Glass is a very forgiving material. You can blow, pull, lamp-work, fuse, sand-blast, cut, mix and match and solder together to make glass art. These are the various ways of ‘playing’ with glass which I will be discussing in my article.
Whether you buy glass from a store or put it together yourself, it all starts the same way by melting and heating a mixture of silica, soda and lime in a furnace. Depending on the quantity, it can take up to 24 hours to get the right consistency that can be called glass. Now, this will just make clear glass. To achieve desired results other substances are added during the process. As discussed in my previous article.
Glass blowing is a well known form of glass art. The art of blowing a bubble through a hollow pipe into a blob of molten glass takes years and a lot of diligence to master. It is as fascinating to watch being done by an expert as to try it for yourself. The hollow Christmas ornaments, goblets, bowls and vessels are made this way.
Did you know paper-weights and other beautiful pieces can be made by pulling, shaping and spinning the molten glass at the end of a solid pole. I make my own glass rods by pulling glass.
During both, blowing and pulling, to maintain the pliability of glass, the piece at the end of the pole has to be reheated in a smaller furnace called ‘glory hole’ until the desired shape and texture is achieved. Once the piece of art is completed at the end of the pole, the piece has to be put into an oven to ‘anneal’. An ‘annealer’ is a big oven where the temperature is controlled to come down slowly so that the glass releases the stress and the molecules settle back.
Lamp-working, flame-working or torch-working is the art of manipulating glass on the flame of a gas fueled torch with specific tools, gravity and hand movements. A mixture of propane or natural gas with oxygen is used to get the high temperature needed to melt glass. Beads, Christmas ornaments, human and animal figures, baskets, flowers and whimsical small objects can be made using this technique.
Fused, kiln formed or slumped glass is when glass pieces are stacked inside a kiln and heated to the range of temperatures needed to melt glass, yet keep the desired shape and structure. After heating and melting the glass the temperature of the kiln is slowly brought down (annealed). This is a very long process, sometimes can take up to 24 hours. Serving platters, plates, clocks, bowls, vases and pendants can easily be made by this discipline of glass art. Any type of glass bottles and jars can be slumped to be re-purposed. Most commonly slumped bottles are wine bottles transformed into cheese plates and spoon holders, I call them catch-all.
The art of etching, cutting, grinding, sand-blasting and painting to make designs on glass at room temperature is the art of cold-working. Using these techniques and a range of tools and perfecting the hand and eye coordination a variety of simple or intricate designs can be achieved. Sometimes cold-working is used to smooth and polish to bring out the shine and brilliance in a piece of glass art.