At FDSH, students create with glass

Fort Dodge Senior High is offering a new course this year: Stained Glass. For the class, students create works of art using glass.

“They literally draw it all out, create a stencil for everything, lay it on the glass, trace it and cut the glass with different glass cutters and breaking tools,” Jennifer Dutcher, FDSH art instructor, said. “And then they foil each piece with copper foil and then solder it all together.”

“They glue tiny little pieces of glass onto their object,” Dutcher said. “They can bring in an object for that assignment. I’ve had people do tables, a few people do a lamp. It’s a pretty fun one.”

The course gives students the opportunity to try different types of projects during the semester.

“They do a minimum of three pieces for the entire trimester,” Dutcher said. “They do the intro piece, the first project with 10 or 12 pieces (of glass). Then they jump to a landscape, which is like 40 pieces generally and then a mosaic piece of their choice.”

The final project in the course, a mosaic piece, is a complex one, Dutcher said.

“Their mosaic depends on how much time they have left,” she said. “Sometimes they do really detailed, elaborate stuff. Sometimes, they just do something small to get a handle on the technique.”

One student, Dutcher said, is working on a 6-foot tree tiled with glass and adorned with glass mirrors and pebbles as a potential piece for the student center.

The course is a unique one, Dutcher said.

“We’re the only school in our conference that’s doing stained glass, that I know of,” she said. “However, we do have an area school, Webster City, that does stained glass also.”

Dutcher was first introduced to the art form as a student teacher in Iowa City.

“I was assigned to teach stained glass as one of my courses, and I had no idea how to do it,” she said. “I had to just quickly come in one weekend and figure it out from scratch how to stain glass. That was before YouTube and all the neat tutorials. I taught myself.”

Glass for the projects was acquired locally from Studio Fusion and donated by Webster Glass of Fort Dodge and local artist Chris Jondle.

The course was proposed to FDSH Principal Dave Keane last year for the school’s art students.

“I said I think it really benefits because it’s a nice transition from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional form, yet it’s still almost 2-D,” Dutcher said. “He was all for it.”

Completing its first year at the high school, the program is already popular among students. Five sections were offered this year.

“A lot of students signed up to take it. I generally have 20 kids per class,” she said.

Dutcher said she enjoys teaching the class, finding her students’ enthusiasm heartening.

“I hear, again and again, that students really look forward to coming here every day to work on their projects,” she said. “I always have kids in after school. That really shows they’re genuinely invested in their work, when they want to put in more time than just the minimum requirement in class.”

She added, “I’ve also had a lot of inquiries with students wanting to take Stained Glass II. There’s no such thing. But, at this point, they want to do it again.”

According to Dutcher, the program will continue into the 2013-2014 school year.