Becky Johnson (standing, left) with students and the Paragon kilns at the Creative Art Center of Dallas.
At the Creative Art Center of Dallas, a weathered sign on the front of the building reads “Bayles School 1856 – 1941.” The 1930s building at Laughlin Drive in Dallas, Texas started out as an elementary school. Even after 16 years as an art center, the building retains the atmosphere of its earlier days. If you listen quietly, you can almost hear a recess bell, the voices of children, and the slamming of lockers that still line the hallways.
Scattered through the classrooms are tools for sculpting clay, painting canvas, and cutting glass. Toward the back of the Art Center in the covered outdoor kiln area, female students gather around the hot Paragon GL-64AD, GL-24ADTSD, and Pearl-22 glass fusing kilns. A thin line of bright orange light appears around the massive closed lid of the GL-64AD. The students talk excitedly as Becky Johnson, their glass teacher, lets them view the hot glass as it begins to slump into molds.
The bright heating elements reflect in the surface of the luminous glass. The sharp edges of separate layers have rounded and fused together like molasses. Students take turns wearing firing safety glasses as they peer into the peepholes. Kneeling, they watch the glass as if mesmerized. They can hardly wait for the kiln to cool down. The kiln seems as if it were alive as it transforms the glass.
“Opening the kiln is magical,” says Becky. “I love it most when I can load the kiln as tight as possible so that every inch is filled with artwork. Loading the kiln is very important, because I want to ensure that each piece looks its best when the firing is complete.”
The students admire Becky. You can see it in their eyes. They know that she has a wealth of glass experience. Becky fires the Creative Art Center kilns four times a week. “Sometimes we can squeeze in an additional firing during the week,” she says. “Let's see…I have fired the three Art Center Paragon kilns 624 times. Whew! And that doesn't even include the firings in my own personal kilns.
“The success of the glass work at the Creative Arts Center of Dallas reflects directly on the quality and reliability of our Paragon kilns,” says Becky. “They allow our students to create challenging and innovative glass art. These kilns are safe, easy to program, and built to last.
“The customer support group at Paragon equals in quality as well,” says Becky. “Whether it is technical or current news from the Kiln Pointer emails, or the friendly, knowledgeable advice from customer service, the Paragon group brings us years of dedication and experience.”
What advice does Becky offer glass artists? “When the kiln is ready to program, carefully review the kiln contents one more time, and alter the program as needed. Sometimes it means soaking longer to eliminate bubbles in layers. Other times it's raising the temperature more slowly to accommodate thicker pre-fired glasswork.
“For drop rings and drape slumps, I use the Delay feature so my students can watch their pieces during scheduled class time.
“By the time the kiln has fired and completely cooled, opening it is a reward for all the effort,” says Becky. “I like to open the kiln with my students so we can review and admire each other’s treasures together. The transformation which the glass makes when heated inside the kiln is magical and mystical. It changes from pieces of arranged cut glass to awe-inspiring art. To be part of that process is a gift.”