I got to know Kathy, the talented glass artist and owner of Kool Kat Art Glass, during two of her family vacations here in Costa Rica. She and her twin boys did pottery with the hubby and her daughter Syd and her did a couple of jewelry classes with me. She showed up for one of the classes with a baggie filled with beautiful glass pendants, which I was surprised to learn she made!
I’m fascinated by glass making. As much as I try to understand it, the process of making something liquidity hot into something as solid yet fragile as glass mystifies me. I wanted to know a bit more about the process and Kathy so I decided to do a little interview of her to find out more.
Tell me a little about your art background and how you got started in glass making. Did you go to school to learn this or was it something you picked up on your own?
I have a very hard time understanding how glass is made. I’ve seen artists making blown glass pieces, but I really can’t wrap my mind around the process. Can you describe how your pieces are made, the materials used and how long each of the processes take?
I buy colored glass in 8×10 sheets. It all has to be compatible with the same coefficient of expansion. It’s how glass expands and contracts when heated and cooled. After I plan a design, I pick out the colors of glass I want to use. I score the glass with a scoring tool and then break it along the score line with grozier pliers.
I cut out all the pieces for my design and then I take it to grind down all the sharp edges of the glass. I also get a more precise shape with a diamond bit grinder. After I rinse the glass and dry it, I tack glue my pieces together. There needs to be two layers of glass for a strong piece. The bottom layer is usually a clear piece and I put the design with the colored glass on top.
After assembled, I place the piece (or pieces) in the kiln. There are different effects, different fusing techniques, achieved by varying the levels of heating and holding at certain temperatures. The higher the temps and longer the hold, the more fused, or melted together the glass becomes. On the other hand the lower the temps, the less molten and it’s more of a tack fuse. I like this look because it gives a piece more texture.
Generally, a full fuse, tack, or slump takes about 12 hours in the kiln. This includes the heat up and then cool down to room temperature.
This plate is amazing! How long does it take to make a detailed piece like this?
I love nature, so many of my pieces are reflective of that. I do a lot of organic shapes with vibrant sunset colors. I also gravitate towards ocean creatures so I think I am predisposed to use a lot of blues, greens, and purples.
Do you sketch them prior to making them or do you prefer to work in a free-form fashion?
I do both. Sometimes I have a real picture in my mind and need to put in on paper so I can get the dimensions just right. Other times, I just let it fly….especially when I create a jewelry piece.
Describe your studio and the equipment you use.
My studio is in my basement and I have almost outgrown it. I have glass everywhere and tools everywhere! There is a 3×5 cutting table where I cut the sheets into pieces. I have a table with a diamond bit grinder that smoothes the edges of the cut pieces and an Olympic kiln that fuses the pieces together.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges that you encounter in your art?
Is there anything you haven’t made yet that you’d like to master?