Kiln-formed Glass & The American Studio Glass Movement – A Parallel History

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Part 1 The Glass Pioneers

Frances Stewart Higgins

fused crushed glass and enamel vessel, 1958-1959.

2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the American Studio Glass Movement, and its celebration will be marked with many events and exhibitions. The focus of the anniversary celebrations will mainly be on hot-glass and taking glass making from the factory to the artist’s studio, using the 1962 Toledo glass workshop as the birth date.


Toledo glass workshop in the spring of 1962

As the Washington Glass School features kiln-formed glass, we wanted to join the celebration by outlining the parallel and often co-dependent history of the kiln-formed glass section of the movement (aka warm glass, or fused glass). This series of postings – often based directly on writings by glass artists Richard LaLonde, Boyce Lundstrom, Dan Schwoerer, Bert Weiss and Corning Museum of Glass’ history information online. It also strongly references Martha Drexler Lynn’s seminal study “American Studio Glass 1960-1990. Thanks also to Chip Montague and Betty Py for sourcing images and backgrounds on the featured artists.
Shifts in art practice after WW2 opened the door for materials not previously considered.The popular story about the origins of the American studio glass movement casts Harvey Littleton as its Prometheus. Littleton and his teaching had a significant effect on the evolution of studio glass. His work, and that of his students and their followers built a basis for the current glass art scene. While

Littleton’s passion for hot glass originally led him to define “studio glass” to that blown or worked in a hot-glass studio – his later works included kilnformed plate glass and printing on glass plates, a new concept that he called vitreography.

Horizontal/Vertical, 1974. Harvey Littleton. Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin

Early Fused Glass

While the precise origins of glass fusing techniques are not known with certainty, there is archeological evidence that the Egyptians were familiar with basic techniques. 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 largely replaced fusing due to its greater efficiency and utility.


Vase, 1923.François Emile Décorchemont. pâte de verre

Two government actions helped to propel crafts to greater acceptance in the 1930s and 1940s, the Works Projects Administration Federal Arts Project (later WPA) created employment for the approximately five thousand artists and craftsmen. Another consequence of the war that contributed to the emergence of studio glass was that as returning veterans’ formed new families, they required housing and furnishings. This fostered a trend toward mass-produced anonymous objects. Handcrafted items, in contrast, were refreshing and capable of expressing individuality. Crafts were seen as an antidote to the suburban Levittown and as a means to creating a sense of individuality in the new American suburban tract house.

Sept/Oct 1959 issue of Craft Horizons Magazine. The cover shows images from the 1959 Corning International Contemporary Glass Exhibition. The magazine changed its name in 1979 to American Craft.

In the late 1940’s and 50’s glass pioneers set up studios to experiment, and made functional household objects like plates, bowls, jewelry and the occasional art object or hanging mobile. Their success often came from the transfer of ceramic and other craft techniques to glass. These artists fused enamels that were created for metal enameling on and in between pieces of window glass in electric brick kilns used for ceramics.

Glass Artists of the Post War Era – an outline of a few of the pioneers:

Maurice Heaton, a designer of stained glass, became adept at slumping flat sheets of hot glass into or over a mold to form vessel shapes. Born in London, he was the son of an Arts and Crafts cloisonné enameller and the grandson of a stained-glass maker. He moved to New York in 1914. His work is characterized by detailed, linear patterns created by fusing crushed, brightly colored enamels onto the surface of the glass.

Africa, 1948. Maurice Heaton

Kilnformed glass, powdered glass, enamel.Corning Museum of Glass

Fish Platter, 1940′s. Maurice Heaton

Kilnformed glass, powdered glass, enamel.
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Michael and Francis Higgins in the 1950′s

Michael and Francis Higgins’ were a husband-and-wife team who produced commercial tableware for Dearborn Glass.Both studied at the Chicago Institute of Design. The couple individually created unique hinged boxes, mobiles, flat panels and vessel forms that were distinguished by bold geometric patterns and innovative techniques that retain their freshness with their delicate designs.

Vessel, 1958-1959 Frances Stewart Higginsfused crushed glass and enamel. Corning Museum of Glass

plate, 1960′s Michael & Frances Higginskiln-formed glass
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Edris Eckhardt, a well known Cleveland School artist, is recognized for her virtuosity in ceramics, enamels, and glass work, invented her own glass formulas to create her sculpture. She may have been the first American studio glass artist to formulate her own batch instead of simply melting cullet. Eckhardt changed her first name to Edris, after a genderless angel, after being declined for an art school scholarship based solely on her gender.


