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Creative mind meets glass art

Ashland High student's project took him to a studio for lessons in a medium new to him

Editor's note:

This is the sixth in a series on senior projects, those daunting hurdles some students must pass before they graduate from high school. The series will conclude Sunday.

Sitting atop the pink picnic table in the quad at Ashland High School are five blown-glass vessels made by Nick Benedetti for his senior project.

Purple, blue, yellow and maroon colors are swirled in graceful patterns on the fluted pieces. The skies are overcast and heavy, but the glass still glints and shines in the dull light.

The senior project was almost going to get axed this year due to budget cuts, he says.

Benedetti can't help using his hands as he describes how he learned to blow red-hot glass into pieces of art for his final requirement for graduation. The memories require something more than words for this artistic 18-year-old.

You have a molten piece of sand and soda at the end of a metal rod and you can make it look like that, he says, pointing to the five vessels he made.

— Benedetti mimics rolling the blowpipe and rubs his arms in memory of the heat from the glass forge and the glory hole (a spot in the furnace).

When you make glass, you dip the blowpipe into the furnace. It's 2,140 degrees, he says. Metal doors lift up and move to the side. Out radiates a whole lot of heat. You roll the blowpipe around in that and gather glass. At first we had to use gloves.

Glass artist Scott Carlson was Benedetti's glassblowing teacher. Carlson says Benedetti advanced quickly in the 24 hours of lessons he received at Gathering Glass Studio on Pioneer Street in Ashland.

Nick picked up glass really easily, says Carlson. He definitely has a creative mind.

The alternately shy and outgoing teen admits he has been a student in many different artistic media ' oil painting in the eighth grade, watercolors, too. He also studied ceramics at Southern Oregon University.

As he describes his glassblowing study sessions, he unknowingly mimics Carlson's words. A typical day was a demonstration in the beginning and then we'd try and replicate that demo for four hours, he says. Sometimes we had time to do whatever our creative minds thought up.

Smiling and ducking from a photographer's shots, Benedetti finally asks if he can place the flash inside one of his pieces to see what the light will do.

I like photography, says Benedetti. It's pretty rigid in a lot of ways. But where it's not, I like to play around with it.

After graduation, Benedetti is heading to Thailand for a year in a Rotary exchange program. He will live with three families and attend their schools as a senior ' again. Benedetti speaks only a few words of Thai, and admits he's both excited and nervous about his next adventure.

I only know how to say 'hi' and 'thank you,' he says.

When he returns, Benedetti will attend Lewis and Clark University. As for more art, Benedetti says there's still at least one more intriguing media he hasn't tried.

Maybe metalworking, he says. That's something that's pretty technical. But I like what you can do with the shapes.

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Nick Benedetti of Ashland High School learned the art of glassblowing for his senior project. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli