I've been volunteering with the Bay Area Glass Institute (BAGI) for about two years now. Several years ago I was facing some difficulty in my life with an ailing family member, and I was looking for ways to move myself out of my comfort zone and re-prioritize my life, and start ticking items off my bucket list.
I've had a fascination with glass since I was a kid, and was raised by a mechanical engineer. He was always tinkering in the garage with tools I really couldn't fathom how or why to use. I started attending events at BAGI as a way to find out more about glass, and then took my first “Shape-a-bowl” class. That was all it took, the magic and more importantly the process, of creating a permanent piece that was my own was intoxicating.
Over a year ago I was volunteering to assist a class/demonstration at BAGI, held for a group of at-risk youth one step away from incarceration called Encouraging Diversity Growth Education (EDGE). The EDGE, ran by the Santa Clara County probation office with the office of education, brought a group of participants that where under their care – to learn about glass blowing and get hands-on experience in BAGI’s hot shop and glass fusing studio.
Some of these young adults were mandated to participate in this program because of gang-related and/or criminal involvement – tagging, car jacking, or other infractions of the law. To watch several of the participants have unlimited access to a creative process, often denied to them in their regular educational experiences and life, was humbling to watch and inspiring.
One participant made a gift for his girlfriend; a slumped piece that had a heart, their names on it and their anniversary date, April 21, 2013. It was important to him to express his pride at acknowledging the love in his life, as well as a permanent record of this date. This wasn't tagging an overpass to set his mark on the world, but a quiet way of expressing himself in a very visible and permanent way. This particular participant was definitely embracing the process of creating glass artwork, as he “mentored” his fellow EDGE mates.
Understanding the process of a once mysterious process making it familiar serves so many areas of ones life, work or personal. Dancing with and embracing the process of blowing glass offers lifelong permanence and expression.