Arts and Entertainment

Caught in music and fire

Strains of beautiful piano music drift from the window as a visitor stops at Linda Robinson's home. Robinson is an accomplished musician who plays at weddings, other gatherings and The Lodge at Sherwood Village and the Fifth Avenue Retirement Center.

The official greeters at Robinson's house are her Halloween cats - one orange, the other black - Roscoe and Samantha. They lead visitors into her world of heat, light and lovely jewelry.

Robinson signed up for a class in what she thought would be jewelry design when she and her husband left high-pressure Seattle-area jobs and moved to Sequim eight years ago.

She was surprised when the class moved to a room with propane and oxygen tanks, where students were instructed in the art of melting glass rods and turning them into beads. Robinson says she loved it from the start and soon bought her own equipment and set up shop in her garage.

At Waterfront Gallery

She finds the work calming and therapeutic. Now her jewelry has been juried into the Waterfront Gallery in Port Angeles, where she was the featured artist for April.

She likes watching the glass melt then form as she controls the shape and color.

"All glass is not the same," she says.

Different colors melt at different temperatures and glass from different makers reacts differently. She must experiment to know how the glass will react.

Weather and humidity also can affect the glass, so she makes all the pieces she needs for a necklace or bracelet at the same time so that - while each bead is unique - they are closely related.

It takes her about two hours to make all the beads for a necklace. Usually she uses good-quality Italian glass.

Her designs come from her imagination, and she likes to use earth tones with green and blue touches that reflect the world of the Olympic Peninsula.

To make a bead, Robinson first coats thin steel rods with silicone so the finished beads will slip off the rods. As the silicone is drying, she opens the propane and oxygen tanks that fuel her torch.

Once the flame is correct, Robinson takes up a long glass rod that will be the bead's basic color. When enough glass has melted to produce the size bead she wants, Robinson begins to turn the glass around the steel rod, always turning to keep the bead round.

Molten swirls

"I like swirls," she says, so she adds dots of two colors to the bead. As she continues to turn the rod, the colors mix and swirl together.

For necklace beads, Robinson puts the finished beads into perlite for 20-30 minutes so they'll cool slowly and won't crack. This day she puts the beads she is making into a masher that flattens them for earrings she wants to go with a certain blouse. Then they go into the perlite.

Putting jewelry together takes longer. Robinson generally tries different combinations before she gets what she wants.

She often adds natural found materials, like small rocks or crystal beads, to get the effect she wants. One necklace uses a stone from Montana she had for several years, waiting until she found the perfect color glass to set off its hues.

Robinson is very safety conscious, opening doors before turning on the gas, turning the gas on and off according to specific directions, wearing safety glasses (and making visitors wear them too), wearing long sleeves to protect her arms if the glass shatters and using gloves to handle the beads until she washes the chemicals off them.

This same carefulness shows in her meticulous jewelry designs and their beauty.

See Robinson's designs at the Waterfront Art Gallery in its new location at 120 W. First St., Port Angeles. The gallery is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-

4 p.m. on Sunday. Robinson can be contacted through the gallery.

Reach Dana Casey at

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