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Fetch your Glassware, Prepare to Etch

From henna workshops to hip-hop classes, the Grinnell Area Arts Council (GAAC) hosts a variety of opportunities to promote creativity in the community. For the next upcoming workshop, it might be time to trade in that plain old coffee mug for a personalized work of art. On Saturday, Feb. 1, Becky Garner ’15 will be teaching a do-it-yourself glass-etching workshop.

The upcoming workshop will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Grinnell Arts Center, and is open mainly to adults and high school students. With a fee of 25 dollars, participants will not only learn glass-etching techniques, but also personalize mugs, jars, plates and other everyday glassware.

Glass-etching is a technique that uses chemical reactions between glass and acidic substances to embed artistic designs on the surface of glassware. Traditionally, this process has involved working with acids, but as a safety precaution, glass-etching has now largely embraced the use of abrasive creams.

While glass-etching may not use the most conventional means to create art, according to Garner, the process is in actuality very simple.

“You make a stencil out of sticky paper … you can design [a pattern] and cut all the area that you don’t want to etch. And you just put the cream, which is chemical, on the glass over that pattern,” she said.

Garner’s unique interest in glass-etching stemmed from a class she took as a first-year at Grinnell, The Chemistry of Art Materials. There she was introduced to the concept and techniques of glass-etching.

“One of the projects we did [in the class] was glass-etching,” Garner explained. “We [were able to understand] capability of design and learn the chemical process behind it.”

Since then, Garner has continuously pursued glass-etching as a personal hobby. According to Garner, there are many reasons as to why she has stuck with glass-etching. As an artist, she appreciates the aesthetic improvement to the glass’s appearance, but the hobby also helps supplement Garner’s efforts to sell her own work through an online website.

An art major at Grinnell, Garner is not only involved in the Art Department, but has also been reaching out to the community through the GAAC.

“I think something that I enjoy about living in Grinnell is its ‘small-town’ aspect,” she said. “[I] enjoy that I can get along with the community.”

According to Garner, she was approached by the GAAC and was asked if she could teach a workshop on glass-etching. After agreeing to lead a workshop, Garner began considering how to go about in teaching her art.

“When I am teaching my workshop, I’ll mostly be talking about more creative uses of glass-etching,” she said.

Although, as of now, registration numbers have not been too high, Garner does not mind the prospects of working with a small group.

“Teaching art is a lot easier in one-to-one interaction,” she said.

Anyone interested in participating—students, faculty, staff and community members—can register for the workshop online at


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    Cheryl RitterMar 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    I’m very interested in learning about glass etching. Do you have another class planned anytime soon?