Art Glass refers to artistic items made from glass. Often these items have a practical value as windows and everyday utility items such as glass ware and lamps. Glass as an art form emerged when glass blowers begun experimenting with colours, textures and patterns in the mid 1800s. They utilised their skills and techniques to create artistic pieces where decorativeness was seen as adding value to practicality of use. Glass blowers produced a great variety of attractive handmade pieces such as lamps, lamp shades, vases, bottles, figural works, paperweights and marbles. During this time elaborate glass work started to be appreciated as decorative arts. Especially the Art Nouveau movement embraced glass as a medium.
Glass production was generally done in factories, where in large shared furnaces individual glass blowers were able to create their own unique designs. These small production batches led to the birth of the idea of art glass. In the 1970s glass blowing artists moved – with the opportunities offered by smaller furnace designs – into their own studios where they were able to work alone, outside of factories. Studio Glass movement was born. The movement continues and beautiful, modern art pieces are constantly produced by talented artists and artisans.
Historically art glass production techniques included for example, stained glass windows where ornate images are painted on windows, leadlights where coloured glass pieces are supported in lead cames, copper foil glass or more commonly Tiffany stained glass, which was invented in the 1800s and which enables three dimensional creations from small pieces of glass such as lamp shades as well as glass panels. These techniques continue to be used by modern glass artists.
Another ancient technique that is very popular by artists today is glassblowing where molten glass is inflated through a blow tube into a bubble which is then manipulated further with the help of a variety of hand tools such as metal rods. Flame worked glass incorporates the utilisation of kilns and torches with rods and tubes of glass as well as various hand tools in its production.
This technique allows a great level of detail in the art pieces. This method was used to decorate functional pieces in the 1800s. Cast glass refers to a technique where an artist creates a mold out of, for example, plaster, sand or silica and fills it with glass of their choice. Cast glass can be done at a furnace, kiln or with the help of a torch. Similarly to cast glass, although utilising lower temperatures, slumped glass and fused glass are heated to create a desired shape or to join different pieces of glass together. Hot techniques are used in conjunction with, for instance, stained glass techniques in order to alter the shape, create texture or patterns on the glass. Etched glass refers to engraving done by hand using wheels, sandblasted glass and acid etched glass which techniques can be utilised to create opaqueness and frost effects on glass objects and windows sometimes with the help of stencils to create decorative artworks (sandblasting). Acid etching is done by either creating an acid resistant pattern onto its surface and dipping the piece into an acid solution. Glass can also be worked on without heat. These are called cold glass techniques. Glass can be cut, chiselled, sandblasted and glued or bound together to create a vast array of artistic objects ranging from small items to huge sculptures.