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Warm Glass - Hot Stuff: Fused Glass Art

Updated on September 22, 2008

Beautiful Fused Glass Art

There is something magical about fused and kiln-formed glass. I can take a few ordinary sheets of glass and do extraordinary things with them using heat and a few simple tools. I am still thrilled at the magic of it every time I take a newly finished glass piece out of the kiln.

Learn more about the art of fused and kiln-formed glass. Maybe you'll decide to try a little magic of your own!

Photo courtesy of Flickr and RDW Glass

The term warm glass refers to the art of heating glass with a torch or in a kiln until the glass becomes tacky enough to stick to other glass and soft enough to be shapable. This happens at temperatures of 1,100 degrees F. to 1,700 degrees F.

This is in contrast to hot glass, which refers to processes of heating the glass up to temperatures of over 2,000 degrees, enough to make it molten.

Photo by Emerald Isle Designs

Artists can use this technique to create jewelry, sculpture or practical items like vases, platters and bowls. The introduction of reasonably-priced mini-kilns into the consumer market has fueled an explosion in the popularity of fused glass. In particular, many have chosen to make fused glass jewelry, as a hobby or to sell, because of the relatively small initial investment and small work space needed.

Photo by Emerald Isle Designs

PLAN - Decide what you want to make. Plan colors and patterns. You can layer pieces of glass to create patterns or pictures.

CUT - Using standard cutting tools common in the stained glass studio, cut out the glass pieces you need.

PLACE AND GLUE - After washing the glass to remove dirt and oils, carefully attach the glass pieces, with a tiny dot of glue,in an arrangement on a base piece of glass. You can stack glass pieces two or more layers high. At this time, you might also add other inclusions like bits of wire or metal pieces. Usually, but not always, place a clear piece of glass over your glass pieces.

FUSE - This is when it starts getting really fun. Carefully place the whole glass arrangement in a prepared kiln. You are going to heat the glass so that it sticks together or until it sinks into the layer below it. Because of the nature of glass and heat, this process takes MANY hours. AND you can't open the kiln until it has cooled to room temperature. NO CHEATING or the glass will crack and the whole project will be ruined.

SLUMP - After your fused piece has cooled, place it on a slumping mold and put it back into the kiln again. As the glass heats, gravity will pull it down to form the shape of the mold. Cool, huh? After it cools completely again, you have your very own piece of kiln-formed artwork. The photo of the bowl with triangles at the top of this section shows my first fused glass project ever.

Photo by Emerald Isle Designs

ANNEAL - It's really important that the glass cools at the same rate throughout the piece. If a thicker portion cools more slowly than a thinner section, the glass will develop stress and eventually will crack. Annealing is resting the glass at a certain temperature long enough for the entire piece to come to the same temperature. There are certain temperatures at which this is critical and others it doesn't matter so much. You should know those critical temperatures and plan to anneal your glass, although seeing an object shatter from stress can be pretty spectacular.

COE - This means coefficient of expansion. Different kinds of glass expand at different rates. If you are fusing pieces of glass together, it's very important to make sure they have the same COE. We call them compatible. Glass manufacturers sell special glass for fusing with the COE labelled. You can also fuse with sheet glass from the hardware store, if you make sure the entire project is made from the same sheet of glass (therefore, the same COE).

FUSE - To heat the glass pieces enough to make them stick together or sink into the lower layer. Also, what blows when your electric kiln overwhelms your home's electrical system.

KILN - A really hot oven used for fusing and slumping glass. Some kilns are made for both glass and clay, but not at the same time. The really cool kilns have programmers on them, so you can tell it how fast to heat, how long to stay at a temperature, and how fast to let everything cool. Not recommended for baking bread.

SLUMP - To heat the glass on some kind of mold that softens the glass enough to allow gravity to shape it. Also, what you do when you couldn't wait until the piece cooled completely to room temperature in the kiln before looking at it, and you realize that the shock of cold air hitting the warm glass just made it crack (also see "swear").

