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Melissa McCumiskey works in the studio during a glassblowing session. Some of her glass pieces will be for sale at the Civic Arts Education Artists Market, held Dec. 6-8, at CAE's Civic Park and Shadelands campus in Walnut Creek.

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 them display their work there, and the artists were happy for the opportunity.

"We were the glass people," said Ruhter.

That December, Ruhter put 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 has evolved: she's partnered with fellow glass artist, Melissa McCumiskey, as Ruhter's designs come alive through McCumiskey's glassblowing and lampworking techniques.

Together, the 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," said Ruhter.

Though Ruhter has been teaching at CAE's Shadelands campus, where beadmaking and glass fusing classes are offered, the program officially became known as the CAE Glass Department and 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, and also show their work in galleries and museums across the country.

McCumiskey, who's been teaching at CAE since 2006, said it's important to know that you're not only supporting local artists who take classes through CAE when you purchase their work, but you're also helping to keep the 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 that with the artists on hand, they can explain the creative process behind each piece so the medium and process becomes more accessible, doable and possible.

"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.

"Glass is revolutionary," Ruhter said. "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 Market will be at two locations: Shadelands -- featuring ceramics, paintings, photography, printmaking, glass art, jewelry, textiles and more; and Civic Park, with functional and decorative ceramic art, including porcelain, raku and sculpture.

if you go
WHAT: Civic Arts Education Artists Market
WHEN: 5-9 p.m. Dec. 6; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 7; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Civic Park), 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Shadelands), Dec. 8
WHERE: Civic Arts Education, 111, N. Wiget Lane and Civic Park, 1365 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek
INFORMATION: 925-943-5846, www.arts-ed.org,; www.clayartsguild.com