Fused Painted Glass Hanging Lamp
Follow these step-by-step instructions on how to make and paint glass lamps.
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Project by Kyle Kinsey from Seattle, Wash.
Glass artist Kyle Kinsey is quite the character. A talkative young man who learned his craft from his grandmother, Kyle is happy to share his unique stories and techniques with others. He uses an innovative painting technique to make jellyfish-like hanging glass lamps, which he fires in the kiln.
mold for shape of light
oil glass cutter
4- to 6-gauge copper wire
light bulb and cord kit
shelf primer (optional)
1. Draw the lines where you will cut. Place the mold on the glass and draw around it with a marker, taking liberties with the outline to create droops and curves in the finished piece.
2. Score the glass using an oil glass cutter. Break the glass piece out of the sheet glass using hands, breaking pliers, and some pounding. Remember to wear safety glasses.
3. Grind the glass with a diamond grinder to smooth and round the edges of the piece.
4. Clean and dry glass. Wipe it in the sink to get the dust from the grinding off. Dry it off with a paper towel.
5. Place piece on an absolutely flat surface for painting.
6. Paint with whatever colors will go together for the piece and whatever you feel like at the moment. The painting itself is a relatively quick process because the colors and paints have to be mixed on the glass while they are still very liquid and while the enamel particles are still floating in the water, rather than settled onto the glass beneath it. This is particularly important for some of the ways the colors are drawn into each other.
7. When the main areas of color are laid out. more of the fun begins. With a fine brush, draw the colors from one area into another like a tentacle or a wisp of smoke or vine. Get creative! Use rotating lazy Susans to create an outward bleed. Lay down finer pieces of color between other larger ones and swirl them in. Leave drops of new colors in the base colors and they will spread as they hit and settle. And then from the drops of new colors, pull rays of color outward. The fluidity of the enamel paints enables the unique look that is created.
8. Dry the finished composition with a heater. This has to be done in place on the absolutely level surface on which it was painted and before anything else. If you pick the piece up while the water is still at all deep on the glass, the colors and the design will more or less run right off the edge. Up until this point it has been surface tension at the edges of the piece holding the water and all of the unsettled enamel on the glass, so you must now dry it.
9. After drying, wipe off excess enamel. Turn the piece on edge and wipe off any enamel that has crept underneath to the backside.
10. Treat the mold. If it needs it, paint the mold with shelf primer so the glass won’t stick to it. Note: You won’t need to prime it every time because the relatively low fire that it takes for the enamels and slumping doesn’t burn it off right away.
11. Place the glass on the mold. It can either slump into or over the mold. The latter ends up with a cleaner smoother shape, whereas the first makes a lot of interesting ripples and folds in the form.
12. Fire the piece in the kiln. Put some plugs in at about 800 F degrees or so once everything in there has let off most of its remaining vapor, but other than that you can just let heat and gravity do the work at this point.
13. Sand the edges. Use a really fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the edges after the firing. The relatively low fire for the enamels and the hardness of the window glass makes it so they don’t smooth out entirely just from the firing.
14. To make the light fixture. Make a copper wire-wrapped fixture. Use a heavy-gauge copper (4- or 6-gauge bare copper wire), your hands and pliers to form it into a fixture that holds the glass and the light above it.
15. Hang the light. You can use hooks in the ceiling and standard plug cords run across the ceiling and over to the nearest outlet, but as a more permanent fixture the lamp could easily be attached more directly to the ceiling and wired into a fixture that is wall-switch controlled.