Thursday, May 21, 2009


As a guest BBEST blogger, and this my very first blog, I must admit that I struggled at first to come up with a topic. After considering and rejecting several different ideas, it finally hit me – Go with what you know best and that which motivates and excites you. It should come as no surprise to my BBEST friends that my topic is my passion…GLASS.

When I think of the history of glass and the many uses that glass has, I truly believe that it is a miracle substance. Consider that it comes from sand, so plentiful and so mundane. Consider that examples of glass art and artifacts have been found from as early as 2000 B.C. There are museums full of complete, intact vials, bottles, medallions and figurines from thousands of years ago!

Glass is an amorphous solid, meaning that it is without a structured shape on the molecular level. It is not crystalline like salt, for example, and in fact, when crystalline silica (sand) is subjected to heat at a few thousand degrees, it melts and becomes fluid, and then rapidly solidifies into what we know as glass. The results, the possibilities for the final article, are limitless.

Naturally-formed glass has existed since the beginnings of time, formed when certain types of rocks or sand melted as the result of high-temperature phenomena such as lightning, volcanic eruptions, or meteorite strikes. It is believed that stone age man utilized this natural glass in making tools and weapons.

One can think of the most common uses of glass, from ordinary residential and office windows and architectural decorative brick, to safety glass in automobile windshields and impact-resistant glasses and goggles, but think of the many other uses that glass has been applied! It is used in fiber optics to carry communications signals thousand of miles in seconds – the signal travels at virtually the speed of light along the hair-thin glass strands!

Without glass, where would science and medicine be? Laboratory microscopy and astronomy depend on glass lenses. Scientists in the early Renaissance era began to grind and polish globs of glass into lenses to bring far-away stars and planets closer, and to bring miniscule amoeba and protozoa into visible images. Imagine their reaction when looking through a microscope at a drop of pond water for the first time! Imagine when the inventor of the telescope peered into the heavens and shared the view with his colleagues!

Without glass, there would be no camera lenses, and without camera lenses, there would be no photography! We wouldn’t be treated to such beautiful images as those captured by Beth Peardon. Beth is a very talented etsy photographer with an eye for composition and flair. Her photography is displayed and available in her etsy shop – BethPeardonProds.

I recently visited the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY and watched the glass-blowing demonstration. The person who demonstrated his skill had 35 years of experience behind him and, according to him, “…lots of mistakes and shattered glass.” Though it looked simple enough, it takes a real master to make wonderful gems like this one made by Mike of Gimmebeads on etsy. This is an splendid example of hot glass and the glass-blowing technique.

Mike, aka Gimmebeads, also does beautiful lampwork. Here is another example of his exquisite creations:

I’m fascinated as well by what is known as “warm glass.” How does Chauncey get those little pictures into her pieces? Here’s one of my favorites in Chauncey’s shop on etsy.

Glass can be a real challenge when painting on its surface. There are certain glass paints that require surface pre-treatment, and the results are not always permanent, but there are also paints that will become permanent after curing in an oven at a relatively low temperature. Monti of GlitznGlass on etsy does a fabulous job. Here’s one example of her lovely work:

One of my very favorite collectibles is American Brilliant Period Cut Glass. Back in the late 1800s, manufacturers of glassware started to make lovely bowls, vases, pitchers, plates, and many, many other pieces of cut glass. Rather than one expert making one piece, the manufacturing process required several steps and several experts. The cut glass of that period in the U.S. was exceptional and far exceeded the beauty and sparkle of anything European, simply because the silica in the United States, particularly in the eastern part of the country, was superior to silica in Europe. To make the pieces sparkle and ring when “thumped,” and to allow intricate and deep cuts characteristic of ABP cut glass, lead oxide was added to the molten glass. Sadly, upon the outbreak of WWI, when lead oxide was needed for munitions, the ABP Cut Glass era ended abruptly. However, there are still many fine examples of this wonderful glass remaining and are in great demand by collectors (like myself!). Among my favorites is this gorgeous vase, "ruby cut-to-clear."

