A Brief History of Glass (Intro)

January 10, 2014 § 1 Comment

Today I thought I would begin a three part series on the history of glass. I will be talking about the origins of glass, the Roman development of glass production, Medieval European refinements, religious connections, Western innovations, and finally a brief look at my latest window project.

I’m doing this because I have been fascinated with glass (particularly coloured glass) for the past 5 years or so. I can pin-point two moments that were massively influential in my glass obsession. The first event was building a 3D glass sculpture of a whale with the Saint. A project that never got completed, but the concept and experience still lives on vividly in my mind. We spent many hours crouched over an aquarium stand, sifting through pieces of broken glass, building a giant whale. These were simpler times.
A picture of the prototype can be seen here. The full scale piece was destroyed in a spiritual trip… Yes that’s about right…sadly no pictures have survived.

The second event happened in my second year of art school. Our class took a trip to Chicago, and I quite accidentally stumbled upon the Smith Museum of Stained Glass. This place truly blew my mind. Specifically the piece “Four Seasons” by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939). I sat down in front of it and sketched for hours. I went away to find my friends, brought them to the window, and we all sat there in awe. We spent the entire morning beneath this window drawing aspects of it and freestyling lines in Mucha’s famous art nouveau style. In the afternoon we visited a massive art exhibition and I saw someone blowing glass on stage in front of a massive brick kiln. I had never seen or used a medium in art that transmitted so much beauty. The way the sun catches a piece of coloured glass and makes it glow. It’s an incredible place to start when creating a piece of art. You start with something beautiful and with the right application of skill and technique you can take peoples breath away.

Each Friday for the next 4 weeks I will be posting an article on the history of glass. The focus will be directed toward glass used in the production of windows, but other applications will be discussed in passing.

I will end this introduction with a fitting quote from Dr Samuel Johnson. He asks us to imagine a world without glass, without a material that can “…admit the light of the sun, and exclude the violence of the wind; which might extend the sight of the philosopher to new ranges of existence, and charm him at once with the unbounded extent of material creation, and at another with the endless subordination of animal life; and, what is of yet more importance, might supply the decays of nature, and succour old age with subsidiary sight… enabling the student to contemplate nature, and the beauty to behold herself.”
– Dr Samuel Johnson,  British author, linguist and lexicographer (1709-1784)


PART 1 Early Days


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