Fused glass is a term used to describe glass that has been fired (heat-processed) in a kiln at a range of high temperatures from 593 °C (1,099 °F) to 816 °C (1,501 °F). There are 3 main distinctions for temperature application and the resulting effect on the glass.
Firing in the lower ranges of these temperatures 593–677 °C (1099–1251 °F) is called slumping. Firing in the middle ranges of these temperatures 677–732 °C (1251–1350 °F) is considered “tack fusing”. Firing the glass at the higher spectrum of this range 732–816 °C (1350–1501 °F) is a “full fuse”.
All of these techniques can be applied to one glass work in separate firings to add depth, relief and shape.
While the precise origins of glass fusing techniques are not known with certainty, there is archeological evidence that the Egyptians were familiar with rudimentary techniques ca. 2000 BCE. Although this date is generally accepted by all researchers, some historians argue that the earliest fusing techniques were first developed by the Romans, who were much more prolific glassworkers. Fusing was the primary method of making small glass objects for approximately 2,000 years, until the development of the glass blowpipe.
Glassblowing largely supplanted fusing due to its greater efficiency and utility.
While glass working in general enjoyed a revival during the Renaissance, fusing was largely ignored during this period as well. Fusing began to regain popularity in the early part of the 20th century, particularly in the U.S. during the 1960s. Modern glass fusing is a widespread hobby but the technique is also gaining popularity in the world of fine art.
Exhibition in 2014 to Showcase Museum’s Outstanding Lalique Collection
Corning, NY— The Corning Museum of Glass has received an important collection of approximately 400 objects by the famous luxury glassmaker René Lalique (French, 1860–1945), from Maryland collectors Stanford and Elaine Steppa. Combined with the Museum’s existing holdings of glass objects and wax and plaster models by Lalique, the Glenn and Mary Lou Utt Archive related to Lalique designs for the fragrance industry, the drawings and photographs housed in the Rakow Research Library, the gift of the Steppa Collection makes the Museum a preeminent international repository for the study of Lalique glass. The Museum will showcase its Lalique collection in a major exhibition to be held in 2014.
The Steppa Collection encompasses a wide range of Lalique’s best-known works including perfume bottles and pressed-glass vases, as well as ashtrays, boxes, clocks, car mascots, lamps, statuettes, inkwells and blotters, and tableware dating primarily to the years between 1912 and 1936. It joins the Museum’s current holdings of 200 objects by Lalique, as well as more than 2,000 photographs and design drawings in the Museum’s public-access Rakow Research Library.
“This gift significantly broadens our Lalique collection, providing a fantastic overview of the wide range of luxury objects that Lalique’s factory produced during his lifetime,” says curator of modern glass Tina Oldknow. “We look forward to showcasing the full breadth of Lalique’s artistic output in our 2014 exhibition.”
A highlight of the donated collection is the heavy cire perdue vase called Martins-Pecheurs sur fond de roseaux (Kingfishers on a background of reeds) [2011.3.188], created in 1930. Cire perdue, or lost wax, is a technique commonly used for casting bronze, and it was mastered by Lalique for creating glass objects. The Museum’s collection contains several original wax molds from the Lalique glassworks, which would have been used to create other unique cire perdue glass vessels, including a mold with the same kingfisher design as the Steppa vase. Other significant objects include the remarkable clock, Le Jour et la nuit (Day and night) [2011.3.276], and the iconic Art Deco statuette of a dancer, Suzanne [2011.3.256].
Lalique embraced the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art. This concept was reflected in most Art Nouveau interiors, where a single motif or theme might be present on all of the furnishings of a room. Lalique began his career as an innovative Art Nouveau jeweler who incorporated glass into many of his bijouterie creations. The flacons that Lalique designed for well-known parfumiers, such as François Coty, helped to elevate the status of perfume, and propelled French perfume into international luxury markets.
It is generally agreed that the Mesopotamians did the first fusing and casting in the 2nd millennium B.C.
Early warm glass processes evolved from ceramics/metalworking techniques.
Glass was classed as a precious material alongside gold and silver.
Next came the Egyptians, who by the later half of the 2nd millennium B.C. were proficient in both casting and fusing. They also developed the technique of working with glass rods (now known as lampworking).
Romans and Greeks adapted and improved on early techniques from the 3rd century B.C. till the birth of Christ.
The development of kiln forming was put on hold when a new approach – Glassblowing was developed by the Romans.
Blowing became popular due to its greater efficiency, repeatability and lower cost.
Warm glass techniques were forgotten until they were rediscovered in Europe during the 19th Century.
One of the first areas to be developed was the ‘Pate de Verre’ movement in France.
