May 1, 2011
Claire Anderson, Glass Art Association of Canada school representative for
Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario
Being involved in the Sheridan glass program has left me with an addiction to glass that I fear I may never be able to shake. Without my regular studio fix I get shaky and irritable, break out into sweats and my fingers twitch in a useless effort to turn invisible air-pipes. This seems to be a common problem with most of the students here. We are known as ‘glass-holes’ as we converse about little else, and we can be found lurking around the studio at the strangest hours.
This obsession, however, has led the 2011 graduates in directions that none of us could have predicted at the beginning of our journey here. We began as a class of eighteen, but now only ten stragglers remain after all of the injuries, head games, hundreds of broken pieces and, most importantly, survival of each other.
Spending all day every day with a small group of diverse individuals has been trying (to say the very least) at times, but it has made us into a small family. We all play integral roles. For instance, the dad of the group, Andrew Beauchamp, is stocked full of the most interesting and useless information. Katrina Cheung is our elder, sought after for vital life advice. Hana Schweiheardt is our young sapling that can often be caught dancing by herself somewhere. And Allysun Rysnick keeps us all smiling, treating us to TimBits every Sunday! Andrew Wardlaw is a bit of a wild card; you really have to meet him to understand what I am talking about. Alyssa Getz is our purple-haired, loud-mouth glass blowing super star – I have the privilege of working with her this year – while Aurora Darwin is our own personal DJ. Silvia Taylor has become the electroplating grandmaster wizard while Melanie Billark is always encouraging – her energy is impossible to ignore. I suppose that leaves me, ‘noodle-head’, a reference to my waist length dreadlocks and definitely not my slight absent-mindedness. We have grown very close as we have lived, worked and played together for the past three years. We act as a support network, and in the extreme ups and downs we have been there for one other, offering vital criticism, encouragement and the exchange of ideas.
Over the years, we have come to discover our various specialties and we have spread ourselves evenly throughout the studios. This has had a huge impact on our work and where each of us will take it in the future. Many of us had very different initial expectations of what the glass program was about, and a few had no idea what to expect at all. The year I began, Sheridan was making major changes to the program, so what I had read in the Sheridan booklet was actually quite different than the program to which I enrolled. I had no idea what to expect, but it was the constant technical and conceptual challenge that got me hooked. I think it is the touch of madness that keeps me around still.
When I speak with my classmates, we all have at least one story about getting set on fire in first year, either by charging the sand casting furnace, or nicking an arm on the annealer. During our three years at Sheridan, three of us have had to get tetanus shots at the clinic and there have been two hospital runs. We have been cut, drilled, puntied, and burned more times then I can count on two hands (and both feet). But the hypnotic nature of glass held us and we continued with fierce dedication.
With the guidance of the faculty, we have been able to discover our individual styles and learn both what inspires us as well as the concepts that interest us. The close relationships we have developed with our instructors have been vital, as we have been forced to think very critically about our own work. We are lucky to be taught by not only well-connected professionals, but individuals that we have come to know quite well. They go completely out of their way for us and are there to talk about anything … as long as it’s over a beer. They have been right there with us through our development as artists and designers and have helped us through our various mental breakdowns.
Now, as the end of the year approaches, we have begun to realize our time together is nearly at an end. We have made our plans and have begun the motions to start our lives after Sheridan. Many of us feel this is not our last year of post-secondary education and we plan to continue our studies in sculpture and design. However, just as we began the creative process at Sheridan, there is no way to know how our next stage will develop. Glass is an unforgettable medium that each of us will incorporate in the future with the same passion that we displayed at Sheridan.
I loved my time at Sheridan and feel that I now have the tools necessary to become a professional studio artist. While I will miss the coziness of my safety net, I look forward to the challenges that the life of a creator presents.