DIY Glass Fusing and Glass Blowing

It’s summer time, that usually means making time for something fun! Whether you are out of school or just have a day off work, you might be looking for an activity to do with friends or family. Awhile ago I posted about DIY ceramic painting, which is a great option. Today I want to share my experiences with DIY glass art.

My first class was purchased from Groupon. This was for “Intro to Fusing” which was offered by Aquila Glass School here in Portland, OR. This class was a lot of fun and we got to make several pieces to take home. Fusing glass is a process where you cut and layer glass pieces that will be “fused” together in a kiln. This process is easy to learn and allows for a lot of creativity. You will end up with amazing art glass.

Ready to be fused

I took this picture at the end of the class. Here you can see the items I’ve made before they enter the kiln. In this class, we learn how to use the tools to break and cut our glass, we learn how to assemble our pieces and get them ready for firing.

Pendant pieces

We each made four pendants. The two on the left are fired until they are “tack fused” meaning they are stuck together but the edges are still defined and you will feel the separate layers. The two on the right are “full fused” meaning that the glass is heated to the point where the layers melt down into one, these are smooth to the touch.

My glass tray

The biggest piece we made was a 5″x8″ glass tray. These start out with a clear 5″x8″ sheet of glass. You get to pick out your colors, which if you notice the orange circles on my tray, can include patterned glass. We cut our glass to the sizes and shapes we wanted and they layered them onto the clear glass base. I used an opaque brown and cream colored glass as well as the translucent red and yellow. If you stack the pieces just over the edge of the clear base you can get a sort of scalloped look like mine, or make them line up for a straight edge. These pieces are fully fused into one smooth layer. To get the shape of a tray, they are fired a second time, this is called slumped glass. The piece is placed over a mold and heated, the glass will become hot and drape itself over the mold, taking that shape.

My glass bowl

The last piece is a 4″x4″ bowl. This was fun to make because we all had to use the same basic technique. The base is a clear sheet of glass. We were given a 3″x3″ square of opaque gray glass which we wrapped in a towel and broke with a hammer. Once you had your gray shards of glass you would lay them back into a square on top of the clear glass. By lining up the gray edges with the clear edge you get a neat cracked look. Then it was up to us to embellish it and make it unique. I chose all opaque glass in red, yellow, and blue. This piece was also slumped to get the bowl shape.

Glass fusing is really fun to learn and produces satisfying results in a short time. A few hours of class and a couple days for firing later, I got to pick up my finished art. The coolest part is that once you take this class, Aquila glass will let you use their studio to create on your own! The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful, so I wouldn’t feel intimidated to give glass fusing a try again. This is one of those projects that can be as simple or as complicated as you want. These items also make pretty home decor, if you’re willing to part with your creation, they would be lovely gifts as well. Let me know if you take this class and feel free to share a picture on the Created by Jess Facebook page!

In the shop at Live Laugh Love Glass

My second adventure with glass was a glass blowing class that I purchased through Living Social. This was “Blow your own glass masterpiece, level 1” at Live Laugh Love Glass in Tigard, OR. This place is amazing! The studio and all other areas are incredibly clean and comfortable. I went with my sister, grandma, and aunt. We had a great time and it was only the four of us in the studio! Our instructor, Jeff, was  a very nice guy and really helped us to learn the process so that we could make our own pieces with him observing. It was very rewarding picking up the finished piece and knowing that with only a few steps done by Jeff, we had made the rest. The Hot Shop is bright and very warm, while this could be a dangerous place, you don’t have to worry because safety is a priority and you will be in good hands. This start to finish class covers materials, techniques, equipment, safety, and fun. We watched Jeff do each step and then tried it ourselves. One at a time we went through the whole process until our piece was finished. I really liked this one on one attention and felt confident going through each step on my own, knowing the instructor was supervising and could help out if you started to get nervous or had a hard time with anything. You can stay and watch from the Hot Shop as your friends make their piece, or you can observe through the large glass wall from the comfort of the air conditioned room with cozy seating and beverages. You get to pick your colors from a really large selection, and Jeff was really patient explaining how some look totally different when you heat them up, or others are clear or opaque.

