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Art & Soul: Doretha Washington

Art & Soul: Doretha Washington

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Connected, the colorful, emblematic 18- by 20- by 1-inch glass-and-wood piece illustrated here, came into existence in 2020 through inspiration from a young relative of its creator, St. Louisan Doretha Washington.

“My eighth grade grandson was researching a class project on the Republic of the Congo,” Washington recalls. “At the same time, I was deciding what glass technique to utilize in creating a wall hanging project. His project subject caused me to consider creating a piece related to the African continent. I decided to incorporate the continent’s shape and colors found in many African nations’ flags into the art project.”

She describes creating art and teaching at St. Louis’ Third Degree Glass Factory as her “most rewarding experience.”

“Being part of a supportive artistic community encourages my continued growth as an artist,” Washington remarks. “Sharing my passion for fused-glass art with students has been very fulfilling. That fulfillment is enhanced when former students continue to create and challenge themselves.”

Characterizing herself as an autodidact in fused-glass work, Washington states: “I began my journey in glass by taking a class in the basics of kiln-fired fused glass. That was followed by participating in fused-glass workshops and creating a collection of books related to fused-glass art.

“My art is formed in kilns using glass that’s crushed, powdered or in the sheet-glass form. The kiln firing temperatures vary between 1,250 degrees and 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Some finished pieces have smooth surfaces, and others are textured or a combination.

“Glass reflects and transmits light as no other medium. My artistic voice and passion are constantly nurtured by the amazing fluidity, versatility and uniqueness of glass. Those characteristics lead me to constantly explore and experiment with new and challenging techniques.”

Washington started displaying her work in 2012 at The Old Orchard Gallery in Webster Groves and has continued to display it through the year just past at the St. Louis Artists’ Guild in Clayton, among other venues.

“The first challenge was creating the continent’s shape,” she relates regarding Connected. “The solution was to draw the shape on a Mylar plastic sheet. Using a heated stencil cutter, I cut out the continent’s shape, thus creating a stencil.

“The second challenge was, do I use glass frit [diverse, partly fused substances used to make glass, glazes and enamels] or glass paint to create the image of the continent? My decision was glass paint, which would create a smooth surface after firing in the kiln.

“The final challenge was how to make the flag colors part of the art. My decision was to use green, red, yellow and white glass stringers that are 2 millimeters in diameter. At least one or more of those colors are found in most African nations’ flags.”

Creating Connected required four separate kiln firings, Washington notes, ranging in temperature from as little (comparatively speaking, of course) as 1,300 degrees to as much as 1,480 degrees, after which she enclosed the work’s chromatic gravity in a plain black wood frame.

“We use glass in our daily lives for numerous functions without thinking about the fact [that] it’s glass,” she concludes. “I want my art to cause the viewer to see and understand that glass is more than functional and ordinary.”

To learn more about our featured artist, visit Third Degree Glass Factory (till Washington’s personal website goes live).

Metro area artists who wish to be considered for future installments of this monthly department of Ladue News should email inquiries to bhollerbach@laduenews.com with “Art & Soul” in the subject line.

She describes creating art and teaching at St. Louis’ Third Degree Glass Factory as her “most rewarding experience.”

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Bryan A. Hollerbach serves as LN's copy editor and one of its staff writers. He loves to read, write, impersonate an amateur artist and research all things bibulous.

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