Watch This Artist Make Amazing Glass Sculptures

Brenna Baker is a master glass sculptor. Watch how she does it.
Christopher McFadden

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Glass sculpting is an artistic technique that can trace its origins over hundreds of years. Perhaps even thousands. 

Some tantalizing evidence of glassworking has been found in ancient Egyptian sites, for example. Modern-day glass working techniques use many of the same methods as ancient art artisans -- except with a modern twist on design and, often, materials and tools used.

It is a very skilled art form, as you are about to find out.  

But first, it might be useful to look at some of the techniques commonly used when making glass sculpting. Some of the most common techniques used in glass sculpting are as follows: -

Glass blowing - Glass is combined with sand and soda-lime, along with coloring agents (if required) to create a raw product ready for melting. Once combined, this is placed into a furnace, and once molten, is "gathered" using a blowpipe. 

This is a hollow metal pipe that is used to blow air into the molten glass to inflate it and make it hollow. Other tools are used to then shape or adjust the molten glass as needed. 

Once shaped, the glass sculpture is placed in an annealing oven to slowly could down the class until it is stable. If the glass cools too quickly, it may break or crack. If you notice any cracks in a glass sculpture that hasn't suffered from an accident, it is probably the result of improper annealing or incompatibility of coloring agents with the glass.

glass sculpture snowman
Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

Hot sculpting - As the name suggests, this technique involves shaping the molten glass with special tools. While similar to glass blowing, usually no air is blown into the molten glass. 

This technique tends to be more used for larger, and more solid glass sculptures.

Cold working - This technique involves the artists working on the glass while it is cold, or annealing, yet still ductile.  Artists will usually employ a variety of other techniques including sandblasting, cutting, grinding, polishing, and engraving to create a unique piece of art.

Cold working can also involve the use of special glues to adhere to glass pieces together. This technique is also very important when repairing broken or damaged glass art pieces.

There are many talented glass artists around the world, but one of the most prominent is Brenna Baker. 

glass sculpting sketch
Baker first sketches out her designs in chalk before starting the project. Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

Baker is a very skilled glass artist and has been working with glass as her medium since the tender age of 14. Hailing from Corning, New York. Brenna has dedicated her career to mastering the trade and immersing herself in its history. 

She uses a wide range of techniques including glass blowing, hot sculpting, and cold working to create amazing, and unique, pieces of glass artwork. 

glass sculpting furnace
With the design finished, the first stage is to fire the glass to make it molten. Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

Her passion for glassmaking has taken her in many different directions, acquiring many different skills and techniques, she is now a highly accomplished glassmaker in her own right. Baker's skills have been recognized by some of the most prestigious glassmaking institutions around the world, including the Glasshouse of Stueben

She has even worked with the famed glass sculpture Pino Signoretto in Mirano, Italy. 

glass sculpting pig
Baker uses metal sheers, metal prongs, and other tools are used to shape the main body and add other details like the ears, eyes, and feet for her glass pig. Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

In this video, Baker shows the audience how she makes a few of her now-famed glass sculptures from scratch including a glass pig, a glass zebrafish, a glass hummingbird feeder, and a snowman.

Before she even touches a piece of glass, Baker sketches out her design in chalk on her workshop floor. This is her masterplan that she refers to constantly when building her sculptures for real.

The next stage is to heat up the glass she will be using to make her sculptures. 

In the video, Baker first showcases some of the techniques used to make a glass pig. Using a variety of glass blowing, and hot sculpting techniques, she turns a blob of molten glass into a beautiful piece of art. 

glass sculpting pig nose
Other tools, like these metal tongs, are used for some of the finer details. She uses a blowtorch to spot heat areas before working on them. Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

For the Zebrafish, Baker uses many similar techniques to the pig, except the fins are sculpted using specialist tools to provide the texture of the fins. Other details like the tail, pectoral fins, and eyes, are added using small blobs of glass that are then shaped while still hot. 

glass sculpting fish
The Zebrafish taking shape. Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

Baker also makes use of other items to make the final sculpture more interesting and varied. For example, for her "Hummingbird Feeder", a metal frame is pressed into the molten glass. 

glass sculpting feeder
Depending on the design, Baker also makes use of other items, like this metal frame, to incorporate into the design. This example will be a Hummingbird feeder. Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

Other sculptures, like Baker's "Snowman", can also have added texture and color added to the outside of the glass. In the following example, white sand or glass dust is rolled onto the surface of the molten glass prior to forming. 

glass sculpting snowman
Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

Glass blowing techniques are then used to create the main body shape of the "Snowman". 

glass sculptures snowman
Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

Like other pieces, extra details are added using differently colored glass and sculpted into shape using a variety of tools.

With the sculptures now complete, the final step is to cool them down using annealing techniques. This is one of the most critical steps, as any error here can ruin the entire sculpture. 

glass scuplting annealing
The finished pieces must now be cooled down in a controlled fashion to prevent cracking and breaking.  Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

And here are the finished pieces in all their glory.

glass sculpting finished pieces
The finished pieces. Source: Brenna Baker/YouTube

It is amazing to watch an artist, who is a master in their field, work. While Baker makes it look incredibly easy, we can assure you it is only because of her years of experience and dedication to her craft that makes it appear so effortless. 

So, next time you look at or consider buying, a glass sculpture, take some time to appreciate the amount of work that has gone into creating it! 

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