ClarAnn Bjers’ Glass Elegance
● By Gary VanDeWalker
Best in Glass
By Gary VanDeWalker
Photos by Taryn Burkleo
A black and white string forms from liquid glass pulled from the blue flames. At the deft hands of ClarAnn Bjers, the string moves as if magic is forming it into black and white translucent beads. Within the workshop of Glass Elegance, Bjers turns flat panes of glass into living creatures, flowing and molding into works of art.
Thirteen years ago, glass was simply a school project. Homeschooling her children, Bjers needed art credit for their education. Together they enrolled in a glasswork class at College of the Siskiyous. Purchasing a kiln online, the family spent the semester learning the basics of the art. As the class ended, her young students lost interest, yet in Bjers a kinship with the medium and its possibilities arose. “Glass is a liquid which takes on its own life,” Bjers says. “I found myself only limited by my own imagination.”
Setting up a work area in her husband’s automotive repair shop, Bjers began her journey. Her interests expanded. She experimented with fusing glass, learning the glass had a memory of its thicknesses and shapes. From her kiln and molds, she married colors of her medium, producing otherworldly plates. Her hands mastered lamp working, using a propane torch to manipulate the glass into strings and orbs of fabric-like fluid, from which vibrant, colorful jewelry arose. Four years ago, her husband suggested she open a studio. She found her creative space and filled it with raw materials and finished creations.
The room is a testimony to the beauty and complexity of her work. Three kilns fire glass. Tubes full of brushes, alongside her alcohol-based inks, await instruction. Metal leaf, drills, saws and a mind full of inspiration keep the work bench busy.
With patient oversight, Bjers guides a student learning the craft. The novice mother, now the master artisan, passes on her talents through classes offered at the studio. The young student works with intense focus as her mentor guides her through the steps of firing the medium to 1,300 degrees down to the process of coloring and shaping her ideas into tangible artwork.
A notebook full of experience is kept on the workbench. “Each piece of glass has a personality. Glass types cool and heat at different rates,” Bjers says. “I keep a record of my experiments and collective knowledge to guide me.”
Working with glass is an exercise in patience. The three kilns of the workshop are run by programmable computers. In fusing glass, it can take 18 hours to fuse two plates and another 12 for the glass to yield to a mold.
There is a science to this art which is ever evolving. “When the ceramic tiles of the space shuttle entered the atmosphere, NASA noted the beautiful, rugged coating of the ceramic after being heated on reentry,” Bjers says. “Now I’m buying the same ceramic and using heat to imitate the process and transform it into art.”
Bjers finds her creativity begins late at night. She often works until 3 am. The sounds of audio books fill her mind as her fingers shape and create a series of custom bottle stoppers with the image of Mount Shasta embedded in the glass. “Mount Shasta pieces,” Bjers says, “are my most popular creations.”
The studio is full of books and ideas on glasswork. “I want my creations to be different. I’m always wanting to learn something new,” Bjers says. “I’ve established a complete studio where I can explore my dreams, from creating a necklace to my latest commission making a backsplash for a kitchen.”
The works of Glass Elegance can be found in the Black Bear Gallery in Mount Shasta, the Siskiyou Arts Museum in Dunsmuir, the Mount Shasta Golf Resort and in her husband’s shop, Bjers Automotive. She also takes custom orders and collaborates with clients on designs. She brings customers and inquiries into her studio when called for an appointment.
Deep blues, earth tones, subtle reds mix throughout her studio in small to large pieces. The colors and shapes represent a world of their own, drawing the eye to marvel at the life embodied in each piece of glass.
“My family is filled with attorneys and judges. My mom once wondered if there was any creativity in us,” Bjers says. “Well, here I am and it can’t get any better, because my husband is my biggest fan.”
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