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Old 06-26-2007, 02:28 AM
Paul Thompson Paul Thompson is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Hygiene CO
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Red Deer College

I just returned from two weeks at Red Deer College's Summer Series School of the Arts classes. Here's a review ( pix ) :


RDC runs hot glass classes for 17 consecutive weeks each year from May through August. Unlike some other colleges (Sheridan, Halliburton, Center, Carbondale, etc) RDC does not have any hot glass classes during the "normal" school sessions. This makes the RDC classes more like adult "continuing education" classes. Each class is one week, and features one or two instructors. I think RDC is slanted towards Canadian instructors. Cost is C $750 to $950 (depending on instructors) + GST + housing. Figure that your total cost will be about half of what The House Of Dale will charge. Granted, Lino, Davide or Dante probably won't be teaching at RDC, but on the other hand you won't be required to submit a resume to get onto the waiting list. Popular instructors will get booked fast (I've been told as quickly as the first 15 minutes after registration starts), so be prepared.

My first week's class was "Turning Tricks with Ted"; instructor Ted Jolda. This course was tagged as an "Advanced" class. The second week was "Advanced glassblowing for beginners" with Jeff Holmwood. Eight or nine students is considered a "full" class. Ted's class had the minimum five students, so we all got LOTS of bench time (I got spoiled!). There were eight students (four groups of two) in Jeff's class which meant cooperation & scheduling bench time.

I would strongly recommend RDC classes, especially if either of these guys was teaching. Ted is a wild & crazy guy, and demoed stuff that I haven't seen or read about. Jeff demoed some murrini work, his vortex vessel technique, and a big piece. He also challenged the class to do a team piece on the last day, which would involve leadership, organization, and glassblowing skills.

The RDC hotshop is glommed onto the outside of one of the arts buildings, and is shielded by a tin roof and sliding glass doors. The first class day we had rain AND hail - as if the glories weren't noisy enough - yelling became a requirement. RDC has a large (200 lbs??) gas fired crucible furnace, 3 glories (2 small, one medium) and 3 benches, 2 top-loader annealers and 1 front-loader. Floor space is cramped and requires loud "coming behind you" warnings and an increased level of responsibility and alertness on the part of anyone on the floor. The marvers and glories were about 4 to 8 inches lower than what I'm used to. I'm 6-4 and my perspective was all messed up. I tagged the top of the glory door several times. The marvers were truely munchkin height. RDC recently switched to Spectrum System 96, which is about the only glass I've ever used. Everyone else was talking about the unusual qualities of the glass, but quite frankly, I didn't notice. After some severe compatability problems on Ted's first demo (cane), Katrina (one of the shop techs) stayed late (all blowing stops at 8 pm) to manually empty the furnace and recharge with a new lot of glass. Things went much better after that.

RDC will sell you Gaffer color -- bar or frit (#2 or 3 ?) and maintains a good inventory, barring the occasional psychotic Canadian customs agent incidents. Powder (they have a booth) was used by both instructors and the shop techs, but is not available to students due to health concerns.

Speaking of the techs, Ben Kikkert and Kat Brodie are both super techs; wonderful, caring people and great artists. They were also performing as instructor assistants during the demos, and would help out (time & other duties permitting) as TAs or offer suggestions during student blowing time. A school like RDC couldn't survive without great, and highly over-worked, help like this.

Tools were all pretty good. I brought my own diamond shears, and many students had brought their own hand tools. For one of his demo pieces, Jeff Holmwood had a brand new Steinart pipe & punty (label still attached) that must have been 2" dia - a true whopper. The selection of optic molds (all were AL) was limited. Pipes were Spirals and some others. I think all the student pipes were "standard" size with tapered ends. There were a few tubular stepdown punties, but most were solid SS rod.

Cold working equipment (I hope I get these terms right - I know even less about cold equipment than I do about hot glass) includes a dual-wheel lathe, a wet belt grinder, metal wheel polisher with a primative bucket & grit feed, and a wet tile saw that the techs refuse to use during normal hours because it's so noisy. RDC summer series classes include torchwork, pottery, slumping and fusing, so this kind of equipment is there, but I don't know if it's available to hot glass students.

Classes generally start with a demo at 9 am until 10 or 11, followed by student blowing time. There was usually another demo at 1 pm followed by student time. The techs take over one of the benches at 5 pm for their own work. Shop shuts down at 8 pm Mon - Thur. On Friday, shop shuts down at 4 pm for an extensive cleanup. During the week, all students are expected to clean up their bench area (sweep & put away tools) at the end of the day. Shop time is available to students or local artists for $100 (per person) on Saturdays. When's the last time you got 11 hours of shop rental time for $100?? Shop is cold on Sundays.

Last edited by Paul Thompson; 06-27-2007 at 09:36 AM.
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