Colorful formed glass has exploded in popularity over the past decade, due in part to techniques perfected by Dale Chihuly and others. Although the process of making art glass is exciting, the hand-formed techniques are elusive for many artists because of safety concerns and equipment costs.

This project gives artists an opportunity to enjoy creating random organic forms with colors and transparency similar to glass using Dura-Lar, a crystal-clear polyester film. A low-temperature heat source and waterbased glass paints are all you need to begin. The results are so stunning, you'll want to start planning your own art glass installation!

Preparation

  1. If possible, visit a museum or gallery that features glass artwork. Look at the works of Dale Chihuly, especially the "Seaform" series and "Persian Ceiling" installations. Also visit www.chihuly.com.
  2. Use scissors, a craft knife or a paper cutter to cut Dura-Lar into pieces approximately   6" × 8" in size.

Process

  1. Pre-heat water in a skillet to approximately 200°F. Skillets heat at a wide variety of temperatures - if steam is rising, the water is hot enough. Do not boil the water - too high a temperature will cause the Dura-Lar to melt and release fumes.
  2. Cut the Dura-Lar into a free-form ovals with multiple random, scalloped edges.
  3. To form a piece:
    • Method A:
    • -Roll or fold the Dura-Lar into a conical shape and secure it with paper clips.
    • -Place it in the skillet and soak it for 30-45 seconds. Use tongs or gloves to remove it from the hot water. Make sure the piece is drained before removing the clips (once the clips have been removed, the piece may be too tightly closed). As an option, dip the bottom of the piece back into the hot water to loosen it back into a bowl shape.
    • Method B:
    • -Wearing heavy-duty dishwashing gloves, hand-form the piece in water. Grasp it on either side and from a bend, then hold it beneath the surface for a few seconds. The piece can be pressed against the bottom of the pan to form bends as well.
    • Notes:
    • -This hand-forming method works best with .015" Dura-Lar. The thicker the material, the more pliable it will be.
    • -Dura-Lar does not retain heat, so it will not form outside the hot water. Once it is removed from the heat, it will cool immediately and hold the bend. It cannot be molded into more complicated shapes and it will not adhere to itself when heated.
    • -Once a bend has formed in the Dura-Lar, it will flatten again if it is placed back into the hot water.
    • -Dura-Lar is not intended to be melted or pressed into molds.
  4. Paint the back side with transparent glass paint so the front stays smooth and glossy. Leaving some areas thick and some areas thin will make the finished peice look more like glass. Blend the colors while they're still wet. Note: Do not heat set the colors. They will dry hard.
  5. When the paint is dry, carefully define the shape by running a paint marker along the edge of the piece.

Options

  1. Create smaller pieces to "nest" inside larger ones.
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