Saturday was a total hoot, made better by the fact that it was for a good cause. If you missed it, you missed a lot.

Yesterday the Oregon Glass Guild (OGG) held its annual Fusathon down at Uroboros‘ glass factory. We talked glass stuff, made glass stuff, watched other people make glass stuff, tried new ideas for stuff, bought stuff, ate stuff and sang stuff. (well, and I took pictures of stuff, too)

By the end of the day, we were pretty stuffed.

I probably should explain: Every year OGG and the Oregon Potters Association put up an Empty Bowls tent and sell wares at the big Portland Jazz Festival, 4th of July on the waterfront. (I worked the booth last year). Both guilds donate a fair amount of their wares gratis, with other work selling on a commission basis, and it tends to go like hotcakes. 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Oregon Food Bank–in the last decade we’ve made more than $120,000 for OFB.

A significant chunk of OGG’s contribution comes from Fusathons in Portland and other chapters. In Portland, Uroboros kindly donates raw glass, kilns and its facilities to the effort; OGG members bring food, tools and willing hands to make glass. You can bring just about anything you want to stick on the glass, as long as it’s compatible with whatever Uro provides. Uroboros fires the blanks in its kiln, turns them over to us, and our members grind the edges, slump them into bowls, plates, vases, candleholders, and whatnot.

It’s usually a hoot, but this year it was kinda hoot-squared. Organizers Barbara Bader and Lyn Kennison worked closely with Uro to make this a real shindig, and Uro really came through. They opened up their warehouse as well as their workroom, and people showed up from all over the northwest. Some took factory tours; many came to buy glass at a special sale price.

The Uro guys–Kat Hartley, Lorna and Eric Lovell, Bill Ward (and just about everyone else who works there, it seems)–went out of their way to make us welcome, haul stuff around and stick it in the kiln, advise on the probability of bubbles, and write up orders. So if the worktables were a bit crowded, you could walk the factory, shop the stacks of glass, ask somebody about a problem glass project…or snack on fruit and stuff.

Especially fruit.

I asked my produce guy if he could make a couple of fruit trays for this shindig. Inspired by the worthy cause (and the fact that apparently nobody ever asks him to actually make the trays), he delivered a magnificent array of about 50 pounds of cut-up fruit and two gallons of just-squeezed orange juice.

It was delightful, but my mantra for the day was, “Hi, so glad you could make it. Eat more fruit.” I can guarantee that no one at the Fusathon will be worrying about, uhm, irregularity THIS weekend.

Like I said, you missed a great party.

It’s fun to ask 40-odd people in a roomful of free glass to create something spontaneously. There’s a brief moment of panic: “What the heck am I gonna make?” Then a little bit of bling catches the eye, the wheels start turning, and they dive down deep into creativity mode. Some folk brought their own components–torchworked beads, photographic images, handmade murrini–and worked them into their designs.

Others used components the Fusathon team had made at Uroboros a couple of weeks ago, or Uro’s project leftovers, which were cool. (above) There was this one great big amber rod zigzag that would probably make the world’s coolest towel rack if you could figure out how.

[kml_flashembed movie="" height="400" width="520" /]

Extra treat this year: Uroboros will award prizes to the best and most unique pieces once fired, and they’re getting one of my idols, animator Will Vinton, to do the judging.

In the end, we delivered 64 pieces to the kilns. There are several I’d like to buy for myself. Since most of the Fusathon pieces sell in the first few hours of the Blues Festival, I doubt I’ll get any of them (sigh).

Members and local glassfolk will donate even more finished work over the next two months, so we should have an overflowing salestent this year. Please!

If you’re an OGG member (or would like to be one, or just have a good heart and some spare glass hanging around), send us your tired, your poor, your…wait a minute. Donate your glasswork, functional, sculptural or painting to OGG’s Empty Bowls project. Just add a comment to this post, or drop me a line privately, and we’ll make arrangements to pick it up.

It’s always nice to have fun while you’re doing good works, and this one felt so great we’re going to try and come up with a few more community outreach projects. Anybody got any ideas?

P.S. Although I was in charge of photographing each piece (so Uro personnel would know who made what for prize awards), I did find time enough to make three pieces for Empty Bowls. My probable favorite is at the left.