Embrace the bubble, we say!

April 30, 2015

It is every fused glass artist's worst nightmare...

Unwanted bubbles in fused glass plate

You spend a considerable amount of time designing and making your next masterpiece, making sure every last inch of it is perfect. You know your kiln schedule is correct, you've used it a thousand times before. But, on this one morning, when you open your kiln, you find a large bubble has spoiled what might even have been your greatest work.

In the above photo of a 30 x 30cm (12" x 12") fused glass plate, the bubbles were caused by copper star inclusions in between two layers of glass. The smaller stars near the edges of the piece fused perfectly, while the larger stars caused bubbles to form between the two layers of glass. (For our fellow glass artists, the piece had a total thickness of 5mm, with copper foil inclusions, fired to a normal full fuse.) Other plates made in a similar way, in the same kiln, came out fine. Sometimes it really is all down to luck.

One fateful day about 3 years ago, Ben put a brand new primed kiln shelf into the larger of our two kilns, to fire a 60 x 60cm (24" x 24") wall panel. Excited as he was to see the finished piece, he still waited until the kiln was cooled sufficiently before opening it. When he did, he discovered .... a lot of bubbles. The whole piece had large holes in it, some with bubbles still intact. His first reaction was to put it down to experience and move on.

After the initial shock had worn off, he realised that, with a little work, the piece could be salvaged. He carefully removed the fragile bubbles, then used a Dremel hand-held grinder to soften the edges of the holes. After a further fire-polish in the kiln, the result was quite amazing! The resultant holes in the glass were now smooth glossy, and the whole piece had taken on a new intriguingly organic look.

Ben was so pleased with the outcome of this 'happy accident' that he determined to find out what had caused it and - importantly - whether the results could be repeated reliably. Some research and a lot of experimentation followed, until Ben was able to reproduce this bubble technique consistently. Since then, he has made several of these pieces, each of which has sold from the shop very quickly. The 'Bubble Technique' remains a firm favourite now, and Ben spends some of each year making lovely, large examples.

The piece shown below is titled 'Sparkling Seaweed', and at 60cm x 60cm (24" x 24") was one of the early pieces made using this technique.This example sold to a private client, destined to be used as a feature in a contemporary garden space.

Sparkling Seaweed - fused glass by Connemara Blue   

'Atlantic Bubbles', below, also 60cm x 60cm (24" x 24"), is our latest bubble-piece, which recently sold to an art collector client in Dallas, Texas.

Atlantic Bubbles - fused glass bubbles by Connemara Blue

So, as the title suggests, we say.... embrace the bubbles!


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