fused dichroic glass jewelry

About the Work

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What is Dichroic Glass?

Dichroic glass is unique in that it reflects one color and transmits another. The word dichroic is Greek: di means two and chroic means color. Originally developed by NASA in the 1960's as interference filters for use with lasers, dichroic glass is a product of the technology called "thin film particle physics". The coatings are made with molecular films of metal (primarily silicon and titanium oxides) evenly shuffled into multiple layers. The types of metals used and the order in which they are deposited are factors that determine which colors the glass filters and which ones it passes.

These layers are applied by vacuum deposition. A vacuum chamber is needed in order to produce a pure environment forthe vapors to travel. The materials are vaporized in a crucible by a high voltage electron beam onto the rotating glass above. The rotation is necessary in order to achieve a uniform coating. This process causes the glass to become a partial mirror by allowing only a select narrow band of light to transmit; other rays are rejected through reflection and absorption.

What is glass? It is essentially a liquid that hardens into an uncrystallized state without ever becoming a true solid—sometimes referred to as a "supercooled liquid". On another level, it is a magical substance that reflects and transmits vibrations.

Types of Dichroic Glass

Dichroic glass has the unique property of reflecting one color and transmitting another, and shows the different colors when viewed at different angles.

I use two different types of dichroic glass to create the jewelry, but not in the same piece. Glass expands and contracts at different rates which is called the the coefficient of expansion, or COE. To fuse successfully, one needs to use only “compatible” glass, or glass that has the same COE, in the same piece. Like in any long- term relationship, if the individual pieces aren’t compatible, stress (which is also a technical term in glasswork) develops and the piece can crack!

The two kinds of fusible glass that I use are 1) Bullseye COE 90, and 2) clear float glass, which is similar to the glass used in windows. The very bright and colorful opaque pieces that I make basically have a colored dichroic coating on top of Bullseye black COE 90. Due to the fact that one can’t see through black and thus one can’t see the transmitted color, one sees only the colors that are reflected and those appear intensely vibrant and metallic.

As I mentioned earlier, the other kind of dichroic glass that I use has a substrata of clear float glass with the coating on top of that. Those pieces are translucent and one can readily see the shift between the reflected and transmitted color. The challenge in photographing the clear dichroic is that, because I use a dark background to show off the piece, only the reflected colors are visible to the camera. For example, when the color in a photograph shows pink, the transmitted color, visible by looking straight through the glass, is green!

My Process/FAQ

How do you make these pieces?

These pieces combine the ancient art of glass fusing with the space age technology of dichroic glass.

I make the jewelry by first scoring the glass in the shape that I want with a glass cutter (similar in style to a pizza cutter), so that I can then crack it along the score line. Assembling many small pieces of glass in layers, I often use a tweezer to place the glass where I want it, temporarily affixing it using a special fuser's glue that burns off in the firing. (As I am self-taught, I experienced a mini glass nightmare before I discovered that there was such a thing as fuser’s glue. Everytime I breathed the pieces moved!:) After the piece is fused flat in a kiln, I fine-tune the shape using a glass grinder and then refire it—often adding more glass on top for greater depth, color and detail. The finished piece usually has between five and six layers that have been fused together. With the barrettes and fountains it is necessary to fire an additional time. I drape the flat piece over a ceramic (or stainless mold) to create the curve in the glass.

Do you know how the pieces are going to turn out?

Well, yes and no. Through experience, I do have some idea, but part of the fun, excitement and magic is the unpredictable element of glass fusing, especially through experimentation with new color combinations. One tricky aspect of learning how to fuse dichroic glass and getting the colors one wants is that looking at the reflected color of a piece of unfired dichroic glass is very different from the color that results after firing. If I tilt the unfired glass at an angle, I can get a glimpse of the fired color, so that when firing many different layers together, I can only barely visualize what the final color will be. When I open the kiln the next morning, sometimes I am pleased beyond anything I could have imagined, and at other times, quite honestly, I am horrified. Fortunately with glass, one can keep firing it again and again (and I practically never throw anything away), so that if I keep working an ugly mess through repeated firings, I will often achieve something quite rare and beautiful and literally impossible to ever duplicate!

How long does it take to make a single piece?

That’s really hard to say because I don’t just make one piece from start to finish and call it a day. I make a whole kiln shelf full at a time (15” octagon) and take all the pieces through a series of firings and finish work which usually takes about a week if I don’t get too involved with other activities.

How hot do you fire?

The temperature varies whether it’s the first firing or the last, and whether it’s the Bullseye or the float glass, but an average temperature is about 1450 F.

Why are the clear float pieces more money than similar ones with the Bullseye glass?

The clear float is thinner, harder and more brittle than the Bullseye glass, fusing very differently in the kiln. As a result, it requires greater precision and time in cutting, assembling and grinding the pieces.

I lost one earring. Can you make me one to match?

I can make you a new matching pair that is similar to the single one that you still have. Due to the fact that glass melts in unpredictable ways in the kiln, it is important to cut each piece of glass in a pair of earrings at the same time, the same size, BEFORE it is fired, to eliminate difficulties later.

Will you make custom pieces?

Yes. Please email me with your fused dichroic glass ideas and I will let you know if or how I could make that for you and for what price. In addition to the pieces that are pictured, I can also make pins, combination pin/pendants, clip-on earrings, cufflinks, belt buckles, and money clips.

History of the Ancient Art of Glass Fusing

Fused glass is glass that has been joined by melting together, which in present terms, means primarily in a kiln. Many references point to the origins of glass forming around 2000 B.C. The Egyptians and Romans appear to be the most advanced glass formers, and many examples of their work exist in museums around the world. The Corning Museum in Corning, New York has an extensive collection of ancient fused glass pieces. Many detailed bowls, exquisite jewelry, and decorative wall tiles were created by fusing from approximately 1500 B.C. to 500 A.D.

The period from 500 A.D. to the early 1900's appears to be mostly devoid of fused glass, with the exception of the "Pate de Verre" (using crushed glass in a mold) process from between 1880 and 1920. Perhaps it was the popularity of glass blowing as the more desired forming method and the ever-increasing utilitarian market for glass that took priority over fusing. Glass technology went through a period of great growth during and after the Renaissance in Europe but the fusing process did not experience a rebirth at that time.

Around the year 1935, glass enameling, glass slumping, and occasionally glass fusing reappeared. Antique collecting in the 1960’s brought about a renewed interested in stained glass. The rapid growth of new stained glass studios across the country brought about a demand for stained glass, and that was made possible by the new art glass manufacturers. For the first time, glass was being made outside of an industrial context. Emerging from the diverse and expansive effort of the modern stained glass movement, fusing was reestablished as an art form and began its first new major cycle in 2000 years of glass forming.



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