It was during one of my exhibitions in Den Haag, Netherlands, that a visitor came up to me to ask if I would be willing to exchange one of my batiks for a pottery kiln. This was an unexpected question and I think that I must have looked absolutely baffled. So he hastened to explain:
He and his wife had just moved house. He had been a ceramic artist for many years but there was not enough room in the new house for his kiln, so he had decided to retire and to get rid of it. Now, at my exhibition, he and his wife had seen just what they wanted, a batik painting that they would really like to have in the new home. But moving house had been expensive, and the batik cost more than they could afford at that moment. The idea of an artistic exchange kiln/batik had suddenly come up in his mind, and he had mentioned it on the spur of the moment. He added that he did, of course, understand that this was a ‘ridiculous proposal,’ so he asked me to forget he had mentioned it. I, in turn, explained that my obvious surprise at the offer was caused by my long-standing wish to have a kiln and my surprise at his wonderful idea. So the deal was made and the kiln arrived at my home.
When it had been installed in my studio at home, I started out making Delft Blue tiles and plates, Christmas ornaments and other objects. (I had learned Delft Blue painting at one of the Delft factory studios and it was fun to take it up again.) In the evenings, after dinner, I kept myself busy with this. During the day, I would, as usual, make enamels or batik paintings at my studio in town.
After a while, I began to wonder if it would be possible to make glass objects in the kiln I used for enameling, but I had encountered serious problems. Only very small objects could resist the quick cooling down of the enameling kiln. Larger objects, such as bowls, would crack or shatter into small pieces. This did not necessarily happen immediately; sometimes cracks would appear after a long while. Once, when sitting in our living room at home, we heard a sharp and unexpected sound, and it turned out that a bowl which I had made months before had suddenly broken into several pieces. I began reading up on working with glass and decided that the disaster must have been caused by the fact that the glass had not been annealed. So I began using the new pottery kiln for my glass try-outs. When the Kunstgreep studio building, in which my own studio is located, was being renovated and work was in progress on my own studio, I felt lucky to have the pottery kiln at home. It was at that time that I began to work seriously with glass in a more regular way.
The books I had on working with warm glass turned out to be rather old-fashioned and they were not very inspiring either. So I began searching the Internet for more know-how and ideas, and I joined a glass group at our local free academy. I started out with blank glass, salvaged from the rubbish container into which all the debris of the building was deposited. I had saved some of the old glass from the doors to my studio, which I used to make some plates and bowls and a standing object from this, which gave pleasant mementos of the situation before the renovation.
When the old glass had been used up, I began to miss color in my work. I began by using the glass paints provided for use by the free academy, but these paints did not satisfy me. I missed the bright colors of the Thompson enamels I had become familiar with. Luckily, Thompson also sells enamels for use on glass, and it was not long before I began trying these out. I realize that I still have a long way to go to get my glass objects exactly as I want them to be, but I remain intrigued. I have tried out several ways of working with glass enamels of the 5000 and 6000 series for window glass. At first, I made the mistake of dusting the enamels on too thinly. When I began placing a sheet of white paper under the piece of blank float glass resting on some glass stilts, it became possible for me to see if the layer of enameling powder on the glass had been evenly applied, and if it was laid on thick enough. I also found that it is necessary for me to put Klyr-Fire under the enamels to keep them in place. (When enameling, I only use Klyr-Fire for undersides, sloping surfaces, and for the application of lumps, threads, or foils to an already-enameled surface.)
When enameling on metal, I love the quick way of working, and the only thing that really bothered me about enameling on glass in the fact that glass has to cool down very slowly. However, I am not really troubled by that, since my pottery kiln (now used for glass) is at my home studio. As I did when painting Delft Blue, I use it after dinner, when I have come home from a days’ work in town. Once the necessary temperature has been reached, I turn the heating off and spent the rest of the evening with my family. Then, when I come home from town the following day, the kiln has cooled down and I can inspect its contents.
At first I just thought of my glass work as of ‘objects’, ‘bowls’ or ‘plates.’ I now seem to begin looking at them as things that need names. Would that mean that they start making me see them as members of my family? I wonder…