*Much photo credit to Beth Reichenbach. Thank you, Beth!

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