Monday, November 25, 2013

Interview with the Glass Artist

Back in August of this year, my family and I went on a vacation to the northern midwest states of Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. While we were in Michigan, we decided to visit Kalamazoo, basically just to be able to say we’d been there. We found a brochure for this interesting place called West Michigan Glass Art Center and decided to check it out. We met this really nice guy, Jesse Baker, who gave us the grand tour of the Center and told us about the different types of glass art they create there. Today, I’m excited to host Jesse here at Writing to Inspire. He’s agreed to share a little bit about his favorite form of art and what it means to his community.

West Michigan Glass Art Center in downtown Kalamazoo.
Andrea: Welcome to Writing to Inspire, Jesse! I'm so happy you could join us today. Glass art is quite a unique art form. Was there a moment when you knew, "Now THAT'S what I want to do with my life!"? How did you get started in this particular art? Was there a particular person or event that inspired you, sparking your interest in working with glass?
Jesse: My introduction to the torch was a crash course in the form of an advanced lampworking class with Loren Stump. I would have to say it was that week, studying under Loren, watching his frenetic pace and the amazing things that he does with glass, when I knew this was something I wanted to try and do. He showed me that working with glass and the infinite possibilities of creation are limited only by one’s imagination. The things you can do and create with glass are truly endless. 

Andrea: While browsing your website (, I learned that the West Michigan Glass Art Center, located in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, is a non-profit organization that teaches, creates and promotes glass art and artists. How did you get involved with the West Michigan Glass Art Center? How may the public get involved?

Triangle Paperweight
Jesse: I first became involved many years ago, taking a hotshop class with my sister. Though it wasn’t then that glass fully sank its teeth into me, I should’ve known then it would. Shortly after that I moved off the mainland for a couple of years, spending that time living and loving life in Maui. Soon after having returned to the mainland I received a job notice in my inbox from the West Michigan Glass Art Center about a studio manager job position open. I applied, got the job, and haven’t looked back since, increasingly embracing glass as my hobby, then art-form, now, arguably, as my addiction. Glass is indeed addictive, if you like it, it’s likely you’re gonna LOVE it! We are a public access organization, focused on teaching the community glass art in all its forms, offering classes for the beginner looking to try making beads for the first time, to the advanced glassblower looking to hone their particular skills in the hotshop.

Andrea: When my family visited the Glass Art Center, you explained to us that there are many different types of glass art, including: glassblowing, kiln casting, cold working, flameworking, stained glass, bead making and kiln fusing. Which type is your favorite to work with? Which is your favorite to teach?

Jesse: Same answer to both of those questions, Hotshop, Hotshop, and Hotshop. I’d work in the Hotshop every day if I could afford to. And though I truly enjoy teaching classes in other studios, the hotshop is where I would prefer to teach as well. 

Andrea Cox and Jesse Baker in the glass art gift shop
Andrea: West Michigan Glass Art Center (WMGAC) has partnered with Bronson Children's Hospital in a program called Journey Beads. Can you tell us a little about this program and how it inspires children who are battling cancer? How has this program affected you and the art you create?

Jesse: The Bronson Journey Beads program is a new collaboration this year between WMGAC and the Bronson Children’s Hospital, providing beads for kids at the hospital who are going through treatment for cancer. Different styled and colored beads are made by local glass artists for various treatments that the kids are enduring. All of us here at the Art Center are taking a lot of pride in the work we’re doing in support of this program, volunteers having donated nearly 800 hours, creating and delivering about 3500 beads to the hospital thus far. The beads act as both a tangible reminder of the steps in the treatment the kids are going through, as well as a tool for telling the story of all that which they are enduring during the process. 

Andrea: How many years have you been creating glass art? How long does it take to become a master at it?

Jesse: I’ve been playing with glass for about 3 ½ years now and am far from considering myself a master of any aspect of it. Although I think the answer to your second question may vary greatly depending upon the individual and the time and resources that individual has to devote to glass. It’s my belief that it takes a lifetime to earn that title, as a master, or maestro in the glass world. 

Andrea: Of the pieces of glass art you create, what are some of your favorites?
Coral Reef Sculpture
Jesse: Aquatics are what I have been drawn to increasingly over the past few years. My favorites would be some of my most recent pieces I’ve produced. A beautiful jellyfish paperweight, a coral reef sculpture and my jellyfish pendants which continue to get better with each made.

Jellyfish Paperweight

Jellyfish Pendants

Andrea: Has a piece of art you were working on ever broken? How do you overcome the disappointment when that happens?

