By Chris McDaniel
The Courier 

Taking a Gamble with Fused Glass

 

August 25, 2021

Courier Photo by Chris McDaniel

Bridget Stiverson, a fused glass artist working out of a studio in Glasgow, takes great care when preparing her pieces to fired in one of three kilns. The smallest mistake could ruin the end result.

Even with great care and a scientific approach, creating fused glass is always a gamble, says Glasgow artist Bridget Stiverson.

"I am in control of what goes in, but the kiln is in control of what comes out. There are times where if you have a little dot or stringer, and you didn't do the science behind the fusing schedule {properly], they can jump from piece to piece and ruin it."

These do not result in happy accidents, Stiverson said.

Still, no mistakes end up in the garbage pale. The ruined glass finds new purpose.

"Fused glass is just like quilting," Stiverson said. "I have scraps all over the place. This stuff will go into a pot melt for a lithograph or mosaic or be used for flowers."

Stiverson has been working in the fused glass medium for the past 12-years, or so. She picked up the process while living with her husband, a Navy man, in Bremerton, Washington.

"I was trying to be a potter," she said. "I was in a teaching studio trying to learn the craft and they brought in a fused glass artist. I kept looking at it. The end product was so shiny. It was so pretty."

At that moment, Stiverson said she knew pottery just wasn't for her.

"Clay is horrible on hands, and I couldn't throw. I was hand building and I just couldn't get the bit about throwing. I enjoyed pottery, but glass caught my eye. I took a class and fell in love."

While the medium is quite enjoyable, it may be cost prohibitive to get into, Stiverson said.

"If you set up a studio like I have, you cannot be faint of heart from the expense."

Stiverson currently works out of a commercial studio in Glasgow which includes three kilns of varying size - each used for different art projects.

"The little one I bought brand new," she said, adding it cost her $700. That is pricey real estate, as the interior is only seven inches by seven inches.

Her medium sized kiln, much larger in size, was purchased second hand for $600 from a retiring fused glass artist. It would have been $1,000 brand new.

"I got a really good deal on that because it came with a lot of shelves and materials."

The biggest kiln was also purchased second hand from an artist in Plentywood. She paid about $1,300. The largest kiln would have been $1,900 brand new.

Those expenses did not include setting up the studio space itself, or purchasing additional materials and tools of the trade.

Each kiln has a heat range between about 1,200 and 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit, Stiverson said.

Each Kiln includes a hole in which glass rods can be fed through, creating intricate patterns on the glass plates inside, Stiverson said.

"You have a crucible, it can be either found or square, and you layer about 30 pieces of glass. You will have clear [layer], and then a color and a little bit of clear and then another color. When you are pulling it through that hole, there is a little hole in the bottom and in the kiln, when you pulling that through it is just like a grain silo. It is the exact same effect. Then you get these concentric rings because it is narrowing through that hole. Depending on the speed that I pull will depend on the thickness of the rod."


When finished, Stiverson's works are shown at Wheatgrass Arts and Gallery at 523 2nd Ave. South, in Glasgow.

Stiverson also enters her works into various arts shows, but has cut down on how many she participates in due to logistics.

"Shows are hard," she said. "For some, they put their paintings and portraits in a box and go. For me, packing and unpacking glass and carrying it" is difficult. "It is not as fragile as you think, but it is heavy. When you have a tote that is 40 or 50 points, and there are 10 of them, you start rethinking shows."


Stiverson also works with "glass clay," a product invented by an artist in Arizona. The glass clay is mixed with powdered glass, and results in a glass like, yet clay like texture after being placed in a kiln.

"You start out with a very flat piece, and using different materials you can make a mold," Stiverson said.

After a decade working around sharp glass edges and superheated kilns, Stiverson has many of the marks of the trade on her own skin.

"Oh yeah. I've got nicks and cuts. I've gotten burned. You learn your lesson and you use protective wear and protective glasses. I have respirators, because when you are working with powder you don't want it to get in your lungs."

Courier Photo by Chris McDaniel

An example of Stiverson's work.

Vacuuming out the kilns can also be hazardous, she said.

"It is better safe than sorry. I don't believe there is enough coming out to [harm me} from one cleaning, but over time?"

Stiverson's studio is open to customers who want to peruse her works. Stiverson also offers fused glass classes.

For more information, email Stiverson at [email protected]

 

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