The Glass Shard Game
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:39 PM
"Children carrying cardboard trays cluster around shallow boxes of colored glass fragments laid out on a large table. There's a ruby red box, a cobalt blue box - every hue one can imagine - glowing with especial brilliance under fluorescent lights that seem to bleach other colors from the room. The clink of glass on glass as the youngsters select shards is mildly disorienting. What sounds like a dinner party is actually Sherry Chandler's 4th grade Ordway art class, working on a mural project with glass artists Diane Bonciolini and Greg Mesmer. When you begin a big project, you have trepidation about whether they can do it, Chandler says, but they always rise to the occasion.Looking around, kids are focused laying out the bits of glass on square tiles, or moving purposefully to find supplies. The individual tiles will come together in a collective artwork to be installed on the face of the Ordway building at a cost of $5,000. The Parent Teacher Organization and Bainbridge Arts and Crafts each donated half. The students' first assignment was to do three icon drawings of things that reminded them of school. Then they were teamed with a partner whose drawing had a similar theme. Each glass square was divided diagonally, and each team took a triangle. That's how the four sections of fourth graders were accommodated.Chandler says executing the glass squares is a problem in self-restraint for students. They have to hold themselves back from filling up all the available space, she says.Chandler is speaking to horror vacui, Latin fear of emptiness, an artist's inclination to fill every square inch with stuff. The children, like older artists, must learn that less can really be more. Two girls in matching orange jerseys who look like they could be sisters, work on two renditions of the same drawing - a heart, inside which friends hold hands. We're making this picture about friendship, Emma Draluck and Olivia Findlay say in unison. The students use glue to hold the glass, but since the glue won't melt away in the kiln, small dabs are best. There will be, when Mesmer and Bonciolini add the clear, sealing glass, five layers. Tiles will fuse for six to eight hours, in a kiln with the heat slowly increasing to 1,500 degrees. The unveiling of the mural is timed to coincide with Ordway's May 4 carnival. Chandler will have to return for the event, since she alternates schools, teaching half the year at Ordway and half at Wilkes. Changing sites doesn't faze her, as long she has elementary students.I taught at university, high school and middle school, Chandler says. I like grade school because there is no judgement. It's an exploration time and time to learn process and sequential skills in a disciplined manner. "