A Magical Mystery Tour of Reactive Glass | Bullseye Glass Co. | Bullseye Glass Co

A Magical Mystery Tour of Reactive Glass

“Picture yourself in Reactive Cloud Opal…” That sounds like a line from the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which is sort of appropriate because I recently took the magical mystery tour that is the Special Effects in Kiln-Glass workshop at Bullseye Resource Center Santa Fe. You could almost say it blew my mind.

Meredith gives us the lowdown on reactives.

The workshop was led by Meredith Gill, who coaxed me into the workshop a few days earlier, when I saw her cutting scads of glass squares in the Resource Center workroom and asked what they were for. When I found out that I’d come away from a very affordable class with a large set of samples, I signed up immediately.

A batch of project pieces ready to fire.

At the beginning of class, eight curious glass artists gathered together in front of a huge table covered with dozens of pre-fired examples showcasing the types of effects that can be created by pairing glass of different chemical combinations. I was already aware of the reactions that come from layering a copper-based glass like Turquoise Blue over a sulfur-based glass like French Vanilla. But these reactions had been taken much further in the samples than I thought possible. Other samples combined glass with materials like silver and copper leaf.

Our first project was to combine sulfur and copper-based glasses–choosing from dozens of colors, stringer, frit, confetti, foil, and other goodies–then fire them to a full-fuse. The emphasis was on stacking the glass to achieve maximum reactions.

A few of my completed sample projects.

Subsequent projects included working with silver leaf, using copper-bearing powders over sulfur-bearing French Vanilla sheet glass, and, my personal favorite, combining Reactive Ice Clear and Reactive Cloud Opal glass with Steel Blue Opalescent. By using clear 01 frit to control which parts of my sample had reactions and which parts did not, I could create a range of color effects from deep oxblood red to intense blue, while using only one color of frit. It was amazing.

All in all, we did 10 separate projects, each ranging in size from 3″x4″ to 5″x7″. It was intense; as soon as we’d finish one piece and place it into the kiln, we jumped right into another, with each project building on what we had learned from the previous one.

Meredith also had us experimenting with displacement (flow), by stacking pre-cut 3/4-inch squares of 6mm clear Tekta in a reactive composition. The unfired pieces looked rather like a mish-mosh of random stacks of glass, but the magic that took place inside the kilns overnight was truly mind-blowing.

Reviewing the group's results.

The next morning we returned to the Resource Center and were greeted by a large table spread with the fired samples, all arranged in rows and marked by each participant’s name. Let me just say that the amount of prep work required for this class, plus the intensive hands-on guidance of Meredith, was truly impressive. She must have been exhausted when it was all over. The results were fascinating, and we spent nearly two hours discussing the effects that each person achieved in their samples. That’s one of the most beneficial aspects of a workshop like this: the amount of variety that results from a group far exceeds what you might learn just noodling around in your own studio.

The samples ranged from slightly grotesque to completely sublime. Fortunately, nobody was striving to make finished ART in the class, so we were relieved of the burden of producing a final, beautiful product. Instead, the focus was purely on exploring “what will happen if…” which makes for a very free, creative situation. It seems there is no limit to the variety of effects that can be created by harnessing the reactive powers of kiln-glass. Now it feels like I have a whole new bag of tricks to play with in my own work.

Copper-based frit, powder, and stringer with silver foil over a pre-fused sheet combining White Opal with Reactive Cloud Opal, before firing.

The same panel, after fusing. Note the extreme color shift in the lower portion (the Reactive Cloud layer), and the fuming around the foil moon caused by a reaction with the copper-based frit.

There’s more information on special effects on Bullseye’s webite:

Editor’s note: Guest blogger Lois Manno is a New Mexico-based writer, artist, and illustrator. She’s also a newcomer to kiln-glass who’s agreed share her adventures in her new medium here. She blogs about her art and other adventures – including cave exploration – at loismanno.com.

See our class listings for the next Special Effects in Kiln-Glass workshop at a Bullseye Resource Center near you.

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