Suellen Parker, holder of a degree in art from Boston College and owner of Case Island Glass, LLC, creates her pieces by a process known as “glass fusing”. The process involves heating carefully sized pieces of glass with the same COE to high temperatures, causing the pieces to melt or “fuse” together. Each piece is hand made and fused, often involving several separate firings.
All pieces start as large sheets of glass made specifically for fusing. Suellen uses Bullseye glass products exclusively. The starting shape of the piece is hand cut using diamond-edged etching tools. Next, smaller pieces are hand cut and stacked on the base. Thin glass rods called “stringers” may be used to create straight lines. Care must be taken with colors, because colors may subtlety change during the firing process.
The assembled piece is then placed in a kiln for the initial firing. Controls are set for the rate of heating the kiln, the fusing temperature (approaching 1,500 degrees), the time to hold the fusing temperature, and the rate of cooling. The entire firing process, including cool down, takes 12 or more hours. For some pieces, such as the bracelets, the fusing process is complete. For larger pieces, the process is just beginning. Some pieces have three separate firings.
The result of the first firing is a flat glass with the various pieces fused together, sometimes fully fused into a single flat piece, and sometimes tacked, where the individual pieces retain a portion of their shape. Each flat glass is a unique and distinctive piece. The flat glass is now placed on a mold that will give it a shape as a bowl, dish, or other functional object. Some of Suellen’s molds are her own design. The piece is fired again, with different temperature and time settings. The flat piece slumps into the mold and is now ready for final finishing.