About the Process


Before any glass work can commence, the design idea must first inform all the processes that follow. This design is carefully conceived from both a functional and artistic directive; what is the purpose of the glass and how can this most effectively be communicated? Often this begins with computer software that allows for trial and error and different possibilities with color and texture. A pattern emerges, is blown up to the proper dimensions on large sized grid paper, and the glass selection process begins to interface with the design requirements. The glass is cut, ground, fit and polished into place and of course arrives in the kiln impeccably clean and ready for the magic to begin!aboutprocess3



Fused glass art is made from layering compatible glass pieces and design elements together in a kiln,
and firing it to about 1500 degrees F. Only compatible glasses can be fired together so that they maintain very similar rates of expansion and contraction and do not crack during the stress of the heating and cooling process. Once the firing temperature is reached, the kiln is quickly cooled to 960 degrees F in order to anneal the piece and insure the stability of the finished work. This process equalizes the stress in the glass and gives it sturdiness and reduces brittleness, so that it won’t break under its own weight or discovered later, mysteriously sitting in sad pieces on a shelf. The larger and thicker a piece is, the more this becomes essential.

It’s very important to carefully control the rate of heating and cooling and each different factor involved in the piece ( i.e. is the glass mainly black or white, how thick is it, what type of glass or other design elements are being used, what type of kiln will be it fired in) will dictate a particular schedule. It’s not unusual for the firing to take up to several days to complete, depending on the thickness of the glass. Often the glass is given repeated firings to add additional artistic elements, with each firing requiring the same complex pattern of heating and cooling to room temperature. It can easily take up to a week or two in the various stages of firing.aboutprocess2

Finally, after it is finished, it is fitted with a frame for hanging or standing, or it’s fitted into an existing window, or very commonly it is slumped into a metal or ceramic mold during a separate kiln firing, which will give the glass its final shape (a bowl, a platter, etc). This is accomplished by resting the glass over the prepared mold and when it reaches about 1300 degrees F it falls under its own weight, taking on the shape of the mold beneath it. The glass is chosen for its translucent clarity or opacity, compatibility with other fusing glass, texture and color. Often inclusions, including frits and powders (small pieces of glass), enamel paints, liquid glass paint, gold, silver or copper leaf or mica, or carved shapes into the mold are incorporated into the design.

While basic fusing is rather simple to learn, and quite thrilling, the tools are extremely expensive and to be able to produce what an artist is intending is the difference between being able to ride a bicycle and being able to ride it on a tightrope high above the circus tent! It takes years of education and seat-of-the-pants type experience to become a proficient fused glass artist…but for me, the thrill is well worth the effort!working detail