February 17, 2006

Glass Menagerie #3

Here's two more Unicorns, both from Steve Scherer.

Steve uses a process called 'lampworking', in which he shapes rods and/or tubes of borosilicate glass over a torch flame (the torch is powered by two tanks, one of oxygen and the other of propane).

When you watch glass being worked on with your naked eye, the flame and glass can be very bright and difficult to see. Lampworkers and glassblowers use special glasses that block out some of the light spectrum, so that they do not damage their eyes and they can see the details of the work they are doing.

The different sizes and shapes used in making the figures over a torch flame can cool at different rates and times, and this causes stresses within the glass that can cause the figure to break or even 'explode' if left untreated. Because of this the artist will 'anneal' the smaller pieces when they are finished. This is done by heating the entire piece as evenly as possible until it is just short of melting. Larger pieces are 'tempered' in a kiln/oven, which is set to the correct temperature; this process will heat the entire piece evenly and then will allow it to cool at a controlled rate so that stresses within the glass are less likely to form.

This style of glass shaping is called 'lampwork' because in the past it was done over the flame of an alcohol lamp, using a mouth-powered blowpipe to direct the flame.

Steve makes his own colored glass by mixing minerals into the glass itself, or by using the torch flame to oxidize the minerals over the surface of the glass. This gives him a degree of creative control over the end product that commercially colored glass would not allow. You will see some examples of this in future pictures, but in the pics here you can see that the unicorn in the ornament has a sort of opalescent sheen to the transparent gold color, and there's a rainbow oil-on-water sort of effect on the edges of the large unicorn's mane (or maybe you can't see that... the camera just won't seem to really catch it, darnit).

Note that by that point he was working on making more articulated joints and 'hooves' on his horse figures - my collection of Steve's work spans quite a few years, and I know he's improved even more in the nearly 15 since I last saw him... although it's hard to imagine how, as you'll see from the work I still have that I will post later!


Blogger Chris said...

Amazing stuff!

5:24 PM  
Blogger Carrie K said...

It is amazing. Look at that detail!

BTW, I love the pic on the previous post of the kitty and the glass mouse.

7:52 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

I used to have a big collection of unicorns. I loved them when I was a little girl...and a part of me is still really attracted to them. I love these sculptures!

1:19 PM  
Blogger mrspao said...

Incredible! I am even more amazed by the work it takes to make those.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous nancy said...

Is this the same Steve Scherer that worked with glass in the Champaign/Urbana area in the early 70's?

10:24 PM  
Blogger mE said...

Yes, it *is* the same Steve Scherer. He still travels around the F/SF conventions and sells out of the huckster or art rooms, as far as I know, although I haven't seen him since the 80's.

Nice to 'meet' you! Pull up a seat and chat... :)

10:35 PM  

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