How To Make A Fused Glass Suncatcher
These easy, step by step instructions will take you through the basics of building your own fused glass suncatcher. Making a fused glass suncatcher is surprisingly simple if you already have some experience cutting and shaping glass. For instructions on using glass cutting tools, please follow the relevant links under “Articles” in the menu bar.
Selecting Your Subject Matter
Google Image search is a great resource when it comes to finding interesting images to use as inspiration for your fused glass suncatcher. For this project, I have selected a lemon tree. A quick search revealed about five images I liked. Look for images which are both aesthetically pleasing as well as technically correct. For example, my images included a painting, several photos, and a scientific diagram showing leaf growth, a lemon, and lemon tree flowers. You will use your images to both understand your subject matter and as a basis for your own unique design.
Choosing the glass for your fused glass suncatcher can be a lot of fun! Do not feel that you must select only the colors in your inspirational images. Get a variety of tones, some transparent, some opaque, and then add in iridescent and dichroic pieces for highlights and areas of interest. Rods, stringers, frit, glass confetti, and even pre-made glass “buttons” can all add interest to your work. I really like “streaky” and “marbled” glass colors. Just be careful that the COE for everything you choose is the same.
Create A Rough Image
Now you are ready to begin. Grab a black permanent marker. Black permanent marker is easy to see and, once dry,will not smear off on your hands or run in the glue. Because it burns out completely in the kiln, it provides the perfect solution for drawing a template right on the glass you chose as your background. Using a black permanent marker, create a rough sketch of your design. This does not have to be perfect; in fact, your final product will most likely vary from your sketch quite a bit. All you really want is a quick guide to placement. As you cut and shape each piece of glass, your design will begin to take on a life of its own!
Fused glass work generally requires at least two layers of glass. If you have ever seen the huge, golf ball sized bubbles that can appear when the second layer of glass is not present, you know what I’m talking about. Now is the time to position your sketched glass over the second background layer. Take the opportunity to add copper wire loops for hanging. The copper wire is fired right between the two layers of glass. Bend the wire into a nice shape that will not pull out of the glass.
Building Up The Design
Using small dots of Elmer’s School Glue, begin positioning the main elements of your design. I began with the tree trunk and then added the lemons. The leaves were last, because they are determined in great part by the feel of the piece. Darker colors go on first, generally. I began with the very dark, sparkly green aventurine leaves, then added some marbled, light green leaves to show new growth. Translucent green went in next. I used the translucent both underneath and on top of the opaque colors. Once your first layer is down, begin building it up. For my lemon tree, light green and translucent green were layered over the other leaves and lemons here and there. A few of the dark green aventurine leaves were used to overlap seams in the trunk and branches.
In the images below, you can see how adding different colors of frit can give a sense of movement and depth to your design. I used both fine and coarse frit in several tones of green and amber. I also added a few hunks of dichroic frit to the tree.
Firing and Finishing
Once you are satisfied with your work and the glue has dried, fire and anneal your suncatcher on the tack fuse cycle to preserve texture. When the kiln has completely cooled, remove the piece and carefully wash it to remove the kiln dust and/or thinfire sheet particles. Scrub the dark residue off the copper wire hanging loops.
Using two strong needlenose or steel jewelry pliers, carefully open the ends of a length of chain. (Chain like the one pictured is readily available at Lowes in an assortment of finishes.) Place the copper wire hanging loop into the open chain loop and very carefully close it. (Follow the instructions for Opening and Closing Jump Rings to open and close the loops on your length of chain properly.)