Glass Fusion: Dana Worley Artworks
By Ted Scheffler
Beauty and function. Those are two words I would use to describe Dana Worley’s fused glass artwork. Although she creates non-functional pieces as well, as a cook, I appreciate the functionality of Dana’s sushi plates, bowls and other vessels made for kitchen and dining use. As someone who appreciates beauty, I love that the art she makes is also drop-dead gorgeous. And, they are typically one-of-a-kind. Worley says she doesn’t do “production” work and doesn’t often duplicated pieces.
Like so many great artists, her “day” job isn’t exactly artsy. Dana works for Campbell Scientific in Logan as an engineering project manager.
Tech Talk: Fused Glass
Describing her artwork, Worley says “People often look at my work and immediately think it is blown glass. Fused glass is a lot different; it's fired in a kiln. You start with glass specially formulated for fusing. It is referred to as tested compatible glass. One of the elements of the testing is the coefficient of expansion -- basically, this is a measure of the linear expansion of the glass under temperature. To be able to combine two pieces of glass, they must expand and contract at the same rate, or the glass will crack once the two pieces are fused. The glass comes in different forms -- sheets, frits of various sizes (glass chunks), powders, and enamels (glass paints). Often I start with a base of clear glass, add colored sheet glass, and then use frit, powders, or paints to create the design. Visual interest and texture are achieved by varying the top temperature that the glass is taken to when fired in the kiln. My pieces are typically fired at least two and often three times, with each firing taking 8 to 24 hours. Some of my thicker pieces have been in the kiln for multiple days.”
A Need to Create
Worley says that she’s always had the need to create. “Even as a child I was sitting at my mom's sewing machine making clothes for my dolls. Over the years I've sewn, crocheted, marbled fabric, made jewelry, and worked in stained glass. I wanted to start making my own beads for my jewelry designs, so I bought a torch and some glass rods. The glass beads were breaking so I bought a small bead-annealing kiln. I read the manual and found out YOU COULD MELT GLASS!! I put my first little squares into the kiln and I was hooked.”
I never really thought about it, but baptism bowls surely don’t make themselves. They are made, sometimes, by talented artists like Worley. She says, “One of the things I have had the honor to do recently is create baptismal bowls for two local churches: Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ogden and First Presbyterian Church in Logan. The emotions that arise from seeing something that you created with your mind and your hands in such a beautiful setting, and knowing that your work will be part of a ceremony that is so special in people's' lives, is beyond words. Let's just say that I cried most of the way through the dedication ceremony for the first bowl, and I was only marginally more composed at the second one!”
Behind Every Successful Artist…
When asked about the future and where her art might take her, Dana says, “While fused glass is very creative, it's also very process-oriented. I am fascinated by the physical properties of glass and the scientific side of how and why it all works. I love sharing what I've learned about glass, and my blog is filled with tutorials and results of experiments I've tried. Ultimately, I want to continue to share this knowledge by teaching classes in my home studio and other venues.” Of course, behind every great artist is, often, a supportive spouse. “My husband, Karl, is my number one fan,” Worley says. “He's always been supportive of my art, and he never rolls his eyes when a freight truck rolls up the drive with a load of glass or a new piece of equipment.”
When asked what advice she might provide to someone wishing to get into her line of (art) work, Dana says smiling, “Well, I think the proverbial answer to this is: Buy the biggest kiln you can afford, and keep a good supply of band-aids on hand.
Seriously though, I suggest learning as much as you can about the science behind fused glass - how it behaves under different temperatures, how it responds to gravity, and how the elements in different colors of glass react with each other. There is a wealth of information to be found in books, on the internet (blogs, Facebook, dedicated glass forums), and in face-to-face classes. And then? Experiment! Oh, and don't forget to have fun!”