The Inscape is the result of a discovery I made early in my glass career. It was part experimentation and part discovery and part happy mistake. The glass was cut open to reveal something marvelous inside. Who knows how many of these I had made with these same beautiful forms that had slipped inside the glass like that. From that one point of discovery came a welter of ideas. Inscape Geode, Inscape Egg, Andromeda Geode, Andromeda Egg, the Andromeda Monolith. It cracked the sky of my world open creatively. These pieces have been used for corporate jobs, trophies, sold in a catalog, online, and through countless galleries from New England to Seattle, and London England.
So today I honor that discovery with a picture I found of a piece I did about eight years ago that suggested yet another direction with my Inscapes. The piece, shown below, is a special type of Inscape that I did so it had multiple facets. It was different from all others like it. One of a kind. But here is where new ideas form, build, grow, and inspire.
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 twisted to get a spiral.
The glass is then dimpled which will trap a veil of small bubbles once the next gather is put over the glass.
This is piece shows the clear gather now over the glass. This piece is being shaped into an egg shape, which is done with a wet carbon felt pad. This is all by hand.
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.
A piece of glass like this will last the ages. Thick, glass is very durable. The picture above is a closese-up of the dichroic with the bubbles. Cool, huh?
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!
Please contact me directly for studio hours: our work is seasonal and sometimes the studio can be down for repairs, for example. Some days we are blowing glass while other days we are running errands or away at a show. Let us know when you are free to come see us and we can work something out that works for you.