Sunday, September 26, 2010

So You Want to Be a Glass Artist. How to Get Started - Part I: Setting Up Your Studio

Over the summer, I participate in several art shows. Often, people who visit my booth remark that they are interested in making fused glass. For those of you are serious about beginning to fuse glass as a hobby or more, here's a few tips on getting started and having a studio of your own.

The first step is to determine where you will make the glass - in a home studio or a place where you can rent the equipment. If all you want to do is to make a few items, renting the use of a kiln is the best avenue as you minimize start-up costs. However, for those who are more serious and want to purchase a kiln, the most important decision is size and voltage. The larger kilns run on 240 voltage and most likely need dedicated power. The kilns that run on standard voltage are smaller in size with the largest kiln allowing you to make a 12" square. This could be more than enough if your goal is to make jewelry but can become small if you are interested in making larger bowls, platters or art panels. Most fused glass artists recommend getting the largest size kiln you can afford as most people eventually trade up - making fused glass can be addicting!

Besides the kiln, you'll need to purchase glass cutting tools (glass cutter, breaking pliers) and sheet glass at a minimum. However, to create better quality work, you will most likely want to invest in the some of the following:

  • Cutting system - to make more uniform cuts
  • Grinder - to shape or smooth the glass and remove flares
  • Ring saw - cut more unique shapes or fused glass
  • Circle cutter - to cut circles; typically used in conjunction with a grinder to smooth the edges

Additional tools:
  • Drill/drill press
  • Lap grinder
  • Wet belt sander
  • Tile saw
  • Sand blaster

For the power tools, you'll want to get the tools with the most horsepower. Most glass artists, start with the basics and gradually build up their studio as they can afford the other tools. However, the goal is to buy the best you can afford. For me, because I am budget and space constrained but want quality equipment, I tend to purchase "entry level, professional" tools instead of "hobbyist" tools.

In addition, you'll want to have access to water (for cleaning and as a coolant when you run your tools) as well as a flat, well lit area to cut and assemble the glass. Storage is also important as you'll find you quickly accumulate many glass supplies. It's easy to start out with a little space, but if you're like most fusers, you'll soon find yourself wanting more room for all the tools you hope to get as well as the different forms of glass (e.g. powders, sheet glass, shards) and accessories.

If you're still serious about wanting your own studio, I suggest you get a copy of Contemporary Fused Glass by Brad Walker. Here you'll find a whole laundry list of supplies as well as a more detailed discussion of the basics of making fused glass.

Next post: So You Want to Be a Glass Artist. Part II: Tips for Developing Glass Designs

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! I'm buying my first kiln and first supply of glass. Appreciate all your tip sharing so much