Henri Cros, Albert Dammouse and Gabriel Argy-Rousseau developed methods for casting with a paste made from small glass particles.
In the early 20th century The Studio Glass movement, led by Harvey Littleton and centered on blowing brought respectability to working with glass.
The Bullseye Glass Co. formed by 3 glassblowers, played a significant role in the development of ‘Warm glass’. They led the first major research in the development of ‘tested compatible’ glass made specifically for fusing.
Today, after nearly 2 centuries of re-discovery, warm glass continues to develop and grow as a viable artistic discipline. The increasing availability of better materials and the continued experimentation of artists leaves warm glass poised for continuing growth during the 21st Century and beyond.
Alison Kinnaird has an international reputation as a visual artist and musician. One of the world’s leading glass engravers, with work in public, royal and private collections throughout Europe, America and the Far East. The glass ranges from small intimate pieces, to architectural installations which incorporate light and colour. A recipient of many awards and winner of many competitions, her contribution was recognized in 1997, when she was presented with an M.B.E. for services to art and music.
Her glass installation work ‘Psalmsong’ was made possible by a Creative Scotland Award from the Scottish Arts Council in 2002. It took a year to complete, and utilises engraved crystal panels with dichroic colour and optical fibre lighting, digital photography, printed textiles & music.
The glass work is based around a piece of music of the same name, composed & performed by Alison on the Scottish harp. The notes of the melody were recorded & analysed, and the patterns produced by sampling across the soundwave formed the basis of the glass design. The human figures & the colours represent the emotion in the music.
The lights & colours make use of optical fibre technology & the shadow projected by the engraving was photographed & digitally printed to produce a shadow banner, 4.5m long, which hangs behind the glass.
‘Psalmsong’ is now in the permanent collection of Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh. This film, which, shows the installation in its entirety and in detail, was directed by Robin Morton and is taken from Alison’s CD / DVD album ‘The Silver String’ (Temple Records COMD2096), which contains a full length album & a DVD featuring two other short films and video interviews with Alison about her work.
You can find out more about Alison Kinnaird at www.alisonkinnaird.com & you can find her books, CDs & DVDs at www.templerecords.co.uk
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THE GLASS CHURCH IN JERSEY
The exterior of St Matthew’s Church at Millbrook scarcely merits a second glance.
Its rectilinear structure and plain outside walls compare very poorly indeed with the rich, warm granite of most of the parish churches. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the drab shell of St Matthew’s is there merely to protect an interior that is glorious in every respect.
The glass front doors are the first clue, but even these fail to prepare new visitors for what lies beyond them, namely the luminous creations of Rene Lalique which give St Matthew’s its more popular name – the Glass Church.
Opalescent panels, a magnificent altar cross, a glass font – perhaps the only one to be found anywhere – the Jersey lily motif, and truly wonderful, perfectly angelic Art Deco angels make the church one of the Island’s treasures.
Lalique, whose name remains synonymous with fine glasswork, made his name as a designer and maker of jewellery and objets d’art.
Fortunately for Jersey – and indeed the world – his house in the South of France was next to that of Florence Boot, Lady Trent, the widow of Jesse Boot, Baron Trent, the founder of Boot’s the Chemists.
Lady Trent, whose principal residence was Villa Millbrook in Jersey, encouraged her artist and craftsman neighbour to design and then create new fixtures and fittings for the interior of St Matthew’s, which lies just across the road from Villa Millbrook.
The refurbished church was to be dedicated to the memory of her illustrious husband.
Lalique, who began the work in 1932, needed little persuasion. He had wanted for some time to extend his repertoire into the architectural field. The peerless results of his endeavours, which were completed in 1934, are still there to be seen, and marvelled at, today.
Lalique, who was born in 1860 and died in 1945, was noted for the elegance of the forms he designed. Form is certainly important in the Glass Church, but much of the magic of the effect created there comes from the material chosen, verre blanc moule-presse.
This milky opaque glass makes light behave strangely, bathing the interior of the church in a soft, serene, ethereal glow entirely fitting for a place of reverence, worship and commemoration.
Although the Glass Church is most readily associated with the names of Lalique and his patron, Lady Trent, we should not forget that another important figure played a part in its design.
The Jersey architect A B Grayson is perhaps best known for his Art Deco private houses, many examples of which are still to be seen around the Island.
At St Matthew’s his designs for the oak pews, the pulpit and the lectern complement the glass and make their own contribution to what can only be regarded as the Island’s most remarkable piece of interior design.
This article first appeared in the Jersey Evening Post as part of the Pride in Jersey series, marking the Island’s 1204-2004 celebrations.