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Clear-cut passion for glass

Archer Glen artist in residence guides students' art projects


by: SHERWOOD GAZETTE: BARBARA SHERMAN - Archer Glen Elementary artist-in-residence Lisa Wilcke (left) spreads glue on wind-catchers made by second-graders Avery Morse (center) and Valeria Bravo, which was the second of three projects the kids did.

Lisa Wilcke has been obsessed with glass “ever since I was a kid and collected beach glass,” said the Seattle native who moved to Oregon at age 7.

She grew up to become an artist who is renowned for turning glass into art and for sharing her love of glass with students all over the metro area by showing them how to make their own creations.

Wilcke was an artist in residence at Archer Glen Elementary in March, courtesy of the Sherwood Education Foundation which funds the popular artist-in-residence program at local schools.

Students in grades one through five made three pieces — a pendant, a wind-catcher and a bookmark - while kindergartners made a necklace during the time Wilcke was at Archer Glen.

On the morning of March 12, Wilcke was in the second-grade class taught by Kelly Nelson, where Jennifer Bernard was the substitute teacher.

The students had previously made pendants, on which they had placed up to five pieces of colored glass on a 1 1/2-inch-by-1-inch glass base, and as the kids tied the cords on the pendants, Wilcke reminded the kids of the “journey” their pendants had taken.

After the brightly colored glass pieces were glued to the bases, they had to dry in the school’s staff room before Wilcke carefully carried them home and fired them at 1,450 degrees in her kiln. Then she brought the pendants back to the school with tiny wires attached to the back so students could add cords from which to hang them.

Wilcke carefully explained how to make a loop at the end of the cord and turn it into a knot, which the kids found almost more difficult than creating the pendants.

“How did the heat affect the pendants?” she asked the students.

One boy pointed out a piece of clear glass on the back of his pendant, and Wilcke said she had put those on to attach wires to hold the cords, and other kids thought the color of their glass pieces had changed somewhat. “Remember, your pendants are fragile and pieces of fine jewelry,” Wilcke said. “If you are going outside to recess, put it in your backpack or pocket - I don’t want it to fly up and hit you in the face.

“And if you get a compliment on your pendant, you say, ‘I made it. I’m a glass artist.”’

After having the kids repeat the phrase, it was time to move on to the next project: wind-catchers.

Each child was given a piece of glass 3-inches-by-4-inches and a piece of paper the same size as Wilcke explained, “Put your name and your teacher’s name on the piece of paper. Unlike the pendants, where you were limited to five pieces of colored glass, you can use as many pieces as you want for the wind-catcher.by: SHERWOOD GAZETTE: BARBARA SHERMAN - Proudly wearing pendants they created after artist-in-residence Lisa Wilcke took then home and fired them in her kiln are Archer Glen Elementary second-graders Kayla Lee and Nigel Fahland.

“But when you are done, you have to draw a picture of your wind-catcher on the card. Since there is no way to put your name on the wind-catchers, that is how I will be able to get yours back to you.”

Later, Wilcke explained that she is able to teach kids how to make glass objects because the glass is so affordable, thanks to Bullseye Glass Factory being located in Southeast Portland.

“If you buy it anywhere else and it has to be shipped, it is so expensive,” she explained. “This way I can go directly to the factory and buy it and even buy seconds, which doesn’t affect what the kids do.”

Every time Wilcke starts with a new group of kids, she talks about the history of glass and the different forms it takes.

“No one knows if it was discovered or invented, but over the eons, it was discovered and lost, and discovered and lost innumerable times,” she said. “The Egyptians established glass-making, and from then on, humans have made it. I also tell the kids that glass is in lots of things like insulators, cell phones, light bulbs and mirrors.”

She also talks to students about the different ways glass is made, which started with blown glass and evolved into stained and fused glass. “Fused glass is often mistaken for stained glass,” Wilcke added.

When her students make the pendants, “one of my favorite parts is helping the kids tie the knots in the cords,” she said. “When we make the sun-catchers, the weak link in the process is the glue - it has to dry overnight. We are using the same process as the pendants - they are just bigger - and they will have a wire at the back from which to hang them.”

The third step in Wilcke’s glass-making series is to bring in her torch and make a glass bead in front of the kids. Then every student gets one inch of beads that she supplies to make into a bookmark, although sometimes they are used for earrings.

Wilcke also shares her vast knowledge of glass with students, including its four ingredients: sand, ash, lime and heat; the three ways nature makes it: lightning, volcanoes or meteorites; and the differences between stained and fused glass.

Back in the classroom, Avery Morse said, “I like that we get to be creative. I like that we get to make designs for the sun-catchers and how you learn how glass is made.”



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