Kurt McVay has been working in fused
glass since 1983.
He is one of the pioneers in the rediscovery of fused
My work incorporates many
processes: hot work, (cane and beads), sandblast etching, glass cutting
and crushed glass effects. These are fused with heat and then shaped in a
separate mold firing. This creates an extremely versatile palette, one that is wonderfully
detailed, and unique to my studio. I can design with linear precision or soft ambiguity and still produce a
signature look. I cannot overlook my family heritage in the arts nor my
professors, as they were vital inspiration for my technique and vision.
Kurt McVay’s Fused Glass
The first step in our
process is to decide on a pattern, then cut our glass into the
shapes and sizes for the pattern. All pieces are hand cut. We then
assemble the pieces on a ceramic pad in the fuser (oven).
Each piece must
be carefully placed in the fuser as a mis-placement can cause the glass to
melt to the
ceramic pad. Our fusers are large and rectangular so several
pieces can be fired at the same time.
Kurt builds his own fusers so that
they are identical.
With the glass pieces on the ceramic pad the fuser door is shut and the
heating process begins.
These layers of glass will be brought to a
temperature of approximately 1400 degrees. There is some
heating time between patterns. On the inside of the fuser the glass pieces
are heating together becoming more and more elastic until the top layer
merges with the bottom layer forming one layer. At 1400 degrees the
process is stopped. Any additional heating will cause the glass to liquefy
and run across the pad.
The glass is now taken through an annealing, a slow
cooling process. After a few hours we will start a
process of opening the
fuser for a few seconds, continually increasing the time of the opening
until we can
open the fuser completely. We do this because the glass
always cools on the edges first and the center
of the piece is the last to
cool. Cooling to quickly will cause the glass to crack.
When the patterns of glass are removed from the fuser they are completely
flat. They are then taken to
the kiln for reheating. Kurt also makes his
own kilns and molds. The flat glass piece is placed over a mold
into the kiln. Our kilns are round and they have shelves for the molds to
sit on. The heat in the kiln
will be around 1200 degrees. Once the heating
process is started the glass will again become elastic.
Because it is
sitting over the mold this elastic state makes the glass slowly drop into
the mold and take
on the shape of the mold. The center is the first part
of the glass to drop into the mold and the edges adhere
to the top of the
mold. After reaching the 1200 degrees we stop the process and slowly cool
the pieces as
before. After cooling the pieces are inspected for
The entire process takes three days whether it is a small coaster or a
Who created fused glass?
The Egyptians & Persians 5000 years ago. They
used it in jewelry and as inlays in architecture. Considered very
precious. The pieces that have been found in tombs are often studded with
In the Roman period, fused glass became
functional. It was used for plates & bowls. While we still
don’t know the
entire process the Romans used we do know they used molds.
Why did Fused Glass lose favor then rediscovered
2000 years later it lost favor when the process
of blowing glass was discovered. Blowing glass
is a much easier process
being less labor and time intensive and affordable to the entire
An entire revolution in glass started in the
1960’s. With modern technology small glass furnaces were developed for
melting glass. For the first time glass melting and forming was able to
large institutional plants such as Corning Glass to the studio’s
of the artists
White or Colored threads encased in clear glass patterns include:
Retorti – twisted lace
Reticello – criss-cross threads often with trapped air bubbles
Filigrine – spiral or helix
Annealing – cooling process. Outer
edges of glass always cool before the center.
Thus the cooling process must be controlled or the piece will crack
Slumping - deforming or
bending glass over a mold to take on the shape of the mold
Stopping out – term for taping
off areas for sand blasting or acid operation
Using McVay’s pieces
combined his personal philosophy with his glass art. He believes in
He also believes a person’s life should be filled with art.
Thus he has focused on creating functional
fused glass art pieces which
can be used in a variety of ways:
pieces are food and dishwasher safe. They can be used in a microwave for
warming but can
only be put in the microwave when both the food and the
plate are at room temperature and not for long
periods. He has been
working with the best chefs and restaurateurs to develop a food art
combining the culinary art of these chefs with his glass
art. At home, some people will display the pieces f
or their artistic
value. For special occasions the pieces are taken from the coffee table to
the dinner table.
In offices, they are used as business accessories.
The pieces can carry a
company's message to customers or employees with the use of company
colors, logo or an inscription on the back.
You can have our border pieces which are clear in the
center engraved for
a special presentation.