WALNUT CREEK -- In the summer of 1994, Penny Ruhter and four other artists boldly placed a table with their artwork outside the Clay Arts Guild studio during the studio's sale.
The clay artists let those five artists display their work outside the studio, but they were just happy they got to show their work.
"We were the glass people," said Ruhter.
That December, Ruhter placed two tables inside the ceramics studio and it became a twice-yearly multimedia arts event now known as the Artists Market. Ruhter's glass work and the Artists Market have evolved through the years; she's since partnered with fellow glass artist Melissa McCumiskey, and Ruhter's designs have come alive through McCumiskey's glass blowing and lampworking techniques.
Together, the two Concord residents will be showing an array of their work that includes handblown glass paperweights, fused glass wall art, dichroic fused glass jewelry and handmade glass bead jewelry at the Artists Market at Civic Arts Education's Shadelands campus from Dec. 6-8.
"My goal when I started this was to have all kinds of artists who take classes here participate and show their work," Ruhter said.
Even though Ruhter has been teaching classes at CAE's Shadelands campus, where such classes as beadmaking and glass fusing are offered, the program has officially become known as the CAE Glass Department, where Ruhter serves as coordinator.
After taking fusing classes with Ruhter in 1997, McCumiskey and Ruhter opened Hot Box Stained Glass in 1999, but closed it six years later to concentrate on their own art. They now maintain Studio 522 Art Glass, an online gallery as well as show their work in galleries and museums across the country.
McCumiskey, a teacher at CAE since 2006, said it's important to know that you're not only supporting local artists who take classes through Civic Arts Education by purchasing their pieces, but also helping keep CAE programs alive.
"It's symbiotic -- without the artists, there wouldn't be programs," said McCumiskey, a former wood artist who, when she discovered glasswork, never looked back.
Symbiotic also describes the artistic relationship between the two artists as they strive to create colorful glass art that's functional and decorative.
"You get lost in the work of creating and hours have gone by and you didn't even realize it," McCumiskey said.
The artists hope the public can see what kinds of classes they can take to create such a diverse body of artwork. McCumiskey and Ruhter said the artists on hand can explain the creative process behind each piece, helping make both the medium and the process more accessible and doable.
"I think people don't realize the science of the process of glass working," McCumiskey said. "It's a science and art at the same time. You have to know what the glass is going to do."
Glass, the artists say, can go from solid to liquid and back again.
"There's a lot of flexibility, a lot of different avenues to working with glass," McCumiskey said.
Added Ruhter, "Glass is revolutionary. It's so amazing to me what comes out, and I can't believe something I made can last for centuries. Glass is a medium that lasts."
The holiday-themed Artists Markets will be at two locations: