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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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The art of relaxing

A class in session at the workshop at Zekiah Glass.

by Tom Chillemi

Gearing down to the relaxed pace of Virginia’s Rivah Country is hard for some folks. Those who find it difficult to do nothing may want to try an unusual experience while visiting.

Zekiah Glass in Richmond County near Warsaw affords the opportunity to design and make a unique stained glass in just two days.

The design takes form as pieces of glass are tacked to a table with horseshoe nails.

Bob and “Barney” Harris, husband and wife entrepreneurs, have created Chestnut Cove Bed & Breakfast on Morattico Creek off the Rappahannock River near Farnham. Guests have the option of learning from Barney how to make their very own stained glass panel.

Barney started making stained glass as a hobby in the early 1980s and started teaching her art about 15 years ago.

The class goes beyond working with a kit, and students actually design their own panels. Sometimes they have an idea or a photo. Barney will draw it full size. “They look over my shoulder and we tweak it until it’s just how they want it to be,” she said.

The creative process
Barney said it’s not difficult and anyone can do it. “It’s time consuming, and labor intensive, but I’ve found that if people like to do things with their hands, or if they’re artistic or mechanical, they can do it.”

A bead of solder on each side holds the pieces in place.

She gets some “Type A” personalities who want to get away and relax, but can’t just sit in a beach chair very long. They find it relaxing to be able to create something they can take home. “It’s a getaway thing, but you get to accomplish something.”

Barney is the antidote for a hurried world. Her calm and reassuring teaching manner gives confidence to the novice. “I was able to do far more than I thought I could,” said Amy Fox as she soldered her stained glass of a morning glory. “I’m totally pumped.”

The class runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with lunch provided. Barney’s students remark how fast the time goes by. “We had to be kicked out of here for lunch and dinner, “ said Sarah Brophy, who enjoyed being immersed in the creative process for two days. “I would have never guessed I could do this.”

Barney takes a relaxed approach, breaking the artistic process into steps. She explains how to cut the individual pieces and shape them on a sander, wrap them with foil, then solder them together. Barney frames it. Then it’s coated in a process to give it a deep patina (surface tarnish).

Casey Hovick (right) lights up as she sees sunlight shining through her stained glass for the first time. Teacher Barney Harris (left) shares her satisfaction.

Students practice each technique, and develop skills along the way, Barney explains why some things are necessary, problems to watch out for, and solutions.

Barney imparts a lifetime of artistic experience. “Not every piece of glass cuts exactly the way you want,” she tells her students. “You can go with the way it comes out, and change your design a little.”
Fox added, “You will have things that won’t be the way you want them to be.”

To which Barney quipped, “But things usually get better.”

That’s a reflection of life.

On a recent weekend, four women who have been friends for decades came to Zekiah Glass. “We were trying to think of what advice we would give to young people,” said Casey Hovick. Among their advice was to keep learning new skills, be flexible, and make time for friends. “This class met all that,” she said.

Area art centers offer variety of classes
Bay School Community Arts Center
279 Main Street
Mathews, VA 23109
The Bay School will have two classes on Saturday, August 25. Learn to weave a “Lunch Pail Basket” from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also offered is a workshop titled “Botanical Watercolors” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Gloucester Arts on Main
6580-B Main Street
Gloucester, VA 23061
Gloucester Arts on Main offers a variety of classes including a free photo clinic on Saturdays at 11 a.m.; and free figure sketching sessions on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.

Rappahannock Art League
19 North Main St.
Kilmarnock, VA 22482
RAL has exhibits, workshops, art forums and more throughout the year.

posted 07.26.2012

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