Monday, November 1, 2010

Creating a Fused Glass Collage

by Michelle of Gotthold Glass Studio

I've been working recently to create fused glass collages. My inspiration for these pieces is the work of childrens' book author & illustrator Eric Carle; I work in layered glass rather than painted paper. For those of you who've never heard of fused glass, it's the art of heating glass pieces in a kiln until they melt together. I took several work-in-progress pictures of a trout wall art project I completed this summer and thought I would share them with you to show the steps I took from the initial idea to the finished piece.

1. I started by studying lots and lots of pictures of trout. In designing the pattern for a glass collage, I look for ways to create realistic textures with different pieces of glass. Here is the final pattern I decided upon.

2. Next I play with glass! I made up lots of small sample pieces to see how to achieve the final look I was after. I tried many combinations of sheet glass, frit (small bits of glass), glass powder, and enamels. Most glass powders deepen in color and many colors react with each other to form new colors when they are heated, so the pieces don't look the same after they have been heated in the kiln, which is why these tests are essential. I've worked with fused glass for over 7 years now, and I still am surprised by how much certain colors of glass change upon heating!

3. Once I decided on which combinations of glass I would use for the project, I cut out my pieces. I did this using techniques I learned when I was making stained glass windows. I scored the glass with a hand-held cutter, and then put pressure on either side of the score line to break out the piece.

4. Now the fun begins! I decorated each of the pattern pieces with the combination of glass powder, frit, and enamel that I determined would give me the fish-y look I was after. I try to use as little glue as I can, since it can cause problems when the pieces are heated in the kiln. However, it is sometimes necessary to have two pieces stuck together while I work on the piece (e.g. I didn't want the mouth pieces to shift after I put the powder on). The best glue I have found for fusing is cheap pump hairspray!

5. I then heated all the glass pieces separately in the kiln. For these collages, I typically heat the glass hot enough to stick the pieces together, but not so hot that I loose all the texture of the individual pieces. (This is known as a "tack fuse".) The photo below show just how much some of the colors changed after heating!

6. I then refined the fit of a few pieces and added more frit and glass powder details. I then carefully placed everything together on a sheet of background glass and heated it in the kiln one more time to fuse everything together.

7. Here is the final, framed, fish: