Local residents recreate the world in mosaics

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans


Henry County-based stained glass art instructor, Mary Anne Maslanka, said she has heard the complaints people have about why they cannot learn her craft.

"It's too hard to do," she said is one she often hears.

"But, I'm not an artist," is another.

"I have people who walk in the room, and when they see what is going to be made, their reaction normally is to walk out the door, because they think it's too hard," she added. "But, this is coloring book fun time. It's very easy to do. You're just using your imagination."

Maslanka taught a free class on making stained glass mosaics, at the Clayton County Headquarters Library, in Jonesboro, on Wednesday. She said she teaches a one-shot, free class on the subject every summer at the library branch.

Some participants, this year, created beach scenes featuring sail boats, palm trees, and setting suns. Others created religious motifs, with crosses at the center of their work.

Another person fashioned an abstract image with leaves, beads and small hearts.

"I like the fact that I was doing something out of the ordinary," said Jonesboro resident, Marcus Edwards, after the class. He made one of the beach-scene mosaics.

Participants started out by picking a small frame, with a clear plate of glass and a sheet of mosaic adhesive glue in it. Then, they went over to a side table, and picked out odds-and-ends items, such as beads, or crosses, or small sea shells, or old metal buttons, to use as "centerpiece" items in their mosaics.

After they had their "centerpiece" items, they began sifting through several old coffee bean containers that were filled with shards of stained glass that had been cut in a variety of shapes. The pieces of glass were sorted by color, and most differed in transparency and shade.

"Today, you're going to use your imagination," Maslanka said. "When you talk about what you want it to look like ... You've got shapes that look like lots of different stuff. Look at it within [a mindset of] 'What else does it look like, other than a piece of glass?'"

The participants then carefully arranged their "centerpiece" items and stained glass shards onto the adhesive, which itself sat on the clear plate of glass in the frame. Sometimes, the pieces ended up where an artist wanted them to go. Other times, it was a game of just trying to make the shards fit wherever they could, while still making the colors work together in the mosaic.

Finally, when all of the pieces were in place, the anxious students took their "artwork" to Maslanka, so she could use her heat gun to melt the adhesive glue that held the items in place.

When the first mosaic was ready to be heated, the demur, small-statured instructor reached into a Rubbermaid box, and pulled out her big black gun. The device's shape could best be described as something of a cross between a hair dryer and a science fiction ray gun. It was pitch-black in color, with a six-inch-long handle, and a shiny silver grate over the spot where the heat came out.

"They don't usually look like this," the instructor said, before pulling out a smaller, fuchsia-colored heat gun (which was only one-third the size of the black gun). "This is what they normally look like," she explained.

She used the heat gun. over and over, as participants brought up their mosaics to be finished. "How do you know when all of the glue has melted?" someone asked Maslanka, as she waived her gun over one of the mosaics.

"You just guess," she said, half-jokingly, before adding, "actually, you can see it melting through some of the pieces [of stained glass]."

After the class ended, several participants said they were glad the library offered it, and expressed an interest in continuing to practice the art of making stained glass mosaics.

"I've always wanted to learn how to make stained glass art, so when I saw that they were offering this class, I said 'I'll take it,'" said Jonesboro resident, Shirley Goff, who made one of the religion-themed mosaics.

Stockbridge resident, Sue McMinn, added, "I'd like to do stained glass more often. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it."

Maslanka said she teaches stained glass art classes at the Hobby Lobby store, at 205 South Point Blvd., in McDonough, on Thursdays, from 1 p.m., to 3 p.m., and Fridays, from 5:30 p.m., to 7:30 p.m.

The cost of the class is $20 per two-hour session. People who wish to participate in one of her classes must e-mail her in advance, at madjma@gmail.com, she said.