The History of Glass

Legend has it that Phoenician sailors set up camp on a sandy beach one night and built a fire, using stones of soda ash on the fire to protect their pots.  As the fire heated the stones along with the sand below, a strange liquid began to flow and as it cooled it left a hard smooth stone in the ashes - which was the origin of man made glass.
 

Another theory is that potters accidentally allowed sand to get into their kilns, where it stuck to the wet clay and when the kiln process had finished, they found a smooth glaze on their pots.

 

Even though these are legends and theories, with sand being the main ingredient in glass, there is a certain logic to the stories.

 

Glass is actually one of the oldest forms of art and it's origins are said to date back to around 4000BC.

 

Glass occurred naturally when volcanoes errupted and the extreme heat melted the surrounding sand.  This black volcanic glass (obsidian) was used for knives, jewelry and decorative objects.

 

Archeological evidence suggests that the first type of man made glass was to be found in Egypt and Eastern Mesopotania around 3500BC, where it was used as a glaze for coating stone beads.

And the first glass vessels were made in the same area around 1500BC by covering a sand or clay core with a layer of molten glass.

 

Then, in the first century BC, the process of blowing glass was discovered.  This made the production of glass containers much easier, quicker and cheaper - so pushing fused glass techniques into the background.

Ancient methods of fusing glass were largely forgotten, as glass blowing remained the dominant way of making glass for nearly 2000 years. 

 

But, more recently, these techniques have made a resurgence as a modern day art form.

 

Glass Fusing in Great Britain began to regain in popularity in the early part of the 20th century.  By the 1960's the Studio Glass Movement was established.  This 'small furnace technology' allowed glass artists to mix and melt glass in their own studio, without the constraints and structures of the glass industry.  The Royal College of Art had an innovative glass department and some of it's first graduates belonged to the 'Glasshouse' in Covent Garden.  This workshop acted as a halfway house between college and the real world and encouraged the idea of creating a life of glass away from the industry.  It brought the emerging craft to the public's attention and paved the way for British Studio Glass.

 

The Studio Glass Movement is still developing today, with technical information, support and ideas being shared around the world.  There is an emphasis on the artist and designer and the glass world continues to grow very quickly.