The blending of handcraft and art

Glass fusing begins in the mind and becomes a creative handcraft, culminating in the moment when the finished artwork is taken from the kiln. In this form of glass art, a number of different glass components are melted at a high temperature and fused together.

Andrea Kummli’s inspiration leads her to carry out an innovative comparison between the imagined artwork and possible approaches to achieving her goal. Driven by curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and a determination to succeed, she produces some astounding results. Her many years of experience encourage her to experiment and to combine effects.

Technical skills are necessary, too, when it comes to calculating the firing curve, as well as a basic knowledge of chemistry, physics, mathematics and geometry.

With careful scheduling of the individual firing steps, the desired metamorphosis will take place in the kiln at around 800°C. Depending on the object, a number of different firing steps may be required to produce the desired shape. Afterwards, the edges are coldworked on the grinder and by hand.

After the object has cooled down, the finishing touches can be applied by means of sandblasting: indentations can be made in the surface, or the surface may be roughened, etched, ground, engraved or fire polished. These processes help to give the glass object its distinctive character. Glass fusing is always a long, intensive process but it produces superb results.

«When an artwork is nearing perfection, I give it my own personal accent as a finishing touch. »

Andrea Kummli

An art form rich in tradition

Glass is one of the most interesting materials on earth. Since ancient times, artists, craftsmen and scientists have been trying to discover the unimagined possibilities, effects and qualities of this material.

Each style, each culture and each artistic personality has developed methods and idiosyncrasies which lend an unmistakable character to individual glass objects.

At first, the manufacture of this precious material lay in the hands of artistic craftsmen who enjoyed high social esteem and were able to practice their mysterious art discreetly. The first records of glass manufacture were coded to prevent others from copying the work processes.

Legends have abounded about the discovery of glass since ancient times. The most famous version, for centuries considered to be trustworthy, is the tale recounted by Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) in his work Historia naturalis.

According to Pliny, glass was discovered on the shores of the Mediterranean. He writes: “There is a story that once a trading ship laden with natural soda put in here.  The traders dispersed along the shore to prepare a meal. However, finding no suitable stones to support their cauldrons, they placed them on lumps of soda from their cargo. When these became heated and began to mix with the sand on the beach, a strange translucent liquid flowed forth in streams. This, it is said, was the origin of glass.”

This legend is coherent in that it records all the raw materials that make up glass.

In the ancient world, glass was used not only to make jewelry, but also to protect, serve or store solid and liquid foodstuffs, medication, ointments or essences.

Glass was valued above all for its unique properties: its shine, color, cleanness and impermeability. Moreover, unlike containers made of metal or certain ceramic materials, glass vessels remained odorless and neutral in taste. This is why the very first glass receptacles were bottles for expensive essences and cosmetics. Glass bottles were also used to store medical oils. Selected glass articles have frequently been found in graves, where they served as burial objects.

Gradually, glass, which was once used to imitate precious stones or ceramic materials, began to assume a new importance. With glass, things could be closely observed and the cold was kept out of the parlor, yet it was also possible to look outside. People could see the tiniest things close up in a completely new way.

This was how our modern world began to use glass: first of all, for drinking vessels and windows, then for lamps, lighthouses and greenhouses. Later, it was used for cameras, televisions and all those objects which we now use daily as a matter of course.

It was thanks to a different chain of events that glass revolutionized the health sector. Microscopes made the discovery of bacteria possible. Thanks to the resulting knowledge about infections, many bacterially transmitted diseases were overcome.

Multicolored glass also increased our fascination with light and its secrets. This fostered a desire for progress in the branch of optics.

Initiatives such as the Centro Studio in Venice aimed to provide opportunities for experimentation as well as offering information about the potential of glass as an artistic medium. A number of similar centers were established in various European countries and in the USA during the last third of the 20th century. As a result, the use of glass in artwork spread to a growing number of artists.

At the end of the 1970s, glass milling became very popular at Bullseye Glass in Portland, Oregon, USA. At first, a large number of experiments were conducted, resulting in findings such as the fact that the pieces of glass had to be compatible with each other to avoid tension or even cracks in the glass.

In 1983, the first book on fusing for glass artists appeared on the market.

From the end of the 1980s, it was possible to work with digital kilns. This made it much easier to control the process, leading to far better results.

Bullseye Glass has an ambitious program for researching new methods and processes. The company successfully maintains five resource centers and a number of training establishments in the USA. Symposia are held, where glass artists from all over the world can exchange news and views on glass art and a variety of other subjects.

Glas vom Barock bis zur Gegenwart
[Glass from the Baroque Period to the Present]
Authors: Claudia Horbas and Dr. Renate Möller
ISBN: 978-3-422-06473-7

Eine Welt aus Glas – Kulturgeschichte einer Entdeckung
[Glass: A World History]
Authors: Alan Macfarlane and Gerry Martin
ISBN: 978-3-548-60581-4

Heisses Glas
[Warm Glass[JH1] ]
Authors: Philippa Beveridge, Ignasi Doménech Vives and Eva Pascual i Miró
ISBN: 978-3-258-06773-5