Archangel, 1956. Erdis Eckhardt
cast glass. Corning Museum of Glass


Uriel, 1968. Erdis Eckhardt
cast glass. Corning Museum of Glass

This year, the Museum of American Glass at WheatonArts has the above artists featured in an exhibit titled “Pioneers of American Studio Glass“, now thru 12/30/2012.

Early Writing About Studio Glass
For the glass practitioner, collector or scholar, there were few published information sources were available, beyond meeting the artist in person. Teaching about glassmaking – or “glass technology” would, at best be taught in a school’s manual arts curriculum or as a hobby. First published in 1942, the craft magazine Craft Horizons provided limited information about glass techniques, but typical of the focus on the arts, it had three times more information about other craft media as on glass. The magazine later became American Craft in 1979 and was redesigned with an expanded awareness of studio glass.


1944 Craft Horizons and 2012 American Craft Magazine


Early books about glass offered technical advice, a general history of glass, or the occasional survey of contemporary work. Information about glass was available only in industrial manuals, amongst them “The Art of Glassmaking” (1947) by Sydney Waugh, a designer for Corning Glass. Waugh’s book included declarations that glass could only be made in large factories.
California artist Kay Kinney studied glazes and ceramics and later experimented with glass in the early 1960′s. Kinney’s book “Glass Craft: Designing, Forming, Decoration” (1962) was written long before the “fusing-compatible” era. Her book has information about mold-making, fusing and slumping projects utilizing window glass, bottles, and other types of glass.


Kinney’s book was written for glass novices, with simple, straightforward instructions on cutting and fusing.

The Toledo Workshops were indeed a watershed. After the workshops, glassmaking programs entered the college, university and fine arts programs. Other venues for glass study began opening up, and established regional craft centers like Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Craft had more intensive learning opportunities. By 1973, glass programs had penetrated the university and craft world to the extent that Glass Art Magazine listed seventy educational programs. This expansion had a profound effect on the establishment of the critical mass of artists devoted to learning about, producing, and promoting studio made glass. Additionally, the G.I. Bill, started in the 1940′s, had a strong effect on the lives if the returning veterans. That bill, (as did the later, similar Veterans Acts under the Johnson, Nixon and the Ford Administrations) through the mid 1970′s – offered veterans a college scholarship to any college of their choice. As it turned out, art school was very attractive and glass blowing extremely attractive. There were glass programs across the country. By the time the GI Bill was gone, so were the glass programs.

Click HERE to jump to Part 2 Exploring Technique and Content – the ’60′s, ’70′s & ’80′s

History of Fused Glass

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Update: Click Here for Part 1 The Pioneers

Click HERE for Part 2 The 60′s, 70′s & 80′s

2012 is the milestone year for the American Studio Art Glass Movement – taking its start the Toledo workshops with Harvey Littleton &  Dominick Labino. I know there are many events planned and stories that will be published this year about how glass moved from the factory into the hands of artists – but for studio glass – usually the focus is on blown glass.
I want to do a blog posting that references the history of warm glass.

Who would you suggest as the fused glass pioneers, superstars & legends? I know of Klaus Moje and Richard La Londe – but who else jumps to mind when mentioning kiln-formed glass?

Klaus Moje

Ray Ahlgren, Dan Schwoerer, Boyce Lundstrom (Bullseye Glass Founders in the groovy 1970′s)


Personally, I’d prefer suggestions of artists that set the foundation for and outlined the language on which we all build our work upon. Pix, links – all is welcome as suggestions.

You can post ideas here or email me at the glass school: (washglassschool@aol.com)

Thanks! B

GlassWeekend 2011

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Tim Tate‘s video reliquaries on exhibit.

The international biennial glass symposium – GlassWeekend – was just held at Wheaton Arts in Millville, New Jersey – home of the Creative Glass Center of America and the Museum of American Glass.

The biennial event brings together artists, collectors, galleries and museum curators for a three-day weekend of exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations and social events.

Seven artists were chosen as “RISING STARS”, featured at GlassWeekend. The title of “Rising Star” indicates that these are the artists that the glass organizations believe to be the future of the medium.

Our Michael Janis was selected as a “Rising Star” by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass and the Creative Glass Center of America.

