Volume 37, Issue 2, February 2002
Slumped Glass—Endless Possibilities
by Gerard Walsh
Linda Ross's work, above, is a mixed media of glass and steel. Stephen Knapp uses glass to create kiln-formed glass walls, to the right.
Over the last 19 years I have collaborated with several talented designers, architects and glazing contractors. These particular individuals always are searching steadfastly for the next trendsetter in glass application. That next trend may be the use of kiln-formed glass, also referred to as slumped glass.
Although slumped glass has been used for hundreds of years in various forms of artwork, it is just beginning to make its debut in modern architecture. Its potential for creating beautiful environments is as limitless as the designer's imagination. Only recently has the demand for slumped glass products started to impact the commercial and residential markets.
When I began my work with Solar Seal Company, the majority of slumped glass products were commissioned by artisans and designers for modern glass sculptures. As architects and interior designers discovered the beauty and visual impact of the medium, demand started to increase. The desire for unique textures, coupled with its inherent ability to provide a platform for ever-changing patterns of light, turned slumped glass into an instrument of expression in a world of somewhat limited and monotonous construction materials. The application of slumped glass in large corporate offices and high-end residential homes adds warmth, texture and privacy, if so desired. It soon became clear that the demand for large scale slumped projects would far outweigh the smaller commissioned artwork requested previously.
The slumping process begins with drawings, photos and architectural plans that detail the concept. Forms are then manufactured to replicate the design in casting sand that will ultimately appear in the glass. A lite of glass is placed on the replicated design and heated within a temperature range of 1350 degrees fahrenheit to 1500 degrees fahrenheit inside a large commercial kiln. Once the required temperature is reached, the process is timed such that the glass becomes viscous. The liquid glass then fills the design in the casting sand. Once this is complete, the cooling process, also referred to as annealing, begins. Properly timed annealing is critical to the success of the project. If the glass cools too quickly, internal stress occurs causing the glass to fracture. Assuming each step of the process has been completed successfully, the final raw product is removed from the kiln for customized finishing. Customized options include sandblasting, tempering and the addition of hardware.
Our company's founder, Frederick Shaw Sr., realized the untapped potential of slumped glass when he first viewed this type of glass. As designers and architects search for innovative ways to express their client's individuality and desires, they too may find that slumped glass is exactly what they're looking for.
Gerard Walsh serves as director of door manufacturing for Solar Seal Company based in South Easton, Mass.
Linda Ross's "Second Nature," "Western Post" and "Calisto" also are composed of both glass and steel.
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