By Cynthia Robertson
Art blooms in new studio
Until a few months ago, Debbie Solan was co-owner with Paul Fernandes of Fusion Glass Company in La Mesa. Now she is the sole owner of Idea Field, a studio and shop where art of every kind can bloom.
The road bringing Solan to Idea Field has been a long one, but worth every moment. She grew up as the middle child of five in Dublin, Ireland. Times were difficult then, with money being tight for everyone there. But Solan found beauty in painting and coloring.
“I don’t remember a time when art wasn’t in my life. I come from a family of creators,” she said.
By the time she was in her teens, the Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick was her biggest inspiration. Solan developed what she calls “itchy feet,’ and at 19 years of age, she left Ireland and traveled throughout Europe for a number of years. She met many Americans along the way, so she decided to come see what America was all about.
“And then the age-old story. I met a guy and stayed. He remains one of my best friends to this day,” Solan said.
When she moved to San Diego, Solan took a part-time job at a real estate office. That is where she met Paul Fernandes. They both discovered they had a passion for art. Fernandes did stained glass as a hobby and took a glass fusing class. He asked Solan if she would be interested in helping him with the kiln.
Solan had already had experience with pottery kilns and thought that glass fusion would be worth looking into.
“We were enjoying experimenting with this wonderful medium and were creating so many pieces of jewelry we just gave them away to anyone who liked it.
“With glass there is the intrigue of translucency. I loved working with the glass from the first moment — the colors, textures and the gorgeous translucency were intriguing to me, there are so many ways to work with glass and every artist does it their own way, I felt a sense of freedom,” Solan said.
One day Fernandes and Solan were asked to set up a booth at a local church to help raise money to pay the medical bills of a young boy. They made $1,200 in two days.
“We realized we had something that people really liked,” she said.
Fernandes and Solan set up a small workshop and started selling their work at gift shows all over America. Soon after, they opened Fusion Glass, a shop and studio specializing in the art form.
Though Fernandes retired late in 2016, he and Solan remain friends. “He comes by to visit all the time,” Solan said.
For Idea Field, Solan is keeping many of the same elements of Fusion Glass, especially the feel of a studio where people can drop in and create. Solan will keep the name Fusion Glass Company for a few more months as the art studio transitions.
Currently, Idea Field is displaying an exhibit of glass panels made by the artists at St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center. For the past two years, Solan has been teaching the art of glass fusion to the students at the center.
Also on exhibit are silk painting, mosaics and jewelry as well as paintings. Other mediums that Solan will be featuring in the future include photography and drawing.
In addition, Solan has added a lot of new options for classes, as the studio is no longer focused primarily on glass. People can now also take classes in silk painting, drawing, photography and mosaic. Starting in June, Idea Field will introduce “Pocket Money Projects” for kids on Saturdays.
Solan will continue with the popular Ladies Night Out, which is a time when women can come together and create a simple project and hang out with friends. The de-stressing time is powerful, Solan said. She remembers one particular LNO where at the end of the session, a student came up to her and gave her a great big hug.
“I’m a big advocate of hugging. She told me that she was battling cancer and said she had absolutely forgotten all about it for the first time while she focused on her creative task. The incident made us both cry.
“I remember thinking ‘that’s some powerful medicine’ to be able to take a person away from their troubles and worries. This is a gift I want to keep giving,” Solan said.
For more artistic endeavors of Idea Field, Solan is collaborating with friends Marjorie Pezzoli, a silk painting artist from La Mesa, and Wendy Morris, the art administrator for St. Madeline Sophie’s Center.
Solan has made available an entire “menu” of projects using very simple techniques that anyone can do.
Just as Fusion Glass was popular with the community for its well-attended and fun art receptions, Solan is planning the same for Idea Field. The next big event will be Tea Under the Sea on May 13.
—Cynthia Robertson is a San Diego-based freelance writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.