Sunday, November 10, 2013

How to Paint With Glass-Visiting Pezzulich Glassworks

OK guys, we're going to start off today with some shameless self promotion.

 Click on the picture above for more info and merchandise pics
If you're in Northern Virginia next weekend, stop on by. It's gonna be a really great show. The artists dropped off their merchandise on Friday and it's exceeded my expectations. So grab a friend and come see the show! I promise it will be fun. And I'll post new pictures of stuff you guys haven't seen a little later this week, along with directions, etc. And if you want the official invitation with a map, just email me at and I'll get it to you and put you on our mailing list for future shows.

OK enough of that. let's get down to the meat of our visit today... 

So our story this week starts with me meeting this lovely woman named Emily Pezzulich. A friend referred me to her work. So I went to the gallery where she had her stuff at the time, and was blown away. 

Have you guys ever seen someone paint with glass? Me neither. 

Can you believe that theses tiny little grains of glass fused together to make a "painting?"   

Wanna see how she does it? OK, let's go crash Emily's studio.

This is where the magic happens:

Yes, that is a fireplace in the background and yes, Emily turned her family room into a glass studio. Isn't it the coolest? But if you don't have kids, you love working with glass and your husband doesn't care, why not?

And this studio has all the bells and whistles. Kilns in 3 different sizes:

Grinders and saws and a drill press:

And even a torch! But we'll go there later. Don't want to get you guys too hot too fast. 

 (Ha! Did you see what I did there? Torch? Hot? Hey, it's barn sale week. 
A girl's got to take her laughs when she can get them.)

Oh! I almost forgot. There's glass. Lots and lots of glass, in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

The main component of the painterly look Emily gets from her pieces is frit. Frit is the term used for crumbled and powdered glass. It is sold in three different sizes. 

Emily then sifts each size to separate it even further. 
I think she said when she's done, she has 7 or 8 different sizes of each color to work with.

And she has just a few colors to choose from. 

I totally need a wall of many colors like this, just to stare at.

OK, back to making a glass painting. 

Just like any other medium, a glass painting starts with an idea or inspiration.

Emily said that sometimes her ideas come from real places she's seen. Other times they come from photos in magazines or online. But each piece always starts with a fairly specific image.

From there, she designs a detailed sketch.

(For all my art appreciation students out there, remember how we were talking about all the planning that goes into a piece and how great works of art have structure? This is the stage where all of that is added in.)

Once she's tweaked things so she likes them, she creates a final sketch. This sketch will lie under the piece while it's being made and guide all the shapes and layers. 

See the foam bumpers on the edges? That keeps the glass in the same place in relation to the sketch, so ass she bumps and moves the piece around, it doesn't get out of alignment. Such a good idea. I wonder if I could figure out a collaging version of that?

Now we're gonna switch to a different piece, so don't get confused. The one above was all finished, and I'll show you that in a sec, but I wanted you to be able to see what the middle stages looked like. OK, here we go to "in process" piece Number 2.

Here's the sketch for Number 2 (Sorry Emily. I forgot to ask for the name of the piece) :

The first layer of glass is a clear sheet. Emily starts building the image on top of clear glass using various forms of colored glass, working from the background to the foreground. If she wants the sky to be blue, she either cuts pieces of solid glass to the shape she needs or uses blue frit to create the illusion. The grass and trees and mountains in the background are all built up slowly, layer by layer.

Here you can see how sheer the first layer or two are. See how the sky is there now? And the echoes of the trees in the background? And the mountains, waaaay back there? it also helps to build water in layers. Each layer adds depth and motion. Once you get 4-5 layers in, it looks liquid. So cool, right?

Every layer has to be roughly level. So if she cuts flat glass pieces for trees (like the photo below), or flowers, she needs to add more glass, either in the form of frit, glass rods, or other cut glass pieces, all the way across, to keep things level-ish. 

Each layer is fired at insanely hot temperatures for roughly 24 hrs, (depending on the thickness and effect desired). When it comes out, it is one single smooth piece, which acts as the base for the next layer.

 When I was there, this was where Number 2 had progressed to. 

Here is a side shot of another piece, just so you get the idea of just how many layers go into this process. This piece was really burly. I'd guess it to be 3/4-1 inch think. Ferocious!

Here's the top view:

 Emily showed me two different ways she makes white trees with bark texture.

She uses a opaque white glass with a clear glass shot through 
with thin rods of black like this:

 Or she uses a textured clear glass with black swirls over opaque white like this one:

For rivers or waves, she actually makes wavy strings of glass to imply the 
water's motion, like these:

 This is where the torch comes in handy.

Doesn't she look so cool with her awesome shades? Mistress of FIRE!!!

What she's really doing (besides cringing over the audacity of the author) is melting some of the white glass rod onto the dark brown rod, to give it a little more opacity.

See the light orange bulb on the end of the glass rod? That's the molten white glass. Molten glass, people! Right in her family room! It was thrilling for me, I must say. 

Emily was telling me that the torch gets to about 1600 BTUs, so if you have torch handy, don't be sticking your finger in it. Or you will have way less finger.

Next she uses these paddle tipped pliers to flatten the glass glob, so it pulls into flat  fettuccine noodle-like pieces, rather than round spaghetti shaped strings.

Once the ball is flattened, Emily grabs another kind of pliers and gradually pulls and stretches the glass into strings. If she wants to make wavy pieces like the ones above, she undulates her hand up and down while she pulls. This builds in the waves. It really is amazing to watch glass stretching like it's candy, right before your eyes.

This finished piece uses the straight, flat pieces as branches and the bendy wavy ones to show the reflections in and movement of the water. Doesn't it look like a Japanese ink drawing?

You can also see how the trees in the foreground are in a later layer than the mountain in the back. Whatever is the closest to your field of vision is what ends up in the top layer of glass. Then the tippy-top layer is another clear piece of glass. This provides a smooth, even cover to all the other layers. And it feels cool and glossy when you touch it.

Now that I've taken you all over the place, let's see the piece we started with, all those sketches ago. Here's the sketch:

Here's the piece, completed except for the clear top layer:

  Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

Here's a few more of the styles she's explored.

I found this caterpillar oddly intriguing.

Fused glass mirror frame

Texture can be added to the glass using screens. I love the little eyes on the fish.

If you happen to have a pair of Kevlar gloves lying around, you can even sculpt cool shapes with the glass, right in the kiln. Crazy cool.

Emily also makes functional pieces, like this Dragon Bowl:

It is all so richly colored and carefully crafted. You just want to touch it.

Fused glass Christmas ornaments

Emily also takes commission orders to do portraits of specific buildings or homes:

So you all have a lot to look forward to at the show. I have pieces similar to each of these coming to the show, and a lot more. So come see Emily's stuff. I promise it will be worth the drive.

If you can't wait, I highly recommend Emily's website here. Her husband is a professional photographer and his pictures there show her work at it's most beautiful. The website is also the best way to purchase her work and contact her.

See you all soon!
CM Shaw

1 comment:

  1. This was a great post! So neat to see the process of these amazing masterpieces. I absolutely loved Emily's work in the show last year, but now I appreciate it even more!