Soon after leaving architecture school almost eight years ago, I enrolled in a stained glass class at a local adult education program where I learned how to create small hanging panels. I modeled the work I was making in this class after the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, since I found Wright’s geometry, lead work and color palette beautiful and striking.
It was also around the same time when I stumbled upon—after many years of not being inside it—the interior of Trinity Church, H.H. Richardson’s ecclesiastical masterpiece on Copley Square. Newly restored, I was so taken aback by the sumptuous Pompeian red and turquoise green walls, that I immediately inquired about church’s renowned docent program. I interviewed and was accepted into the program and gravitated toward the stained glass windows and its decorative arts during my training sessions. I made the stained glass windows the focal point of my tours and relished every opportunity I got to learn and share my knowledge of the windows, many of which are considered among the finest in the country.
I share these two anecdotes to show my fascination with glass. In my current position as Program Director at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, I get to work with many outstanding artists and craftspeople. While it’s impossible for me to enroll in every single class the Center offers, I do try to explore things I am interested in, such as Japanese language or the visual arts and crafts. I recently took part in a two-day glassblowing workshop at the North Cambridge Glass School which allowed me to continue exploring my fascination with glass. Among the visual arts and crafts classes I schedule and oversee at the Cambridge Center, glassblowing has always intrigued me, so I thought is give it a try.
After months of wondering what it would be like to learn how to make my own drinking glass, I finally ventured out of Harvard Square and into North Cambridge to meet for the first time Jesse Rasid, one of the instructors whose introductory glassblowing classes I schedule through the Center. A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Jesse is also the Owner and Principal Instructor at NOCA Glass School, which he founded in 2006. If you’ve ever taken a class with Jesse through the Cambridge Center, you’re qualified to take his Beginner I: Intro to Glassblowing: Cups and Vases class at NOCA.
During the first day of the workshop, the emphasis is on acquiring the basic glassblowing vocabulary, introducing students to the hot shop, the equipment and tools along with proper working procedures and safety. Having never worked with hot glass before, I’ll admit that I was not only excited, but also a bit nervous considering that the glass is 2,000°F at times. Jesse and his teaching assistants at the NOCA Glass School create a supportive environment where students feel comfortable and encouraged by one another, so my nervousness was gone within the hour of being inside the shop, but it persisted until I made my first drinking glass the next day.
By the end of day one, we learned how to gather hot glass, how to blow a bubble and how to make a paperweight—all important steps that will help you make a cup. The second day, putting together all the skills we acquired the day before, we made two drinking glasses—one clear and one with color.
During this workshop, I learned many things but most importantly, to stay in the moment and remain aware of my surroundings at all times. One second of losing focus may result in a rustic-looking drinking glass (I have proof of this, but I gained confidence and took control of the situation by the time I made the second drinking glass, which still looks a bit rustic, but much better than my first one). By the end of the workshop, I gained a deeper appreciation and respect for the art glass I see in museums—the experts make it look effortless, but it takes lots of skills and coordination to make that sculpture you see in a museum or that mouth blown vase that holds your flowers.