My name is Bob Heath. My family and I live near Portland Oregon where we enjoy the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, especially the Oregon Coast and the Columbia Gorge area with all of its hiking trails and waterfalls. The fact that the world’s best art glass factory, Bullseye Glass, just happens to be located about a 30 minute drive away is a bonus.
After retiring from a 35 year career as a software engineer at Tektronix, I am now free to spend full time pursuing my passion for creating glass art. My first foray into the world of glass art creation was with stained glass. Over the years, I’ve explored just about every possible way to manipulate glass, from torch-work to sand-carving, finally settling on Glass Fusing as my primary technique.
My engineering background expresses itself in my glass artwork, both in terms of design and in the precision and attention to detail that I strive for in my glass creations. My work is typically very colorful, featuring geometric patterns with strong lines and sharp contrasts and is often functional, as well as beautiful.
A bit about the process of Fusing Glass
When I tell people that I create glass art, most immediately think I mean Glass Blowing. However, what I do, Glass Fusing, is a completely different technique. Unlike Glass Blowing, in which the artist interacts in real time with the hot glass to manipulate it into a desired form, Glass Fusing all takes place within the closed environment of a kiln.
With just a few exceptions, Glass Fusing is hands-off from the time you close the kiln and begin heating the glass to about 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, until about 16 hours later, when the glass has cooled to room temperature and it’s safe to reopen the kiln. What happens while the kiln is closed is a complex dance of heat, gravity, chemistry, glass volume, surface tension and other factors. To achieve a desired result, a Fused Glass artist must understand and plan for how these forces will interact and play out. That’s what makes it both challenging, and rewarding.
A bit about my technique
Most of my work starts out as a detailed drawing. I use this stage to try out multiple variations on each idea and to think through the steps that I will use to implement the design in glass. In many cases, the complexity of a design requires that I start by creating multiple individual component pieces that are fused separately, then cut and shaped before ultimately being fused together to create the whole. It’s not uncommon for a finished piece to require 3 or 4 fusing cycles.
Once the hot-work of glass fusing is done, most of my pieces are also cold-worked to give them a final finish. Cold working is a term which includes all of the things that Fused Glass artists do to the glass while it is at room temperature such as cutting, grinding, polishing and sandblasting. I frequently use cold-working to flatten and polish an edge to show off the intricate details of the glass interior or to create matte surfaces.