Glass Fusion 2006-2009
Glass-Fusion: Making & Selling
My time with glass-fusion started from my friendship with neighbouring-studio-artist, Jim Collins (James Joseph Collins Art) during our time together in Vernon Mill, Stockport. (around 2005)
Jim bought his first flat-bed glass-fusion kiln around 2003. Though most glass-artists start out using college kilns or a hobby-kiln at home using a domestic power supply, having studios in an old cotton mill meant it was relatively easy to arrange a commercial power supply. Thus our first ever attempts at glass fusion, were done on a commercial scale within a large flat-bed commercial glass kiln.
GLASS FUSION (a simplified methodology) is achieved by placing super-cleaned sheets of thin glass, stacked as layers (usually different colours to create a design) on a thicker supporting base layer of glass (we used 8-12mm) on the bed of the electric powered glass kiln. The kiln is then sealed and the glass is heated over a pre-programmed series of stepped temperature phases, from rapid to slow-heating phases. The longer the kiln is held at the hottest temperature the more the glass layers fuse together to form one layer and the razor sharp edges of the base layer become rounded. The glass is then allowed to cool (anneal) over 12-18hrs, again in phased steps of temperature. Rapidly cooled glass can destabalise, fracture and even explode!
When the glass was fully cooled, had been removed from the kiln and inspected for "design success", if considered suitable to sell to the public it was then frozen in a domestic deep freezer at -20 Celsius and thawed again to room temperature. This free-thawing process is used to "challenge" the glass, to show any micro-cracks or impurities in the fusion that might cause the glass to fracture/break after sale.
Pictures below show:
Glass being layered and prepared to go in the kiln ( a simple design of flowers )
Open flat-bed glass kiln, showing the electric heating elements in the "roof"
A small finished piece of glass-fusion, cooled and ready for removal from the kiln.
Up till the financial "crash" of 2009, the market for creative visual art that was "different" thrived, as did sales of glass-fusion.
The beauty of the glass-fusion process is that the "fusing" process (and thus the merging of colours and forms in the glass) happens within a sealed furnace-like kiln at about 800 degrees Celsius (about 1500 degrees F) and that once it's started the creative artist really just has to sit back and wait ti see what comes out when cooled. Thus, it is easy to say that EVERY piece created is unique, every piece is a one-off original. We never managed to exactly repeat any single art-piece, even though we tried!
Plus, we were producing very large pieces of glass-fusion, far larger and heavier than was capable using the more commonly available domestic powered kilns. Our standard large glass panel produced was approx 32" x 32" (800mm x800mm). We supplied these with special steel wall brackets (we had made to order).
Our kiln was about 1200mm across inside and thus we could kiln a large panel and a half-sized piece at the same time. Our technique developed to include the use of powdered coloured glass and also powdered metal oxides that would be applied to the base/carrier glass as white powders but when super-heated would create vibrant, strong colours (as shown in the finished piece below).
The piece shown above, was a small test panel for a commission I received from a church in Scotland. I was commissioned to create a panel to visually depict the "Passion of Christ". The finished piece is shown below, just leaning against a studio wall awaiting collection. The close up shots show how the final design is not totally flat but slightly up-raised. I have created this effect by adding "bubble-grains" to the design pre-kilning. These are inorganic grains that cause gas production (bubbles) during the maximum heat of kilning. These bubbles become trapped in the cooling glass. Bubbles had to be used with considerable caution as using them was adding an element of "chaos" to the process. Sometimes the bubbles could be so big that the covering glass would be so thin it could break easily when cold, of if the bubbles were near the edge of glass panel they could also cause the entire panel to fracture on cooling. Bubbles were effective but quite scary to use!
I only created a small number of unique glass pieces over this time with Jim, although he was kilning frequently to keep up with demand.
My driving force for having a studio in Vernon Mill at the time was to establish myself as a Family and Commercial Professional Photographer. My art was just for fun and stress relief, though it came to generate an income too.
You don't have to be good to be successful
Neither, do you have to be successful to be good!
The quote above is my "rule of life" when it comes to Art. I have had a lot of success and amazing opportunities, yet I never think I'm an amazing artist. Here is a story of one of those AMAZING opportunities:
As a photographer I networked with other business leaders 3-4 times per week. At one such event I met an architect. We ended up taking about glass (not photography and not architecture). A week later he called to tell me a friend of his, who owns a Design Agency in Liverpool (UK) was interested to see a few pieces of glass, wanting to decorate their client reception area. Jim and I went over to see this man. On arrival at the very nice offices, at a very nice address in Liverpool, we were shown into the Board Room and several important looking men came in too. Given we thought we were there to try and sell ONE piece of glass we were surprised at the level of interest being shown in our small samples. The Managing Director asked us if we were capable of producing (and what would it cost) to create a large unique panel (32" x 32") for each hotel room (100 per hotel), of a chain of 30 new hotels they had been commissioned to design and build in France...!!!!! i.e. over 3000 individual commissioned pieces of fusion glass!!!!
Doing some rapid mathematics in my head and allowing for buying new kilns, renting more premises and hiring staff, we created an approximate (high) cost...which they thought quite reasonable!!! They took the idea back to the man who had commissioned them to build the hotels. Sadly, he just wanted to put vintage photographs of Paris as internal decor in his new hotel rooms and thus we didn't get the commission.......but what an OPPORTUNITY !!!
Below are more pictures from that time with Jim Collins. Shown are finished pieces of different sizes and styles, also some of the equipment used to create the pieces. the nice thing with glass-fusion is that glass is not wasted. When a piece breaks, you can just put the pieces back in to make another (more random) piece of art!
You can see pieces that Jim Collins currently has available for sale on his website HERE plus, the prices he's asking now are less than half of what we were charging pre-crash of 2009. Now is the time to BUY art. The world is in a global depression, artists are poorer than they have been for years and thus keener than ever to get sales!!