HEATHER LAGOS, KILN FORMED GLASS ARTIST
Creating from my studio in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada, I’m putting my own unique twist on fused glass. My pieces are fired in a kiln at a range of high temperatures. Each piece is cut by hand from sheets of glass, stacked, and then fused or “melted” together in a kiln. The process of kiln-forming glass can take anywhere from 8 hours and up to 36 hours or more for a single firing, though my pieces often return to the kiln several times to get the desired effect before each one is complete.
After an initial glass fusing class in 2009, I’ve taught myself through trial and error, experimenting constantly with various techniques. I continue to learn through endless hours of independent research, often online and through various forums created for glass artists. I strive to create as little waste as possible, and often, pieces that are considered "scrap" glass turn out to be the most beautiful pieces in my collection.
Although I love working with all glass, I tend to gravitate toward colored transparent glass. The way the light passes through the glass creating beautiful, tinted shadows and effects continuously inspires new designs.
I am completely fascinated with the process of glass fusing. There are so many applications to this art form and with a willingness to experiment with new techniques, I’m only limited by my imagination.
My formal education is in Business & Marketing and while my early career led me into the field of Finance for nearly 18 years, I'm now a full-time artist. I have taken several courses in Graphic Design to add to my skill set. I am proficient in both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, which I often use to layout new glass designs, and have also used these skills to design my own logo and branding, as well as to create and maintain my website.
My past artistic endeavors have also included painting. I began with acrylic in 2003 and quickly became interested in mixed media, with many pieces incorporating metal and other materials to create interest and texture. I took a hiatus from painting for several years and in 2021, I began teaching myself to paint in watercolor. This newfound love of painting has inspired my Art Card Collection of greeting cards, which also incorporates my glass designs. The collection is bright, bold and colorful and I'm excited to be elevating my creativity to a new level.
ABOUT FUSED GLASS
Fused glass is glass that has been fired or heat-processed in a kiln at a range of high temperatures from 593 °C (1,099 °F) to 816 °C (1,501 °F).
There are 3 main temperature applications - slumping, tack fusing and full fusing.
Slumping refers to glass fired in the lower ranges of these temperatures 593–677 °C (1,099–1,251 °F).
Firing in the middle ranges of these temperatures 677–732 °C (1,251–1,350 °F) is considered "tack fusing", which I use quite frequently in many of my designs.
Firing the glass at the higher part of this range 732–816 °C (1,350–1,501 °F) is commonly described as a "full fuse". This is the technique that I first learned when I began glass fusing, but once I taught myself how to tack fuse, that opened up a new world of possibilities and has quickly become my favorite form of glass fusing. All of these techniques can be applied to one glass work in separate firings to add depth, relief and shape.
From design stage to final product, many of my larger pieces can take more than 60-70 hours to create. All of my pieces are cut by hand from large sheets of glass and stacked onto the kiln shelf. I primarily use COE 96 glass. This glass has been tested thoroughly by the manufacturers and is System 96® compatible, which means that most glass that I use with a COE of 96 is able to be fused together, even if it's been manufactured at different facilities. It's important to note that glass "stacks" must be compatible to ensure they can be fused properly and testing small pieces for compatibility is always recommended. The COE, or coefficient of expansion, is what indicates whether separate pieces of glass will be compatible. If glass is not compatible, it is unlikely to maintain its structural integrity and may shatter during the cooling process in the kiln.
Once the glass is stacked on the shelf, the firing schedule is set according to the particular project and then heated through a series of ramps (rapid heating cycles) and soaks (holding the temperature at a specific point) until the separate pieces begin to bond together, softening and rounding the edges of the original shape. This process can take between 8-36 hours, depending on the project.
After the desired effect has been reached, the kiln must return to room temperature through a series of cooling stages. The cooling method takes place normally for a period of 8-36 hours in 3 stages...a rapid cool, which places the glass in the upper annealing range at 516 °C (961 °F), the anneal soak at the same temperature meant to equalize the core and surface of the glass, and finally a slow ramp down to room temperature to end the firing schedule. At this final stage, the glass can be removed from the kiln.
Often after a piece has cooled, there may also be cold working that is required. This is done using an electric grinder or by hand using diamond pads to smooth out and polish any coarse or rough areas. Many of my home decor pieces, such as bowls and plates, are initially fired at either a tack or full fuse, and then go through subsequent firings to reach the desired effect before going through a final firing to slump them into the mold shape. It's not unusual for one piece to return to the kiln 3 to 4 times before it's complete.
There are many elements to glass work that require various safety protocols. Glass can be hazardous without the proper use of PPE. (i.e. exposure to dust inhalation from crushed glass causing lung irritation or permanent damage, eye injuries from flying particles, skin lacerations from sharp edges). Depending on the task, I routinely use high quality safety glasses, respirators, disposable dust masks and gloves, work gloves, face shields and hearing protection in my studio at all times.