Jesse: Ahh, broken glass, the part you often don’t want to talk about, at least for quite some time after it happens. I have, indeed, had many pieces come crashing to the floor (or table), both hurt equally. When it comes to glass you just have to accept that as a part of the game. I once worked on a very ambitious roll-up project in the hotshop, putting about 30 hours in to the prep, layout and design portion, then a couple of hours of production time in the hotshop with two assistants only to have the piece crack at the very last second, as the piece was being put away in the kiln. Bitter disappointment doesn’t quite sum up the feeling I had at the end of that process. But, much the same as life, what are you gonna do, give up? You pick up the pieces, learn from your mistakes and try to do it better the next time!

Andrea: What events or classes does the Glass Art Center host around Christmas? Anything that children may participate in?
Blue Christmas Ornaments
Jesse: Twice a year, in May and November we offer EGAD, or Explore Glass Art Day, offering students as young as seven the opportunity to come in and take a taster course in any or all of our studios here at the Glass Art Center. Being a non-profit, this is held as a fundraiser for the Art Center and a great opportunity for the community to get their hands on glass at a very affordable price. All of our instructors volunteer their time on those special EGAD days, helping to make the courses more affordable for those who would like to try glass as an art form. We also offer ornament making sessions, sold on Groupon just before the holidays, which is always a hot ticket. Last year we had over 600 people come through our hotshop, teaching them how to make their very own ornament to place on their tree or give away as a very special gift to a loved one. 

Pink Christmas Ornaments
Andrea: How may my readers and I help support you and the West Michigan Glass Art Center, to help keep this art form around for future generations?

Jesse: There are many ways individuals can help support both the West Michigan Glass Art Center and glass art as a whole. I think your article, enlightening others who may not know anything about glass is a great way to help, increasing the glass world’s exposure. As far as supporting our mission here at WMGAC, being a non-profit, any cash donations given to the Art Center are tax deductible. To make a donation to WMGAC, follow the link,

Another way to support us, indirectly, is to support the Bronson Journey Beads program, either by getting involved in the program or by making a donation to the program. Donations towards the Bronson Journey Beads program can be made at the Bronson Health Foundation’s website, found here:

Andrea: What is something you've learned from working with glass that can be applied to other aspects of life?
Glass Tree

Jesse: Sometimes other aspects of life only need just a little more, or, a little less heat applied to get it to the right, working temperature.

Andrea: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to pursue the dreams and goals they're passionate about?

Jesse: When we dream, generally, we dream BIG! Don’t give up! They wouldn’t be dreams if they were easily attainable!

Andrea: Jesse, thank you so much for your generous time and sharing your experiences with the West Michigan Glass Art Center.

Readers, when have you tried something new? Did you enjoy it or find that it wasn’t for you? Have you ever made your own Christmas tree ornaments?

The next time you find yourself in Kalamazoo, Michigan, stop by the West Michigan Glass Art Center. They’ve got a neat shop where you can purchase pieces of glass art created by local artists. You won’t want to miss it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fairchild's Lady - a FREE novella

Ten years after his words were used against him by a spy in Ring of Secrets, Isaac Fairchild finds himself using covert tactics in the follow-up novella, Fairchild’s Lady. When he is commissioned to find a friend’s wife and daughter and bring them safely home to England before war breaks out in France, he isn’t expecting Lady Julienne to be so beautiful with such startlingly blue eyes. Will he convince the two women to flee before it’s too late? Or will they wait for the impending proposal from a French duke? Will Fairchild suffer a broken heart for the second time?

This eBook might be short at only eight chapters and a prologue, but it carries a large dose of sweetness. I was glad to see what happened to Fairchild after the events of book one in Roseanna M. White’s Culper Ring series. Even though I wasn’t rooting for him in book one, I did grow quite attached to him. Getting a peek at what took place between Ring of Secrets and Whispers from the Shadows made me feel a little like a spy myself.

The day I was reading this book, I was on a shopping trip. One stop was a Half-Price Books store. Wouldn’t you know I’d see a section on espionage while browsing the military history section for research books for my latest novel. I giggled over the irony of reading a book about spies and happening across a whole shelf full of books about covert operations.

It only took me one day to read this book, and I enjoyed every word of it. It’s a fabulous story that enhances the series. Soon I’ll be reading book two, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing my review on it not long afterwards.

Don't forget to hop over to Roseanna White's website. She's got the links to the free novella here.

Also, Roseanna hosted me recently on her blog. Check out my article here.

Do you like novellas? Do they add to or detract from a series? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sisterchicks On the Loose!

Have you ever been surprised by the contents of a book?

