glass . enamels at Craft NSW
The beginnings of glassmaking are uncertain, but it is thought that the earliest objects are Egyptian beads dated about 2500 bc.
The first glass vessels are believed to be Egyptian too, from around 1400 bc. Glass-making became more common in the 6th century, appearing throughout Mediterranean cultures, but it was not until many centuries later that glassware began to develop the properties it has today, with technical advances such as mould-pressing to make glass objects of open shape; bowls, dishes and the like.
Millefiori (or a thousand flowers - coloured glass rods cut and arranged to make patterns) was combined with glass-pressing to produce an unlimited variety of coloured patterns.
superior kiln technology
Probably, when it was observed that glass globules on the end of a hollow metal tube could be blown into a mould, an inspired jump took place with the creation of flasks, a mould-blown form.
Syrian glass workers are credited with the next development: glass could be blown to create freehand shapes, with handles or decorative elements added later. Roman imperial times produced works of great complexity and beauty as well as great quantities of plain or functional containers. The expanding Roman empire spread the art of glass.
Engraved glass, lampworked glass, lustred and gilded glass, influences from Islam and China, refinements in both materials and techniques, led to the beginning of the industrialisation of glass making. Glass, providing storage containers, windows, doors, cooking utensils etc. for today's society, is taken for granted.
But what should not be forgotten is the beauty of the material itself. This beauty is the basis of today's 'art glass' or 'studio glass' movement.
Lampworking is glasswork where rods and tubes of clear and coloured glass are melted using a gas fuelled torch. In the molten state, the glass is formed by shaping. Today, it is also known as flamework or torchwork.
Lampwork manipulates glass either by the use of tools, gravity, or by blowing directly into the end of a glass tube and differs from glassblowing which uses a blowpipe to inflate a glass blob. The art form has been practiced since ancient Syrian times, but became widely practiced in Italy in the 14th century. In the mid 19th century the technique was extended to the production of paperweights. Early lampworking was done in the flame of an oil lamp, with the artist blowing air into the flame through a pipe. Most artists today use torches that burn either propane, natural gas, or butane, with either air or pure oxygen as the oxidizer.
Stained glass is all around us. While the methods used today are similar to those used in Gothic cathedrals (coloured glass cut to a pattern then fitted and fixed into place) the rise in new technologies and better access to a variety of glass have all lead to applications for everyone.
New homes are frequently embellished with spectacular glass features such as doors and windows, while decorative panels are purchased just to hang in a sunny windows.
Enamel is a craft medium which dates back to the 6th century bc. Probably the best known application today is 'cloisonne', where metal wires are used to create a design and separate the glass colours.
To achieve clarity of colour, many thin layers of enamel must be applied with a firing after each additional layer. Firing times are short, from one and a half to three minutes, but each piece may be fired eight or nine times.
Both sides of the metal are coated or counter enamelled to prevent expansion and crazing of the glass surface. Today's enamelling is done on silver and gold for jewellery and on copper, steel or aluminium for larger pieces.
Works produced can be as small as the decoration on a ring, or as large as a mural covering the wall of a building. It's application is up to the craftworkers' imagination and the brilliance of its colouring is their reward.