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About pate de verre


The exact origins or history of pate de verre are unknown. There are pieces of glass from ancient Egypt and Rome that have similar qualities to pate de verre, but the exact technique used to make them is not known.

Pate de verre became popular in the 19th century through the works of artists like Henri Croi, Albert Demmouse, and Francois Decorchemont. All artists working with this technique were very secretive about their processes. At that time artists were making their own glass, building their own kilns - literally creating every step of the process.

The difficulty in creating glasses of different colors that are chemically compatible with each other remains a challenge for producers of glass at every level. I imagine that the challenges inherent in the process of pate de verre were so great that they may have contributed to the secrecy surrounding it. Because there was little information known or left about the techniques these artists used, pate de verre all but disappeared as an art form until it was revived in the late 1970s.


Pate de verre in the simplest of terms includes creating a model (clay, wax, or other materials can be used), making a mold from the model out of some refractory material (plaster and silica is commonly used though there are many other materials that can be used), layering crushed (frited) glass within the mold, and then firing the mold in a kiln.

Today artists enjoy the accessibility and ease of using precrushed and compatible glasses made by companies such as Bullseye and Spectrum. With modern technology artists are also able to purchase kilns with electronic programmers, which allow complex kiln schedules to be entered and used easily.

Compared with glass blowing it is relatively easy and cost efficient for an artist to set up a pate de verre/ casting studio. In the past fifteen years the number of artists working in this medium has doubled if not tripled.

Pate de verre offers the ability to use exact color placement as well as incorporating sculptural expression.
Creating a model in clay or wax gives the artist the freedom to work directly with their hands, while working with compatible glass allows them to mix glasses together creating ones own unique palate.

 

Beyond these obvious choices of color and shape, there are several other choices involving glass size and firing temperatures that affect texture as well as translucency.

 

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