Crazy Woman Glassworks Not At All Crazy

There is something that seems to elevate our existence when we are in the presence of beauty.  This is so true of the time I gratefully spent as a member of the Lakewood Arts Council’s (LAC) cooperative art gallery, and meeting the artists there.  But the beauty on the canvasses, and in the sculptures and jewelry, while excellent, was outshone by the personalities of the artists themselves.

Leslie Anne Bitgood creates glassworks through Crazy Woman Glass

Leslie Anne Bitgood creates glassworks through Crazy Woman Glass

Leslie Anne Bitgood of Crazy Woman Glass is one of those artists.  She displays her glassworks both at the LAC Art Gallery and in glass and jewelry shows around the country.  I met Leslie while helping on the annual garage sale-fundraiser for LAC.  She chipped in with fun and wit and made my day special.  So I asked to meet her again.  She invited me to her studio in Lakewood, another Denver suburb.

First step in meeting Leslie is meeting her family.  Beyond a terrific husband who creates glassworks with Leslie, there are two cats, a bird and the studio dog, bear.  Bear likes to make sure visitors feel welcome by jumping up for attention and a pat on his soft fur until Leslie says “No, Bear, down!”  I felt welcome.  Bear is a real cutie.  He wandered off to let Leslie and I get down to the business of showing me her studio.

Leslie Bitgood's Bear

Leslie Bitgood’s Bear

A veritable rainbow of colored glass, art on the walls and a collections of glassworks supplies were neatly stored within a couple of steps of each other.  Leslie has three work stations where she holds classes for glassworks.  It’s part of the life of an artist.  And beyond the workstations, there are two kilns for keeping the glassworks at the correct temperature until completely cooled and ready to display.  She rattled off a mind-boggling array of times and temperatures and glass hardness that showed this woman’s comfort in her craft.  Very impressive.

But the impressiveness was expanded as Leslie showed me some of her and her husband’s works.  The marbles were breathtaking, the fishes delightfully whimsical, and the beads for making jewelry shone and caught the light. Who knew that you could make your own beads?  I always thought you went to a craft or bead store and picked up what you wanted.  That beads were always mass-produced.

Leslie Bitgood making glassworks

Leslie Bitgood making glassworks

But Leslie makes them lovingly one by one.  And so do other glassworks artists around the area.  And that love goes into a bead project that is beyond-words generous.  Each time Leslie makes beads, she sets aside one or two (or probably more) to donate to Beads of Courage, a program helping children with serious illness record their milestones in treatment.

“The ones that steal my heart are those with the very long strands of beads,” said Leslie.  “Each time a child gets a treatment, they get to pick a bead for their string.” She shook her head in thought a moment.  “They are so brave.”

Then she showed me how she works the glass for beads.  She starts with a small rod of colored glass and a stick with a clay coating at one end.  The coating will allow the eventual bead to slip off the rod and become a bead.  She fires up her torch that mixes propane and oxygen into a fire too hot for me to remember more than that I’d keep away from the flame – several hundred degrees hot, and goes to work.

Almost instantly the glass turns to the golden orange you see in glassworks videos.  We wear special glasses to protect our eyes from the glow and any bits that may fly out. I even covered my camera to get a better picture of the process.

Suddenly the glass is wound around the clay-tipped rod, and details are added with a confidence born of more than 30-years experience in bead making and other glassworks. Leslie shrugs in an ahh-it’s-nothing kind of attitude.

As the bead, a beautiful blue and white creation (inspired by her highness, Kate Middleton’s post-baby dress), is finished and put in a small kiln to properly cool, I returned to the trays of beads and jewelry.

There, I found an exquisite heart-shaped bead with a pink cancer ribbon on it.  I asked if it was part of the Beads of Courage program.

“No,” said Leslie. “I make these for people who have loved ones conquering cancer. Or who conquered it.”

I turned the bead over.  It normally sells for about $18.  She has a complete range of glass art priced from $3 to $250 — something for everyone’s eye and budget.

“I have a friend who just celebrated five years of cancer-free living.  I’d like to buy this,” I replied.

Leslie wouldn’t hear of it. She packaged it up for me, gave it to me for my friend, and added a hug on top.

Crazy woman! How would she make a profit?  She just smiled.  Maybe being generous, talented and kind isn’t crazy. It’s simply great.

If you’d like to learn glassmaking with Leslie, please contact her through her website.  You’ll be glad you did. You can also see more of Leslie’s work on Etsy and on Artfire.

Leslie's Heart Glass Art Bead

Leslie’s Heart Glass Art Bead

The Gift of a Thank-You Note

Thank you notes

These made my day!

It really was a small thing I did.  Girl Scout cookie time approached and the little girls seeped out of their campfire circles.  Unfortunately, my good guy and I are trying to reduce our sugar intake.  He is a diabetic and I am too old to mess with my system any more.  But who can resist those sweet little faces?  And cookies?  My goodness!  What fun while helping a super cause.

My great-niece lives in the Detroit area, and she too, is a girl scout.  So when we received the annual request, I really wanted to support her.  I have another niece in Detroit who never had the chance to be a girl scout.  This special woman is developmentally delayed. Today, this niece lives with a group of women with similar challenges.  It was only logical to take my cookie budget and give it to people who could really enjoy the treat.  I sent off a small check to my great-niece and forgot about it.

