Friday, December 09, 2005
Soft or hard glass???.....Friday, December 9th, 2005
I want to take a bit of cyberspace this morning to explain the glass that I use to make the beads. I use primarily imported Italian glass which is the same glass used to make those lovely Ventian glass art objects. The Italian glass is made by a company called "Effetre" (ee-FAY-TRAY) and is categoried as "soft glass." Now, if you're like me, you're thinking, "that makes no sense" - how can glass be "soft." Now, this might not be the right scientific explanation for it, but you have to think of the "soft" in comparison to other glasses. You know that Pyrex baking dish you have? Well, that's made of borosilicate (bore-oh-SILL- ah- kit) glass or "hard glass" and it's called "hard glass" because it doesn't melt or crack when you heat it at baking temperatures. In comparison to Pyrex or Borosilicate, the Italian glass melts at a lower temperature. The Italian glass wouldn't melt if you put it in your oven but it does melt at a lower temperature than the borosilicate. You can do all the same things with borosilicate glass as I do with the imported Italian glass, but you need a MUCH larger and hotter flame! The borosilicate color palate is much different than the Italian glass too, it's much more subdued. Right now, I prefer the vibrancy of the soft glass color palate.
So, all of the beads and small sculpture you'll see from me will be made of "soft glass." All beads are individually handmade, even the plain spacer beads! A rod of glass is melted in the flame of a bench-mounted torch and hand-wound around a stiff wire or mandrel. Once decorated, the hot bead is placed in a brick kiln to cool very slowly. This is called "annealing" - if the glass cools too quickly, it will crack as an ice cube does when dropped into a glass of water. Annealing assures that there is no stress in the glass so that you can enjoy them for years to come.