Colored Sands Glass Co.
I'm no daredevil, particularly when it comes to art. I'm comfortable with a paintbrush or a pencil, but I generally stay away from media that are capable of causing serious physical injury. That's why I was a little reluctant when Colored Sands Glass Art Gallery's Frank Oddou offered to let me try my hand at glassworking.
I'd been watching the studio's co-owner, Todd Taylor, form an elegant Christmas tree ornament from a glass tube, his nose just a few inches from a roaring torch, his fingertips even closer to the flame. Taylor obviously knew what he was doing, and the molten glass moved just the way he wanted it to move. He made it look easy, but the process definitely appeared to be something that would be tricky -- maybe even dangerous -- for a novice.
Dispelling that notion is the mission of Colored Sands Glass Art Gallery.
"It's just a matter of taking time," says Oddou. "It takes practice. If you want to take this up as a hobby, you have to devote a lot of time to it.
"But," he added, trying once again to convince me to give it a try, "making a glass bead is easy. It just takes a few minutes."
Creating a small, colorful bead from a thin rod of glass is the simplest glassworking technique, and it's the objective of Colored Sands' most basic glassworking class. The studio also offers two classes in more advanced techniques -- figure-making and glassblowing.
If the idea of handling molten glass is intimidating, Oddou and Taylor do a remarkable job of easing the apprehensions of a novice like me. They go out of their way to understate their own glassworking history.
"My story isn't very interesting," says Taylor. "I'm self-taught, and I learned by doing it over and over and over.
"And," he says, motioning toward Oddou, "I figured if he could do it, I could do it."
Oddou is nearly as casual about the way he came to be the operator of a glass studio. He learned the techniques while moving back and forth a couple of times between Indiana and Oregon, working in his parents' basement and for a company that made colored glass sheets for stained glass. He moved back to Fort Wayne in February and teamed up with Taylor to establish the studio in a small building on Wells Street.
"We had to do a lot of work," Oddou says, pointing out the huge venting system hanging from the ceiling. "We had to do a lot of electric work and things like that. It took a lot of time of energy, but it's paying off in the end."
In July, the studio took over the front of the building, creating a showroom space to display the duo's creations. At present, the space is mostly empty, thanks to other projects that are making time a precious commodity for Oddou and Taylor.
"There are only 24 hours in the day," says Oddou, "and I don't like to work more than 12 of them."
Aside from the studio's classes, Taylor and Oddou are devoting a good deal of their time to another large undertaking -- creating ornaments for a Christmas tree to be displayed in the annual Festival of Trees at the Embassy Theatre. A third partner in the studio, Sandy Farlow, got the idea of putting a tree in the festival in order to increase awareness of Colored Sands' work.
"Right now we're focusing on getting the tree done," Oddou says in reference to the nearly bare display space at the front of the studio. "We have to get through Christmas, and then we'll worry more about making pieces to sell. The more we sell, the more we have to make."
And that's where the 24-hour-day dilemma comes in. It's surprising that the pair is able to find time for their classes, but their enthusiasm for teaching glassworking techniques seems to need an outlet -- and it's certainly a contagious enthusiasm. By the time Taylor had finished making a small ornament, I'd overcome my reluctance and was ready to make my own attempt at the craft.
"As far as safety goes," Oddou explained, "remember that just because it doesn't look hot, that doesn't mean it's not hot. And, well, I guess that's about it."
Somehow I was skeptical that there were no more safety considerations. I would, after all, be working over a torch that uses propane and oxygen to produce a powerful, white-hot flame. I'd be using that flame to turn glass into a viscous liquid that would get so hot I'd need to wear tinted glasses to avoid being blinded by its glow.
The process of creating a glass bead is simple. A small metal rod, called a mandrel, is heated until it glows white, and at the same time, a rod of glass is heated to its melting point. Keeping both the mandrel and the glass rod in constant motion, the artist lets the glass flow onto the mandrel, using gravity and movement to form the glass into the desired shape.
It's a simple process in theory, but it's challenging in practice. The glass must be positioned at the right point in the torch's flame in order to keep it at the correct temperature, maintaining a consistency that's sort of like a thick syrup. Knowing how to make the glass move to the desired place is dependent as much on the feel of the rod in your fingers as it is on watching it flow.
