Growing up, I was always drawn to crafts and art but I really found my passion with glass fusing. I took a workshop back in 1994 and have been hooked ever since! I still find that nothing beats that wonderful feeling of opening the kiln and seeing how a piece has turned out after firing. I love how glass comes alive with light and bursts with vibrant color. Fusing glass brings me so much joy, and my work naturally reflects this enjoyment.
Being a creator has been a healing balm throughout my life. I truly believe that all acts of creative expression can be a powerful way to heal, reconnect with ourselves and our communities. We can intentionally dive deep into creative endeavors that help us to heal or get deeper in touch with ourselves and we can also play lightly, just enjoying the gift of imagination and flow that often happens when we create. I do not think it matters what we do except that we honor our very human need for creative expression and that we keep the channel open.
When I began glass fusing years ago, I was obsessed with making glass framed glass mirrors. I made hundreds of them. Healing, positive mirrors that had affirming words, quotes and designs made with the intention to encourage a gentle voice that honors the self with love and acceptance. My degree is psychology fused together with my artwork. I healed myself in many ways by making those mirrors and as I evolved so has my artwork and my desire to teach my passion. I wanted to create and offer a fun and safe space for others to explore their imagination and self expression through art. Fast forward about 20 years and here I am a traveling art teacher/teaching artist...living the dream. HaHa! Teaching and Creating- always searching for ways to find that balance to fit it all in!
Engaging in any creative process can often be healing and transformative. My hope is that 'we' all are able to tap into the magic of expressive arts to help heal ourselves and our world-That there is opportunity and space for that exploration. I feel deeply that there is not enough emphasis on the healing nature of creative expression in our society. I think this is a missing link, or a starved need and desire in many of our communities, but it is an essential piece to healing the current landscape of our time- We need more art- in schools, in the workplace, in our parks....! More avenues for expression in all its forms. Meaningful, intentional, expressive, honest - not always pretty, sometimes mysterious - this process of making something that comes from within our spirits is a treasure and gift. We can also be moved greatly by what others express and nature in all its wondrous glory, can also give us this gift of healing and connection. So much potential with the simple act of pen to paper, a dance, a mindful walk in the woods, a sculpture, a collage, a simple scribble...bypassing overthinking and judgment- getting to the heart- maybe there is a release, more acceptance, tolerance or forgiveness- maybe just a little more inner space or maybe something came and went or a solution found....so many benefits to allowing ourselves to be in a creative flow.
From the Heart to Head and Back Again with Love for Spirit - Spiral into Yourself and Bloom!
~Nikki Contini~ Fusing Fun Art
So,what is glass fusing?
Fusing glass is created by ‘fusing’ layers of glass together in a kiln at temperatures up to 1500 degrees. The pieces melt together to form one piece of glass-unique in color, texture and shape. Fused glass pieces often undergo repeated firings and are then slumped into decorative molds in a lower heated kiln. There are an incredible variety of patterns, colors and iridescence in fused glass. Each piece is unique in its own detail and it is possible to fuse other elements into the glass such as wire and metal objects. The dichroic (iridescence glass) coating is achieved by treating red-hot glass with metallic oxides such as magnesium and titanium. The surface iridescence is created from the layers of metallic fumes.
History of Fused Glass:
The unique process of fusing glass was developed by the ancient Egyptians! The Egyptians considered glass to be a precious material, like gold and silver and developed techniques adapted from metalworking and ceramics to fuse and form glass. As early as the second millennium BC, the Egyptians were fusing glass and making beautiful vessels. The Greeks and Romans then improved upon the techniques of the Egyptians and developed the craft of kiln forming techniques and mosaic pattern making.
When the Romans developed the new technique of “Glass Blowing”, (known as hot glass- using a glass rod to manipulate glass that has been heated in a furnace), the art of glass fusing basically died away by the third century AD. Blown Glass compared to fusing glass was more efficient, less costly and easier to replicate. So, blowing glass became the technique of choice over the centuries.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that there was a re-birth of the art of fusing glass, (warm glass), in France. Discoveries of ancient glass and attempts to reproduce and enhance old production techniques inspired a new wave of interest in fused glass.
New techniques in kiln-forming glass and slumping in molds led to a studio glass movement which has brought respectability to the craft of working with glass.
In the 1970s, The Bullseye Glass Company was formed in Oregon. This company has played a major role in the development of the fused glass discipline. Bullseye and other manufacturers have developed several lines of glass which have expanded the palette and options for glass artists.
So, with increasing availability and better materials, there has been a renaissance in the fused glass movement.
Glass Fusing is an incredible vehicle for creative expression. The amazing colors and depth of glass spark the imagination and the possibilities are endless!
Sources: Walker, Brad. Contemporary Warm Glass. Clemmons, NC Four Corners International, INC., 2000.