Editor’s Spotlight – Artist Kelly Crosser Alge – My Art Journey

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I don’t remember a time when art was separate for me. Art is my breath as I exist through this life. Its how I make sense of the time and space I inhabit, and the world around me. Art is my first language.

I was a weird kid. I learned to read when I was three, so when it was time to go to school I struggled to pay attention while the class was learning their letter sounds. In first grade, my hearing loss was discovered, and that helped explain why I wasn’t following directions or listening to my teacher. I may not have been paying attention to my teacher, but I was definitely paying attention to the intricately jointed hermit crabs in their habitat in the back of the room. How they moved and interacted with each other, how they would suck back into their shells when someone dropped a book… I had questions. How did they keep their shells on? Did they have a silent language that only crabs understood? Do they ever get cold? What would it be like if they were big and I were tiny? My imagination would run free while school droned on.

Growing up, I was always able to find ways to entertain myself, and I cherished my time alone. One summer I spent weeks trying to craft perfect bird nests. I watched robins gather mud and grass, and wondered if I could fool them into using one of my nests. I don’t ever recall a time that I felt bored, there was always something new to learn.

I mention my childhood because I believe I was lucky to have finished school with my curiosity and imagination intact. Like many kids in school, I grew up believing that art was ‘extra’. Most important were math, reading, and science. Art was like recess, and recess was something you outgrew. The problem is that once you take away recess, things get serious fast. We become more concerned with how we compare to others, we are more careful about the time, because ‘time is money’ and we can’t afford to waste either. The beautiful, child-like creative spirit we all embodied at one time takes criticism to heart, and we no longer want to risk being wrong. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that art is ubiquitous. Art is science, art is math, art is music, communication and language, art is play. As a teacher I’m blessed to be a part of others’ journey in rediscovering that creativity and curiosity as they learn to see in new ways.

As for glass, we became acquainted when I was 6. I didn’t believe my mother when she told me the broken glass panel on our porch window would cut me if I touched it. I inspected every part of the break, which appeared so enticingly smooth, and wondered if my mother was tricking me. She was not. Even after the stitches, I secretly decided I would never stop touching glass. I’ve been intrigued and drawn to it ever since. I began working with glass as an art form in 1994. With my earnings from teaching art to groups of homeschooled children, I purchased my first kiln and began to play. I sold glass jewelry at art shows in the midwest and a few galleries while raising my four daughters, and was fortunate to be able to work from home in my tiny studio. During those first years, I longed to make art that satisfied my soul, but could only afford glass to make jewelry-sized work. I started using glass powders to color sheets of white glass to expand my palette, then used a sgraffito technique to doodle along the edge of the sheets. Later, I made sheets of glass with diary entries scratched the glass powder, and cut them into pendants before they could be read. My work evolved away from jewelry in about 2005, and I began making drawings in glass powder exclusively.

A few years later, I tried an experiment to see if I could learn how to teach my technique to others. I put together a ‘worst case scenario’ class, figuring if I could successfully teach that group, I would likely be able to teach anyone. I invited an oil painter, a goldsmith, a customer service telephone agent, and his brother, who swore he couldn’t draw a stick man. Add to that, a woman who loved art as a child but quit after an art teacher told her she didn’t have talent, and a nine year old girl. I figured the group would either be a fantastic combination or they would eat each other. Everyone in the trial class created work that surprised me, and I have been sharing my fused glass sgraffito drawing techniques in workshops from that day forward.

In 2017 I went back to school to finish my BFA degree in Glass and Metalsmithing at Bowling Green State University. I studied intensely, and was awarded research grants to develop a new enameling technique using aerosol graphite spray, and to conduct experiments using mason stains to color glass powders for use in pate de verre. Being in school allowed me the space, concentrated time, and equipment to realize work that matters to me most, and the immersion within a community of diverse creative people just can’t be beat. My time at BGSU was worth every penny of the student loans I now have, and my only regret is that I graduated at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic with my diploma arriving in the mail.

Today, I continue to teach artist workshops at various studios in the US and abroad, and am always up for a new gathering! You can find my current teaching schedule and other upcoming events on my website www.ModernAncientGlass.com

Interested in participating in the Guild led 30 Day Powder Challenge, join us at the June 23 General Meeting for more details.