“Rising Star” artist Michael Janis at Maurine Littleton Gallery space. Photo: Linda Greene – AACG

Maurine Littleton Gallery space at GlassWeekend.

Allegra Marquart, Kari Russell-Pool & Paul Stankard take a break in the woods.

Allegra Marquart‘s work at Maurine Littleton Gallery.

The exhibition is a great snapshot on the direction the studio art glass movement is heading. The movement will hit the 50 years mark next year, and it is interesting to note that of the 16 “Rising Stars” named in the past two biennials, only 2 of them are traditional glass blowers, 1 is a ladle caster and the rest are warm glass artists. Does this mean that the glass world is finally giving kilnforming its props? One hopes!

Sibylle Peretti‘s work at Heller Gallery.

Mielle Riggie‘s (another Rising Star) kilncast dresses at Morgan Contemporary Glass

“Rising Star” artists discuss the medium during a panel discussion. L-R Michael Janis, Julius Weiland & Sungsoo Kim. Photo: Linda Greene – AACG

Kari Russell-Pool discussing her torchwork artwork in Duane Reed Gallery’s space.

Click HERE to jump to some more photos of the artwork on exhibit at GlassWeekend 2011.

The Atlantic City press has a nice mention of the events – click HERE to jump to the article.

Float Glass Fun Facts

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Molten float glass floating atop liquid tin.

Since the earlier posting about BE’s glass forming process, many have asked us about how float glass is made so smooth. The answer is due to the manufacturing process.

The first advances in automating glass manufacturing were patented in 1848 by Henry Bessemer, (of steel-making fame), who developed a steelmill-like, but very expensive process to produce a continuous ribbon of flat glass force under heat between rollers. Another old method formed large sheets of plate glass by casting a large puddle on an iron surface. Both of these processes required secondary polishing.



Then in the 1950s, Sir
Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff created the first successful commercial application for forming a continuous ribbon of glass using a molten tin bath on which the molten glass flows unhindered under the influence of gravity. By floating on the bed of tin, the glass sides are smooth and flat, however the glass does pick up a tin residue – which often needs to be addressed when kilnforming.



Not as motivational as Bullseye Glass’ Mitchell Schou’s wicked dance moves – but educational.

Click HERE to jump to an industry video about the float glass process.

New Winter Class Schedule!

>Its Here! The Winter 2010/2011 Class Schedule is now available! Huzzah!
Part One – below – is the WGS warm glass course listing. Part two – posted on the blog tomorrow -are the Lampworking Courses.

For more info – or to register online – click HERE to jump to the Washington Glass School course lisiting.

Class 1040 – Beginner’s Weekend – 3 Technique Glass Class
Our most popular class, this is the fastest way to learn all aspects of warm glass in the shortest amount of time! Under the supervision of several professional glass artists you will learn the fundamentals of fusing, slumping and dimensional kiln casting. Everything from bowls and plates to sculptural objects… this is the perfect way for a beginner to learn the basics of glass… and you will leave with several very cool items! Offered 2 times in the winter schedule.

Instructors: Tim Tate / Robert Kincheloe

Dates: Session 1040A: Sat/Sun Jan 22 and 23

Session 1040B: Sat/Sun March 12 and 13

Time: 1pm to 5pm each day

Tuition: $300 per student (all materials included) __________________________________________________

Class 1041 – Lighting Solutions For Your Home
This class will bring some serious color to your life, and brighten up your living space. This is the perfect way to use glass in a most practical application: ceiling lamps. You will design your own colored glass, determine your own shape, and have your choice of several different hanging or mounting options. For considerably less than the price of a designer fixture, you can put your own name on one. Tuition includes glass, mold materials, and mounting hardware. No glass experience is needed, and electrical experience will be provided.

Instructor : Erwin Timmers

Dates : Wed evenings in Jan 26 and Feb 2 & 9

Time : 7pm to 9:30pm

Tuition : $300
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Class 1042 – Reverse Relief Casting
Explore a range of techniques for making reverse imagery using fiber blanket, fiber board and papers. You will learn how to cut thick glass and to make re-usable molds, as well as ways to
add color with powders, frits and sheet. Firing techniques and schedules for versatile
float glass will be covered. You will take home several cast glass pieces made by using the reverse relief technique.

