Glass art gallery, studio open

Published 5:25 pm Monday, March 15, 2010

The Jen-Ken hot box kilns were lined up and waiting nearby as instructors Karen Dixon and Deborah Ballog began to pass around assorted materials and tools needed for the eight students to embark upon their exploration into the creation of original fused glass jewelry.

Dixon Glass Gallery and Studio, which opened in 2009 in downtown Birmingham, will soon become Dixon Ballog Gallery and Studio and relocate to 2040 Old Montgomery Highway in Pelham.

Featuring glass art from local and regional artists, the gallery/studio will offer glass supplies, tools and classes in its fully equipped new space.

The partners also take their classes on the road as they did recently to Bead Biz.

Ballog explained the two processes used — full fuse and tack fuse.

Full fuse means that all the individual glass pieces combined in a design will melt to a single, quarter inch-thick layer.

A design that still retains dimensional elements after firing is tack fused.

Those attending the workshop began by selecting colored pieces of flat glass, then adding “jewels” (colored glass beads), stringers (very slender metal rods of varying colors) and small chunks of frit (crushed glass used to add colorful details and patterning).

Using a paintbrush to apply GlasTac adhesive, the various pieces are laid together with an insertion of fiber rope to create the opening where the chain will later support the necklace.

Students were also introduced to nippers — pliers with wheels — “a jeweler’s best friend.”

Ballog reassured those encountering this process for the first time, “If your necklace doesn’t come out exactly as you envisioned, it will still be a beautiful magnet for your refrigerator or a keychain.”

Bullseye fusible sheet glass is the brand they recommend and use as “it fires clean and leaves no residue.”

Several chose to build their design using French vanilla glass with silver overlays. This combination results in a colored aura spreading around the silver shape as a result of a reaction of silver, sulphur and oxygen.

Each student’s designs were carefully laid onto a kiln shelf, which had a powdered surface to prevent the glass from sticking.

A complete firing takes one-and-a-half to two hours. The kiln temperature must be gradually brought up to 1,450 degrees.

This ensures the air will be slowly forced out of the glass leaving no residual bubbles.

Post-firing is called the nealing zone, a gradual cooling and return to room temperature.

Dixon Glass Works will offer a second class at Bead Biz on March 25.

Reservations are required and space is

limited. Call 621-2426.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at