Robyn Marriott: Melting and fusing glass for art

Arts Profile

Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2000

Pets and power tools: Robyn Marriott creates bowls, platters, vases and jewelry by melting and fusing glass.

"I have three kilns, a band saw, a drill and drill press and grinders all stuffed into my little condo with six animals," Marriott said laughing.

Run-of-the-mill bottle glass melts at about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher-quality art glass Marriott uses needs a little more heat, but holds its color and keeps a glossy surface after it melts and cools.

"I'm firing at about 1,430 Fahrenheit," Marriott said. "For a stifferlooking piece I fire a little lower, a fluid piece hotter. It's just a difference of 20 or 30 degrees. A little difference in temperature will make a big difference in your piece."

Slumping and sagging: Marriott uses two different techniques to create tableware such as platters and bowls. "I use the slumping and sagging method," she said. "Slumping is when I slump a piece of glass over the outside of a mold, sagging is when the glass melts into it."

She uses dichroic glass, a specialty glass that absorbs and reflects light at the same time. It changes color depending on how the light strikes it. The glass is made with metal oxides; blue glass contains cobalt and red glass contains gold. The red costs twice as much.

She also uses bull's-eye glass, a hand-poured and hand-rolled glass.

"You can tell it's handmade because it has inclusions or air bubbles you can work into the piece. Once I did a fish with bubbles around his mouth," she said.

She sometimes paints 24-karat gold onto the glass before firing and the heat fuses the precious metal to the surface.

Cut fingers: Marriott grew up in Juneau and taught herself how to fuse glass.

"I've had a lot of trial and error and a lot of cut fingers," she said.

She talked with internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly when he came to Juneau a few years ago and picked up tips and ideas.

She always loved the color and beauty of stained glass, but never pursued it. About eight years ago a friend talked to her about fusing glass, and Marriott was intrigued. She ordered a basic set of tools and materials from a supplier and upgraded as her interest grew.

She exhibits her work at the Juneau Artists Gallery and annually at the Alaska Juneau Public Market.

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