Shard making process

Here is a brief insight into one of the processes I use – blowing glass shards.

Note. I am not going into great detail here, nor am I specifying any heats taken.

Step 1.

Using a hot, clear blowing iron I pick up a piece of colour out of the top loader (this is solid coloured glass rod placed into a small kiln that heats up  and maintains an optimum  temperature) Usually when working with colour I pick it up on a bit iron first and then onto the blowing iron to ensure a balanced temperature, but for this purpose it is not entirely necessary .

Step 2.

I have to next set up my colour, by this I mean shape it according to what I am using it for. Firstly I have to gently push it back onto the iron to ensure a seal is formed and no air can escape, next I shape it. I use either the marver (a metal surface onto which you can roll your glass) or the back of my Jacks (the name of one of the tools we use). In these photographs you can see me using the Jacks.


Step 3.

Now that I have my colour set up, I need to ensure there is a small amount of air inside so that when I gather glass over it, it will inflate. To do this I use what is known as thumbing in. coloursetup4

This technique requires you to force air down the pipe, capping it off with your thumb. This forces the air pressure into the glass, forming a small bubble. This is a quick technique which can be tricky to master. You have to continuously turn (which is the case in pretty much everything you do in glass blowing) whilst quickly blowing and blocking the pipe, but you also have to be aware of the temperature of your glass and the force with which you blow. These considerations will determine your success.

Step 4.

Once the colour has cooled slightly, I take a gather. This is where you place the end of the iron into the crucible and collect the glass. This too takes a while to master, if only to get used to the intense heat!

Step 5.

I now begin to control the freshly gathered glass, as it is lively at this point. There are different ways of doing this, depending on how many gathers you have or what you are using it for. For making shards I generally use the paper (newspaper that is slightly damp), or the block (varying sized wooden blocks made from cherry wood or similar)


The fire in the first picture is just for effect and was created by using dry newspaper (this isn’t good for actual pieces as it is extremely smoky and can get carbon stuck to your glass)

Step 6.

Although I haven’t stated any reheats, sometimes they are required. This helps to maintain an even temperature through the glass for even blowing and ease of working. At this point though, I need to have my glass extremely hot again and so I take a long heat.


Step 7.

Generally I quickly paper the glass at this point, just to skin up the exterior so that I have more control. I then gently, at first, blow. I am aware of the cooling speeds of different coloured glass and so will vary how soft or hard I blow depending. I want the glass to expand past the normal working point, into large, thin forms.


Once it has cooled (not so much that it explodes…) I use the back of my tweezers to gently crack the glass. Breaking the glass onto newspaper means that it doesn’t collect dust etc. and become unusable in further techniques.

This isn’t the most technically difficult of processes, but it does require a good understanding and control of temperature.

I will show you what I use these for next time.



I should probably mention glass blowing, seeing as it has been the main discipline I have chosen to focus on at uni and something I really enjoy! I don’t have too many photographs of me in action, but here is one of an awesome day myself and Erin Barr did some impromptu assisting for Einar de la torre on his visit to the National glass center! You can also see the fantastic James Maskrey in this photograph; our hot glass technician and celebrated artist.

glass blowing

A lovely bunch of people right there.


Keep up to date with my blog and I will gradually get around to posting some of my work as and after it is made and telling you a bit more about my practice.

Forging on sunny days with good friends

As promised, here is my update!

I’ll start by saying that I am really very lucky to know lots of very wonderful, talented people. One of these is my artist blacksmith friend Sian Gulliver. She is also in her final year of her degree and came home for the Easter break. I live in the city now, and she has made her home down south, but when we get the chance we take to the countryside for makey-doey days.

Last summer Sian and I set up a little forge in a friendly neighbors garden; it was a little temperamental but very funny – let’s just say there were bellows, a leaf blower, a scrap yard and two clumsy women. This time however, Sian had a lovely little set up in her back yard; electricity, a cat, cups of tea and all. I arrived with porcelain slip and plaster (which is a whole other story!) and we set to work.


(It’s official, she has it in writing.)


Here I am checking on the metal to avoid it getting too hot and burning. I did get distracted (probably by a cuppa or food) and burn through an Iron bar on the first day. It’s safe to say I learned my lesson.


Learning from the pro! Sian was making pieces for her degree show – one mad talented lady right there.


I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the flecks you can see on the ground are bits of iron oxide. These are created by brushing the ‘skin’ off the metal during forging when a shine is desired. This was particularly interesting to me as we also use this in glazes at uni – it’s funny how things all tie together, and it’s great to know it’s a by-product of another craft.

I took a little bag home and am going to try firing them so I will let you know how that goes.


Forging is hot, glass blowing is hotter!

Sian was explaining everything as she went which was absolutely fantastic, but probably a bit too lengthy for a blog post. Just ask if you are interested in the details.


Clinker – the waste product.

My uni work is pretty experimental so this by-product really appeals to me. I think I will try firing it in porcelain slip in the same way I have been doing with glass shards and frits.

We did this over two days, whilst also hanging out with her amazing family and our beautiful baker buddy Jordan. There was good food, good wine and lots and lots of laughter.

– Also, my apologies if any of my descriptions are incorrect, I forgot to take notes until the second day and my memory isn’t exactly great!

Amber King

Amber King

Hello, my name is Amber, I’m a 24 year old creative from Newcastle Upon Tyne.

I am currently approaching the final weeks of my Glass and Ceramics degree at the NGC, Sunderland, a course that I am going to sorely miss.

Over the past 3 years I have met some truly wonderful people, learned an enormous amount and been given some fantastic opportunities – something that I will always be grateful for.

Now it is time to explore what career prospects lie ahead, related or otherwise. I hope that you will enjoy following me on my journey, reflecting on the wonderful times I had at uni, and everything in between.

Be awesome and see you on the flip-side.