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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

fusing glass

Making something out of glass was just not something I had ever considered realistically do-able - I mean, I had assumed that was something you'd need a whole industrial workshop to be able to do, you know?  But making a piece of stained glass was on my bucket list along with making a bowl on a pottery wheel (did this too, but struggled with the texture of the clay - ugh), so back in 2010 I took a twelve week course on stained glass - and I spent ten weeks struggling to cut straight lines and make a small simple panel.  As there were two weeks left I popped into the room next door, where the more experienced people were, borrowed an oil filled cutter, and found my difficulty with straight lines was over.  I had a go at using up my glassy leftovers to make some simple coasters, which went into the absolutely huge kiln.   I collected them the following week and couldn't believe that the wonky looking pieces I'd made with all those sharp edges had been magically transformed into these incredible glossy smooth tactile coasters - I was hooked.  Within six months I had my own kiln and an ever expanding corner of the bedroom was devoted to glass.


Like so many hobbies, the longer you do it, the more gadgets you convince yourself you need.   I have a wish list but the lack of space has been an effective deterrent - having the kiln in the bedroom restricts when I can put it on as the room gets very hot, but as the air becomes very dry it's ideal for drying washing during the daytime!  The new house plan includes either a garage or else some kind of glorified shed set up with light and power and whatever heat protection would be necessary to run a kiln out there, but the house in London needs to sell before we can start officially looking, damn it!

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One of the things that drew me to warm glass work was the shiny tactile nature of fused pieces - so gorgeously smooth and sparkly!  For various reasons it's best to work with one 'type' of glass, that is to say (basically) glass that heats and cools at the same rate.  The two main brands are Spectrum and Bullseye - I choose Bullseye as it has a wider colour range than Spectrum and wider availability of other forms such as frit and stringers.

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Sourcing supplies for warm glass work in the UK isn't always easy - it's not as though you can pop into the nearest Hobbycraft and pick up some 3mm Bullseye tested compatible glass.  One of the main specialist suppliers is Warm Glass, based (conveniently for me!) just past Bristol Airport, so only about a half hour car ride away.  That's where I bought my kiln, and where I now get all my glass - they have tempting offers and a generous loyalty discount scheme, and they know their stuff if you have any queries or need help working something out.


Although being surrounded by sharp glass and a potentially very hot kiln might not seem like a good idea for someone with a seizure disorder, I haven't yet had a problem.  On a day when I'm feeling dizzy or have hit the deck already I steer clear, but to be honest it's the faff involved in having to clear my desk and chair onto the bed (so that I have a surface to work on and chair to sit on) that I find more outputting!  There's a real sense of achievement with opening the kiln and finding something that has worked out better than you dared hope, or having someone admire your necklace and being able to say "oh thank you, I made it myself".  Our friends tend to come to me with commissions for coasters and serving platters and lightcatchers for housewarming gifts and birthday presents and the like, and with a baby due to arrive in our circle in the summer I hope to be able to make something special.  

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It's definitely a different pastime to have, but one that's brought me a great deal of pleasure.  Do you do anything with your time that you'd never have forseen?  Or is there something that you always wanted to do but never got around to, or never had the opportunity to try? 

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