Instructor : Michael Janis
Dates : Sat / Sun Feb 12 & 13
Time : 2pm to 5pm
Tuition : $300

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Class 1043 – Going Green – Recycled Glass Art Workshop
Green up your life by doing something creative to help the environment! This is an exploration into using recycled glass to make sculptural pieces, architectural elements, and tableware. We will delve into multiple techniques, including casting, fusing and slumping. Glass chemistry, coloration, and firing temperatures will be explained for each particular application. It is a fantastic way to learn aspects of any warm glass work while focusing on recycling! And now we have it concentrated into a long weekend class – over the President’s Day Weekend!
Once you start down the path of recycled glass, you will see more and more opportunities for experimentation around you. No prior experience is necessary – you are encouraged to bring in materials you’d like to try…and you will leave with several very cool items!

Instructor : Erwin Timmers
Dates : Sat/Sun/Mon on Feb 19, 20 & 21
Time : 10am to 4pm
Tuition : $400

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Class 1044 – Beginning MIG Welding
Ever wondered about learning to weld? Want to impress your friends, your older brother and that cute bartender? It’s easier than you think! In three evenings you will learn how to lay a bead, and handle all sorts of sharp and dangerous tools. You will be able to complete a small project and leave with lots of ideas and know-how for other projects. This class will teach you the basics of welding, metal work and design, joining, bending and finishing. And you will get dirty!

Instructor : Erwin Timmers
Dates : Wed evenings in March 16 23 & 30
Time : 7pm to 9:30pm
Tuition : $325

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Class 1045 – Sculpt A Glass Bowl : Introduction To Lost Wax Casting
The goal in this class is to make a vessel form in glass using the lost wax process. Students will begin with a pre-made wax form that they carve into and alter. We will be asking students to research surface decoration ideas for their project before coming to class. Students will bring these ideas to class in the form of sketches, Xeroxes, magazines, etc.
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Instructor : Debra Ruzinski
Dates : 3 Day Class – Sat/Sun. Mar. 26/27 and Sun. Apr. 3
Time : 10am to 2pm
Tuition : $350

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Class 1046 – Turning Your Wood-Cuts and Lino-Cuts Into Cast Glass Panels
This incredible process will allow your wood cuts or lino cuts to be duplicated in a cast glass panel with out harming your original cut piece! What a miraculous way for that printing technique to be used architecturally! You can also print from the glass plate. Imagine a wall of your wood cuts all translated into glass, then gridded out within in a metal frame….and made into a 10 ft high x 20 ft long wall. Or as simple a single back-lit glass panel! ….The possibilities are myriad! This is the perfect way for a lino cut printer to enter the world of large scale public art or to incorporate a quality of translucency into their work. The process is very simple to learn ……. and it will expand your artistic dialog exponentially …. All while using your own imagery!

Instructor : Kirk Waldroff
Dates : Saturdays in April 2, 9 & 16
Time : 1pm to 5pm
Tuition : $300

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Class 1047 – Work at Your Own Pace – Open Studio
Already know the basics of casting or fusing? Open Studio gives each student the opportunity to work independently in a world class studio. Tuition includes a kiln firing per session, clear base glass and colored scrap glass, use of studio tools.

Instructor : Studio Staff
Dates : Wed/Thurs/Sat afternoons (call to confirm appointment)
Time : 1pm to 5pm
Tuition : $300 for 4 sessions

Tommorow’s posting will feature the Flameworking Classes!

New Class Schedule Part 2 – Special Lampworking Classes

>Lampworking, torchwork, flamework – all mean the same thing – sculpting glass heated over a torch. You will get hooked on the immediate satisfaction that comes from this form of art! The flameworking program at the Washington Glass School has expanded. Take our beginner lampworking classes and build your skill level (and fun level) with the open studio Flamework Club. Or take the next step – with our Intermediate Sculptural Flamework class.

This class session we have brought on some new special classes with super star instructors: Elizabeth Mears and Michael Mangiafico!

Elizabeth Mears is a full time, award winning artist. Whether representational or conceptual, her artwork reflects her strong connection with nature; often combining glass with mixed media. Liz studied and now teaches lampworking techniques at Penland, Pilchuck and Corning Studio. Her book “Flameworking” was published in 2003 by Lark Books. Liz will draw upon her love of nature for her “Lets Make Leaves” class and her “Building Flowers with Bridges class.

