What I Did on My Spring Break

I took Marjorie Langston’s glass beadmaking classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in western North Carolina. Yes, I could have stayed home all week and torched, but I would have had a multitude of distractions and no feedback. This way I learned new techniques, played with new ideas, fed off of my classmates’ work, and had a wonderful time (except for missing DH terribly, though we did talk twice a day). My classmates were, for the most part, wonderful women and we really did spend the week feeling family-ish.
Marjorie was so concerned that I would be bored, but going back to the beginning and doing “baby exercises” was very good for me. I knew I had not mastered quite a lot of rather basic technique, and this class gave me a chance to work on those. Techniques like dots — I had NO control over dots, and no real idea of what to do with them, on Monday. By Thursday I was much more comfortable with them, and far more aware of how critical a design element they are. I still need a lot of practice with placement and size, but I know what to do now.

We started the week with basic round beads, gravity swirls, dots, dots, more dots, poked dots, raked dots, stacked dots, raised dots, melted-in dots, twisted dots, dots to form flowers,…you get the picture. Then there was pulling stringer (which I was already pretty good at) and twisties (which I still suck at — need PPP!). Marjorie had said she didn’t like encasing, wasn’t good at it, and couldn’t really teach me about it, but she fibbed — she did demo it, and with a couple of demos I at least was getting the idea. Eventually we got into barrel beads (I get it now!), squashed beads, and eventually the really cool stuff…organic beads! Foils and frits and reactions, oh my!

By Friday, though I didn’t want to admit it, I did need a little break. That afternoon we were officially between classes and couldn’t continue working even if we were staying for the weekend, so I hopped in my car and took advantage of the beautiful afternoon, driving over the mountains to Otto, where I found Fire and Light Glass Studio. Lenzy, the stained glass teacher, had told us that the owner had just moved up from Duluth and carried glass rods as well as stained glass sheets. The thought of being able to get my hands on some Bullseye rods to try out was too tempting to pass up. As it turned out, they were an absolute steal, so I brought back two pounds to share with Marjorie and my classmate Candy.

Friday night and Saturday we really stretched our bead-making wings out, with large-hole beads, hollow beads, and color reactions. After Marjorie warned us to not expect our first few hollows to work, I was tickled to bits when mine poofed and rounded right out. TOO cool!

Ellen’s sister Nina drove over Saturday afternoon from her home in Sylva to have dinner and visit. As we were all sitting at the table for a few minutes before returning to the studio, it all of a sudden hit me just who Nina was — Nina Bagley, yes, THE Nina Bagley, jeweler and altered artist extraordinaire! I knew the earrings she and Ellen were wearing looked familiar; I just hadn’t made the connection until then. So for me, that was a little laginappe to top everything else off.

Though it was a lovely week, by Sunday I was quite ready to leave. This may have been the first time I ever left the Folk School before I HAD to — I didn’t even stay around for lunch. I was ready to get back home, to my husband, my cats, and my own space.