About Fused Glass




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 About Fused Glass

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The art of fused glass that has become very popular today started 4000 years ago when the Egyptian chemists made fused and slumped glass to please the pharaohs.

The artists now are able to choose from many wonderful colors and forms of glass that have the same coefficient of expansion or COE. Having the same COE allows all of the glasses used together to expand and contract at the same predictable rate. Some of the forms of glass are frits (crushed glass), stringers (long thin strings of glass), confetti ( thin shards of colored glass), noodles (thicker than stringers) and powdered glass. These glasses have been extensively tested to be compatible by the glass manufacturers. This partially explains why fusible glass is more costly than stained glass.  If the glasses used are not compatible the glass will become unstable and crack or shatter.

One other very interesting form of glass is the dichroic glass that was developed because of the space program and passed along to artists. Dichroic glass is created by applying metal oxides in a high temperature vacuum furnace to either a black or clear glass base.  The process the dichroic glass goes through is reflected in the costly price.  A piece of dichroic glass when turned at different angles will appear to be a different color. Actually it has two colors that transmit and reflect different colors when viewed at different angles.

Glass is cut to complete the desired design and this can be simple or complicated sometimes incorporating glue to hold pieces in place. An example of a completed design may have a colored glass on the bottom with several forms of glass or metal inclusions in the next layer and covered by a clear layer of glass. The number of glass layers and type of glass will effect the time and processes it will go through in the kiln.  Tiny Champagne bubbles are a natural occurrence when two or more layers of glass are fused together as the edges seal first. The glass can also be sprayed with chemicals that will produce more bubbles than naturally occur in the fusing process depending on the artist’s desired effect.
I do not use chemicals to induce bubbles; however I do use a few techniques to induce more of them in my underwater scenes. Using metal inclusions will create more bubbles; some are difficult if not impossible to remove.

The completed piece is then placed in  a room-temperature kiln. It is heated to the desired temperature, usually around 1500 degrees. The glass may have several stages to go through to get to the desired temperature depending on what the artist wants to accomplish.

The first stage is from room temperature where the glass is at a rigid stage to the next stage where the glass is heated and moves through a more flowing form. If heated too quickly the glass will crack and break. By the time the temperature of the glass gets above 1000 degrees any glue or moisture will have burned off and the glass begins to soften and will look slightly glossy.

When the glass reaches around 1300 to 1400 degrees the glass will appear to glow in an orange-red color. The edges will soften and start to become round. The layers of glass will start to stick together. This is also the slumping range (between 1250 and 1350 degrees). If slumping is the goal, then the next stages would be to anneal and cool.

As the heat rises to 1500 degrees the glass becomes increasingly more liquid and begins to glow a bright red. Bubbles start to move toward the surface of the glass and pop. (Some artists apply chemicals in the design stage to help create the bubble effect.) After the glass has been soaked (held) to reach the desired effect the kiln is rapidly cooled.

The main reason to cool rapidly is to reduce the amount of time glass spends above 1300 degrees. Glass left too long at this temperature range will devitrify. Devitrification is where the chemicals rise to the surface giving the finished glass a cloudy or “sea glass” effect. Some artists do this intentionally to create that look in their pieces.

Once the rapid cooling phase is complete and color has started to return to the glass, the kiln has to be cooled to approximately 1050 degrees and the “annealing” phase begins. Annealing is a process where the stress in the glass is relieved and the molecules in the glass are allowed to cool and arrange themselves into a solid and more stable form. There are three stages to this annealing point that the glass has to pass through which includes soaking or holding at various points before it goes down to the next temperature. This is crucial to creating glasswork that will remain stable once it cools to room temperature. My kiln takes about 12 to 14 hours to cool down to room temperature at which time the piece can be safely removed from the kiln.

The piece can then be placed in a manufactured or handmade mold and will go through a slumping fire to produce the desired shape and will cool down in the kiln for about 12 to 14 hours to room temperature.

After sculpting for many years, I was introduced to glass fusing while taking a refresher sculpture course at the College of San Mateo. I continued glass fusing at the college for a few years.  I then attended glass fusing and carving classes and seminars in Northern and Southern California and in Oregon.

Some of my artwork can also be functional.  The glass I use is lead-free, and should be treated like a treasured piece that does not get put into the dishwasher.

The mystery of the glass process and the delight I get when I open the kiln to see the results have kept me fascinated and passionate with creating art through the glass fusing processes. The amazement I feel when I observe artwork being created before my eyes as I carve into glass, fused and mirrored, is sheer delight.  I hope  you will enjoy my artwork as much as I enjoy creating it for you.



  © 2005 S.Melissakis