Art of glass

The creative fusion of Claudia Schwartz

Photo By Tom Angel

Claudia Schwartz fuses glass in her backyard studio behind the North Chico home she shares with her sons Julian, 16, and Eli, 11, boyfriend and fellow glass artist Dave Shimamoto and dog Nasdaq. Originally a stained glass artist, Schwartz discovered the joys of fusing glass about seven or eight years ago at a class in Portland, Ore. ("A lightbulb went on!").

Schwartz makes her fused-glass art pieces—"not blown glass, like some people think,” Schwartz points out—by fusing together various pieces of creatively arranged, colorful glass in a 12-18 hour or longer kiln-firing process that involves a 1450- to 1500-degree F fusing phase, sometimes a 1300 degree “slumping” phase (for curved glass pieces), and a 980-degree cooling and annealing phase. Some of the results of Schwartz’s attentive work are the beautiful, inventive sushi dishes, kitchen tiles, bowls of various sizes, a bathroom sink basin and wall hangings that Schwartz has on display both in her home and at Chico’s Avenue 9 Gallery and The Vagabond Rose.

How long have artists been fusing glass?

Photo By Tom Angel

Since about the ‘70s—very recent. They’ve also started to call it “kiln-formed glass” because it is more descriptive of what it is. I mean, the Egyptians did fusing … but it’s very crude. People have fused on and off forever, but as far as a popular art form, it’s been increasing exponentially in the last 10 years. It’s so addictive.

What kinds of glass do you use?

You need [pieces of] compatible glass that will heat and cool at the same rate. If it doesn’t cool at the same rate it creates an area with the most stress which can crack, sometimes up to two to three weeks later. I use Bullseye glass [from Bullseye Glass Company in Portland, Ore.]. Bullseye is a “soft” glass. It has a 90 COE [coefficient of expansion], unlike silicate or Pyrex, which is very hard and has a lower COE of 80-something. … I also use pieces of dichroic glass [a very colorful, reflective glass] for effect. I believe they actually developed “dichro” glass to use on the space shuttle for its reflective qualities. … It’s very expensive; hence, I use small pieces. … I also use iridized glass, “the poor man’s dichroic glass.” It has an opalescent look. … I also use “frit,” or pulverized glass, which has to go to a much higher temperature to melt all the way.

What is the range of items you’ve made?

A relish tray, a sink, sushi plates, art pieces, jewelry, bowls, a baguette plate. … The glass tiles in my kitchen. I’m going to make an underlit countertop in three sections. … One of the things that’s wonderful about glass is that there’s practically no limit to what you can do if you understand the technical aspect of it.

Contact Avenue 9 Gallery 879-1821 or Vagabond Rose 343-1110 for info on buying Schwartz’s fused glass art.