The beauty of glass lies in its ability to serve both artistic and functional purposes.
When used for function, it adds an elegance. And when used for art, it has a quality that allows it to brighten and open a space simply by being there. When glass is used to combine art and function, as with a light pendant, a flower vase or even a statement window, the piece infuses a room with both elegance and brightness.
As a little background, glass was invented hundreds of years ago and it was expensive to buy for the majority of those years. It was hand-blown, and while it could be used for functional items like containers, it was still a hand-made art form.
Today, technology has allowed glass to be mass produced and it’s no longer expensive, but unlike many other handmade crafts that died out with the industrial revolution, handblown glass is still very popular thanks to the “studio glass movement” in the 1960’s.
My fascination with glass is the way that it appears so clean, it can take on any shape, and the way it shows artistic flaw through bubbles and imperfections.
In the past I’ve etched glass, painted glass plates and made decorations with pieces of broken glass. Most recently, I painted a Patron tequila bottle because I love that they’re handblown and have bubbles, and I also think they also have an interesting shape.
Since painting my Patron bottle, I’ve come across some sites that provide good tips for painting on glass, and even a site showing only crafts involving a Patron bottle (which I wish I’d looked at before painting because some ideas are pretty cool).
I included the video about cleaning the glass surface before painting because that was an issue I encountered with my bottle. Washing the surface is important, but removing the soapy film is probably even more important.
The paint didn’t stick well to my bottle, and that forced it to look chunky. But it turned out to be an interesting texture nonetheless.
On the more functional side of glass, large glass windows are perhaps one of the most architecturally artistic statements a designer can make, but they’re also strongly functional in that they provide building structure. The New York Times topic page for glass links to a slideshow article with images of glass used structurally in buildings.
The photos show how the material can be so intriguing and challenging to designers. Glass provides a way to play with light, transparency, a non-traditional building material and with the creation of space that doesn’t feel confined.
On a more purely artistic side, much like painters can mix colors and even materials on their canvases, glass artists can fuse different pieces of glass together to create modern, fresh pieces. A simple red, glass plate is elegant and even functional, but add pieces of broken blue, white, yellow, green, etc., and the plate becomes funky, artistic and probably put on display rather than on the dinner table.
It’s that ability to transform and take on different functions, colors and shapes that allows glass to lend itself to so many industries and catch the attention of so many people — and stand the test of hundreds of years.