Traversing the Firelands: detail across middle

Traversing the Firelands

In October of 1998, my parents made what would be their last trip from Iowa to the east coast. They flew out and spent a few days with Mike and family in Massachusetts, then rented a car to drive to our home in eastern Pennsylvania. After a few days here Mom and Dad took me along on the drive south for visits with my brothers in Virginia and Georgia. In order to allay siblings’ anxiety about our parents’ welfare, I had invited myself along, despite being very busy with a full-time job, glass design commitments, and a significant volunteer position with a national organization. My mother’s increasing disabilities due to an Alzheimer’s type dementia were real but concerns about our 79-year-old father’s driving skills proved groundless.

Putting what I could on hold, I packed drawing supplies and left Jay with a promise to return with designs. Little did I know that the road trip with my parents would result in two autonomous panels with deep personal meaning.

Our first stop was my brother Ed’s place in Roanoke, Virginia. One day he and his wife took us to see land they owned in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We tramped around the property to explore an old cabin, find an abandoned still hidden by brush and trees, watch trout dart up a shallow creek, and sight a beaver hovel. The next evening our hosts prepared fresh-caught trout with almonds, cheese grits, and fried green tomatoes while I finished my first design. I scaled it to use most of a piece of Uroboros deep brown drapery glass that I’d measured before the trip. Uroboros’ original runs of glass produced “cow-tongue” sheets about 12″ x 18″. BrookTroutAtBentMt_w300px72ppi

Bullseye and Wheatoncraft opals pick up purple and red tones in the Uroboros glass. More subtly those other glasses and surface striations in celery-colored Fischer mouth-blown glass echo the Uroboros textures. Lead lines play off the cow-tongue’s shape and interior color movement. This panel is richly mysterious. It embodies deep emotions, including delight and grief.

On the following day Dad, Mom, and I drove to Georgia. The Appalachians were aglow with red, orange, and yellow, fascinating my mother as if she were experiencing autumn for the first time. The flame-colored slopes were stunning against a deep blue sky. “Color, color, color,” remarked my father. “Slow drivers, slow drivers, slow drivers,” he added when we got stuck for miles behind a sluggish van on the Blue Ridge Parkway. My choice of routes was not appreciated as time began to outweigh scenery. It was after dinner and dark when we finally arrived at the home of my brother Paul’s family.

Stained glass panel with iridescent fire opal, cobalt, red, amber,
Traversing the Firelands
The trip was long in other ways, too. Mom was experiencing “sun-downer” syndrome after more than a week away from home. Her confusion about food and social conventions was increasingly apparent. This once-beautiful woman could no longer manage personal care on her own. Just as the three of us had traveled through flame-colored mountains, our family was traversing a rough territory set on fire by Mom’s debilitating disease. Some of that experience, both awesome and frightening, came out in a glass design on our last evening in Georgia.

The completed stained glass panel included an iridescent Australian fire opal, red semi-antique, and amber drapery glass, contrasting with cobalt mouth-blown glass. After months of reflection on what the design represented, I named the panel “Traversing the Firelands.”
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Both of my parents are now dead. Photos of the two glass panels still evoke memories of those October days and of the years that followed. The journey required courage, the mystery deepened. It’s a rich background for my Walk to End Alzheimer’s, advocacy for those who still traverse the firelands, and hope for an end to the disease before it affects the next generations.

Kale and melon salad in Sandplum with Red Rimations bowl

Peppery greens and summer fruit

Until I ran across a recipe combining arugula and watermelon in a salad, I didn’t have much use for those greens or the red kale that always appears when we plant a packet of mesclun seeds. Now every year we eat garden arugula until late June, by which time it is going to seed and kale is crowding it out. Some years the red kale keeps growing until it’s covered by snow, and then reappears early the next spring. Watermelon isn’t in season that long so I’ve tried other fruits with great success, such as peaches in August, apples in fall. This salad is as nutritious as it is tasty. It makes a fine lunch on its own, and it has been a hit at potluck suppers.

Here’s how to make Peppery Greens with Feta and Fruit Salad.

Step 1: Marinating fruit and cheese in balsamic vinegar
Watermelon and feta in balsamic vinegar

First cube about 2 Cups fruit (watermelon, apple, peach, nectarine, or pear) and 2 ounces of Feta cheese (or substitute Gorgonzola, blue, Swiss, or sharp white cheddar). Place into a quart container. Add 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper and 1.5 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar; toss and refrigerate.
Choose an attractive bowl.
Sandplum with Red Rimations classic bowl

Next choose an attractive, large bowl. This bowl that Jay made will contrast nicely with the deep green kale while its red “rimations” will go well with the color of the watermelon.
Peppery Greens salad preparation step 2
Tearing red kale into bowl

Tear about 4 cups of arugula or kale (red or Russian) into pieces and place in the bowl. Toss with 1.5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

Top with the reserved fruit and cheese. Add 3-4 Tbsp chopped almonds (toasted if you wish). Serve with hearty fresh bread or crackers as a main dish for two; or serve as a side salad with dinner for four.

Kale and melon salad in Sandplum with Red Rimations bowl
Peppery Greens with Feta and Fruit salad

story of an exhibit

Last weekend the Lake Naomi/Timber Trails community near Pocono Pines played host to a Fine Arts and Crafts Show where we exhibited. The show was a fund-raiser for an area food bank as well as an excellent opportunity to show our work to people who appreciate art and fine crafts.

