by Herb Stratford
The well of molten glass just a few short feet away confirmed that I was in for a unique experience on this slightly chilly afternoon. As the blowpipe was put in front of me, I was urged to blow harder and harder, yet nothing seemed to happen despite my urgent puffing. But then, magic erupted as a small orb of color began to bloom at the other end of the pipe. Skillfully coached by an instructor, we removed the orb to cool. I had just made a fragile, beautiful blob like no other on earth—one that I will treasure for years to come.
One of the perks of visiting a truly artistic city is the opportunity to make art yourself, regardless of your experience level or innate talent. Whether it’s drawing, the aforementioned glassblowing or even puppet making, Tucson has world-class artists who share their skills with locals and visitors alike. Experience the artistic side of our desert oasis.
633 W 18th St
At the Sonoran Glass School, an old Tucson Barrio retrofitted warehouse, classes are offered year-round for everyone from the novice to the more experienced. A family tradition of sorts in our household, the annual “Make your own… in the hot shop” class has enabled us to make beautiful ornaments for our Christmas tree for several years running. The class begins with an introduction of the elements of glass blowing and once colors and styles have been selected, the actual blowing of a glass ball commences. It’s fascinating, hot work. The ornament is put in a cooling oven and retrieved once it has completely cooled down. Other “make your own” classes include the creation of platters, bowls, pumpkins, and cups. Stained-glass classes and bead-making classes, as well as one-on-one instruction, are also offered at the school.
The Drawing Studio
2760 N Tucson Blvd
The Drawing Studio is another Tucson institution that offers hands-on classes in everything from drawing to painting and bookmaking to printmaking. With classes at five locations around town, it’s easy to join in and scratch that artistic itch. Large and small classes, private lessons and even Plein air experiences (outdoor art making), are all available and taught by instructors who are both teachers and accomplished artists who exhibit their work regionally and nationally. The Drawing Studio’s Midtown features a gallery space with rotating exhibitions so you can see your work on the walls along with that of other students and faculty, for the complete artist experience.
For one more unique Tucson art-making experience, consider participating in the annual All Souls Procession that takes place in early November each year. The procession honors those who have passed with a lively open-to-all march through downtown to a spectacular final performance of dance and aerial feats by Tucson’s Flam Chen. Prior to the big event, free classes are offered annually in mask making, lantern creation, and puppet making. Each year the classes differ, so be sure to visit AllSoulsProcession.org
for the newest information and dates.
When you visit Tucson, create artistic memories whenever possible. Make art for someone special, or make it for yourself. Every time you look at the results you’ll be reminded of the experience and smile. And if you happen to create glass art, you’ll have real sweat equity in the finished piece, unlike any store-bought gift.