The ability to take an existing solution and turn it on its head, improving it, is said to be a mark of creativity.
When Jessy Carrara, owner of LightGarden Glass Art Studio in Medford, heard about a glass studio in Florida that was making small, stained-glass panels and selling them to benefit breast-cancer patients, she liked the idea but thought it might be even better to just give the panels to patients.
"There are always so many people asking for money," says Carrara. "I thought, 'Why not just give the panels to the women to help them through a tough time?' "
And that was the inspiration for "Flowers of Hope," a program that has given more than 400 small, glass panels to local women diagnosed with breast cancer over the past six years.
Every year before Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, Carrara solicits local artists to make small, stained-glass or fused-glass panels featuring flowers. As an added incentive, she holds an exhibit in her gallery, where people can vote for their favorite panel. The winner gets a $50 gift certificate. This year, 67 artists contributed pieces, and the winner was Claudia Busse's stylized morning glory.
After the show, the panels are taken to Rogue Valley Women's Imaging in Medford to be displayed in its lobby. When a woman receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, she is can select a panel to take home with her.
Ruth Klaus received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2007, and she took one of the panels home with her the day she got the devastating news. She contacted Carrara later in the year and was able to meet and personally thank the artist who made her panel.
"I wanted to let them know how much it helped," says Klaus. "At the time I chose it, I had no idea what was down the road. It still helps, even today. Every day when I get up and see it, it reminds me there's hope."
Klaus has been symptom-free for three years now. She also was inspired to take a glass-fusing class from Carrara and hopes to contribute panels of her own in the future.
Pamela Piper went to the Flowers of Hope show at LightGarden a few years ago. She met a recipient there who came to thank the artist.
"She told me she'd get up every morning and look at her little flower hanging in the window, and the idea that someone who didn't even know her would do that for her helped her get through the day."
"I've always wanted to do fused glass," says Piper, "and I was intrigued and impressed with the whole program. I took a class, and this year I made several panels to donate."
Even Carrara's husband, who in 26 years had never been interested in trying to make glass art, was inspired to learn and donate some panels.
"Every year, we lose some artists, but we gain some new ones," says Carrara. "Hopefully this year, we will recruit even more people to make panels."
Recipients don't all come to meet the artists, but most do send cards or letters thanking the donors and telling them how much the gift means to them.
"They often mention that the idea of someone they don't even know wanting to aid in their recovery means a lot to them. I think that's a kind of powerful medicine in itself," says Carrara.
For more information, see www.lightgarden.net or call LightGarden at 541-779-0272.