Panes, Fire and Patience: The Art of Fusing Glass with David Barnes
It's an incredibly laborious process, and doing it well requires patience and a fine-tuned sense of irony.
Workhouse Arts Center artist David Barnes spent his career at the Central Intelligence Agency, and his brain is wired for glass fusion.
"I like the irony of free flowing structures, of liquid solids - anything that has a play of contrast," Barnes recently told Patch. "I find pleasure in the journey that the glass goes through, and for people to be able to look at a piece and say to me, 'Wow. How in the hell did you do that?'"
You'll ask that question more than once after looking at some of Barnes' work. Here's how it's done: Take a sheet of glass and place more glass on top of it, put the sheet in a kiln at 1,450 degrees, take it out and then put more glass on top of it, put it back in the kiln and repeat until you're happy with the thickness and design of the piece. Then there is the grinding, sawing, sandblasting, etching, engraving and all the other intricacies to finish it up.
Some pieces can take weeks baking in the kiln before they're ready, and there's no peeking while they're in there.
"Once you've lined up your glass and got it arranged the way you want it, you can't see what's going on, because your piece will experience what's called thermal shock," said Barnes. "It's like dropping a piece of ice in a hot cup of water. It cracks the ice."
Barnes was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, and studied business and accounting at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Shortly after graduating, he got a job at the CIA, where he spent the next 37 years as an auditor, financial manager, risk assessment manager and IT specialist. He has been married to his wife Dale for 39 years, and the couple live in Sterling. He joined the Workhouse four years ago, and spends roughly 30 hours a week in his studio. His jewelry can range from $45-$200 and larger display pieces range from $125-$4,800.
Fusing glass is perfect for Barnes' temperament. "I needed another outlet apart from my work," he said. "And I always loved stained glass. The colors can be exciting, bright, intense, and when the light hits a prism, you can see the sun carry that prism all across the floor. That always intrigued me.
"I guess it's just my wiring. You have one side of your brain that is very free-forming, and the other side is process-oriented and linear. So, essentially that's why I took my job of 37 years, because there was a lot of structure to the process, but each project was of my own creation," he said.
You can see more of David Barnes' work in Building 7 of the Workhouse Arts Center.