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Glass fusion April 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Shopping.

After working in an office for over 10 years, Christiana Kazeli gave it up to turn her hobby of glass fusing into her work. 

Glassmaking existed along the lagoons of Venice from as early as the 8th century and the art of blown glass has been widely-known and well admired for many centuries. Glass blowing by Murano artisans rose once again to prominence in the 19th century. By 1291, the glassmakers of the Venetian lagoon had distilled their knowledge into unique and proprietary production skills. In that year, the government of Venice banned glass furnaces from the central islands of Venice, relegating them to Murano. Most historians have assumed that the order resulted from a fear that the fires of the glass furnaces might create a tragic conflagration among the largely wooden structures of crowded Venice. However, it has been plausibly suggested that the move was made in order to isolate the master glassblowers and prevent them sharing their valuable glassmaking know-how with foreigners.

Unlike the Murano master glassblowers, who became virtual prisoners on Murano islands in the 13th century, insulated from any contacts who might divulge their production secrets to potential competitors abroad, modern-day Cypriot artist Christiana Kazeli has no qualms about sharing her secrets on glass fusing.

“For those not aware of the term glass fusing, it is the process of using a kiln to join together pieces of glass. If you apply heat to glass, it will soften. If you continue to apply heat, the glass will become more fluid and flow together. Two or more pieces of glass will stick or fuse to each other. The resulting fused glass piece will be solid,” she said. “In between the different glass layers, the artist can add different materials to create a pattern”.

Christiana likes to use aluminium, copper and bronze sheets or strings but also natural materials such as leaves. The bending and shaping of glass using the heat of a kiln can take many forms. Slumping is one form of manipulation where a mould is used to cause already fused glass to take on the shape of the mould. Other kinds of manipulation done with fusing techniques are “combing,” which uses a tool to distort the shape of the glass while still hot and “fire polishing,” which uses a kiln to heat the glass just enough to make it shiny and smooth. Ordinary window glass, called float glass by people in the field, can be used or special coloured glass like that used in stained glass work. It is inexpensive and widely available. It also works well in the kiln but care should be taken for compatibility.

When combining more than one different sheet of glass in a project the artist needs to make sure the selected glass is compatible. “Compatibility is essential as the different pieces of glass have to expand and contract at similar rates otherwise using incompatible glass may cause cracking or even shattering of the piece when it cools,” said Christiana.

She uses glass in several different shapes and sizes. “Frit” which is small irregularly shaped glass pieces, “Shards and confetti” which are slices of glass that are slightly thicker than a sheet of paper, “Noodles” which are thick, long threads of glass and a box full of other types. Glass powder’s role is to give colour to clear glass.

For the artist to get started, aside from the essential glass, the other most important item needed is a kiln. Kilns are available in sizes ranging from less than a cubic foot to big enough to fill a room. Christiana’s current kiln is a small electric one but on the day I spoke to her a much bigger kiln was delivered to a new workshop she is setting up in Pera Horio Nisou on the outskirts of Nicosia. “The capacity of the new kiln will make a huge difference in the production and the speed with which I can provide my wares to retail shops,” she said. Having a good knowledge of the technique of firing will reduce the likelihood of excessive bubbling of the glass and the artist, after many trials and errors, has reached the stage where she can voluntarily produce glassware with bubbles as she likes them to be part of her work.

Utilitarian, beautiful and intricate decorative objects are produced from glass fusing, often exhibiting complex new techniques. Some of the artworks that Christiana produces serve as platters in different sizes and colours, ashtrays, wall panels framed or not, free standing glass panels in a modern design, lamp shades, coasters in different designs and colour combinations, beautiful Christmas decorations in the shape of snow flakes, stars and trees to hang from the ceiling and breathtaking jewellery, which, according to the artist, “it is the most fiddly and time consuming of all”. The front door to her house features fused glass panels in a modern design. Her next project is a challenging piece of work. “I have to design and fire ten different triangular panels which I will have to assemble like a jigsaw puzzle into a big metal table frame to be used as a shop’s counter.”

For anyone that wishes to experiment with glass fusing, glass coasters are an excellent place to start. The design can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like. If you have experience with cutting glass, you can come up with a design that gives you the opportunity to show off your cutting skills. The artist even allowed me to try my hand at cutting float glass with a diamond saw. I made an incision but thought that nothing had happened. But then Christianna gave it a tap and the glass broke neatly into two.

Christiana worked for 12 years in an architect’s office but gave it up once she started taking lessons in glass fusing. “At first it was just a hobby that I enjoyed immensely. I soon realised the market demand for these items as most artefacts were imported and pricey. Now I fly to Athens every couple of months to buy the materials I need but also to attend to glass fusing lessons”.

Glass fusing has given her an outlet to express her creativity and energy. “I am at my happiest when I am working and knowing that I have the support of my husband and family I can spread my wings to new horizons.”

Contact Tel: 99 689331.

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