Into and on top of the looking glass

By Sarah Johnson Correspondent

Ferne “Rusty” Waskowicz has a special show of her artwork being displayed at The Gallery at The Orchards until March 28. The show is titled “Art in Stained Glass.” The Gallery is maintained in the community room at the senior living complex. The Southington artist whose business is called Rusty Originals, retired from Connecticut Community Care and now pursues her art full-time. Rusty creates three-dimensional stained glass art on framed mirrors, as well as custom clocks with the glass. Jane White is helping to facilitate Rusty’s show. She oversees the various gallery displays and is the manager of the space. “I wanted to display this art because it is so unusual,” Jane said. “The three-dimensional glass is wonderful. Rusty’s subjects appeal to all different types of people.” And there are many subjects to her work. Rusty’s mirrors play canvas for everything from bald eagles to nautical scenes to flowers and abstract symbols. “I am the only one I know who works in 3-D,” Rusty said. “It’s not all I do, though. I paint in oils and acrylics and also do pastel pieces.” Rusty belongs to the Southington Arts and Crafts group, that meets once or twice a month at The Orchards. There are people who do quilting, painting and other hand crafts. “I was a member years ago and dropped out for some time. I just came back last year and now I am the recording secretary,” Rusty explained. Rusty supports other local arts communities as well. She is a member of the Plainville Art League, where she is also the secretary. The group meets once a month at the Plainville Library, which regularly hosts its own art displays. “Last year, my eagle mirror piece took first place at the Plainville Art League’s juried show,” Rusty said. The process of working with stained glass is not something that comes naturally to everyone, but Rusty showed a knack for it during her very first classes, over 22 years ago. Her husband Don participates in the work, too. “I actually cut my finger the first time I tried to work with the glass,” Don said. “So that was enough of that for me. Now I just build the frames that hold her mirrors!” Rusty buys her stained glass from Stella Pelegano at Pelegano Studio on the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike. But that’s not even the first step in the process. Everything starts out on the drawing board, according to Rusty. She plans out which pieces can become three-dimensional against the mirror glass and how the pieces will be cut out of the stained glass. The pieces are numbered and transferred to tracing paper. These are pasted on to the correct color of stained glass with rubber cement. The purchased glass (bought by the square foot) is then marked with the shapes of the pieces needed for each object and cut with a hand-held glass cutter and cutter oil. A grinder is used to roughen the edges of the glass so it holds the joining foil. The oil is washed off each piece and the copper foil is attached to the glass edges on both sides using a pressing tool called a “fid.” The pieces are then built up to make the object using solder and then cleaned. The lines of solder can be colored or given a patina. The process from there involves attaching the glass pieces to the mirror by cutting lines into it and painstakingly cleaning it afterwards. After all her years of working in her craft, Rusty isn’t slowing down a bit. She is still taking commissioned requests for special mirrors, candle-holders, clocks and other home décor objects. She is also going to be participating in the “Because of 26” event in Southington on June 15. The event was the idea of two mothers whose children attend Plantsville Elementary School and who wanted to honor the 26 slain children from the Sandy Hook shooting. Twenty-six butterfly bushes will be planted along the Rails to Trails path. A mural will be painted on the path of 26 butterflies rising from cocoons, and Rusty will be one of the 26 artists creating a butterfly. Other artists looking to get involved can call Mary DeCroce at (860)621-6143. Rusty can be reached for more information about her work at “Everything in the show is for sale, except me,” she laughed. Jane White can be reached to arrange a viewing of the Art in Stained Glass show at (860) 621-4424 or housescapeart@ The phone number for The Orchards is (860)628-5656.

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