By Tim Leeds
BOX ELDER Members of Tom Marinkovich's art classes had a break from some classes Wednesday to attended beadmaking workshops taught by Kalispell beadmaker Pat Lauzon.
Marinkovich, who has taught art at the Box Elder School for the last 23 years, said they split the workshop into two sections. Students from three of his classes attended the morning session, and his advanced art class was scheduled for the afternoon.
Superintendent Paul Preeshl was instrumental in bringing Lauzon to the school, Marinkovich said. He said Preeshl has always been very helpful in scheduling special activities for the school.
"He's the wheel behind bringing these events in," Marinkovich said.
Lauzon sat behind a torch melting glass and creating art before the students' eyes, demonstrating techniques of advanced beadmaking. She then observed and offered suggestions to the students as they worked. She said she has been making beads for less than five years and is basically self-taught, but has worked with stained glass for about 20 years. She said she attends the annual gathering of the Society of Beadmakers in Scottsdale, Ariz., a two-day event with seminars and classes.
Marinkovich said he was pleased with the work Lauzon was doing at the workshop.
"Pat's very effective," he said. "She communicates well with the students."
He said he met Lauzon at a showing in Spokane, Wash., and since she was a Montana resident, relatively close, kept in touch with the hope of bringing her to the school to do a workshop. He said he got the impression she knew what she was doing and could teach it. He said he'd like to bring in a presenter for each art media they study, but it's difficult to find experts close enough to bring in.
Marinkovich said he has to able to demonstrate so many different kinds of art at any time and he can't take the time to go into details the way a guest instructor can.
"I cover the basics in this media," he said. "She does beads all day, every day. I try to bring people in to cover advanced techniques. Everybody has a little different way to teach and demonstrate, and has different techniques."
Lauzon explained what she was doing as she worked, and invited questions from the students. Students said they were amazed at how easy she made the work look.
"You're just going to die when you see how easy it is," Lauzon said as she melted different colors of glass together to pull into a swirled cylinder of glass. She said the cylinder could be used to make patterns on other creations, or even cut into glass swizzle sticks.
Lauzon said she had worked in retail and most recently at a credit union, but quit her day job last fall to begin glass work full time.
"It's been incredible," she said. "I can't imagine going to work for anyone now."
Lauzon said she attends shows to display her work, and often performs demonstrations at the showings. She said she has attended several showings in Spokane, such as the one where she met Marinkovich. She said she is currently working on creating a web site for her business.
Lauzon said she has always loved working with glass.
"Glass has been my passion for as long as I can remember," she said. "I can pass that on. Glass is such a fragile medium, it can be very frustrating."
She said this is the first time she has taught beadmaking in a class, but she would like to continue doing this. She said she plans to contact schools in the Kalispell area to offer this.
Marinkovich said they have been studying beadmaking for the last seven years, ever since he received a three-hour crash course in Missoula. He said they began preparing for the workshop last week. He showed his classes some videos on the subject, he said, then they began warming up on the work Monday and Tuesday.
He said the art program at Box Elder has increased dramatically since he began 23 years ago.
"I built a program from nothing," he said. "Our budget has increased every year. We want to keep the kids interested and happy."
Marinkovich said Preeshl has been supportive of his efforts. He helps set up special events, such as Lauzon's workshop, and trips for the students. He has also helped with building the program larger, Marinkovich said.
He pointed out the 18 workstations set up for the workshop. Some were portable "hotheads", he said, consisting of torches mounted to the tables, and some were more permanent minor burners, which produce a more refined flame for more detailed work, but are much more expensive. He said the school purchased some of the equipment, and he has purchased some himself. He said he plans to eventually have all minor burners in the lab.
Marinkovich said he has been taking students to Western Montana College/University of Montana in Dillon to use their glass blowing facility. He said since they were there at the beginning of summer session, they had the facility to themselves, and were left alone to work there.
Marinkovich said Box Elder and a school from Salmon, Idaho are the only guest high schools he knows of that are allowed to use the facilities. Other schools are only allowed to observe, he said.
He said he hopes to expand the program to include their own glass blowing facility. It would cost about $5,000 to buy the necessary tanks, he said, but expenses for the trips to Dillon amount to about $2,000 a trip. The tanks would pay for themselves in less than three years, he said.
Marinkovich said he would also like to replace the kiln used for pottery work. The old kiln was destroyed when being moved some years ago, he said, and he would like to replace it and begin teaching that medium again.
The walls of Marinkovich's classrooms are covered with impressive art produced in the past, including etched mirrors, cartoons, paintings, wood burnings, and other media. He said they cover as many kinds of art as they can, including stained glass, hot glass, sand blasting, candlemaking and more.
He pointed out a Keep Montana Green poster hanging on the wall, and said that the artwork had been done in one of his classes. He said he began involving his students in the program 22 years ago, and it has gone beyond his expectations.
"We have had more state winners than all the other schools in the state combined," he said. "That poster was selected for the organization's promotions, and I've seen it on billboards outside of Billings and other places in the state."