Having a Smashing Good Time
Updated: Jan 31, 2021
Every now and then, the only thing left to do with a glass piece that just cannot be fixed is to smash it to smithereens (whatever those are) and repurpose it. I've done that a few times with bird baths that have huge bubbles in them. In cases like that, it's obvious--send the offending piece into a new, fiery nirvana, to be reincarnated in another piece. Actually, I currently have a set of plates I'm also contemplating laying the hammer to.
But what if smashing a piece is part of the initial creative process?
When I first started my journey with kiln-formed glass in 2015, the thought or necessity of breaking apart something I had worked hard to create made me a little sick. But now? Now it's just an outworking of a philosophical and physical problem. Thank goodness most glass can be recycled (with proper care and prep) many times. That's part of the beauty of glass puddles.
I recently learned the "glass puddle" technique from one of a great series of e-books out there for the glass artist, Ultimate Fused Glass Puddles: A Fusing Master Class, by Paul Tarlow, from Fusedglassbooks.com. Without giving away too much of the book's thunder, the process basically involves forming a glass stack, melting that stack, smashing the "puddle" into smaller pieces, and then arranging them and re-melting. The end results are a surprising kaleidoscope of layers of color as you can see in the picture below. Here, finished jewelry is juxtaposed against the smashed pieces. The smaller the pieces, the more intricate the orientation of colors and layers can be.
The book provides lots of great variations on the technique, including multiple stacks, working with frit in the stack, different ways to arrange the elements, and so on. And there are even more ways to tweak this to your own liking depending on your desired results and imagination. If you're a glass artist doing kiln-formed glasswork, I strongly encourage you to look over the e-books at Fusedglassbooks.com. They're well-acclaimed for many reasons.
Using this technique has helped get me out of a slight firing rut, and has also made me think about how to enlarge upon it--both figureatively and literally. For instance, I'm interested in tabletops, countertops, backsplashes, and incorporating puddle elements into light fixtures. For those of you who may do or have done some wire or screen melts, you know that to accomplish those, you have to bring the kiln up to a pretty hot temp--around 1600 degrees F--to accomplish the state where glass will drip and flow through the screen onto the kiln shelf. More heat used tends to be harder on kiln elements, which aren't all that easy to replace (I don't care what the videos say--I've done some, and they're hard.) So puddle techniques allow some of the same look, I'm guessing, without having to run up to such high temps. I'll be trying this out and report back in a future blog post.
In the meantime, I've got to find my hammer and get back to stacking and cracking.