Monday, February 1, 2010

Playing with Glass and Fire: A Day in Larry's Glass studio

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited over to Larry Porteous' glass studio in Naramata to play with fusing glass. Larry has been running a sweet little business fusing glass and melting wine bottles out of his backyard studio since he retired a few years ago. Larry, a good friend of my Dad's, knew of my interest in all things creative and invited me over for a little play.

Glass tools!
Years ago I told my dad I was interested in stained glass, so for Christmas he went out and bought me a whole starter kit: a hand held glass cutter, a soldering iron and a book, if I remember correctly. And it sat in a box for years, while I went travelling.

I found this design online in an Islamic children's colouring book. I coloured it with my mother's highlighters to work out how I would cut the design.

Last year on a visit home, I dug out the glass cutter and paid a visit to a stained glass store with the help of my friend Anne on my way back to the Emirates. There I bought a few things with the dream of making stained glass pendants. Teaching myself with my makeshift tools, (I knew I was moving so I practiced cutting glass on my full length mirror) I learned how to score glass and how with a little confidence, it wasn't hard to break. And I didn't really cut myself-- too badly. ; )

First pieces done! They are actually blue, as you will see below. Where you can see yellow shows you where the lines didn't quite match up. Lots of rearranging, bigger pieces next to smaller pieces. It eventually worked!

The truth is, I need more practice soldering It's tricky. And I am not really sure how to take care of a soldering iron, and I found the tip was difficult to clean. If ever I decided to get into stained glass seriously I think I would sign up for a course. But fusing glass is a piece of cake!

Orange coming around the mountain.

I picked one of my favourite easy designs with straight edges, a common Islamic design to practice. Larry and I decided transparent glass might be a little more forgiving than opaque glass if I didn't get the lines straight. So for the first try, I went with blue and orange transparent glass.

Done! But what colour is it really? Now it's time to polish all the glass with rubbing alcohol. Weirdly enough, if the glass goes into the kiln with a fingerprint, that finger print will stay there forever. It doesn't burn off in the kiln. Totally weird, in my opinion.

Larry showed me how he would cut the glass, and then I went to work. I think Larry was surprised at how fast I can be at cutting. My first two were a little wonky, but as I went along the cutting became more confident and I used the glass "pliers" to break off any annoying edges with relative success.

I thought the orange pieces were going to be difficult but they actually easier. I just used old scrap glass Larry had tossed in a box. That is one nice thing about glass- Nothing gets wasted. You can make small things or melt it all together for a new sheet of glass!


So then it was time to put it in the kiln. Larry was doing a firing the next morning and we snuck my piece in with the rest. I had no idea what it would turn out like. Larry does two kinds of firing: one is a full fuse, (Like mine) where the glass would completely melt together but would blur the points into soft shapes. The other is a half fuse, where the edges would become round enough to stick to each other and become smooth enough that you wouldn't cut yourself, but the glass basically holds it's shape. My plate went into a full fuse firing.

Cutting glass on the bedroom floor in the Emirates wasn't the ideal place for cutting glass. But Larry's studio is. So nice to work in a proper space with proper tools! God? Are you listening? I want a studio!

Two days later, after taking Zoe for a walk I stopped in to see the plate and voila! Here it is.

Not bad for a first try! But you know me. The artist in me goes Hmmm.

Next time, I will use opaque glass. Next time, I might add more detail and spend longer time on a plate. Next time, I might just go over there and hap hazardly throw things together and see what I come up with. If I ever do this design again, I think I'd like it to be a half fuse, so the design stays crisp. But until Larry gets back from Arizona, I can only do full fuse. Something I need to think about when creating the next design.

Phew! No fingerprints!

Now that it's been fired once, I have the choice to slump it into a little bowl, or put three feet on it to make it a trivet. I think I might leave it the way it is as a trivet and get a little more creative with the next one. I've been scanning ETSY for glass artists I like, and maybe I will borrow from their creative designs as I begin, and move into something a little more "Creative Caravan" like once I get the hang of it!

Thanks again, Larry!

Glass on ETSY that I like:

deSignSSglaSS's Adobe Pebbles:


  1. With the full fuse, it looks more like a big flower than a geometric design. I'd love to see another one in a half fuse with more details!