Fused glass and African masks CoverArtist: Sheila Callander finds artistic inspiration for "living big" from her work in Ghana
Living big "When I think about living big-and I think about the times that I haven't-my only limitations are my "considerations." If you [consider or] focus on the things that get in the way, you never say "YES." For me, when I can recognize the inner talk that is about my limitations and what's going to get in the way-those are just considerations and considerations can just be handled. Then, it's really easy to say "yes."
"When I think about my saying "yes" to building a school in Ghana or saying "yes" to taking a glass class when I didn't know what it was, those are the times I think I feel like I'm biggest. I'm living most successfully, living with my true nature. When I don't listen, or when I respond and let my considerations trip me up, I don't live big. It slows me down."-Sheila Callander
by Norma Smith Olson
Fusing, slumping, combing-working in temperatures of 1375 to 1700 degrees-give Sheila Callander pleasure.
"You need to understand the science of glass," she said, "to know when it needs to anneal, so that all of the molecules come back together and make the glass hard. That's glass fusing."
You also need to understand that for Callander, her art is informed by her passion for her volunteer work in Ghana.
"Masks are my favorite things to do," Callander said. "Each one is unique with a personality. They are fun. They are a little bit African and a little bit Picasso-kind of contemporary African."
Callander had always considered herself a dabbler in the arts. She comes from an artistic family-her mother is a watercolorist and she is one of six daughters who all have their own creative expressions. She tried watercolors, jewelry making and beadwork, but after taking a seven-week, beginning fused-glass class at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts-and then repeating it-she was hooked. "By the end of the second session, I had my order in for a kiln and I knew this was the art form for me."
Working with glass
Callander uses a specially formulated glass that will expand and contract at the same rate in high temperatures. She cuts her desired shapes from sheets of colored glass and then builds up layers of glass on a flat surface, creating her planned design.
Fusing the art glass in her kiln takes about 22 hours. The temperature depends on the process she is using. Fusing happens at 1375 degrees. If "slumping"-which is like molding the pliable glass over a shape to make a bowl or vase-she cranks the heat up even more. When she wants a swirled effect, she ramps the heat up to 1700 degrees, turning the glass to liquid, and with a special tool she "combs," or stirs, the colors. She has worked with these glass techniques for about eight years and can control the outcome she desires.
Callander said she has three aspects to her "work" life: Her work as a leadership and employee development trainer at St. Jude Medical (a medical device manufacturer in Plymouth), her artistic work with glass in her home studio and her personal, meaning-filled work in Ghana, in West Africa.
A few years ago, Callander happened to ask a Ghanaian woman friend about the friend's dream of building a new school. "Yes! I'll help you build it," Callander responded.
Callander started her own nonprofit organization (the Ghana Education Fund) and raised $40,000 to build one of the first preschools in Ghana. It's expected to open in 2012 for 80 kids in a planned community built for affordable, multifamily and single-family housing. Preschools and planned communities are new to Ghana, according to Callander. "It's amazing to think that $40,000 can build a school, but it's enough."
For Callander, her work in Ghana is about "having people live authentic lives, having dreams, having a vision for life and an intention to achieve it."
"That is really something new and powerful in Ghana. [In the U.S.], we've got all of our psychotherapy, we've got Dr. Phil, there are avenues for us to live in all possibility, but that's not so true in Ghana. That's what I work with-living in full possibility of your life."
So Callander asks questions such as "'Who are you being?' and 'What are you doing to attract what you want in your life?' That was how the vision for this school came," she said. "Part of our program was 'What is the vision for your life?' and there was this woman who had a strong vision for 'I will have a school one day.' So she drew me to her. Ten years later, we've built this school and we're waiting for it to open."