For their Christmas tree ornaments, Oddou and Taylor use Pyrex, a form of glass that is tolerant of high heat, but in their glass bead and figure classes, the studio uses "soft" glass, a traditional material with a lower melting point and less stability at high temperatures. (When Oddou explained that soft glass would "explode all over the place" if heated too quickly, I regained a bit of my hesitance to work with the stuff.)
My few minutes of working with the molten glass were awkward, and I created one of the ugliest little trinkets I've ever seen. Oddou explained the keys to mastering the basic techniques.
"Some people have trouble with it, but it's easy for others. It takes concentration, and it takes focus. If you break your focus, it can start a chain of events that can make the whole thing fall apart. But the basic techniques are simple, and once you have a solid foundation in them, you're really only limited by your imagination."
Once you're ready to test the limits of your imagination, the studio's classes allow you to explore the creation of glass figurines (fish seem to be a popular first step in glass artists' menageries) and blown glass vessels. My own first attempt at glasswork was limited more by my fumbling fingers than my imagination, but I quickly overcame my slight apprehension at working with such an apparently hazardous material, and I simply began to have fun. Although I'd be embarrassed to show my aesthetically challenged glass bead to anyone, I had the distinct feeling that with just a bit more practice, I'd be able to create something beautiful -- and if I can do it, anyone can do it.
Colored Sands is located at 1517 North Wells Street in Fort Wayne, and their phone number is 423-1689. Classes meet one night a week for four weeks.
by Evan Gillespie
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Art on Broadway — Tours of 5 downtown venues featuring art from Alexandra Hall, Julie Wall, Peter Lupkin, Daniel Dienelt, Knotodday, Kay Gregg, Terry Ratliff and St. Monci, 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Broadway Street, Fort Wayne, free, 417-5925
Beer, Bourbon, Bacon Festival — Unlimited beer sampling from national and regional craft breweries, fine bourbon sampling and bacon inspired treats, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25 (5-9 p.m. VIP), Marquis and Three Rivers Ballrooms, Hotel Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, $35-$75, 484-0411
An Evening with Author Tom Frank — Author of What’s the Matter with Kansas talks about his new book; hors d’oeuvres, lecture and book signing included in admission, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, CS3 Hideaway, Fort Wayne, $15 plus donation, 602-1008
Puttin’ on the Ritz —Active 20-30 club fundraiser with live music from Chris Worth and Company, gourmet edibles, wine and beer, live and silent auctions; black tie optional, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, $50-$90, 450-2844
Shipshewana on the Road — Food, craft and primitives show and sale, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $4, 483-1111
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Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Navy Club, Ship 245, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-4044
Brat Pack — Rat Pack/variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Vinnie's Bar, Decatur, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 729-2225
Ellsworth Sharp — Neofolk at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 745-3369
FBC Band w/Sheba — Variety/Music and Memories benefit at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $7-$15, 426-6434
Fireball Matinee — Rock at Hideaway Lounge, Bluffton, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 824-0455
Fleshwounds — Rock at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 488-3344
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — Funk at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Fu5ion — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
The Illegals — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at Alley Sports Bar, Pro Bowl West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421
Johnny Freakin' Xcitor — Country rock at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
The Orange Opera w/Mickyle James — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Prime Suspects — Variety at American Legion Post 499, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 483-1368
Quincy and the Q-Tet feat. Phil Potts — Rock/variety at Downtown Eatery & Spirits, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, (574) 267-6000
Second Nature — Pop at Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Shannon Persinger Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
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Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Beat Karaoke & DJ — Variety at American Legion Post 296, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m. , no cover, 456-2988
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at Kville Pub, Kendallville, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 348-1677
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The Children’s Hour — Lillian Hellman’s seminal drama about bigotry perpetuated against the LGBT community and how easily a lie can spread, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
Getting Sara Married — Comedy about an unmarried lawyer in need of a husband (according to her aunt), 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, March 25, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
One Foot in the Gravy — Howard Kingkade’s comedy and winner of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 422-4226
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102