Fused Glass Artist
Hello, my name is Kelly and I’m the owner, designer, maker, photographer, accountant, packager and everything else associated with Rainbow Lux Glass.
I’m a mum to two boys aged 10 and 3 years. In 2017 I left my day job to concentrate on my glass and it was the best decision ever! I get to spend all the important moments with my children but also get to work with beautiful glass and enjoy my job. I’m incredibly lucky, I know!
I’ve always loved glass. The tactile nature, the beautiful colours. In 2015 I was struggling with having any enthusiasm for my previous business. I made lots of keepsake gifts using wood, clay, paper etc but my passion for it was waning.
I decided I needed to try something new, something I always wanted to do. I considered a glass blowing course but although it looked awesome, I quickly realised I’d never be able to afford the set up costs or even doing it as a hobby. Then I saw an advert on YouTube for a microwave kiln….. from there my journey started.
I spoke to my partner and told him I’d love to try glass fusing. I’d not really heard of it before, I’d seen some gorgeous artistic pieces but didn’t really know how they were made. So I took to trusty old Google and researched for weeks. I was all set to buy a new microwave, a microwave kiln and some glass and tools but then I discovered Creative Glass Guild in Bristol were running courses.
My partner suggested going on a course to find out more and to see if I liked it. He paid for me to go on a weekend beginner course, for my birthday. Unfortunately I had to wait months until the course date, so in the meantime I looked into it even more.
The weekend of the course finally came round, April 2015, I was nervous, apprehensive and excited! I was spending two nights away from my family for the first time so I felt a little lost. Arriving at the Creative Glass Guild, we were all introduced and offered tea/coffee while we waited for the rest of the small group.
There were 5 of us in total, I think. Once all seated, we got onto learning about glass, how to cut glass safely and from there, the course went more in depth.
These photos show some of the things I made on the course:
On the first day I made 2 tiles, a window hanger and 2 items out of float (window) glass. The 2nd day I made a square bowl. I learned so, so much in those 2 days. I couldn’t believe I’d actually made beautiful things from glass! My passion for glass just grew from there.
As soon as I got home, I decided I wanted to do this. I spoke to my partner and told him I was buying a kiln haha. And I did! I worked some serious overtime at my dayjob to afford it, and all my set up tools and glass. I had to wait until June for the kiln to be built and delivered but it was so worth the wait!
It’s been 6 years since the course and I’ve learned so much on this journey. I’ve already upgraded my kiln for a much bigger one, quit my dayjob to run my business, I have my own workroom in the garden, won awards, have lots of beautiful specialist art glass and tons of ideas in my head.
These are photo’s of my finished very, very first fused glass makes, created on the course I took.
My old work area:
This is my old workroom which was a converted garage so I only had to enter a door and I was “at work”! It suited me for a while but as my business grew, I was running out of room. The kiln also gives off fumes and smells so whenever it was on, the whole house smelled. It wasn’t ideal!
I started with a Kilncare Hobbyfuser which suited my needs perfectly, it was a 3 pin plug so no wiring needed, compact enough for my workspace and didn’t cost too much to run.
I soon needed a new kiln as my business grew. I opted for the Profuser, again made in the UK by Kilncare. They’re fantastic kilns and the customer service and support is top notch.
My NEW Garden Workshop
In 2019 we decided it was time for me to upgrade my workspace. We built a purpose built workshop in our garden! I absolutely love it.
I really wasn’t keen on moving, I’ll admit, but now its all done, I can’t imagine working anywhere else!
Moving the kiln was a HUGE job and we roped in some help. We had to take the kitchen door and frame off for the kiln to fit through and we hired a pallet pump truck to get it down a steep ramp from the decking to the garden….My heart nearly came out of my chest I was so nervous! But all went well and I soon moved everything else in.
I now have specific areas for different parts of my work. I use a grinder and glass saw, which can get messy, so these are set up on a table away from everything else. My cutting desk is next to my glass for easy reach. My printers are on a shelving unit along with all the paper and stationery I use. I also have packaging shelving and a newer packaging area, I also have a small storage shed outside my workshop for all the extra packaging I use, I could fill a whole room with it.
I have walls decorated with artwork and trinkets from other Small Businesses. They’re right in my eyeline at my desk and bring me lots of joy to look at. I have a lot of prints from my favourite illustrator Marnie Maurri, they bring me joy!
