Glass Sculpting –
Glass is one of the oldest and most versatile man-made materials which has been widely used around the globe for making various practical as well as decorative sculptures ever since ancient times. It’s an inorganic solid material that is either transparent or translucent as well as brittle, hard and impervious in nature.
Glass sculpting dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. In fact, glass sculptures dating back to ancient Egyptian civilisation have still been found to be intact. Modern-day glass art still uses many of the same techniques that were incorporated during ancient times and, owing to modern innovations, many new techniques and skills are also used to create beautiful glass artwork.
There are several different techniques involved in glass sculpting. Some of these include:
- Glass Blowing – It involves shaping a mass of glass that has been softened by heat by blowing air into it through a blowpipe. A combination of sand, soda lime, along colouring agents are used as raw materials which are melted together to form molten glass. This glass is then gathered onto the blowpipe by the ‘glassblower’ who uses air blown into the pipe along with movements of the glass and special tools to quickly shape the molten glass before it cools down. After acquiring the desired shape, the glass sculpture is placed in an annealing oven for it to cool down and stabilize. If the sculpture cools too quickly, it may break or crack. Cracks in existing glass sculptures are usually a sign of improper annealing time or incompatibility between the colours within the glass sculpture
- Hot Sculpting – Similar to blown glass, the molten glass is gathered around a metal rod and shaped using special tools, however, no actual blowing takes place in this case. This process tends to make much larger solid pieces of glass artwork.
- Cold Working – This method involves working with glass while it’s in its cold i.e. annealed state. A variety of techniques including sandblasting, cutting, grinding, polishing and engraving are used by the artist in order to create a unique artwork. This method also involves the use of special glue to adhere to glass pieces together. This method is mainly used for repair and restoration purposes.
Glass Sculpting Tips for Beginners:
If learning the art of glass sculpting interests, you, whether it is as a profession or a hobby, it is important to have a basic understanding of the techniques involved and the safety procedures that should be adopted. Without certain knowledge of the tools and necessary procedures, it’s simply impossible to carry out glass sculpting. Fret not though! We’re here to help out by providing the necessary glass sculpting tips for beginners and it’s not as hard as might think it is.
Glass sculpting is an incredibly satisfying art form through which one can freely express his/her creativity and at the same time being a glass smith is an extremely reputable profession with the potential of earning a living. It could be an excellent hobby as the artist could make pretty much anything, glass being so versatile. Although the process of glass sculpting could prove to be pretty dangerous if the necessary precautions are not taken.
Here we would be mainly dealing with the hot sculpting methods and glass blowing in particular. First, let’s familiarize ourselves with the tools involved in the process –
- Furnace – It’s meant to heat the raw materials and to make the resulting glass malleable.
- Blowpipe – It’s the main instrument used for gathering the molten glass and to shape it by blowing air through it.
- Marver – A table that shapes the glass cylindrically
- Annealing oven – It helps the glass (which has now acquired the desired shape) to cool down and to stabilize.
- Jacks and Steel Tweezers – which help in removing the glass from the blowpipe and in shaping them. In addition to these several other tools are also used to add shape to the glass.
The Simplified Process:
- The molten glass in the furnace is gathered on one end of the blowpipe.
- The blowpipe is then rolled over the marver in order to shape it cylindrically and symmetrically.
- The glass is then taken to the glory hole (another furnace) as it begins to harden, in order to reheat it. This is done continuously during the process in order to prevent the glass from cooling.
- Next air is blown through the blowpipe until the glass reaches its desired size.
- Smaller tools are used in order to create a certain shape and colour.
- Then the glass is cut at the mouthpiece and removed from the blowpipe by using the tweezer.
- The glass that has now acquired the desired shape is now kept in the annealing oven allowing it to cool down and solidify.
The best recommendation for a beginner to learn glass sculpting would be to first attend glass sculpting classes conducted by an experienced glass artist as learning the craft at home and handling the necessary tools without the much-needed experience could prove to be dangerous and tedious. It’s best to work with an expert until you develop the skill set and the much-needed confidence. Also, an experienced artist would eliminate bad habits right from the start and provide useful insights. Once you’ve learned the basics and developed your craft you can go on to experiment and improve your skills even at home, provided that the necessary precautions are taken.