Finally, the crown jewel in the family of glass, in my opinion – Stained Glass. Early stained glass was just that – leaded glass that was stained by the artist. The very finest examples are in Cathedrals and Churches in Europe. The intricacies and sparkling colors just amaze me. Later on, in America, Louis Comfort Tiffany developed stained glass using metals to give it color, and incorporated various colors into sheets of glass. His windows and lamps are world-renowned. Here is one of the finest examples of Tiffany’s windows:

I was introduced to stained glass, also classified as “cold” glass, when I took a course on a whim four years ago in an evening Adult School setting. I was hooked from the first night. Four years and 50+ pieces later, I am still learning. I think, of all the pieces that I have made, that this is perhaps my favorite. It's 18" x 22", and hangs from a hand-crafted cherry wood stand. I made the panel for my daughter for Christmas three years ago because Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring" is her favorite piece of classical art, and I was excited to try to render the likeness in stained glass.

I hope that this has been a fun and educational blog and that it has imparted a new appreciation of glass to those who never thought about it before. I can’t help but share my love of glass. Just ask any BBESTer that has met me in person – I can bore them to tears going on and on!



Chauncey said...

Nonnie, what a fabulous post about one of my favorite subjects. Thanks for featuring my Moonface. And by the way... I've met you and you are wrong, you've never bored a soul. It's a blast to be in your company. :)

Tom and Cher said...

A woman after my own heart! I spent a week at Corning, and visited since that week. It lives on in my heart.

I like to tell of the days when I realized how much glass meant to me. It happened when my kids bacame old enough to drink from glasses and I could get rid of all of the tupperware. They were 16.

They still don't see the humor in that little story, but I make nice things for them and they let me have my altered memories.

Thanks Nonnie, you've told it well!

Beth said...

Yea Nonnie on your first blog. I loved this feature.....I agree with Chauncey, your far from boring. Thanks for including my photograph. Loved learning all this information about glass!

Mickey said...

Great Blog Nonnie. This is a really nice write-up about glass. My family has been blowing glass since the 30's. My Great Uncle Okie Hamon and cousins including Robert Hamon started blowing glass in West Virginia. Here's a little write up about Robert I too share your glass passion. Thanks for including me in your article. It's terrific.

joon said...

Nonnie, this is wonderful, of course! I, too, have met Nonnie. If anyone was bored it would be her. I could have kept hugging her for hours on end.

I love glass and am fascinated by it. {I love Tupperware, too. We can love both, can't we?}

I am envious of your skill and I hope to try working with glass one day.

Thank you for your inspiration.

I also love Chauncey's moonpie.

Welcome to the blog world, Nonnie!

Yankeegirl said...

Nonnie, thanks for the great feature on your wonderful passion! Again, I've learned so much from this talented group!! Great selections to go along with the words.

ZudaGay said...

Wonderful post, Nonnie!!! I so enjoyed every word and picture! And, I learned so much. Please share again sometime soon!

Sixsisters said...

Congrats on your first blog Nonnie. Great job !!!

On a Whimsey said...

What a wonderful informative post! So much information but it was a pleasure to read and take in. Glass is fascinating and when I see what people do with it, the mind boggles. I have long admired your work and recently having acquired a piece from you, I can fully appreciate the art.

Thank you for sharing!

Linda said...

Thanks everybody!

MagdaleneJewels said...

Nonnie - what a great blog on such an interesting topic. You definitely choose some of the Bbest glass pieces to showcase.
I also love the book, Girl with the Pearl Earring, I never realized your design was stained glass. I am really impressed!
but you do have some beautiful pieces in your shop.
Have you ever been to the glass museum in Cape Cod? I was there years ago, but the beauty of their work left a lasting impression.

blazingneedles said...

Nonnie - I learned a whole bunch of inbteresting facts from your blog! We have some very talented Bbest glass workers.

Judy Nolan said...

Wonderful post, and so well written! I learned a lot about glass. Thanks, Nonnie!

Pam said...

Nonnie, this is fantastic. I learned so much about glass, its history, uses, etc. And I love the art you selected. Tiffany's Window was made into a stamp several years of the most beautiful postage stamps I'd ever seen! Thanks for such an excellent blog post!