"Are you lubricated?" Alyssa Oxley asked a student in her fused-glass class at Burlington's Davis Studio on Wednesday night.
She suspected he wasn't. Instead of making a satisfying "zip" sound, his glass cutter was screeching across the surface of his mud-colored material. He pressed the cutter into a small sponge doused in paint thinner and got back to work.
Formed glass is all about color and cuts. Like quilting, it requres meticulous measurements and repetitive tasks — fused-glass artists often incorporate traditional quilt patterns into their work. The magic happens in the kiln, where the glass' different color and texture combinations transform under the heat.
"It's a kind of voodoo," said Oxley.
The restults are colorful, patterned bowls with the smooth, bright surface of Fimo. Or jewel-toned bowls that appear to have been made out of candy.
Oxley was a graphic designer and painter in New York before she discovered the art of glass fusing about 12 years ago. "From the first zip and break, I was hooked," she said. So hooked, in fact, that after only her second class, she bought herself a kiln. She went on to apprentice for five years with glass master Marty Kremer, before relocating a couple years ago to Vermont via Maine.
With her own studio in Vergennes, Oxley now teaches her craft at the Davis Studio. This spring, she offers two beginner classes on Wednesdays and one advanced on Thursdays. The program — including a fused-glass jewelry class taught by Micaela Wallace — has been so popular that the art center has plans to expand, opening a new workshop devoted entirely to glass called South End Glass in September.