Michael Mangiafico (Fig) graduated with a BFA in glass art from Carnegie Mellon University. He has been teaching lampworking and glass blowing for over 20 years. He owns and operates his own glass studio in Pittsburgh, Pa. His work is available in galleries nationwide and has been featured in numerous art magazines and publications. Fig will be teaching an amazing class on creating bugs “Glass Entomology“.

Have a look at the full Fall Lampworking Schedule:

SPECIAL LAMPWORKING CONCENTRATION CLASS SCHEDULE

Class 1032 – FLAMEWORK CLUB – Open Studio for Flameworkers

Already know the basics of flameworking? Want to join others in a social atmosphere while you work? Our Flamework Club gives each student the opportunity to work independently in a world class studio while meeting some great new friends! Materials extra.
Class Limit: 6 students
Instructor: Studio Staff
Dates: Saturday afternoons (call to confirm appointment)
Time: 1:30pm – 5 pm
Tuition: $300 for 4 sessions – or included with Instructor Classes (#1033, 1034, 1035, 1036, 1037)

flamework club


Class 1033 – Beginning Sculptural Flameworking

Learn the basics of making objects in the flame from borosilicate (Pyrex) glass. This 2-day class will focus on skills that are the basis of working with glass on the torch. You will come away with knowledge and some fine objects too! Rob is an energetic, knowledgeable instructor and artist who is ready and willing to help anyone learn this fascinating art form. The materials fee provides student with initial pack of glass, fuel for the torches and the loan of a full set of hand tools. Additional glass and supplies are available for purchase as the class progresses. Take this class more than once to reinforce your skills! Class Limit: 6 students

Instructor: Robert Kincheloe
Dates: Session A Sept 18 & 19, Session B Oct 2 & 3

Time: 10am – 1 pm
Tuition: $250 + $50 material fee

robert.kincheloe.glass


Class 1034 – Intermediate Sculptural Flameworking / Working Hollow

This is a student driven class that will promote techniques not displayed in the beginning class. In this 2-day class, students will learn to work with tubing to create glass sculptures. (materials cost of $50 payable at first class meeting) Class Limit: 6 students

Instructor: Robert Kincheloe
Dates: Saturday / Sunday, November 20 & 21
Time: 10 am – 1 pm
Tuition: $250 + $50 material fee

lampworking.glass


Class 1035 – Glass Entomology - Lampworked Insects with Michael Mangiafico
Students will learn to work with soft glass while observing nature. Students will explore heat control, cane pulling and the basics of soft glass sculpting. His glass insects are some of the finest examples of lampwork worldwide.

Michael Mangiafico has been teaching torchworking and glass blowing since 1993. While his specialty is making glass insects, he also makes beads, marbles, jewelry, vessels, and paperweights. Class Limit: 6 students
Instructor: Michael Mangiafico
Dates: Saturday / Sunday, October 9 & 10
Time: 10 am – 1 pm
Tuition: $300 + $50 material fee

fig studio.glass


Class 1036 – Lets Make Leaves! with Elizabeth Ryland Mears

Why leaves you may ask. We will pay homage to Nature’s small factory (Bio 101…CO2 + chlorophyll, + sunshine = sugar and O2) while we learn to control the bench torch, manipulate hot glass, direct the heat, use tools to create shape and texture, and work with different sizes of clear rod and tube. The focus of our endeavors will be to make “parts” which can be incorporated into larger sculpture at a later time. Class Limit: 6 Students

Instructor: Elizabeth Ryland Mears
Dates: Saturday / Sunday, October 23 & 24
Time: 10 am – 1 pm
Tuition: $300 + $50 material fee

elizabth_ryland_mears


Class 1037 – Building Flowers With Bridges! with Elizabeth Ryland Mears

“Bridges” are to Flameworking what exoskeletons are to beetles…they hold everything together. We will use the technique of “bridging” to make a daisy-like flower. We will make the flower then add the bridging to hold all the parts in place while we thoroughly fuse the glass together in the flame of the bench torch. This technique is invaluable when larger sculpture is created, so we will practice on a smaller object. The instructor will guide you step by step through the process. The bridging is temporary so will be removed to reveal a small object ready for further creative use. Class Limit: 6 Students

Instructor: Elizabeth Ryland Mears
Dates: Saturday / Sunday, November 6 & 7
Time: 10 am – 1 pm
Tuition: $300 + $50 material fee


For more information about classes – or to register and pay for the class using the online PayPal system, click HERE to jump to the school’s website class list.