Adding Glass to my Skill Set


Glass - what a fun, and unforgiving media to work in. This learning curve has been quite steep! I really do have a new found admiration and respect for glass artisans.
There is a quote supposedly credited to Degas doing the social media rounds at the moment: Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do… Definitely applies to glass art!
After 3 weeks of absolute going for it working with timber, bronze and learning about glass, there is a whole pile of exciting new creations almost completed sitting on the workbench. The majority are now up to final detailing and oiling stages. Watch my Facebook page over the next couple of weeks approaching the show in Glebe (Opening 26th July) for some sneak previews.
After having worked with fluid metals for many years – I assumed many of the characteristics and handling properties would be similar, and many of the skills transferable. Correct in theory, but not even close at times in practice. Glass is so fussy, and if you get a slight detail wrong it is an immediate throwaway. Under the tutelage and assistance of Keith Dougall (a master architectural glass maker who has a deep knowledge of other glass making – even though he is reluctant to admit it) at the Poatina Arts Centre, a fully functional and fully equipped glass facility in the wilds of Tasmania, I have actually got some great results.
At Poatina, you can draw, blow, cast or slump your glass. It all depends on the effect you desire from your final object. My immediate projects involved casting into sand, drawing out raindrops and water flows, and multiple slumping.
First of many surprises: how useless I was with the size and weight of the equipment. With my damaged wrist I simply could not lift and control the long metal shafts for picking up the hot glass, nor the ladels for casting. (see picture) I was so glad there were others around who could do those jobs for me. I felt like the ‘real artiste’ directing my workers!
Then there are the extra numbers of steps required for what were previously simple procedures for me. For example: sooting the sand mould prior to casting; a full 24 hours in an annealing oven post casting; snipping the glass trails of the ladel. All of which are new to a bronze/gold/resin man.
Even the handling characteristics of the glass caught me by surprise. I expected hot, molten fluid to behave in relatively similar fashion. But, no. Compared to molten bronze, molten glass is like treacle, and simply would not flow into the corner of the mould I had made. A slight redesign on the go and away we pour!
To say that this last few weeks have been challenging, exciting, and absolutely packed would be an understatement of monumental proportions – but I would not have it any other way.
I cannot thank enough the staff and residents of Poatina Arts, they have been brilliant on so many levels.
Now it is almost time for final detail sanding and oiling – and on with the Paradigm exhibition. Gauge Gallery, Glebe Point Rd. Opening 26th July, 6-8pm.