While the art of glass making is centuries old, many of the techniques I use to create specific images in glass are very modern. I use computer graphics programs to finalize my designs and then use a laser cutter to make stencils and masks. Stencils are used to create repeatable, multi-colored art glass patterns, while masks are used primarily when etching (or removing) layers of glass to create images.
Working with glass is part art and part science. The art is in choosing what to make with the tremendous variety of glass that’s available. Special glass for fusing is available in a many colors, textures and forms, giving the artist infinite possibilities in what they create. It is available in sheets, rods, and frit (chopped up glass ranging in texture from fine powder to chunky gravel). Colors are transparent, opaque and in combinations of the two swirled together. In addition, it is available with an iridescent coating, like gasoline on water, which further adds to the variety of effects that can be achieved.
From the artist’s perspective, the science comes in firing the glass, which expands as it heats and contracts as it cools. Care must be taken to avoid breakage in the kiln. The size of each piece determines how quickly we can bring the kiln to the target temperature, how quickly we can lower it to room temperature, and how long the piece is held at the target temperature. The process of heating glass to the point where it begins to melt and the pieces join together is called fusing, and the process of softening the glass so it will sink into the shape of a mold is called slumping. Many pieces require multiple firings to get to their final form.
To get an idea of the vast variety of colors, textures, and finishes available to the glass artist, you can access the full Bullseye Glass catalogue in PDF form by clicking on this link. Wait a moment while it opens in a new window.