ORIGINALLY POSTED IN NOVEMBER 2014
As anyone who reads my blog will know I finally mastered the production of gravity drop fused glass vases this summer. I've had some excellent success and have put photos of my pieces on my social media, blog and website. As a result I was recently questioned (interogated more like!) about whose technique I had copied to produce such beautiful things. At first I was shocked that anyone would think I copied someone else's work but I think now it's time to come clean. I did use someone else's technique. In fact all my work copies someone else's method. It was...... the Mesopotamians!
In their fantastic book "WARM GLASS. A Complete Guide to Kiln-Forming Techniques" (of which I own a copy) Philippa Beverage, Ignasi Domenech and Eva Pascaul relate, in great detail, the comprehensive history of glass making from it's discovery to its modern production and use. The earliest glass, in the form of small beads, dates from the third millenium B.C. in Mesopotamia (now Iraq and Syria). To put it in perspective; that's during the bronze age!. During the early second millenium B.C. these artisans were able to make hollow vessels using a sand-core technique and the production of glass containers began around 1650B.C. At around 1500B.C. Mesopotamian glass artisans began using a technique which produced some of antiquity's most beautiful objects and you may find this description from the book oddly familiar;
"pre-shaped glass elements are arranged in a mold and heated in a kiln until they fuse together without mixing."
Some artisans, a few well known glass-makers included, seem to be under the impression that fusing glass in a kiln is a modern art-form and that they should guard the secrets of its creation rather than share the knowledge with amateurs. I believe these opinions are wrong, and contrary to the long term development of any craft form. The fused and slumped glass bowl in the book is two thousand years old and yet looks like a contemporary artisan work. If you saw it in an art gallery today you might well offer several hundred pounds for it and perhaps even ask to meet the artist who created it, not realising that he had been dead longer than the authors of the bible!
These ancient people, without the aid of temperature controlled equipment, produced items more creative and beautiful than I make with all our modern know-how. I don't think glassware production would have developed if the knowledge these early artisans had was kept secret.
It seems there really is nothing new under the sun.