Friday, March 7, 2014

Skippin' Class to Check Out the Glass - Our Homeschool Field Trip to Karg Art Glass

The stereotyping of homeschoolers as being either unsocialized, improperly educated introverts or academically superior and two-grades-ahead-of-the-rest intellects are both overstated misconceptions that most of us spend our careers trying to refute with reasonable explanations and personal examples (although being accused of academic excellence isn't really that painful or offensive).

One thing we're never accused of, however, is being professional or, at least, very serious field trippers, and really, that's a shame.

When the memorization of Latin phrases, mountain heights, and 17 stanza poems leaves my sons hanging their heads out the window for a breath of fresh air, I know it's time to dream up another field trip.  Hey, no arguments from the professor, especially during the winter months where the house begins to feel more like a cage keeping in a class of stir-crazy critters from the cold than an ark of unlimited learning.

If our homeschool group doesn't have any major explorations planned, sometimes I have to improvise:
Hey boys, who wants to go to Dicks Sporting Goods and calculate discounts on running attire for mom for a prize? Most accurate answers wins a new jump rope! (Our Henry could literally write a book called "101 Non-Jumping Uses for a Jump don't go knockin' the jump rope.) 
- OR -
Who wants to go to J.Raes bakery, interview the owner, and discuss her dreams and business plan for the future of the bakery business? Then we could snarf down some sweets, and run home to concoct our own master cupcake recipe?  Or, nap, we could nap off the sugar crash.
{I would love to have a piece like this in the massive flower garden I dream of planting some day!}
Last week was one such week where we were in serious - desperate - need of a jailbreak. Baby had officially taken over my brain and my body.  Children no learn from me.  Brain no workie, belly too biggie.  
Thankfully, a saint in our homeschool group had organized a tour of a local artisan glass shop called Karg Art Glass.  Adding happy to my heart was the fact that our oldest son, Benedict, had the day off from school, so he was able to come with us. His presence on the trip made it feel like the good ol' days again!  

Here's a little fuzzy i-phone photo collage of our trip.  You're going to be wowed, I know. Charlie refused to be held by anyone but me, which made juggling the phone a little tricky.  Plus, we were on the wrong side of the light source, so use your imagination on the dark images (which is like every single one).
When we first arrived, our group was led to through the grand gift shop to the studio on the backside of the shop where the apprentices and artisans create their masterpieces.
We stood together for quite a while admiring the work of two of the artisans as they crafted what we thought was going to be a vase or a vessel of some sort.
But, when one of them swiftly tapped the very end of the glass shape with a special tool, causing the glass to fan out, we realized he was making a plate shaped piece of art (later he told us it was a custom order), one similar to the brightly colored pieces that they had hanging outside:
Among the many facts that the kids learned about the glass craft is that all glass is made of sand.  The artisans at Karg make their own glass, adding small quantities of lime, silt and ash to the mixture.  The glass is kept ready for use in a 2000 degree furnace.
A kiln (one that may be used to bake ceramics), which can be controlled at lower temperatures, is used to soften colored glass rods that are rolled on to the forming pieces to create swirls of color in the glass. The hue and intensity of the colors emerges from the various oxides that are added to the glass.
The continual heating, shaping and re-heating of the glass keeps it malleable, allowing the artisans to shape the beautiful creation they have imagined into a reality. An average plate requires about 45 minutes of uninterrupted work time. 
The gallery of artistic pieces is truly stunning.  Displayed for everyone to see are smaller, more affordable pieces and toys, such as marbles and kaleidoscopes to more massive pieces that require an appreciating eye and a hefty pocketbook to take home.
This depiction of the solar system was the one piece that all of the homeschoolers seemed to gravitate to. Pictures do not do it justice! If you can't read the price tag, that's a 10 with 3 zeros! This one belongs in a museum - it's truly amazing!
My heart really longs to be able to support local artisans in their craft, whatever it may be.  Of course, it's more expensive, but only because our eyes have become accustomed to chain-store price tags. While keeping the fridge stocked and car running top out our financial priorities right now, I do hope to come back one day, and buy a lovely piece of glass art for our home.
For now, we'll enjoy the colorful marbles that the boys delighted in picking out from the gallery's stock of more affordable treasures.  The marbles and our memories - another one down in the homeschool book of field-trips.


  1. I would love to hear about where this is, I think it would be somewhere I would love to take the kids sometime when we are in the city! It looks awesome! quiltnmama2 (at) gmail (dot) com

  2. I want to go there - I love blown glass and would love to watch it being made!
    Glad that y'all had such a great field trip!!


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