Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dispatch from the Revolution: Homeschooling Field Trip to Judson Glass and Memories of Pastry Making in NYC

Today, because we have all the time in the world (one day before we have to drive up to Silicon Valley, and I'm taking Sophie which means her first trip in years and thus a lot of packing and organizing), Oliver and I went on a homeschool field trip to a very cool place in Pasadena/Highland Park called Judson Studios. Judson Studios has been making stained and other decorative glass for well over a century, and the whole thing was fascinating.

We walked through each part of the studio and quietly observed the artists and glaziers and designers and craftsmen at work. Our tour guide was among the sixth generation of Judson's to work in the studio, and he explained the process of turning glass into windows, both colored and clear. At present, they were working on one of the biggest windows they'd ever gotten contracted to do -- a basketball court-sized stained window depicting Jesus, arms outstretched. It's destined for a mega-church somewhere in the heartland.

Yikes, is all I'll say about that.

Fascinating, right?

When the tour was finished, Oliver and I had lunch and then joined the others for a glass-blowing workshop in Highland Park.

 That, too, was fascinating, and despite being a pretty decent pastry chef in my day, including a steady piping hand and the ability to blow and shape sugar, it's damn hard to heat and blow glass. Oliver, of course, had a steady hand and those saxophone windpipes, so his piece was far superior to mine.

I'm not a woman who wants the public -- even ya'll -- to see what I look like blowing glass, so I'm not going to include a photo. Oliver didn't have the decency to refrain from taking a video, either, and I'll leave that horror flick up to your imagination.

It's important to maintain delusions and illusions.

It's for your own good.

I will show you what today reminded me of, though.

That's me and Mr. Kwak, my genius fellow-worker at a big New York City food show in the early 90s. I was probably wearing my glasses because we'd been up, working all night long. That white piece behind me is sculpted WHITE CHOCOLATE. I'm serious, ya'll. That's the kind of stuff we did. The pastry chef, Michael Hu (I wonder what happened to him?) was, essentially, an artist and food his medium. I think my job for that panel was to keep rubbing the pecs of the Greek gods until they shone. Mr. Kwak and Chef Hu were real artists, though. I appreciated their artistry, but I was never one for turning food into art. For my entry in the food show, I made a stained glass window with poured sugar, inspired by a Jean Cocteau. I'm going out on a limb to show it to you because it was the definition of pathetic:

I hadn't thought of that person, that me, in a very long time.

I'm still not showing you a picture of me blowing glass, though.


  1. Sounds like a very fascinating field trip. I love looking at stained glass windows. I just love seeing all the colors. How fun that you got to try glass blowing as well. That would be fun to try.

  2. Ay-yi!
    That which we blow with our own mouths and breath is art.

    I love you, Elizabeth.

  3. I LIKE your sugar stained glass piece!

  4. I agree with A...it looks great! What a great field trip. I love glass art.

  5. I love stained glass. What a fascinating place to visit! And I love Oliver's smile in that photo - so wonderful that he is getting this opportunity to learn and explore, because of you. And speaking of adorable you - those photos are priceless. I'm pretty amazed at your poured-sugar window, too - even if you aren't. Wishing you and all you love, a happy Thanksgiving.

  6. I love watching how things are made, especially art. When I was a kid I loved field trips.

  7. Say what you will (and what I will) about religion, it does keep craftsmen in business!

    I think your Cocteau-inspired window is FAR from pathetic. That's pretty amazing. I could never make anything like that. I haven't even read any Cocteau!

    (I have listened to the Cocteau Twins, though. Does that count?)

  8. A good field trip can make me cry (I have no idea why). Like Steve above, I have no idea who Jean Cocteau is, but have listened to the Cocteau Twins (Steve made me smile), and I think your piece is quite cool.

  9. What an adventure!
    And I love that old photo of you.

  10. I admire your piece of "stained glass" edible art - it's lovely. I'm glad that you took a photo of it - what became of it? Was it ever eaten? And that white chocolate panel - wowza! You look beautiful and bemused in that photo.

    I keep thinking that Oliver is having the BEST education with you as his guide. That is a field trip which I would have loved as a young student, and would love today. It looks truly educational, especially including the chance to try his hand at the craft. Well done, you!



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