TACK - To heat the glass pieces just long enough for them to stick together, but not for the glass pieces to change shape at all or begin to sink into each other.

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Periwinkle Studio

If You Buy Just One Book on Glass Fusing, This Should Be the One

Contemporary Warm Glass: A Guide to Fusing, Slumping & Kiln-Forming Techniques
Contemporary Warm Glass: A Guide to Fusing, Slumping & Kiln-Forming Techniques

One of the most popular and clearest explanations of fused glass available. This book has step-by-step instructions and practical information on techniques from beginning fusing to mold-making and glass casting. If I had to recommend just one book to the new fused glass artist, this would be the one. The beautiful photos of finished glass artwork are a delightful and inspiring bonus.

 

Other Favorite Books on Fused Glass - I own every one of these. They are wonderful resources for direction and advice.

Warm Glass: A Complete Guide to Kiln-Forming Techniques: Fusing, Slumping, Casting
Warm Glass: A Complete Guide to Kiln-Forming Techniques: Fusing, Slumping, Casting

Probably the most thorough of all these books. You'll learn about glass chemistry and physical behavior, as well as practical and advanced techniques of warm glass. Every technique is very-well illustrated with photos. This book also includes photos of beautiful finished work.

 
Fused Glass Handbook
Fused Glass Handbook

This is a good introduction to the basics of warm glass. It focuses on beginning techniques and includes patterns for several projects to cut, fuse and slump.

 
Creative Glass Techniques: Fusing, Painting, Lampwork
Creative Glass Techniques: Fusing, Painting, Lampwork

This is the book that first got me interested in fused glass. It has just one chapter on glass fusing, but I was hooked as soon as I read it. The book also includes chapters on glass painting, lampwork (beadmaking, etc.) and other glass techniques. Step-by-step instructions are included for a project using each technique.

 

Fused Glass in the Classroom - Kids love this!

These children are making fused glass projects while learning about solids and liquids. Fused glass can be integrated into many learning environments. How about studying symmetry or pattern? What about an illustration for a story? Expressing an emotion in visual terms?.......

Firework Studios in Los Angeles brings their workshops to the schools.

See a demonstration of Fusing and Slumping

Another Very Useful Book for Your Library

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    • profile image

      glamorous-glass 6 years ago

      Greatly informative lens. We love fused glass. We find Greek fused glass pieces as very interesting.

    • admiralglass lm profile image

      admiralglass lm 7 years ago

      Nice lens and well thought out, loved it :)

    • Rita-K profile image

      Rita-K 7 years ago

      Very nice lens! You explained the whole process so well! Enjoyed!

    • profile image

      grantspro 7 years ago

      I just ordered a kiln so I can start fusing rather than thinking about how much I want to fuse. Thanks for the great lens Bee!

    • profile image

      MagiCatGlass 8 years ago

      Nice Lens! I had fun checking out all your links.

    • profile image

      ThomasC 9 years ago

      Great lens Bee, it shows your passion! I blessed it for ya!

    • dreamsgate lm profile image

      dreamsgate lm 9 years ago

      Very nice indeed. My mother in law just started getting into fused glass. I'm going to send her the link to this lens.

    • NightSquid LM profile image

      NightSquid LM 9 years ago

      Wow Excellent lens Bee!

      you get five stars from me.

      Cheers

    • funwithtrains lm profile image

      funwithtrains lm 9 years ago

      Great lens!

    • grassosalvato86 profile image

      grassosalvato86 9 years ago

      What a fantastic art!! Really great lens! 5 stars

    • Angelina Gherna profile image

      Angelina 9 years ago from California

      really nice...I love fused glass

    • Angelina Gherna profile image

      Angelina 9 years ago from California

      really nice...I love fused glass

    • profile image

      cherangelry lm 9 years ago

      Great idea for a lens! I always wondered how this type of art was done! :)

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 9 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Fabulous work, Bee! No! I don't have time for another hobby! LOL 5*s

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      This is a really nice lens, I love watching glass being crafted, and the results are amazing. 5***** for a great job.