What is Glass Fusing? (Part 1)
Glass fusing is a glass fabrication technique used to heat glass in a kiln until it reaches a soft point, which allows the user to manipulate the glass in a variety of ways. This method for working with glass is sometimes known as kiln-forming or warm glass. Warm glass operates at lower temperatures than glassblowing (which can be referred to as hot glass). A wide variety of objects can be produced through glass fusing, ranging from necklaces to bowls.
Warm glass is heated between 600 and 925 degrees Celsius. At these temperatures, glass softens enough that when pieces of glass are heated and pressed together, they will fuse into a single seamless piece.
There are many processes within fusing - slumping, draping, fire polishing, tack fusing, frit casting, pate de verre, combing, glass casting (more on these in Part 2). Besides fusing flat objects (see Fig 1 - Lazy Bones Fish), I also use the slumping method, which is one of the most popular techniques. Slumping is when glass is heated to a certain temperature and left to stretch and drop (slump) into a mould (see Fig 2 - a slumping mould). I created this three piece sculpture using a wave mould (see Fig 3 - Coast). It is a very controlled process - the glass is heated enough for it to allow to slump very gradually. If the process is not controlled you could end up with lots of melted glass in a messy heap!
A number of supplies are needed to practice glass fusing; including a kiln and tools to work with the glass. A kiln is vital to working in this technique and also the most important investment you will ever make. Therefore, it is important to make an informed decision. KIlns come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. My first kiln was a Hot Start Pro - a seven-sided shape (Heptagon, I had to look that one up!!). I decided to buy this particular one because it was slightly bigger than the small box ones (like the Paragons) and suited my needs better as I wanted to experiment with bowls and plates and not just make jewellery items. I have progressed since then, and now own a flat-bed kiln which measures 1 metre x 800cm - this is a huge leap, but my business has grown and I now supply trade. In order to keep up with orders, I had to invest in a larger kiln.
It is also important to have safety equipment like goggles and fire resistent gloves. Glass fusing also relies on the use of compatible glass; if the wrong types of glass are mixed, the piece can crack or explode as a result of different cooling patterns and densities. Surprising not all glass is compatible ie., it expands and contracts at different temperatures.
Written by Kathryn from Lazy Daisy Glass
(If you would like to become a guest blogger please pm Helen through Misi)