When you have the opportunity to see a piece of glass art by Seattle artist Suzanne Guttman it is not difficult to recognize the passion in her work. Flowing glass shapes and colors are inspired by the environment surrounding her, evoking what she calls a “balance of grace and strength” that momentarily persuades the viewer into reasoning that the pieces grew right there out of the Earth. Unless you watch the delicate and meticulously choreographed dance that is required of glass blowing, you may not realize the interesting steps included in the creation of a piece of her blown glass lighting or other glass art.
Although each individual in our community of talented glass artists has his or her own unique technique and style, the fundamental steps for creating a piece of blown glass lighting are relatively consistent. Suzanne was kind enough to walk us through the high-level process of creating one of her modern blown glass pendant lights.
Firstly, the necessities of a glass artist’s workshop include must tools and equipment such as: raw glass, a furnace (at 2200° F) a glory hole (at 1200° F), yokes, a blowpipe and punties, a marver plate, wood blocks and paddles, an annealing kiln (at 900° F), a small torch, shears, jacks, pliers, tongs, and molds. Creating beautiful and long-lasting glass art is a commitment to having the right tools, and understanding and respecting glass itself. Without the proper techniques, an amateur is likely to create unstable pieces that cannot withstand the tests of time, movement, or thermal fluctuation.
Suzanne begins to create a pendant light by gathering clear glass to make a “starter” bubble. From this point on, she and her team synchronize their every movement and execute each pre-meditated step in a timely sequence in order to achieve an agreed-upon design. The dance begins!
A colored glass is applied over the clear bubble as an overlay or with glass frit. Suzanne typically combines an overlay of Alabaster white for the inside of the pendant and a color of choice on top. A white interior on a pendant helps diffuse the light of a bulb inside and also allows the color on top to stand out more vividly.
After the color is applied, the mound of glass is stuffed into an optic mold. There are several types of optic molds whose purpose is to create visual interest in the glass by manipulating its thickness in various ways. The optic mold creates thick and thin evenly dispersed channels of color, which creates the lines or swirls you see on the resulting pendants. The artist can then twist and marver the hot glass to create the desired evenness and pattern.
Next, Suzanne gathers more molten glass onto the piece to shape and blow it to form the bottom portion of the pendant. The piece is blown into a wood mold to achieve the exact desired shape, such as a signature Bordeaux pendant shape. This piece is then placed carefully into the annealer for roughly 24 hours. Annealing “cures” the glass so that it is stable and not as vulnerable to failure.
After a piece is done annealing, it is finished and cut to size with a flame-cutter and then drilled for wiring.
“Glass pushes every emotion for me,” says Suzanne. “It is a mental and physical challenge that connects my soul to creativity. The process of creating is a magical, spiritual journey. I am always awed and never bored, I love this art form.”