February 2014

Glass Blowing vs. Glass Fusing

Often when I mention that I am a glass artist I get asked if I blow glass. Usually this leads to a discussion about glass blowing vs. glass fusing.

Myles Freedman

Myles Freedman blowing glass in the hot shop.



Blown glass is created using a technique that involves inflating molten glass into a bubble with the aid of a blowpipe. The glass is then manipulated by swinging it, rolling it on a marver, shaping it with tools or in a mold. While working with the glass it is important to keep the piece evenly heated and not allow it to get too cold. This is accomplished by placing the glass piece in a glory hole on a regular basis or by heating it with a torch. Most glass blowing is done at a temperature between 1,600 °F and 1,900 °F.

This coral was cast in the kiln.

This coral was cast in the kiln with a mold.

Although fusing glass is very popular today, it was just as popular in the golden age of Greece and the Roman Empire. With fusing the glass is softened and shaped in a kiln. Fused glass is sometimes called kiln formed, warm glass or, kiln-glass. Many different techniques can be deployed in the kiln depending upon the desired results. Slumping, draping and casting are all methods done within the kiln. Most glass fusing occurs at temperatures between 1,100 °F and 1,700 °F.

Glass blowers often call fusers “bakers”. Fusers sometimes call blowers “flower, pumpkin and marble makers”. Despite the good natured teasing both blowers and fusers are passionate about their craft and share a love of glass – it’s just that their approach to the medium is very different.

Pink and Blue Glass Vase

Pink and blue “lingerie” vase fused by Julie Coll and rolled/blown by Myles Freedman.

Recently there has begun to be some collaboration between blowers and fusers. This started with fusers wanting to roll their glass panels and have them blown into vessels. They desired to stretch their glass options beyond the kiln and explore alternative shapes and forms.

My background is based in glass fusing but I am starting to learn glass blowing. I have a big trophy project currently in the studio that I am completing with a glass blower, Myles Freedman. It has been fun to work together and see our different approaches to glass.  I’ll post more on the trophy project next week.


What is Glass?

The explanation can get a bit complicated but I’ll try and keep it simple and not too technical. In science classes we are taught about the three states of matter being gas, liquid and crystalline. Although glass is a solid material it is a type of matter with a non-crystalline or amorphous structure. Glass is neither a liquid nor a solid but shares qualities of both.

Glass is created by heating dry materials to a viscous state and then cooling quickly. (Viscosity is a liquid’s measure of its resistance to flow.) The quick cooling process prevents a regular crystalline structure from forming like with a solid. Instead the atoms get locked in a disordered state like a liquid. So glass has the rigidity of a crystalline solid with the random atom structure of a liquid.


In nature glass is formed in one of three ways. When silicic lavas from a volcano are cooled quickly obsidian is formed. This is also known as volcanic glass. Fulgurite tubes are crusts of glass that are formed when sand is melted by a lighting strike. Fulgurite tubes are sometimes called “petrified lightning”. The third naturally occurring glass is moldavite. It does not contain a crystalline structure but rather a diagnostic pattern of striae and bubbles. Because of this it is believed that moldavite is formed from the outer surface of meteorites that have fused and melted during entry into our atmosphere.

The man made glass that we are familiar with is made by melting silica (sand) and other materials together. Some ingredients are added to stabilize and strengthen the glass like potash, lime, boric acid or caustic soda. Other additives like ground metal oxides are used to color the glass. Some colors of glass like pinks, reds and purples can be expensive because gold is used in the manufacturing process. There are many colors and types of glass available today.

Where did 2013 Go?

Pink and Blue Glass Vase

Pink and blue vase fused by Julie Coll and rolled by Myles Freedman.

It’s hard for me to believe that 2014 is upon us. I shouldn’t be surprised that last year flew by. I way over committed myself with volunteer projects. At one point my husband pointed out that if I put as much effort into my glass studio business, I would have more work than I know what to do with. He was right…I hate when he is right. I started saying “no” to new commitments for 2014. It felt very liberating – like I was giving myself permission to enjoy one of my passions.

Although my studio time was a bit limited last year, I did manage to make some progress from a business perspective. I launched the Moonrise Designs website, something I had been meaning to do for the last couple of years. I also dug in to learn about social media. As a girl that spent 18 years in technology, after 6 years retired I was feeling out of touch and old. Although far from an expert I am getting the hang of it. I now have a Facebook page, along with Twitter and Pinterest accounts for the Moonrise Designs studio business. By far my favorite is Pinterest. I like pouring a glass of wine and cruising through boards. I have loved connecting with other glass artist throughout the word and being inspired by their work.

After collaborating with glass blowers to roll some of my fused work, I want to learn to blow glass. My first lesson is this Thursday, I can’t wait. I also have formed a small team of both fusers and glass blowers to work on larger commissions. I love collaborating, especially with creative people. Not only do you learn from each other but the journey from beginning to end can be simply amazing.

I have a couple of other goals for this year. I’m going to strive to update my blog at least weekly. I want to share my glass journey with others – to document the sometimes isolating experience of being a studio artist. I would also like to use it as a platform to educate about glass. The world of glass can get a bit complex, even for those of us that exist in it. Glass collectors can get quickly lost whether buying a small piece from an art fair to larger pieces from a gallery.

I am very excited for 2014 and the new adventures it will bring. Several projects are under way and I can’t wait to share their progress. Let the 2014 journey begin!