Working in the studio this time of year is invigorating. The weather has been so perfect it literally inspires creativity. All week we’ve had bright sunshine, clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-seventies. Yesterday, I threw open the overhead door to better hear the song birds chatter while I cut glass. It was one of those rare, peaceful yet exceptionally productive days that artists enjoy when they’re deep in the zone. That’s when it occurred to me my job is unique; not everyone knows the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction that accompanies this kind of creativity. The experience was so enriching I wanted to share it with you.
For the next week or so, I’m going to blog in real time and post the various techniques I’m using to make commissioned fused glass sinks. Fellow kiln crafters will likely pick up some tricks they can put to use in their own work. While those of you who are not familiar with fusing will be surprised to learn that this form of art is more complex and scientific than maybe expected—it is equal parts creativity, engineering and math. Whatever your background, it’s my hope you gain insight into the creative process.
Fused Glass Sinks: Part 1
Glass fusing is the process of layering compatible glass together to make a pattern or design. The layered glass is super heated in a special kiln until it melts together, and then cooled slowly to prevent breakage. Glass is sensitive to temperature change and therefore the heating and cooling takes time and has to be done in multiple steps. How much time it takes and the number of steps required is determined by the size and thickness of the project—larger and thicker projects take longer than smaller, thinner projects.
This sink is called Asian Poppy; it’s one of my favorites because the rich color and varied blend of materials make each one unique.
Sinks are made using two separate firing processes, fusing and slumping. Fusing is the process of melting the glass together into a flat disc. The fused disc is then placed on a mold and heated until it slumps into the mold and conforms to its shape. The first step in making a sink is to measure the slumping mold, the fused glass must fit perfectly inside the mold or it’ll slump unevenly. I cut two circles from a sheet of ¼” clear fusible glass to use as the base of the sinks. A strip of 1/8” thick fiber paper is wrapped around the edge to contain the glass and maintain the desired size during heating. The fiber paper is held in place with copper wire stops pressed into the fiber board kiln shelf.
The clear base is then layered with an assortment of colored glasses mixed with clear. I use mosaic size pieces nipped from sheet glass as well as frit from bottles in course, medium and fine grades until I have the coverage and thickness I want.
The mix is topped with a random scatter of clear glass chunks. These not only dilute the colors and make subtle changes in hue but create spontaneous movement. During the firing process the clear melts first thus causing the colored piece to shift and flow impulsively. It’s this simple addition that elevates the finished artwork to a higher level of sophistication.
Lastly, I add stringers, spaghetti size threads. They break up the rock-strewn look by adding a strong linear quality to the pieces.
The assembled glass is fired using a customized firing program run by a digital controller on the kiln. My firing program has 8 segments. It slowly heats the glass to 1450 degrees, holds it there for 10 minutes than at a measured rate gradually brings it back down to room temperature. The whole process takes about 24 hours.
Opening the kiln the next day is like unwrapping a present, you have hopes and expectations but are always surprised. Hopefully, the surprise is a good one.
Stop back by next week to see the outcome.
Till then stay warm,