Crafting/ DIY/ Great Gifts/ Hallmark Home and Family

Art Glass Clay. Firing glass in the microwave!

I’m really excited about this: Art Glass Clay.  Imagine.  Glass you can actually mold with your own two hands, and fire at home! That’s kind of like alchemy to me.  I needed to know more.

I did an overview segment on Home and Family, with clay and instruction we got from artist Paula Radke.  It was fun, and a good place to start, but frankly, one could spend a LOT of time learning about this clay.

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

It’s a powder, that you mix with water, add some heat, and it becomes glass.  You can mold it, stamp it, sculpt it… it’s really pretty amazing stuff.

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

by Paula Radke

Here’s the lowdown:

The powder is 99% smoothly ground glass, mixed with a small amount of organic binder, that’s what makes it behave like clay.

It comes in 24 colors, in 2-ounce jars, and they cost between $12 and $18 each.

You can make 4-5 large pieces or 6-8 smaller pieces from one jar.

The clay shrinks about 20% during firing.

You can make beads, pendants, ornaments, earrings, buttons, even drawer pulls!

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

Here’s what you’ll need:

Art Glass Clay

Molds/stamps/sculpting tools

Water

Mixing Bowls

Knife or palette

Files, sand paper

Olive Oil

Parchment paper

Kiln.  We’ll talk more about that later.

First:

Mix powder with water.  The ratio is roughly 2 parts powder to 1 part water.  Start with a little less than 1 part and add as you go.  You can always add more water.

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

Mix in a glass bowl with a knife or offset spatula.

When it begins to hold together, pick it up and knead/roll with your hands.

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

At this stage, the clay will keep indefinitely in an airtight container.

Molding your clay.  You can use polymer clay molds, molds made specifically for glass clay, I’ve even used candy molds.  Silicone molds work best.

Next, prepare molds.

Brush with a little bit (not much!) of vegetable oil as a release agent.

Press clay into mold, make sure it’s well pressed, and no air pockets are hiding.

Turn mold over, and pop the clay out onto a piece of parchment paper.  This will make it easier to transport the finished clay pieces while they are drying.  If you want to add holes, do so while clay is still wet.

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

Set aside to dry.  Medium sized pieces take about an hour to dry at room temperature.   You can also dry in a 200-degree oven.  Turn over to make sure it’s dry through.

**Make sure your piece is completely dry before firing – any water in the clay could cause it to super heat, and crack or explode.  And that’s a pain in the glass.

Once dry, sand or file away any bits, rough edges, sharp points, etc.  Use emery boards/jewelry files, sand paper, etc.  Be careful, this is when your piece is at its most fragile.  While sanding, work over a piece of paper.  The filings can go right back into the jar and be rehydrated later!

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

Firing:  If you have a kiln, lucky you.  Perhaps a friend does, or there’s a studio nearby that will let you fire in their kiln.

In my experience, the clay fires best in a standard kiln.  But if you don’t have access to one, you can get a microwave kiln.  This is a fiber-ceramic 2-part vessel that has a special liner that allows it to get super hot.  Remember, the glass has to get over 1000 degrees!

Microwave kilns can be found online or in specialty glass stores. The one that is recommended is made by Paragon, and can be found here.   It’s not cheap, but considering all you can do with it (you can also fire precious metal clay in it too!), it’s worth the investment.

If you have a tiny one like mine, you really can only fire small pieces – a quarter or smaller.  My kiln only cost $70, but if you have a larger one, you can fire larger pieces.  Kilns can range up to $300.

Microwave kilns vary by manufacturer, be sure to read and follow the instructions for your specific kiln.  While there are differences on how to use and/or set-up microwave kilns (some require kiln paper, others a kiln wash, etc.), the actual firing method stays the same.

Perfecting firing techniques takes time and practice, but anyone can do it.  Be patient, and you will be rewarded.

Microwave firing:  Begin by setting the kiln in the microwave oven and heat for 1 minute.  Using a heat-safe mitt, lift the lid of the kiln to view it… only do this for a few seconds.  Put the lid back in place, then microwave for another minute.  This allows your glass piece to “breathe” and absorb the heat more evenly plus you can monitor its progress.

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

Next, microwave for 30 seconds.  First the piece will turn black – that’s the binder burning off.  In the next intervals of firing, the piece will return to the dried color, then eventually begin to get glossy, and may even glow red-hot.

Continue in 30, 20 or 10 second intervals, until your piece looks sufficiently shiny.

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

These are my first attempts. Not perfect, but pretty darned cool! (I used a candy mold to make the ‘gems.’)

(For more detailed instructions on firing clay go here.)

Depending on the size of the glass piece, it will take approx. 5 minutes to fully fire in the microwave.

When you are finished, let the glass cool down for a minimum of 30 minutes.  And, at the risk of stating the obvious, DON’T TOUCH IT WHEN IT’S HOT.   

Once fired, the piece is 100% glass.

Art Glass Clay Tutorial

Until you get the hang of firing, I recommend using pieces you haven’t spent a lot of time making. Also, using molds creates beautiful detail with minimal effort but start with only one color at first.  That way if you have a failure, it won’t be devastating.

 Tamara on Set

I’m a big fan of this clay.  Be safe, be creative, I hope you enjoy it!

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Meryl
    May 27, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I have a quick fire kiln. Can I use that and do you have any instructions?

    • Reply
      Tamara Berg
      May 27, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Hey Meryl. Sorry… I don’t have any info on using a quick fire kiln. But I’d bet it would work great! You might try contacting Paula Radke (the creator of the Art Glass Clay) on Facebook. Seems like she’s pretty active there. https://www.facebook.com/PaulaRadkeArtGlassClay She’s definitely the expert.
      I hope this helps, and let me know what you make!

  • Reply
    Marlene Bauman
    July 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    I recently took two classes from Paula for the Glass Clay. What a blast! While I was not there when the Studio used a microwave to fire some pieces, (and they had a dedicated glass kiln also) I just wanted to add something about using the glass clay. Be VERY careful taking some of the powder out of the original jar. Wear a dust mask as you should NOT breathe it! And after you have mixed your clay, wipe as much of the leftover particles off of your hands as possible, whether or not you save them. Paul has been told that the clay (I think the binder) can plug up your plumbing big time! I would wash your hands outdoors or in a bucket…

    That being said, I have had nothing but great experiences learning from Paula and staying in touch when I’ve had questions.

    Marlene

    • Reply
      Tamara Berg
      July 19, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Wow, thanks for the info, Marlene! And… I’m jealous! Paula is so awesome. Thanks again, and happy creating to you!!

  • Reply
    Linda Knapp
    June 26, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Where can I get buy some of the glass clay

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