I thought it might be a good idea to document a few of the steps involved in the design and making of a new glass piece in the studio to give you glass enthusiasts a rare look into the process.
All design begins with an idea. That idea is then implemented using already existing knowledge about how the piece designed might be accomplished. Often this works well, but sometimes new tools, materials, and skills have to be made or mastered in order to make new work possible. In the case of the work I am showing you, a special kiln is needed to preheat the looked glass strips called dichroic (shown in the picture above) to be preheated. 2100 degree glass will not stick to room temperature glass, so it has to be brought halfway up to molten temperature.
In the case of the piece being made today, I am designing a new piece for a retailers association in our area for their grand prize winner. This piece will wind up being a little over a foot tall and will be composed of solid glass with air traps, which are controlled air bubbles trapped in the glass as part of what will be an ethereal design.
People often wonder what dichroic glass is. You can see some colored strips sitting in the pickup box kiln above. Dichroic was originally developed for the Lunar Rover cameras to cut down on sunlight which was cooking the film when under full sunlight. It is a very thin, translucent, even, metallized coating on glass. High tech, dichroic is expensive at about 150 dollars per eighteen inch sheet.
I then go to the furnace where the clear molten glass is kept and get a “gather” of molten glass on the end of a metal rod. This is turned constantly to keep it from dripping onto the floor. The glass is about 2100 degrees when it exits the furnace, so it moves like honey.
The glass is shaped into a small cylinder and allowed to cool after which I get another gather of glass. Depending on the size of the piece, I will add dichroic to the outside of a gather. In this case, I will be getting a third gather of glass. The volume of the glass in total will be the volume of between two to three softballs in size. You can see the successful first pickup of color below on the outside of the glass.
You can see some trails of bubbles in the glass which are part of the design.
The glass is then dimpled which will trap a veil of small bubbles once the next gather is put over the glass.
This is a smaller piece. You can see how ethereal the dichroic can be!
Once the piece is heated and shaped a number of times, it is cooled and the base stressed with cold water which allows it to break off evenly from the rod. It is placed in a kiln at annealing temperature, about 950 degrees, and will slowly cool over a period of days. The picture above shows some of the effects that a glass piece like this has.
That is how pieces like this are done. One great advantage of being able to work with an artisan is that you get up-close involvement in the design and making of glass which you have commissioned and helped to design. This process can be as involved or as “arm chair” as you, the customer, desires. For creating one of a kind looks for everything for display pieces, drawer pulls, sun catchers, drinking glasses, and more, you can’t beat what your local artisan can make for you!
For more on commissioning your own work, read my post a few posts down the line on the steps most often involved in commissioning work by a local studio!
Until then, be happy, do good, and BE good!