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Creating Fused Glass Art Beads

General properties of fused glass which help create these man-made jewels

Glass has a melting point of about 1400-1600 °F, depending on its composition. When heated to this point glass does not run like water. Instead, it is a thick viscous liquid like soft taffy. This provides advantages for fused glass work, as it allows for a more controlled combination of glass materials without completely blending the colors and patterns.

Once melted, it also has an interesting characteristic in terms of spread and thickness. Studio art glass wants to bead up to about ¼ inch thick/tall. This means that if you heat up an 1/8 inch of glass past the melting point and hold it just long enough at that temperature, it will start to raise to ¼ inch which also means that it will shrink its current spread to accommodate the growth in height. Conversely, a stack of fused glass that is ¾ inch tall, will shrink in height to 1/2" inch but grow in spread.

I’ll skip all various ways to leverage this specific properties of glass. I’ll stick to some general descriptions and then a specific use case, fused glass art beads, also called buttons. You may often find mesh bags of these in arts and craft stores

First, this property of melted glass is fairly predictable, it allows a fused glass artist the ability to control the way in which the various elements of a piece can be controlled for the desired output. In some cases, we want the glass to spread, such as in a pot melt, while in others we want the glass to pool up, such as in the use case we will get to next, fused glass art beads. This predictability also allows us to properly estimate the materials needed for a specific piece, which can help to minimize cold working the glass piece after firing in the kiln.

Fused glass projects create lots of scrap glass slivers, bits, and triangles. The good news is that it can be recycled. It can be used as is, for accent pieces. Taking advantage of the ¼” pooling property of melted glass, it can also be re-fired to form small glass buttons to be used on future pieces for specific objects, such as a sun or an ornament on a Christmas tree.

Here is the before photo of firing scrap glass pieces in a kiln into small glass buttons for future projects.

Scrap glass ready to fire in kiln

Here is the after photo of firing scrap glass in the kiln, resulting in fused glass art beads.

 Scrap glass fused into art beads within a kiln

Here are the finished fused glass art beads or buttons readyto wash and then use for future projects. Nothing goes to waste. An old red chip of glass can become a bright ornament on a Christmas tree or an apple on a tree.

Fused glass art beads in a pile after firing in the kiln