An exhibit requires several hours to set up. Lake Naomi’s committee arranged to have young men ready to help exhibitors “load in” and they made quick work of hauling stuff from our vehicle to the assigned booth. The helpers were friendly and strong; they generously offered to do more, but we reserved unpacking to ourselves. In less than three hours most of the hall was transformed and our own booth looked pretty good.


Next morning we were ready for visitors when the doors opened and spent the ensuing six hours visiting with people about how we make our fused glass wares as well as about stained glass installations. Everyone loves the beautiful colors and the depth of our glass fusing. It seems to us that customers are drawn to colors first, then to dish styles. So we organize our wares by color groups. Red ware draws the most attention or at least most people’s first attention even when they ultimately choose to buy something in another color.
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One advantage to exhibiting as a couple is that during less busy periods we can take turns walking around the exhibit hall to see other artists and craft-persons’ work and learn about their processes. Whether they are painters, wood-workers, or weavers, they have something to teach us. Last Saturday we each got out for a walk, after the rain ended, and enjoyed the community “leisure trail.” Even found blackberries ripening along the way.

Lake Naomi’s show lasts only one short day but most shows are longer. Whatever the length, all good things come to and end and we start repacking the glass and display materials, a labor of a couple hours. Young women appeared this time and helped disassemble shelving racks. They also toted most of our boxes out to the vehicle, a real blessing because by that time we were weary. It is always long after dark when we get back to the Studio following a show.

Despite the work involved, exhibiting is our best opportunity to talk with folks about our work. We learn what people like and we bring home a good deal of affirmation. Last weekend a fellow glass artist bought glass from us, and that’s a fine compliment. Looking at our glass through other people’s eyes and mingling with other creative people boosts our creativity. Driving homeward there’s a lot to talk about.

The Lake Naomi experience packed two 90 minute round trips, five to six hours of setting up and taking down, and six hours on our feet into a 23-hour period. Yes, we were tired afterward but eager to get back into the studio. We’re already looking forward to at least two more shows before the end of the year: November 23-24 in Buckingham Springs and Thanksgiving weekend at Skytop Lodge.

Close-up of Christy Mathewson stained glass window

Christy Mathewson lives on

One of the greatest pitchers in baseball history grew up less than ten miles from our home and studio. Christy Mathewson was born at Factoryville PA on August 12, 1880. At age 14 he started pitching for the town team and continued in semi-pro baseball throughout high school. During college summers he played in the minor leagues and made the Major Leagues by the age of 20. “Matty” played primarily for the NY Giants, changing the image of baseball by his gentlemanly nature, and also managed the Cincinnati Reds. Mathewson pitched three shut-outs to lead the Giants to the 1905 World Series championship. With 373 career wins, he holds the National League record. In 1936, eleven years after his death, Mathewson was one of the First Five players to be inaugurated into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 2007 Jay was contacted by the current owners of the house in Factoryville where Mathewson had lived. They wanted a stained glass window depicting the beloved pitcher to hang in the historic house. Jay was pleased to visit the house and design a window depicting Mathewson winding up for his “fadeaway” ball. That summer Jay fabricated the stained glass panel and installed it a couple weeks before the great man’s birthday.

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The small community of Factoryville continues to honor their famous native son every year around the time of his birthday. Christy Matthewson Days are August 9 & 10 this year.

Fresh bread loaf on fused glass plate

Bread from the garden

We’re gardeners. One summer several years ago Jay planted mustard green seeds on a whim, without having any idea how to use the plentiful produce that grew. I cooked greens with garlic and onion several times without making a dent in the crop and finally challenged him to find a way to make use of plants that were taking up a large amount of garden space. That’s when he found the recipe for Greens and Grits Bread in Flavored Breads: Recipes from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe, a gift from our son Michael. The coarse-textured loaves have become a favorite.

Combining mustard greens with dough by using a Kitchen Aide mixer
Adding mustard greens to dough
On baking day, Jay picks a dishpan full of mustard greens early in the morning before the sun wilts them. He washes and spins the greens and lays them on a towel to dry before chopping them. In the meantime he uses a KitchenAid mixer to make dough and then adds the chopped greens.


Step 3: placing formed dough onto a bread peel
moving formed dough to peel
After the dough rises twice, he forms two round loaves and lets them rise on his wooden peel. When the loaves are ready and the oven is hot, Jay slashes the tops of the loaves and slides them off the peel onto a hot baking stone. In about 40 minutes golden loaves are ready to transfer to a cooling rack.

Fresh bread loaf on fused glass plate
Greens & Grits Bread on Seaforms plate
While the bread is cooling I prepare a hearty salad and set out butter and jam. Or we might have sandwiches. But I prefer to eat the fresh coarse-grained bread without embellishments so I can savor its subtle flavor. It’s just as tasty as it looks, and handsome, too, on that “Seaforms” dinner plate.

Earlier this summer Jay “baked” a set of six smaller “Seaforms” plates, a special order from a Philadelphia customer to commemorate a wedding anniversary. The 8″ plates are sized just right for salad or dessert.

Set of six Seaforms lunch, salad, or dessert plates (8")
Six lunch/salad/dessert plates