That was over a month ago.

Saturday, I collected my mail. Bill, bill, junk, junk — hey! Wait a minute.  A big brown envelope was hand addressed to my good guy and me.  I didn’t recognize the return address because it mentioned some house name.

When I got inside, I opened that envelop first.  Inside I found a smiley sunshine, flowers, and “thank you” all brightly colored on separate pieces of paper.  This thank you project probably took my niece and her friends a good half-hour to do.  And I haven’t received anything so beautiful in a long time.

Thank you notes seem to have gone out of vogue along with regular letters by post.  Yet, only yesterday, I read a wonderful article by a Los Angeles therapist about the importance of writing a heartfelt note to someone every now and then.  She put together “mood boosting interventions” for a health, fitness and beauty expo last spring, to help people write a thank you note to someone, and they sold like hot cakes.

“Really go all out in expressing your gratitude. Doing this might boost your mood because research has shown that focusing on gratitude, even for a very brief time, can increase feelings of happiness,” said Nadja Geipert in her Psychology Today article.

So you want to be happy? Who are you grateful to today?  What would you like to say thanks for? Jot them a note.  It doesn’t have to be fancy–it just needs to be there.

The thank you notes I received from my niece and her friends lifted my spirits for the day, and even now I smile as I look on these beautiful gifts.

Thank you DH women!

 

The End with Hope

You know how when you reach the end of a great book, you don’t want to put it down?  You sit still and hold the cover closed, feel the weight of the three, four or five hundred pages you just read: not so proud of the accomplishment of completion as loving the emotional cloud that lingers like a ghost and seems to make you breathe a little deeper, then smile?  A great book is the best of friends.

And a best friend is like being in the midst of a superb read.  There is action, adventure, laughter, tears.  A best friend lingers in your heart when he or she isn’t there anymore, and you want to pick up a phone and call, just to say “hi” and reconnect.

But sometimes, like a good book, you need to close the cover, enjoy the memories and hope there might be a sequel some day.  You say good-bye, and hope the salve of warm remembrances will help you through the sleepless nights.

It was 10 years ago today that I had such a good-bye with a best friend.  My Sara had other adventures to seek, and I couldn’t go along.  Ten years later, the denouement of her story is complete, and like the people who gathered for the tenth anniversary of the Twin Towers event, I need to look back, remember, and smile.

Sara was like any other kid, except for the seizures, the mental retardation, and the balance problems.  Those were extras that gave her life story adventure, and gave mine, worry and fear.

But Sara was like any other kid.  She had soft skin and bright eyes as a toddler.  She loved to laugh, and her big sister in the years since Sara left us, has talked about the idea of starting a Sara’s Smile not-for-profit, that would help little people with tooth problems.  How cool is that?  Even if it never materializes (life does have a way of running away from us), my wonderful older daughter has a heart that easily matches the smile that Sara used to give us.  I am truly happy when I play with this thought.

And Sara was like any other kid in the happiness she gave us. It seemed she was always saying “I got a great idea!” Fair warning that we were about to be talked into a restaurant meal involving egg plant and “soggy noggie” at Pete’s Central 1 or Walk About Soup from Outback Steakhouse.  Even now, the corners of my mouth are turning up in thinking about this.

Daisy Arthur had a daughter who died as well.  She is wistful in her memories of her Rose, as I feel in remembering my Sara.  But the wistfulness is often pushed away when I think about the corn-rows she was so proud of, a gift from our trip to the Bahamas.  Those braids stayed in her hair for over a month!  She truly didn’t want them out.  Even “normal” boys did a double take when Sara walked about in that hair-do.  She blushed with the casual compliments thrown her way, treasures that light my heart.

Death is a thief.  It steals your loved ones, and often your own purpose in life — if you let it.  But I think about Sara and the buoyancy of her attitude in life.  She wasn’t with us long, but every minute it seems, was time well spent.  In her short life, she not only had the negative adventures, but she also:

  • Traveled a couple of times to Europe
  • Had an abundance of friends, including a boyfriend of several years.  Max, we still love you!
  • Lived in three different states – Florida, Texas, and Colorado
  • Had 15 years of schooling, thanks to a Head Start special education program
  • Was in the major motion picture, “A Leap Of Faith,” as an extra
  • Learned not only to speak English, but a few phrases in American Sign Language, and French and Spanish too

Who could ask for more?

There will always be a small corner of my heart that will remain wistful, but honestly, I think Sara led a very full life, and as the sun sets today, I will be closing the book of grief that I’ve indulged in.

It was a difficult read, but my life is richer for having known Sara, and she taught me so much about a community of love that I would never had known without her. When I look at the last rays of sun, I will not be so proud of the accomplishment of Sara’s life completed as loving the emotional cloud that lingers and makes me breathe a little deeper, then smile.

Sara Malik's Senior High Picture

Sara Malik – 4/26/85 — 8/28/02
“How very special are we, for just a moment to be, part of life’s eternal rhyme.” Charlotte’s Web

There is hope.