Studio Glass: Videos

Seth Fairweather sculpture


Knowing something about studio glass-making can help the viewer appreciate more fully the current exhibition at Art Space Vincennes, Horizons, Nechs: Glass Sculpture by Seth Fairweather.  See the two videos below.  

Studio Glass is a young art for the fine arts, borrowed from the utilitarian and decorative crafts, like Tiffany and others, that developed only slightly techniques from the craft thousands of years old.  Twentieth century glass works kept the traditional techniques, but expanded it to a factory scale.  A Wisconsin ceramic artist, Harvey K. Littleton, formerly a scientist at Corning Glass Works, changed that.  In 1962 he partnered with another scientist at the Toledo Art Museum to introduce glass to interested artists, showing how visual artists can work with glass in a relatively small operation. One of the attendees, Dale Chihuly, became the most famous modern glass artist to this day. Nearby Columbus, Indiana, became a destination because of his huge Yellow Neon Chandelier hanging from the ceiling and his Persian Pieces hanging in a bay window at the Columbus Visiting Center. Fairweather is a younger generation artist, among many other studio glass artists working today.

To heat the glass, artists use special furnaces designed to approach 2300 degrees F and torches to heat cooling spots when they are working the glass.  If the work is small, they only need torches.  The work is hot because of the radiant heat of the furnaces and the glass itself. The heat of the furnace must be maintained constantly since it costs more to turn it down and reheat it in intervals.  There for working glass means long hard days.  But they are exciting and miraculous ands surprising things happen.

Glass can be blown and glass can be cast in molds.  Though Fairweather has done both, the work in at Art Space Vincennes is all blown and manipulated with tools, then combined with ceramics and other media.  The glass is heated to about 2300 degrees F to be poured, but only to about 2150 degrees F to be blown.  In the later case, the glass gets to a taffy consistency.  The artist (or an assistant) gather a glass blob at one end of a long pipe and blows into it from the other end.  This expands the glass into a hollow volume. To fight gravity, which sags the hot mass of the forming being made, the work is turned in constant motion to keep the form relatively true.  Fairweather reinserts the blown volume into the furnace to fuse another layer of glass onto the blown form to thicken it and reheat the first, so that he can continue forming it.  He uses gravity to steer the direction of the expansion, uses pincer to pinch forms away from the main mass, constricts areas with a tool to prevent certain parts from expanding when he blows, uses knives, paddles to slice linear elements onto the blown form and diamond snips to cut the final work away from the pipe.  Basically, while clay is cold when the artist manipulates it, glass is plastic when it is hot. Manipulating it, however is somewhat similar. Yet both are primarily composed of silica!

Below is a fascinating 39 minute video that shows Fairweather working as a participant at the Sonoran Art School 2011 Glass Festival. He is the second of many people featured in the video, which ends with a gallery of finished products. The video also shows all the tools mentioned above plus others. You will see Fairweather using all the techniques that he used to make the glass pieces in the Art Space Vincennes show and hear an older artist talking about Harvey Littleton’s workshop that he attended.


Below is a 5:55 minute video with Fairweather directing students at Tyler School of Art in a glass casting that used wooden molds infused with sand.  The glass was removed from the furnace at 2280 degrees F.


Horizons, Nechs: Glass Sculpture by Seth Fairweather will be open all summer until August 17.   Art Space Vincennes is open T-F 12-5 pm  and Saturdays 10 am -2 pm. ASV is located at 521 Main St, Vincennes, IN 47591.   Make us your destination to see it!  Comments are welcome below.

Have your say