I sometimes feel that I don’t fit into the world of studio glass, not only because I’m such a beginner, but because I want to do it all. It seems that most people specialize one area, either fusing, or casting, or lampwork, or furnace glass blowing. And some specialize even further, making sculpture, or a certain kind of bead, or marbles. I may specialize someday (that’s definitely the way to really refine your technique), but right now I’m pigging out at the glass buffet, trying a little bit of everything.
One reaction I’ve seen with almost every form of art glass is that everyone loves dichroic. Dichroic (“two color”) glass in its current form was developed by NASA for the space program, and is produced by depositing incredibly thin films of metal or metal oxides on glass. (I don’t do this, it’s done by glass manufacturers.) I first encountered dichroic glass in the form of optical filters in flow cytometry and microscopy, where they’re used to split beams of light into bands of different wavelengths. The entry on “dichroic glass’ in wikipedia indicates that dichroic glass in a different form was actually produced as far back as the 4th century, but that involved a different chemistry. I’m sure they were dazzled by it back then as well!
Despite its high tech origins, dichroic glass exerts an almost visceral appeal for many people, exciting our love of bright and shiny. The colors shift and sparkle, depending on light levels and direction, and when the coatings are applied to textured glass the affect is magnified. Combining different colors and types of dichro in kilnwork can be especially interesting, because the results can vary from one firing to the next.
The masthead image is of the cabochons I cut yesterday, arranged to match yesterday’s picture, after firing to 1425F for 10 minutes. You’ll notice a few extra touches, because I’ve started to add short sections of stringer (think spaghetti noodles made of glass) that are also coated with a dichro coating. I was particularly happy with this piece, which is two half hearts cut from different patterns, placed side by side and fused:
And these hearts were also a happy surprise, because the red that I fused onto the starburst textured dichroic also has an iridescent surface coating which survived the second firing (you can see it best on the left side of the rightmost heart):
This type of work is fun, but not particularly challenging. I like doing it because I’m always surprised by the way some colors combinations change when fired, and because they sell well as jewelry, since “everyone loves dichro”. I will never get rich working in glass, but every sale allows me to buy more glass and keep experimenting, and I’ll never get tired of that.