Recently, I experienced that very thing.
Having previously loved RobinJones Gunn’s Clouds, I was eager to see what else she had written. When the first of her Sisterchicks books came up on my list of available books on Blogging for Books, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try another of her novels.

The surprises began with the cover. Blue sky and snow, with a bright orange strip of foreign buildings . . . just the hint of adventure I needed to sneak Sisterchickson the Loose! up my ever-growing list of books to read. Plus, the cute little chick in the top left corner with the snazzy sunglasses made me giggle with joy. *Note: When I was browsing at the book store over the weekend, I noticed this book had a different cover than the copy I had. Don’t let that stop you from taking on this adventure!

Upon opening the cover, I discovered the story was written in the first person. Quite startling, since the “norm” for fiction is currently third person writing. I’ve read a few first person fictions before, and they usually took me several chapters to get into the rhythm of them, if I ever did. Much to my delight, the story swiftly unfolded as if told by a dear friend. This negated the first person problems I’d had in the past. In fact, as I was reading, I felt as if I were reading the authors private, intimate thoughts on her own journey to Finland. I’m not sure how much of the tale was based on Ms. Gunn’s personal experiences, but she sure painted an enjoyable tale with plenty of adventure, misunderstandings, hilariousness and sweetly tender moments.

Finally, I was surprised to discover a deep character arc that could easily apply to so many women’s lives. (Men’s, too, for that matter.) Many of us struggle with identity issues at some point or another in our lives. This book provides hope and a bit of guidance where our identities are concerned. It’s nice to see such deep thoughts woven seamlessly into a whim of an adventure.

In Sisterchicks on the Loose!, Penny tells her best friend Sharon, “Pack your bags, girl! We’re finally going to run away from home!” They take off for far away Finland in hopes of reuniting with the aunt Penny’s always wanted to meet. Mishaps seem to appear from every direction, but they decide to trust God and let Him lead the way on this long-awaited journey. Both women have lessons to learn along the way, along with surprises to give and receive. The people they meet on the trip only add to the experience, enhancing the already enjoyable excursion across the globe. Will they miss home or wish they could travel indefinitely? After going on such an exciting trip, how can they ever go back to normal living? Make sure to pick up this Sisterchick novel if you have a bit of the wanderlust in you. It’ll get you itching to board a plane—but don’t forget your carry-on!

My food for thought question today comes from a quote in chapter seven of this novel: “It’s time for you to drop your bucket deep down into the well of possibilities that you’ve been ignoring all these years. Drop it all the way down and see what you pull up.”

When you dunk your bucket into the well of possibilities God’s placed before you, what do you pull up? How do you use the talents and gifts God’s blessed you with? How can you impact the world today? Share your ideas with us in the comment section below, but please don’t stop there. Let’s make a difference in the world around us, shall we?

Monday, November 4, 2013

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This year is the first time I’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo. I’m not quite sure how it works or what to expect, but I’m giving it my best shot.

From what I read on, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. My last novel came in at about 94,000 words, so I’m aiming a bit higher than 50k to call the story complete. But accomplishing the goal of 50,000 words in a single month will be a great jumpstart on my first draft.

My personal goals with NaNoWriMo this year are things that will help me on all my future projects, along with the current one.

1) Write every single day (with Sundays as my only free days). Having a routine is essential to me, especially as I struggle to focus with my undiagnosed ADD. I’ve been aiming for a regular writing routine, and I’m hoping to use NaNoWriMo as motivation to settle into a good schedule.

2) Increase my word count each consecutive day. I’m often impressed by my fellow authors who log 5k to 10k words per day on their works in progress (WIP). My typical 600 to 1,500 words pale in comparison, but I’m always happy when I pass the 1,000 mark. If I can beat my word count on a consistent basis, perhaps one day I’ll log in 5k words . . . or maybe more!

3) Most importantly, continue to seek God’s help. He is my source for words to write. Without Him, my word bank would dry up like a puddle on a hot Texas summer day. “Come to the fountain . . .” is my daily plan. If I seek the Word to feed my soul and commit my writing to the Lord, He will faithfully fill me to overflowing and grant me the words that will create novels pleasing to Him. And I pray He receives all the glory.

Excitement describes my first foray with NaNoWriMo (click the link and become one of my writing buddies). I’m anticipating a productive month of writing. I’m sure I’ll be exhausted come December, but blessedly so. What a great way to kick off the holiday season!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Are you a veteran or a newcomer like me? What are you hoping to get out of it? Any tips or advice you’d care to share?

For those of you not involved with NaNoWriMo, what activities are keeping you busy in November? Is it something you do throughout the year or exclusively during the winter months? Does your whole family get involved or is it a solo project?