Creating artwork is a process. To the right you will see my process for making “By the Dawn’s Early Light.” It starts with a deep impression of an emotional event. I begin to think about a moment in time and freeze it in my mind like a snapshot. Step by step, the idea begins to take shape and come alive. I become part of the scene and work within it as a participant. Then comes the glass; I ask how can I possibly express this with molten glass? How can the glass come alive and join the scene? Weeks turn into months, and eventually the frozen moment becomes a reality.
Definition of Kiln Casting
Written records show the casting process dates to the second millennium B.C., possibly in Mesopotamia, to produce jewelry and glass sculptures. Today, kiln casting involves the preparation of a mold that is often made of plaster or plaster mixtures.
The idea comes first, which leads to an original, sculpted clay model. A rubber form is made from the sculpted clay model. The rubber form is used to make a wax version of the original clay sculpture. The wax model is then surrounded with a jacket of high temperature refractory plaster in a process known as “investment.” After the refractory plaster hardens and dries, the wax is melted out of the refractory material using a steamer, leaving an empty cavity that exactly duplicates the original sculpture.
The plaster refractory mold must next be hand filled with layers of powdered or chipped glass. The heat resistant plaster mold is placed in a kiln with a funnel like refractory opening filled with more solid glass granules or blocks. The kiln is heated to a high temperature, normally 1450 degrees Fahrenheit; the glass melts into a liquid, filling the mold. The molten glass must then be cooled very slowly in a process known as “annealing.”
After annealing, the plaster mold is broken to pieces and removed, revealing the cast glass piece it had contained. Several days are needed to clean and refine the piece using grinding and polishing tools and materials. From start to finish, small works take weeks and larger works take months to finish.