by Natasha von Kaenel

susan berger main

In her second Glass Flameworking class at The Crucible, Susan Berger’s instructor told her to forget about being a perfectionist and to “embrace the wonk.” An active volunteer for the last three years and a recent intern in our Glass Flameworking Department, Susan says that adage has stuck with her, pushing her to try new things and accept mistakes as an inevitable, and positive part of the learning process.

This was a sharp contrast to her prior approach to life, and discovering and embracing the emotional risk of a creative outlet has been transformative. We sat down with Susan to learn about her creative process and hear what it has been like to volunteer and create at The Crucible for the last three years.

How have your experiences here impacted you?

This place has had a shockingly profound and serendipitous effect on me. When I started coming in, life was going along fairly well, then about a year and half ago, everything tanked —in an explosive way. I had taken Glass Fusing & Slumping before, and that medium became a vehicle for me to emote in a way I never had before.

In what way?

Well, I was showing a friend of mine some pictures of my coasters, and there were flowers, rainbows, and trees, then they become this cracked material that wasn’t fully fused with sharp edges. For people like me who don’t know we have a latent creativity, finding the medium to express myself started giving me purpose. It started giving me a focal point, helping me work on myself, giving me balance in my life. It started giving me so much back.

Have you seen a similar impact on some of the other students creating here?

In the kids. Being around the kids is more interesting to me than the adults, because the kids are so open. They are so willing to throw themselves into whatever they are doing. Often, the kids do not have experience in these areas. They often seem a little hesitant about what they want to make. But once they choose their project, whether it is elaborate or straight forward, they don’t seem to have any fear. That is spectacular, because that’s an age where we all are so self-conscious.

Where do you think that lack of fear comes from?

I think that the instructors treat the kids as competent. Not as grownups, but they treat them as competent. ‘Do you know how to use a box cutter? OK, this is how you do it. Now try it.’ I mean they are still being watched. But they are treated very respectfully and I really love that. We parents always hover over them, and they need to have a place where they can breathe and spread their wings and experiment. At The Crucible, they can and with some pretty dangerous equipment, too. Using oxygen propane torches? That’s dangerous stuff. And at home, they can’t even go into a kitchen and cut a piece of apple without somebody hovering.

What is the best or worst thing that has happened to you on a project?

Just the other day, I was making some flowers on the torch, and at the very end when I was knocking off that final punty, the whole thing fell apart. And I actually really liked that flower! So that was such a drag. But at the same time, it’s really nice to be able to move to the next thing and not hold onto the detritus of this flower.

What is your dream project?

I want to make little sculpture-y pieces, and put them out in my yard as little surprises. I’d love to learn how to combine welding and glass to make a piece and start spewing things into the backyard!

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