Artist teaches students fused glass techniques

Fifteen years ago, Richard Parrish went to a workshop about the art of fused glass. The art soon became a hobby. Now it's his life.

And he's back in the workshop, this time in the teacher's seat.

Parrish, 48, holds regular lessons for beginners at his studio, Fusio, on South Wallace Avenue. Glass is a difficult medium for artists to work with. Fusing it sometimes can have unpredictable results. And it's sharp, as the small cuts on Parrish's hands prove.

But the results -- in the form of crystal plates, sculptures and panels -- are spectacular. "I like the transparency," Parrish said. "I like the color and I like the way it relates to light." Glass, he said, is much like ceramics.

"You get your hands in the material ... it's very tactile," he said. Five people joined Parrish at his studio Saturday for one of his regular workshops, which usually take place once every month. The students started work right away, fusing small pieces of colored glass into squares with the studio kiln. Later, after lunch, Parrish demonstrated how to cut shapes from glass by etching lines with a hand-held cutter.

The sound wasn't unlike fingernails scraping a chalkboard, but Parrish didn't flinch. He finds the screech beautiful. "That means that was a good cut," he said. Fusio, which is Latin for "melt," was founded four years ago. Before that, Parrish had been a professor at Montana State University, where he taught architecture. He learned about the art during a workshop in Anchorage, Alaska. When he started Fusio, he hadn't planned on giving lessons. "Friends were asking if I would ever do a workshop," he said. "I did one, and word got out I was doing it."

Soon he was getting requests for more workshops. Now he has a waiting list. He doesn't mind: "I love to teach." Parrish has art on display in galleries as far away as New York state. In fact, it's his reputation that student Susan Neel of Bozeman said brought her to Saturday's workshop. Neel, an artist herself, specializes in paper, another medium that relies on the interplay of light. However, with paper "there is a certain luminance," she said. "It is soft, very subtle." Glass, on the other hand, is "much more sharp" and "very lively." And both have limitations, things that are not physically possible. That is the challenge for the artist, Neel said. "The end result comes from just having a knowledge of the materials," she said. There is a $150 fee, but that may go up as the costs of materials rise, Parrish said.

600450 Artist teaches students fused glass techniques

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