Glass Artisan Teaches Kids to Dream Big!

My name is Linda Billet, I am a glass artisan. I normally work out of my Hummelstown studio, but for two weeks this spring, I was able to play with the kids at Midd-West High School. This great opportunity was possible through a grant provided by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

I was honored to able to work with art students helping them create a 6 foot by 5 foot mosaic to hang at their school. Before I got there, they had revealed the desire to incorporate flowers in to the design and the words “Dream big”, what a fantastic way to start a project.  

We had ten days to accomplish our task, and let me tell you, this was quite a task. We started with two foot by two foot sheets of stained glass that I brought with me.  The students minced this glass into various shaped tiles ranging in size from a square inch to tidbits the size of your pinky nail. It was great to see the nearly one hundred students begin this project with zero glass cutting experience and walkout with appreciation for the education.

When I go in to meet all these students at schools, I never tell them that they will be doing a mad-crazy amount of work that is so fun and in the end they have created art. The neat thing is the kids add details that were not part of the original design and require even more work – they’re just happy to be part of the team. Often, the kids would ask to come in extra during their study halls or free periods just to help. We actually finished the project two days early and made glass pendants which were a fun little project itself.  The kids are machines, I’m telling you and their pride filled the school!

This was my third artist-in-residence project and a few things are the same. One thing is really interesting with all the projects and that’s seeing different kinds of people work together for one common goal. There are always several solutions to a problem in this totally foreign situation. People volunteer to do more than is asked of them. My favorite thing is observing those students that I think are among the best contributors. They are often kids that I later find out have special needs or kids that have had problems. A project like this has just as much confidence building benefits as any sport.

This particular school was feeling the sting of budget cuts that were hitting hard in the art department. Art projects like this one emphasize the need for thinking outside of the box, where invention occurs. With all three projects, students have been extremely proud when the work is done, and as they should be. I am just as proud of them. It was an absolute joy to witness a beaming kid whose hands were vastly different than mine, as he wielded glass cutting tools like it was his job. Many times during the two weeks he proclaimed, “I love cutting glass!”

Obviously, these projects are designed for the students, but I can tell you that I get as much or more out of working with them. I feel the mosaic statement, “dream BIG,” will forever remind the students of exactly what I’d like for them long after I am gone.