Linda Mullin and Susan WalkerMembers of the Fluvanna Art Association (FAA) walked through a door in an artisan building in Charlottesville Nov. 17 and emerged into The Glass Palette, an interactive glass studio owned by Maria DiMassimo and her daughter, Cara, who is known as the glass guru.

Against the backdrop of massive concrete walls stood tables full of bold and colorful iridescent and translucent glass. A variety of styles, shapes and patterns were represented, from thin delicate lacy plates to swirled candy stripe tulip-shaped vases, sculptures, sun catchers, jewelry, picture frames, mirrors and even a dress made in glass.

The dress, startling in its painstaking beauty, was the centerpiece in the room, and stood in front of a door framed with a bold mosaic of glass. Each piece of the dress was special in its design. The cobalt and soft blue circles of glass were woven into the dress with lacy, delicate brass chain link. The bodice, all in glass, gleamed under the bright overhead lights. The FAA members stood in awe, trying to imagine how Cara DiMassimo envisioned the design and executed it. There was even a photo of her wearing the dress, which she said weighs over 20 pounds.

Then it was the members’ turn to create. Maria DiMassio explained the process to those who had never made anything out of glass. She demonstrated the use of glass cutters, which to some looked heavy and industrial. She showed the proper way to cut tiny glass pieces, easily snapping them.

“You cannot cut yourself with these unless you deliberately put your finger in between the blades,” she said. Members laughed, which made them less afraid of handling them.

She discussed the variety of items members could make, from a little plate or bowl to earrings, a pendant, or even a Christmas ornament.

“Everything is created on the flat and then fired twice,” said Maria DiMassimo. The materials could be layered and overlapped, but would get tiny beads of glue on the corner.

“Dink it down,” she said, demonstrating how to take a tiny tile, dip the corner into some glue and tack it down on her clear glass shape. “This way the glue can escape during firing. If you don’t do it this way, the glue cannot escape and black specks appear under the glass,” which ruin the translucent quality and color.

The glass is first fired at its low temperature of 1,300 degrees, which softens and blends the glass. This is known as the tack fuse. When artists make things like bowls or vases, the glass is set into a mold then fired a second time, melting down into the mold and creating the final shape. There are varieties of glass and some react differently when fired.

For the first-timers it was an easy process. Gluing seemed to be the most daunting element. Members approached their subjects in different ways, from deliberate design to reckless abandonment. This seemed to make little difference in the glass once it was fired and blended together.

The 13 members moved around the room, peering at blocks of boldly colored glass in neatly thought out abstracts and delicate whirled- and fluted-edged bowls and vases. They marveled at the opalescent layers of glistening glass and deliberate repeated patterns in more opaque pieces that resembled smooth ceramics. They returned to their tables armed with ideas and began their designs.

Susan Lang, FAA member, said she loves the primary colors and used them in her earring and pendant design which had a Japanese characteristic. Others stayed with either a cool or warm color palette in the all blue or red family.

It was a fun experience for the members, who said they are excited to see the final products at the annual meeting in December when all will be revealed in its translucent and gleaming glory.