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The intricacies of cutting glass

Susan Notes: The world might be a better place if every eighth grader took a course in stained glass making instead of algebra. I love the teacher's advice to kids: "Well, this is the only time you're going to do it in your life. What do you want to give your grandchildren?"

These kids are learning a whole lot more than glass cutting and welding. Wouldn't it be great if high schoolers dropped one of their Advanced Placement courses and took a class like this one.

By Cindy Kranz

INDIAN HILL - Eighth-graders in Heather Bollen's art class meticulously cut pieces of glass to fit their stained-glass design and used a grinder to smooth the rough edges.

Kids being kids, they couldn't resist running their fingers across the smooth surface, despite their teacher's warning. Bandages covered the minor casualties, but for these students, it's all part of the artistic process.

Stained glass isn't often attempted at this grade level, but it's the kind of art project that students have come to expect from Bollen's class at Indian Hill Middle School.

"It's really challenging," 14-year-old Katelin Randall said as she worked on her project, a mosaic of glass in shades of pink and purple, along with mirrors. "You have to make different designs that are possible because you can't cut glass at angles."

Bollen began the project by teaching students the rules of working with glass. "You can't cut L's, M's or V's. It always has to cut straight or curved. You just can't turn a right angle in the middle of a cut," she said.

Students spend one class on a written test and a hands-on test with a clear sheet of glass. They cut and cut, trying everything to learn what they can and can't do with glass.

"All of them were scared to death about glass," Bollen said. "It breaks, and your parents tell you not to break glass. We talk about all those fears. You just cannot be fearful of the material. It's OK if you break glass."

Students designed their own project, drawing a minimum of 10 thumbnail sketches on graph paper. They then pulled together the best parts into one design.

The design was blown up on a copier.

Students color-coded it for the shade of glass they planned to use. They transferred their designs so that they had two layout sheets and their original design. They cut the glass pieces, organized them on their layout, sealed pieces together with copper foil and soldered it.

"The sky's the limit on this," Bollen said. "We've had some kids who have 3-feet-by-5-feet ones. ... They have their minimums, but I'm usually like, 'Well, this is the only time you're going to do it in your life. What do you want to give your grandchildren?'"

Samantha Held, 13, estimated she had about 50 pieces of glass in her beach scene with palm trees and sunset. She chose the art elective over band, orchestra, choir and computer.

"You get to do a lot of different projects that you probably wouldn't get to do," Samantha said as she arranged pieces of glass on her paper."

Kevin DiGennaro, 14, created a large blue star. It was challenging to get the cuts right, he said, but it's his favorite art project so far this year.

"It's just something I've never done before," Kevin said.

Bollen could use other art projects to meet particular state academic standards, but she chooses stained glass.

"Some of the kids really do rise to the occasion. I'm always kind of shocked. Traditionally, the kids who have not enjoyed things about art or they're just showing up and that's about it, they really have gotten into it."

E-mail ckranz@enquirer.com

— Cindy Kranz
Cincinnati Enquirer


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