|My panel based on one of my existing landscapes|
Wendy's niece practises this mysterious art and apparently the results are so captivating Wendy resolved to start learning how to do it herself and infected me with her enthusiasm.
We spent the day at Abinger Stained Glass and were taught by the owner, Amanda Winfield, the basic skills needed for glass fusing. I'm generally used to learning new skills so I don't expect to be fantastically proficient by the end of one day. After all cutting glass accurately can only be developed with a lot of experience. I was surprised when Amanda told us that we'd probably finish one large piece of work and still have time to make a coaster or a pendant before the end of the day. As it turned out it took me all my time to complete the panel above and even then I had to get a move on.
As I understand it glass fusing requires two or more layers of glass which can be cut, arranged and decorated how you like with powder, bits of glass, metal and even dried leaves and then it is fired in a kiln over a number of hours. If you are making a plate or bowl (which I'd love to do another time) the work is fired once in the kiln and then again where it is 'slumped' over a ceramic mould which defines its final shape.
First we were taught how to cut a straight line using a glass cutter and a device that snaps the glass. You have to wear goggles during this which take some getting used to and you need to try and avoid cutting yourself. I managed to draw blood several times and got through quite a few plasters during the day.
It can be quite frustrating trying to cut the glass because until you have there's nothing to work with. I realised during the day that a distinctive sound accompanies the glass cutter as it travels along the glass. When you hear that it is likely you will manage to break the glass cleanly. Amanda assured us that our only limitations with glass fusing is our imaginations but after you've been working away for a few hours it is easy to think your imagination has fled.
After a half hour lunch in Amanda's dining room we were able to return to our benches refreshed. The workshop is in a large shed at the top of her garden. There are views of the rolling Surrey hills which is managed by the National Trust and early on in the day we spotted a couple of pheasants looking at us which increased the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.
Before we knew it our day was over. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished object and having another go at this interesting and potentially painful artform.