by Alison Ruzsa & Sami Harawi
Glass is an art
medium with seemingly endless technical versatility
and a rich, long history. Basic elements of sand and soda lime are
combined with coloring agents, then melted together to produce the
raw material. The raw (soft) glass prepared in Murano, Italy, has a
great reputation anchored in centuries of appreciation for its high
quality. Although this well deserved reputation persists today, good
quality glass is produced elsewhere, particularly in the United States
(Corning, Bullís Eye and Schott glass).
Read the rest of the 2005 Text through the
following link: Glass Art
Below is the Text written for the 1998 Exhibit,
The ABC of American Glass
Glass Blowing goes few
millenniums back, at least to the early
Egyptian Civilization. Although glass blowing has reached a high sophistication level,
very little about the technique itself has changed. Basic elements of sand, soda lime, are
combined with coloring agents, and melted together to produce the raw material.
To create a blown glass object, the molten glass is
"gathered" from the furnace on the end of a long hollow metal
"blowpipe". At this stage the glass is typically around 2100 degrees
(Fahrenheit), and has the consistency of honey (it "freezes" at around 900
degrees). The glassblower introduces air into the center of the gather through the
blowpipe. A variety of tools are then used to shape the glass to form. As the glass cools
it begins to stiffen and must be reheated to allow continuous shaping and reshaping. The
glassblower uses a smaller furnace, the "glory hole" (because of its bright
glow) for the re-heats. These re-heats allow the artist to work on a piece for a long
period of time, shaping and blowing until the desired result is achieved.
When the piece is finished, it is placed in an oven (kiln) for
annealing. Annealing is the process of slowly cooling the glass to room temperature
to stabilize its delicate crystalline structure. If the piece is heated or frozen quickly,
it will crack. Annealing is not only used for blown glass, but is done for the pieces
produced from most of the other techniques described below.
denotes a technique in which glass is gathered
from the furnace on the end of a solid metal rod (puntil) and shaped with tools
into a Sculpture. Although the set up is essentially similar to that for blown glass, no
actual blowing takes place.
Cast Glass may predate blown glass. There are examples
of Ancient Egyptians experiments with this technique. They used "cold core
casting" in which the glass was applied to the outside of a mold. A variety of
techniques for casting glass are widely used today. Pate de Verre, (French for
paste of glass) and Kiln Casting are essentially similar. Both involve
filling a mold with cold glass heated it in a kiln till the glass fuses together at the
melting point. In Pate de Verre the glass is crushed into a fine paste before it is put in
the mold; for Kiln Casting, larger chunks of glass are used.
In Hot Casting, glass is heated at a temperature higher than
for Glass Blowing (2350 degrees Fahrenheit). It is scooped out of the furnace with large
ladles and poured directly into the mold. Intricate molds are made of ceramic and silica,
materials that will withstand the heat.
Sand Casting is an ancient technique still in use. It
involves creating a mold by depressing objects into silica sand, (which is mixed with a
binder and or injected with C02 to make it hard). Molten glass is poured into the mold.
Cold Working refer to methods that are work glass in
its "frozen state". It includes Sandblasting, Engraving, Cutting,
Grinding, and Polishing. Bonding the glass together with specialized glues is
also part of Cold Working. Each of these techniques allows by itself an array of
possibilities in Art Glass. Cold Work often results in pure geometric forms. Some artists
consider the cold work as an extension of their "hot work". But most Cold Work
artists use glass that was produced for their needs in specialized places in the US and in
Europe. Dichroic glass is often used in Cold Work sculptures.
Lamp working is a method of manipulating small rods and tubes
of glass in the flame of a torch. Its origin is vague and disputed, but experts agree that
initially the glass was heated over small oil burning lamps", hence the name
In the fifteenth century soft glass was developed by A.
Moretti to melt at lower temperatures in order to accommodate this technique. It was used
to make small-scale sculptures, and glassware without the overhead expense of traditional
glassblowing. Soft glass is still produced by the same Muranese family. Today, Lamp
workers use it to create unique works of art with torches that burn gas and propane and
can produce a much higher temperature, and a larger flame.
Some artists as well as glassblowers of scientific glassware, use a
glass made of a borosilicate base, which was developed in the US in the 20th
century by Corning. It can withstand higher and more drastic temperature changes without
cracking or boiling.
Stained glass is an art form that is was developed in the 9th
Century in Central Europe. Originally, sheet glass was cut from large
"roundels" (a method of blown glass in which the final form is spun out into a
large round plate). Metallic oxides (for coloring) were applied to the surface of the
glass and then heated in large kilns. These pieces of "stained" glass were cut
and assembled, using strips of lead, into larger compositions, which not only provided
light but also became a major architectural design element. They were predominantly used
as pictorial themes in cathedrals.
Today, artists continue using stained for windows with traditional
and contemporary designs and in both religious and secular set-ups. However, some artists
have taken stained glass outside and beyond the windows into sculptural forms,
architectural and figurative.
Slumping and Fusing techniques use flat pieces of (usually
stained) glass. In the Fusing technique, multiple glass pieces are arranged in a
pattern and heated in a kiln to be fused as one piece. In Slumping, the glass is
laid into, or on top of a mold and heated just to the point where it "slumps" to
fit the form of the mold. Once the glass reaches the desired form it must be cooled
quickly enough to stop the movement that will result in cracking. Although these methods
sound simple, the objects created are quite often very intricate in their design, and
hours of painstaking labor may go into the arrangement of the glass. In many examples the
glass has been fused into a pattern and then slumped to fit a particular form.
Neon is a method developed at the beginning of the 20th
century, mainly for commercial use, but made its way into the art world as well. In this
method, the glass is mass-produced into long tubes, which are then bent and spliced
together with a torch to create the desired forms. Once the form is complete electrodes
are spliced onto the two ends of the piece and a vacuum pump removes air and impurities
from the chamber. A rare gas such as Neon is introduced into the chamber before it is
sealed off. When attached to a transformer the electrodes excite the atmosphere in the
chamber causing the neon to glow a deep red color. Other rare gases such as Argon and
Krypton, are used to produce other colors. Combining this with tubes that are made of
colored glass a large palate of bright hues is achievable.