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A clear vision: Local ladies use glass as their creative outlet

Angela Wilhelm • Mar 31, 2014 at 8:47 PM

The art of glassmaking can be traced from ancient Egypt all the way to the Toledo Museum of Art, where three women who share a love for the medium met in an art class.


When Elaine Bast, of Fremont, and Clyde residents Jill Groves and Fran Jackson realized their shared appreciation for glass — and that they could carpool to classes — a friendship blossomed. They have their own artistic styles, motivations and inspirations, all shared through a love of fused glass.

The artists talk about their inspirations and creative processes in the player below

In fused-glass art, the artist molds together layers of colored glass in a kiln, creating kaleidoscopic patterns in various shapes. Experimentation is the ladies’ favorite way to create their works, although they’re not adverse to leaning on familiar starting points to get a project rolling.

Said Bast: “Even when you’re working with a pattern, it helps your imagination. It helps you focus on something other than your everyday life and, in a lot of ways, it gets away from some of the crumminess of life. When you’re having a bad day, you can start fiddling around with art of any kind.”

The pastor’s interest in glass began when she was in seminary and was told she needed a spiritual discipline, to focus on prayer and the spiritual life. She began her discipline with stained glass, which evolved to fused glass.    

“I do make some crosses” Bast explained, “but mostly it’s just something to get away from the rest of the world”

Before taking her first glasswork class in 2000, there was no art in her life. As she explained it with a hint of laughter: “I didn’t even take art in high school. I avoided it like the plague because I didn’t think my stick figures were going to give me a good grade. I’m surprised this is working”

She never imagined she would one day sell her work. She sells under the name “Pastor’s Patterns” using a kiln in her garage to create her nature-inspired, experimental pieces. Her work ranges from fusing bits of copper into a bowl to placing a leaf between two panes before firing them in the kiln. The ashes from the leaves creates a gossamer ghost of the organic material, a vibrant white against a black background comparable to an X-ray print.

“The broader our experiences, the more complete people we are” Bast said of her artistic endeavors. She travels around northeast Ohio with Jill Groves, frequenting art shows such as the Sandusky Art Walk’s December Gift Gala.

“If I had ever thought I could make a living at it, I would have been an artist, but I ended up going into the Postal Service because I could make a living there” Groves said. “When I retired, what I really wanted to do was art”

She converted a room in her home to a studio and bought a kiln. Her experiments include letting colored glass drip into a frame to create a shape. She says the best part of the medium is opening the kiln in the morning to see what she has created.

“Most of the time it’s pretty good” Groves said. “Once in a while it’s great. And when it’s great, it’s a really good feeling”

Groves’ glistening glassworks include jewelry, home decor and bottle bowls, in which she melts unique glass bottles to form bowls with functional uses or as conversation pieces.

“I think art makes a boring life exciting” she said. “You’ll be surprised what you can do. You can create something out of nothing, and as far as fused glass goes, every piece is unique”

The third member of the fused-glass friendship creates her own unique pieces by harnessing the beauty of nature.

Fran Jackson watches the seasons change throughout Erie and Sandusky counties, incorporating the colors and shapes into her work.

“I love to drive on 101 between Clyde and Sandusky” Jackson said. “You see all the changes in the fields. I like to do that type of landscape, they just catch my eye with the color”

The inspired piece resulted in a square glass canvas filled with deep greens, warm yellows and a cloud-striped sky. For her, working with glass is a form of meditation.

“Everybody has that creativity, and it helps keep them going, keeps their mind going” Jackson said. “I think it keeps us refreshed”

The beauty of Northern Ohio is seen and heard through its wildlife, crashing Lake Erie waves and expansive fields, inspiring residents and travelers alike.

To bring a locally inspired piece of art into your home, watch for one of these creative women at area art events, where you can secure a wonderfully crafted fused-glass piece, handmade in Ohio.

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