I am not sure I have ever done a post showing the fused glass process from beginning to end. The short description is taking pieces of glass and fusing them together to make something wonderful. But here it is way more detailed than that. Here is a look at the process.
With a design idea in mind, I choose my glass. I use either glass that I buy in sheets, or glass that I create. For fused glass I have to use glass manufactured especially for fusing. Translation… more expensive glass. Without getting into the technical details, fusing glass is made and tested to be compatible when combined. This is my collection of both stained glass and fusible glass.
Often, I “create” my own glass to make design elements that are incorporated into a larger piece. There are many ways to create custom glass. One way is to take a clear sheet of glass paint it and apply glass powders and frits. It is fired in the kiln and the cut and used as part of a larger piece. You can see an example in the picture to the right.
Another way of making custom design elements can be seen in the picture to the left. Here I have taken small bits of different colors of glass, placed them in a clay pot and heated it in the kiln until the glass begins to flow out of a hole in the bottom of the pot. A similar method is to let the glass flow through a stainless steel mesh screen.
Once the glass is selected, I cut, clean and assemble the pieces. The pieces can be very small. In the piece below I cut fifty 2” x ¼” pieces. All of the pieces have to be meticulously cleaned. Any oils or dirt can show up in the finished product as a hazy dull spot, which is called devitrification. The pieces are assembled on a kiln shelf that has been prepared with a wash that keeps the glass from sticking to it. In the first firing the kiln is slowly heated up to about 1475 degrees Fahrenheit and then slowly cooled down to room temperature. Heating or cooling too quickly can cause the piece to break. Usually I put a piece in the kiln in the morning so that is cooled down by the next morning. Really large piece can take much longer.
After the first firing in the kiln, I have a fully fused flat piece of glass. Depending on the design and desired result, the piece either moves on to the last step in the process or I might do some “coldworking.” Coldworking could involve cutting the piece on a tile saw, evening out edges using a wet belt sander, or sand blasting to remove a blemish. Coldworking usually means I have to fire the piece in the kiln for a second time. The second firing makes all the cut edges and sandblasted areas glossy again. The pieces in the picture below have been coldworked and are ready to be fired again. This firing takes a bit longer than the first.
The last step in the process to shape the piece. I put the flat glass piece on a clay mold and fire it in the kiln just until it is hot enough for the piece to slump down into the mold and shape it.
After three days the pieces are done and ready to be signed!