Potter Ann Rusch is known all over B.C. for her dazzling crystalline glazed pottery, so when it was time for her to take on a new challenge it stands to reason that she chose glass as her new creative medium.
“It’s all about learning and trying new things, and I love the colours of glass,” Rusch says.
Rusch will still have her popular crystalline pottery for sale at this weekend’s Medieval Market at Columneetza secondary but she will also have samples of her latest glass creations — specifically some heart-shaped pendants that she has been working on since taking a couple of lamp-work glass workshops earlier this year.
“It’s exactly like working with blown glass only on a smaller scale,” Rusch says.
For the lamp-work, Rusch buys tubes of borosilicate glass from a plexiglass manufacturer. The glass is specially developed to resist fracture at extreme temperatures.
Wearing special goggles that allow her to see the colours in the glass develop as she works, Rusch uses a propane torch to melt a ball of glass at the end of a clear tube of glass.
Once a ball of glass at the end of the tube is melted into a semi-fluid molten state it could be put onto a small tube and blown into a small vessel or bowl, but being a beginner, Rusch is working to perfect the basic technique of creating small solid pieces.
She chose the heart-shaped pendants for her first exercise because the heart seemed easier to work with than trying to make a perfect sphere. Round snowmen pendants are next on her Christmas list, then beads, and flower shapes.
Either way the technique looks as difficult to learn, as creating her crystalline glazes must have been to learn.
Crystalline glazes on pottery are difficult to create and to control which is why most potters don’t use them, but, when well controlled on the right shaped pieces, the technique produces beautiful snowflake, or starburst-like patterns in the glazes.
To make her glass hearts, Rusch patiently melts a ball of glass on the end of a glass rod then adds some coloured glass and stamps the colour into the piece on a fireproof piece of graphite. The ball of melting glass is then snipped off the end of the glass tube and placed on the end of a fire resident rod where it is sniped and pulled and tugged into the shape she wants.
“It’s lots of fun. Some of the colours are harder to work with — white is a swear word and a half because it bubbles and boils.”
Being a potter Rusch says she is not afraid of fire but she is just learning about how to work with a live flame.
“I was told to expect to be burned but I try to minimize the burns I get.” She says the trick is to learn not to grab for the piece if it drops.
Finished pieces are put into a metal box of vermiculite to cool until she has enough of them to put into her pottery kiln to heat again, or anneal at about 1,000 degrees, which makes the pieces stronger and more resistant to breakage.
In addition to giving her a new creative challenge, Rusch says lamp-work fits easily into her family’s busy schedule.
While she needs several hours at a time to create pottery she can slip into her glass studio for half an hour to an hour at a time to make pendants.
Rusch and her husband, David, a forest health technician, moved to the Williams Lake area in 2007. They have two children, Octavia, 11, who is a member of the Blue Fins Swim Club, and Zeah, 9, who is in the gymnastics club.
Look for Rusch at the Medieval Market this Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19-20 at Columneetza secondary from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Rusch will be set up in a booth with fellow potter Judy Prevost.