Everything about Cindy Lou’s Glass Studio goes toward making fused-glass art a fun and fulfilling experience. First, there’s the unlikely setting — a gas station, complete with gas pumps, a tall Sinclair dinosaur sign, reception area and service bays. Mondays through Fridays, mechanics push aside Cindy Mutrux’s glass fusing tools and work on cars and pickups. But several weekends each month, the bay is cleaned up, bright-red stools are set out with worktables, and sheets of colored glass and cutting tools are taken out of their storage bins. In a matter of minutes, Cindy and her husband, Ross, who own and operate the Sinclair service station at Stadium Boulevard and Rollins Road, convert the space into a glass studio.
Then, there’s Cindy. Red-haired and ready to laugh, she’s usually smiling. There’s something about her that reminds most people of Lucille Ball. It’s no coincidence that a painting of Lucy hangs on the wall above her kilns or that her business card features a colorful caricature of Mutrux with the phrase “You got some fusion to do,” which sounds a lot like Lucy’s catchphrase, “You got some splainin’ to do.”
Like the TV character, Mutrux approaches her glass fusion classes with a bright, optimistic attitude. She makes her classes welcoming to even the least-artistic, ensuring that everyone who attends a class succeeds in creating something of beauty. Unlike Lucy, Mutrux also shows a more spiritual side. On Sundays, Ross changes out of his work clothes and serves as minister to several churches in Howard County. As the wife of a minister, Cindy finds a religious calling in her glass work. “Art is therapy,” she says. “One day while learning glass fusion, I realized that glass is just like people — we all come in different sizes and shapes, some sharper than others, all different colors, but we’re all beautiful in the end.”
Although the glass sheets and shards that go into her kilns might look dull and commonplace, they come out as beautiful one-of-a-kind creations. Glass fusion is a process where layers and combinations of different colored glass are heated in a kiln until the glass softens and melts. When cooled, some of the fused glass resembles polished river stones, which can then be mounted with various hardware and transformed into bracelets, broaches, earrings, necklaces and even soap dishes and wall hangings.
For much of her life, Mutrux’s days and evenings consisted of raising her family and working six days a week at the service station with Ross. Somehow, she found time for volunteer work at Coyote Hill Christian Children’s Home and Central Missouri Honor Flights. In the midst of her orderly but busy life, someone introduced her to glass fusion art. And she was instantly fascinated by it. “One day, I had a very dear customer who gave me a glass flag ornament,” Mutrux said. “So, I started taking classes and decided to start helping people through art.”
One of the people she helped was a friend from high school, Sandy Thompson. After taking a few classes, Thompson went on to become an accomplished glass artist who now teaches alongside Mutrux. “Working with glass gave me a release,” Thompson says. “All I can say is that if you’re having some trouble and need an outlet, this is a place you can find it.”
Usually, groups reserve the studio, but individuals can also sign up for classes, which last several hours. “Sometimes, we have a date night, where people come in as couples. I’ve got a 4-H group coming in from Howard County with about 30 kids. And sometimes we have a ‘bring a friend’ night. We mix it up,” Mutrux says.
A couple of the art pieces have special meaning to the people who created them. Picking up a yellow soap dish, Mutrux says, “This piece was designed by a woman who came in last week, a year after losing her daughter to cancer. The colors are those her daughter liked, and the yellow is for children’s cancer. We share a lot of laughs while we work, and sometimes we share tears.”
As a way of memorializing those who have died, Mutrux and an occasional client might add the cremated remains of loved ones or pets into the mixture of glass that is then fused into art. She holds up a fused-glass pendant with a swirling design on its surface. Cradling it in her hand, Mutrux says, “A 5-year-old child made the piece with some adult supervision. He picked out the colors and helped design it. The ashes inside are part of his father’s remains.”
There’s a lot more going on in Cindy Lou’s Glass Studio than glass work. It might look like a service station, but sometimes the repairs involve healing from loss or the beginning of new friendships. “We make lasting friendships here,” Mutrux says. “I tell people it’s a safe place, a place where connections are made every time someone comes in.”