What is Glass Fusing?
Glass fusing is a glass fabrication technique which involves heating 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, referencing the fact that the glass is worked in a kiln, and that the operating temperatures are far lower than those used in glass blowing. A wide variety of objects can be produced through glass fusing, ranging from necklaces to bowls, and the craft is much easier to learn than glass blowing.
The “warm” of warm glass is between 1,100 and 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit (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. This is the underlying principle behind glass fusing. Some people use the term “glass fusing” to refer specifically to fusing glass, reserving other terms for bending and shaping warm glass, while others use the term generally to talk about any sort of kiln-forming technique.
People can use glass fusing to heat glass and fuse it with other pieces of glass to create layered pieces and patterns, and they can also explore slumping, in which warm glass is allowed to slump into a mold to create a molded piece. On the high end of the temperature scale, the glass is soft enough to be directly poured into molds for glass casting, a glassworking method which can be used to create a wide number of glass objects.
For glass fusing, a number of supplies are needed, including a kiln and tools to work with the glass. It is also important to have safety equipment like heavy gloves and fire-resistant aprons so that people can work safely around the glass kiln. 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.
Supplies for glass fusing can be obtained through arts and crafts catalogs and companies which specialize in glass fusing. People who are interested in exploring fusing can take classes and workshops to learn the basics and gain access to a kiln. Art and crafts centers and colleges sometimes offer such glasses, and sometimes arrangements can be made for people not enrolled in classes to have access to the kiln. Artists cooperatives may also maintain kilns for their members to use.
It is a really good idea to have a talk with local artists about learning glass fusing techniques and maybe finding a community kiln you can use.
But you can also look online. There are forums dedicated to this craft, and to art in general which will have areas for glass work.
Even taking lessons in glass fusing can be time consuming and expensive, so you might want to have a look around one of these areas first before committing to it.
I know that it probably wouldn't be for me since I'm quite nervous about working with high temperatures, even if it is known as warm glass fusing. That name misled me, but when I found out what the temperatures actually are I chickened out.
@KoiwiGal - I believe that glass blowing takes much longer to master, and it is done at much higher temperatures so it's more dangerous.
Plus the equipment is more specialized. I've never seen glass blowing done outside a room entirely designed for glass and metal working, with a furnace and so forth. Usually it seems like it's done by professionals, or at least hobbyists with real dedication to their work.
While fusing glass is the kind of thing you can do for a weekend hobby, without having to dedicate massive amounts of time to it in order to get a few pieces right.
Of course, a glass fusing kiln is still quite an expensive investment, but you can definitely manage to get one for a home, while I think you'd be hard pressed to fit a glass blowing studio into an average home.
There are some gorgeous pieces of fused glass available from various crafts people. It seems to have become really popular in the last decade or so.
I particularly like the pieces which have added silvery and glittery bits in them, which add a kind of three dimensional quality to the colors of the glass.
It doesn't seem to be quite as versatile as glass blowing, but then I don't know how often you come across blown glass jewelry, particularly not at reasonable prices.
With fused glass you get to have a unique piece of art without having to pay huge prices for it.
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