In the glass making world, color is highly revered and used to to make really unique pieces of art. The use of colored glass in glassblowing is a tough task to manage and takes experience, as well as knowledge of how that color needs to be manipulated to achieve the results you desire. You will see different shades of the same color rod based on how the artist mixes with other colors. There are some amazing companies out there creating beautiful colors, and once artists get their hands on these colors we are seeing them mix this colors to create their own custom color. The term used for mixing colors is “pulling” colors in the glass industry, because after you blend the colors into a molten blob, you then pull the blob into a rod for glass making. Many artists use different techniques when it comes to “pulling” colors and mixing their own custom colors.
Two of the bigger custom colored glass companies I have become familiar with is Glass Alchemy and North Star Glass, these guys make some of the sickest colors in the industry, not to mention they constantly are creating new colors that are the bomb! There are tons of other companies that makes their own colored glass that is unique, so get out there and check it out. These are the guys where it all starts, they make the custom colors that then are blended by artists to make even more unique colors. These big colored glass rod companies make their colors much differently than the artist making the finished pieces. Companies like Glass Alchemy and North Star make their colors in big batches and “stack” molten glass from large molten pots in layers with clear to make different colors. The amount of layers of color, the amount clear layers, and the different colors used are all factors which make up the differences in colors. For example, they will take a clear tube and dip that into a colored pot and then by blowing through that tube and creating a small bulb they bond the clear to the colored glass. Next they will continue to stack clear on top of color, or color on top of color, to create different colors through dipping into pots.Finally once they are done stacking the colors they will pull the molten blob into a rod so it can be used in glass making.
Once these rods are sold to glass blowers they have free reign to do what they will with these rods and we are seeing some fantastic results from their experiments! There are two methods these glass blowers use. One is somewhat similar to the larger manufacturers method of “stacking” colors and clears to achieve different colors. This method you will see an artist take a clear rod and stack another rod onto it by using their torch to fuse the different colors together. They will melt the colors into a “gather” on the rod and then once they have stacked the clears and colors they want to stack, they will then attach another rod to pull stringers from the “gather” to use for making one of their pieces. The other method used is taking a handle rod and attaching a blend of colored and clear stringers to the handle rod one by one or bundled together with a zip tie. Once all the stringers are attached to the rod the artist will melt the bundle into a gather and pull the gather out, which in turn is their “custom” colored rod they personally blended and this color probably is unique to their work.
These processes can be pretty difficult, and when an artist is able to master a technique like this they open a door to a bunch of new customers who are really intrigued by the custom colors they have created. The world of color incorporated into glass has made from so really cool pieces that wouldn’t be as special without these custom colors. Certain colors are more delicate than others, for example certain shades of white are very temperamental and you can easily burn or damage the color of the glass by overheating or improper handling when the glass is hot. Another factor that increases the difficulty to make this colored glass is getting the clear and colored glasses to bond together properly, because without a proper bond you can have cracks and bubbles that will make the glass unworkable. It is on each glass maker and glass blower to find what works best for them and what technique they are able to use to help them overcome these difficulties.