BETHESDA, MARYLAND —
When Lynda Slayen
first discovered fused glass about 10 years ago, she immediately fell in love with the technique.
“I’ve always loved glass. I collect glass. I have a lot of antique glass…and then I went and I saw some fused glass and that was it," Slayen said. "I took a class and that was it.”
She became a fused glass artist, which involves fusing multiple pieces of glass together to form a single object. Her vibrant, one-of-a-kind art is both practical and aesthetic.
Sharing the passion
Five years ago Slayen decided to share her passion by teaching others the technique. She holds fused glass art classes at local schools as well as in her home studio both for children as well as adults.
Brothers Luka and Hugo Bryne, ages 12 and 9, showed up at one of her workshops on a cold winter afternoon recently, eager to make some fused glass art for their family. Both had taken the workshop before.
“Here I can express and be free and I don’t have any rules to follow,” said Hugo.
Luka likes wearing the safety goggles. “It makes you feel macho.”
On this day, the brothers and four other young students will each create at least one glass object during the hour-long session.
After they choose a piece of glass, they cut or hammer other, smaller pieces of glass and combine them to make a design.
Some of the young artists will use ground glass or glass rods to decorate their pieces.
Once they finished designing, the students will glue down their pieces and get them ready for the kiln, a heating chamber like a type of oven used to transform materials at high temperatures.
The students today have made candle holders, dishes and paperweights. And with Valentine’s day approaching, some of the students have also made objects with a heart theme.
Mia Fontana, 8, made some glass hearts that can be used in a pendant.
Longtime student Zoe White, 11, made a dish with a heart on it for her mother in Lynda Slayen's class. (Photo by Gary Slayen)
Zoe White, 11, who’s been taking Slayen’s classes for the past five years, made a dish for her mother with a heart on it.
“And I made her two sets of earrings that were pink and red and white. I usually like making glass for my family; like my grandparents and my uncles and aunts because they like getting them and they love that it’s homemade,” she said.
Teaching children inspires Slayen.
“Because they’re so creative and they’re not inhibited and they’re willing to try anything they’re like ‘Oh sure, let’s do this and let’s do that,’” she said. “Whereas adults feel it has to be perfect.”
Sophia Fontana, 11, got creative with pastel-colored glass for her dish.
“I like making the glass with different colors and then seeing it after it melts,” she said.
Evelyn Gregory, 11, created this butterfly paperweight under the guidance of fused glass artist Lynda Slayen. (Photo by Gary Slayen)
“I really like having the anticipation of knowing how it turns out,” said Evelyn Gregory, 11, who has been a regular participant in the workshops.
During the day’s workshop she made several colorful pieces of glass art, including two pairs of earrings, a butterfly paperweight and a small dish.
Slayen also enjoys the anticipation.
“Every time I open the kiln, it’s a total surprise,” she said. “You never really know what you’re going to see and how the colors and how everything comes out.”
That surprise ending is part of the reason the students keep coming back for more.