As a Girl Scout Community Collaborator, I work with Girl Scout troops to create glass art. Sometimes we meet for mosaics, but this post is all about glass fusing! Earlier this year, I worked with a Girl Scout troop from Council Bluffs, Iowa. There were 6 girls able to attend the meeting. We talked about how glass is made, how to “play” with glass safely, and how to create art with glass.
I give each girl two sheets of clear glass; one for a plate and one for a sun catcher. After digging through my scraps and piecing together their larger pieces, they can make pendants (or magnets) for the rest of the session. Generally, each girl will finish all three projects. Some may end up with more pendants, and some spend a lot of time piecing together the perfect plate (and need help from mom or friends to finish other projects).
After our session, the girls go home and I get to work! After cleaning up the work area and letting the glue dry (so the pieces don’t shift on the way to the kiln), I prep the kiln for firing. I need to coat the kiln shelves with kiln wash to prevent the glass from sticking to the shelf permanently. Then, I need to let the kiln wash dry or else the glass pieces end up with kiln wash stuck to them! I generally speed this part up by running the kiln up to 500ºF for 30 minutes and then letting it cool back down to room temperature.
Now that the kiln is prepped, I can load all the pieces in it. If I’m lucky, I can fit everything in the kiln at once. However, since I seldom give strict rules when the girls are constructing, I’ll sometimes have one piece that needs to go in the kiln at a different temperature. This is a decision I make based on my years of experience firing glass taking into consideration how much glass has been used, whether or not it’s even across the entire sheet of glass and how I know the glass will act in the kiln.
The glass comes out of the kiln in one piece, but it’s all flat. For the plates, I need to put the glass back in the kiln in molds to shape them and make them three dimensional. This is done in a separate firing because the temperature doesn’t need to get as hot as it did for fusing the glass together. (By the way, glass fusing temperatures are around 1480ºF, whereas slumping temperatures are only around 1250ºF.)
When all of the glass is finished firing, I clean up the edges. Sometimes little bits of glass will end up grabbing the kiln shelf and creating needles. I grind those off so that the glass art doesn’t bite! Then, I wrap it up so it won’t break and label it with each girls name, and they’re ready to be picked up! Generally the whole process takes 5-7 days. If this is something you’d like to do with your Girl Scout troop, please contact me for a list of available dates. Current pricing is $25 a girl, which is a steal!