My blown glass piece

I made a large glass float and had Jeff put a loop of glass on it so that I can hang it up. I chose green, brown and yellow to match some other colors in my living room, in case I wanted to hang in inside. These look so pretty outdoors with the light shining through them though, I think it’s going to be garden art! The finished pieces are really strong. There are a few choices to make in your first class, and I’m sure you’ll find the right colors for you, have fun!

Decorating Glass Candle Holders

This project started as an idea while shopping at the craft store. I came across two different materials that I wanted to put together. One item is a great set of decorative keys from artist Tim Holtz. The other item was a package of five sheets of tissue paper. This tissue paper is 12 x 12 inches and I found it in the scrapbook section with all of the single sheet papers. As soon as I saw the paper I knew I wanted to make candle holders. I had made one tissue papered candle holder in the past and love how they light up with a nice glow. This particular paper has a nice warm color to it, almost like antique paper. The best part, it’s covered in keys! An all over print in black of many styles of keys lends itself perfectly to being paired with the decorative keys.

Word Keys

To complete my materials list I needed to get some clear glass candle holders. I had seven keys to play with so I wanted to make six holders that could be split up into two sets of three. I went to the Dollar Tree for my largest glass cylinders, these sell at other stores for much more, always check the Dollar Tree! Finding small votive size glass cylinders was also easy and inexpensive. The medium size proved to be a little tricky. I looked lots of places but the glass was either curved or has a decorative bottom or top edge, I couldn’t find a plain cylinder. Finally, I found some drinking glasses that look just like my large and small cylinders. Now for the fun part, papering the glass pieces. I used Mod Podge in matte finish with a foam brush. I painted a few inch wide strip on one side of the glass, top to bottom. I lined up the edge of the paper with the top of the glass and pressed it down. Smooth out the bubble as you go, gluing in smaller sections makes this easy to do. I had wrapped my paper around before gluing to cut it down to size. Leave a small overlap and glue the edge down.

Cover with tissue paper

Now you have a clean top edge but too much paper left on the bottom. Cut strips down to the bottom of the glass. Trim the strips so that they reach about the middle of the bottom when folded over. Give the base a coat of Mod Podge and then one at a time, fold over your strips of paper. You will end up with a nice spiral covering.

Cover the bottom

Once you have papered each holder, give it two coats of Mod Podge, letting it dry between each coat. This will keep the surface in good shape, tissue paper is delicate stuff! When your pieces are dry, I suggest adding a finishing paper to the base. I always like how it looks. I used brown velvet paper and double-sided adhesive sheets that I cut to fit each glass piece.

A nice finished look

With the papering done, it’s time to add the metal keys. I chose to use black paper chord, also from the craft store. I wound it around the top  three times, added a few inches and cut, do this for all of the glass pieces. I folded the chord in half and tucked it into the hole on the key, creating a loop that would allow the key to hang flat. I used a small dab of hot glue to initially hold the key in place, just behind the paper chord. Wrap the chord around and tie in the back. I used a thin line of Elmer’s white glue around the top of the chord, just to keep it from sliding down. It dries clear, you just need a little bit. The keys will make a clanking sound on the glass, I just put a tiny piece of Glue Dots Line behind each key to hold it flat.

Key details 

Key details

The finished pieces look so great. I took some outdoor pictures as well as some pictures of them lit up. I love how these came out, and I made them all for about $20.00!

Outside in the sunlight
A nice warm glow
Use individually as well

The possibilities are endless with this project. Tissue paper comes in all sorts of colors and patters. With inexpensive glass cylinders, you can make these for every occasion. You can leave off the embellishments and save more money. Try making a bunch next time you need centerpieces for a special event! If you want to make them as wedding favors, use battery operated tea lights. At the end of the night, your guests can take one home! And, without touching warm glass and spilling hot wax everywhere, they will be more than happy to take them. Enjoy!
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