Warm is Not Cool | Bullseye Glass Co. | Bullseye Glass Co

Warm is Not Cool

While I’m waiting for the next Guest Editor to come to my rescue, I’m going to indulge in one of my longest-running rants, my objection to the term “warm” used to describe kilnforming.

1500°F is NOT warm.

This particular irritant resurrected itself during an otherwise pleasant walk through an otherwise engaging exhibition at the Museum of Glass last week. The exhibition is called Contrasts. It is, mostly, an excellent introduction to glass and its many personalities.

But wait. Ack! Immediately at the entrance to the hall, I run into this, signage contrasting:


Yep, that’s us – kilnformers – sandwiched between a couple of other glassworking modifiers. A tepid, half-baked and wholly inaccurate description of what we do, tarted up into a word that none of us selected. Paraded out by someone without technical experience in our field in order to glue the other ends of the glassworking world together into some tidy little continuum.

But it gets worse. How’s this for a definition:

“WARM: Glass whose shaping occurs at lower heat, usually under 1000°F, is worked warm.”

When was the last time you formed glass in a kiln at temperatures below 1000°F?

As an example of WARM, the curator selected a work by artist Tom Patti, Solar Gray Purple Compound with Planes, 1981-84.

I don’t know a single artist of Patti’s stature who uses the term “warm” to describe his/her work. So I email him. Marilyn Patti replies. To her knowledge, “Tom has never used the expression ‘warm’ to describe his glass…The curator for the Tacoma exhibit has used her own words.”

So where did the word come from? When did this muddy little snowball start its downhill roll and when will it stop?

We have a gallery filled with glasswork that is formed in a kiln. As far as I know, not a single artist we represent describes what he/she does as “warm glass”. They call it “kilnformed or “kilnworked”. If that’s too many letters for you, call it “kiln-glass.”

Just, please, stop calling it WARM. Why? In short, because:

1) None of the pioneers in the field use or ever have used the term. Can we show them some respect?

2) The term is technically inaccurate: there is nothing “warm” about 1200 – 1700°F.

3) To someone unaware of other glassworking methods (e.g.., prospective buyers of your art and/or design work), “warm” is a vague, limp, and unappealing adjective to describe a highly refined and demanding set of methods.

I know, I know. There is a very nice and user-friendly website where people (mostly newcomers) gather to talk about kilnforming that is called Warmglass.com. I have myself visited there many times. Should I have stayed away because I consider it mis-named? Should I have ranted there about what it called itself? Possibly. I didn’t. I thought it was sort of rude to go to a party and complain about the host’s address. But I’m not there now. And, as My Mother used to say, “We don’t use that kind of language in OUR home, Missy!”.

And finally, to be blunt: many respected masters in this field – not the least of whom is Klaus Moje – detest the term. This summer during the Glass Art Society conference while his retrospective runs at the Art Museum, I pray that the only thing we call “warm” in Portland is the weather.

6 Responses to Warm is Not Cool

  1. Bert Weiss says:

    The biggest problems I see here are the words from the Tacoma curator. The work from Patti that I have seen is done on a blowpipe with float glass. There isn’t much warm about that. And, of course there is very little done with heated glass below 1000ºF with the exception of bottle decoration.

    I do agree that kiln cast or kiln formed are better terms for our work.

    One of my favorite images is pulling a wad of fiberfrax from a peep hole when the interior of the kiln is at 1500ºF. You can do this with bare fingers, which is remarkable as the interior really is 1500º and the wad is only a couple of inches thick. If you put a cigarette in your mouth and place the end of it in front of the peep hole, it will light right up. I agree that warm is not really the operative term.

  2. lmcgregor says:

    Bert, that’s fascinating. I’ve never had any idea how Tom Patti worked. And he himself doesn’t seem particularly interested in giving his methods any sort of name at all. (I’ve only ever seen the work described as “glass” – period.) Which is why it’s so curious that a curator would select his work to illustrate “warm”.

    Have you actually seen his process?

  3. Bert Weiss says:

    I haven’t seen Tom work, but a long time ago, I think it was Ken Holsten (his dealer), who described to me that he heats up a stack of glass, picks it up on a blowpipe, and uses a compressor to blow the bubble. I think there is probably considerable cold work to get to the finished piece.

    I was always fascinated by the fact that they could sell a fist size hunk of float glass for $30,000 back in the 80′s

  4. lmcgregor says:

    Thanks for the explanation. Holsten should know. And for sure, Patti’s prices are some of the HOTTEST.

  5. Hmmmm. Temp is relative. If you live on the Sun, 1500F is parctic-level, so perhaps we should call it coolglass. Think of the advertising possibilities…

    Correctness aside, problem with all these terms–Bullseye-compatible instead of 90COE, warmglass instead of kiln-formed glass, cast glass instead of pate de verre or reservoir-lost-wax-cast or whatever–is that accuracy almost always demands more syllables and humans don’t think that way. They’re natural shorthanders. Heck, I don’t even use “Bullseye Glass” most times-I call it “BE.”

    So maybe the best favor BE could do for the masses is find (and brand) terms that accurately describe this stuff in two pithy syllables or less. Otherwise, consumers will do it for you, every time.

    And in any case, WHAT we call it, is “art.” I don’t call a Renoir a “brush-applied oil-based pigment suspension on twill-woven cotton fabric,” I call it “art.”

    I think the more we describe work by its technique, the more consumers tend to focus on the technique instead of the fact that it’s damn good art. Kilnformed glass, coldwork, warmwork, hotwork (or whatever) are industry-internal designations that should never reach consumers of said art.

    But that’s just my opinion, of course. Don’t do this stuff for a living, so I’m entitled to express wild opinions. ;-)

  6. Lani,

    You know what’s worse and makes me hide under a desk?…the term ‘slumping’!

    Today, I just kiln formed the best glass ever…and its arriving in Portland at the beginning of May!

    See you there, :)


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