Alex Spends the Day at Cascadia Center for Arts & Crafts

Take a drive up the mountain, “play” with fire, and tap into your creativity in a fun, inspiring environment! 

Raven Studio

Hey, friends, Alex here. I am the Communications Assistant for the Arts Alliance. If you submitted an event for inclusion in our online events calendar, chances are, you interacted with me! Since my hire in November, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and communicating with so many wonderful artists and art enthusiasts throughout Clackamas County.

Recently, Betsy Valian with Cascadia Center for Arts and Crafts offered me the opportunity to learn how to make torch worked glass beads. Of course I jumped at the chance! Armed with no prior bead or glass-making experience, a large mug of coffee, snacks, and wearing 100% cotton clothes and close-toed shoes, I headed up the mountain.

Torch station at Raven Studio

Raven Studio, where we were to spend the day, sits just two easy turns off Highway 26 in Government Camp. Any nervousness over my inexperience quickly dissipated as Betsy welcomed us. Originally a personal cabin for high-ranking members of the U.S. Forest Service personnel, the studio blends right into its beautiful surroundings – quite the ideal location for a day of unleashing creativity!

Once all of the members of our class arrived, we headed downstairs to the glass studio. Betsy broke down each step of the process with enough information to feel comfortable proceeding, but not too much as to feel overwhelmed. We covered how to safely use our torches, protect our eyes, and dip our own mandrels (the wands used to make the beads). In no time, we were all torches go, and it was nothing short of amazing. We were making beads!

Pulling a stringer

During our day with Betsy, we also pulled stringers and worked on making twisties. Without even realizing, it was already after 3 o’ clock in the afternoon. I had been so engrossed in the process I didn’t even bother to enjoy my snack (or check the time)! Betsy told us that the key to making beads was to allow the process to become meditative. As the day went on, I relaxed into my posture at the torch, as my classmates and I practiced and experimented, filling the kiln with our creations.

I’ve found in meeting the daily demands of working and raising a family, making time to create and be inspired is increasingly vital! Everyone has the innate capacity to create, and making beads was such a fun way to tap into that force. If you’re in need of some creative time, I would highly recommend making a trip up the mountain to enjoy one of Cascadia’s glass classes. I have to warn you, though, it’s addictive! I’m already scouting out space for a torch in my garage.

And if glass isn’t your thing, they have several other art offerings, including blacksmithing in their on-site forge. For more information on Cascadia and current class offerings, feel free to check out their website:

This post is part of a new series, featuring Clackamas County Arts Alliance staff members engaging with local arts and culture. Let us know what you think – Email [email protected] with any comments.

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