I absolutely adore my workspace. It’s so calm and peaceful and I feel very lucky to have it.
The Fusing Process
First off, I want to explain what Fused Glass is. Many people get confused with Stained Glass, Blown Glass, Sculptured Glass, Factory made Glass – They’re all very different with distinctive processes.
Put simply, glass fusing is the technique used to join glass pieces together by melting the glass at a high temperature in a kiln. The fusing process usually requires multiple pieces of glass. There are different types of glass available to fuse. All glass can be fused but not all glass is compatible! You cannot mix different types of glass in fusing, unless you want them to crack or even explode! This is liable to happen either straight away or years down the line.
Types of glass
Some people use float (or window/greenhouse glass), glass bottles or tested compatible Art glass (System 96, Bullseye etc). I personally use Oceanside System 96. I love the colours available, the fact it cuts so nicely and it’s just beautiful glass! I also use some Bullseye glass, mainly for jewellery. Most fusers use a special glass kiln, rather than a pottery one as you need to be able to have precise control of temperatures using schedules and a controller.
Fusing does have its limitations. Most pieces are flat, 2D. You can make different shapes using moulds but things like drinking glasses, oven dishes, items that go from hot to cold quickly are not really suited to fused glass. There is a thing called Thermal Shock – if the glass is suddenly exposed to extreme heat or cold, the thermal shock (strain) will cause the glass to break.
Most kitchenware, like Pyrex, is made of borosilicate glass which is a special type of glass. Borosilicate glass is a type of glass with silica and boron trioxide as the main glass-forming constituents. Borosilicate glasses are known for having very low coefficients of thermal expansion, making them more resistant to thermal shock than any other common glass.
There are many, many types of glass out there. All have different uses but that’s a subject for another time!
A note on annealing – Annealing of glass is a process of slowly cooling hot glass objects after they have been formed, to relieve residual internal stresses. Annealing of glass is critical to its durability. Glass that has not been properly annealed retains thermal stresses. Inadequately annealed glass is likely to crack or shatter when subjected to relatively small temperature changes or to mechanical shock or stress. It even may fail spontaneously.
I use a glass manufactured in Mexico called Oceanside 96 (used to be Spectrum System 96). I buy it in sheet form, frit (small bits of glass in different graded sizes), powder and stringers, as shown below.
How I work
Each piece I make is carefully planned and designed. I research first, make a drawing, then make prototypes and design a kiln schedule for the item/s. I check it won’t be mega expensive to produce, therefore making the retail price too much and not worth carrying on with…..I’ve had a few pieces that were just one offs because they cost too much to make. Art glass and Fusing isn’t cheap and I have to maximise the amount of pieces I can cut out of a sheet of glass. I have a nifty spreadsheet which works it all out for me!
Whatever I’m making, I take the utmost care in creating every single piece.
From start to finish, this is the rough process of making a piece:
- Cut the glass: Most of the time I hand-cut using a glass scorer. Sometimes, for more intricate pieces or shapes, I use my glass saw and grinder.
- Clean the glass: This is really important as any foreign objects or specks can ruin a piece once firing in the kiln.
- Arrange the glass: Some designs are more time consuming than others. My large snowflakes are tricky to make and take a long time – Each one has over 60 individual pieces of glass to arrange! Whether it’s a simple or technical design, I must be careful to make sure everything is joined together so it’ll fuse! Most pieces have two layers of 3mm glass, fused together.
- Clean the glass again.
- Transfer to the kiln shelf, making sure everything is still in place and held together.
- Set the kiln schedule: Different pieces need different schedules, depending on the outcome I want. I won’t get too technical here! The hottest my pieces go is 804 degrees Celsius . A full schedule takes around 14-20 hours to complete, plus cooling down time! Everything is heated in the kiln through a series of ramps (rapid heating) and soaks (holding at specific temperatures) to melt and fuse the glass pieces together. The process also ensures the strength and stability of the glass (annealing).
- Wait out the slooooooow cooling time.
- Inspect each piece before cleaning and either storing or packaging to go to a customer.
- Some pieces go through a second kiln schedule to mould it into a shape or add pieces to it.
The images below show pieces before they’re fired:
2021 A New Chapter
I hope this section has given you a little insight to me as a person and more about the Fusing process.