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The Three Stages of Learning in Glass Fusing

The Three Stages of Learning in Glass Fusing

By John Hohenshelt Sr. and Arnold Howard Written in 1986

Until you actually fuse something yourself, glass fusing seems pretty technical. You hear forbidding terms like annealing, coefficient of thermal expansion, devitrification.

Yet the challenge in glass fusing is not really in learning how to fuse. That takes you only a few sessions. In no time you can even be an expert. The challenge is in what to fuse, because making exciting glass fusing is not as easy as it seems. I’ll explain this challenge by describing the three stages of learning the typical glass fuser goes through: the Process Stage, the Design Stage, and the Creative Stage. If you’re already a glass fuser, you might be curious about which stage you’ve reached.

In the Process Stage, you are excited and curious about the process of fusing glass. In only hours you can fuse a piece that would have taken days to make with leaded stained glass. You can mix glass colors by fusing overlapping colors. You can create different shades of one color by fusing clear glass over that color. There’s so much you can do in glass fusing!

Glass fusing does not require the discipline of leaded stained glass. A leaded window might take you a hundred hours to make, so you design it with great care. Yet you can turn out a whole shelf full of fused glass in one evening. And this is just what glass fusers do in the Process Stage. You’ll let yourself go and just have fun with fusing. You’ll fill every inch of kiln shelf with odd scraps of glass piled into interesting designs. When you show these pieces to your friends, they look at your new creations as if you had just pulled them out of the trash. This is what happens in the Process Stage.

In the Design Stage, which comes next, you’ve gotten over the initial excitement of fusing glass. Your curiosity has been satisfied, to an extent, though it never is completely. You know what happens when you fuse red glass over green glass, for instance. You’ve experimented with tack fusing and flat fusing. In fact, before you enter the Design Stage, you might already be a technical expert. But in the Design Stage, you begin to understand that the fused piece is a reflection of the time and care you put into it. So instead of tossing glass onto the shelf and firing, you discipline yourself and work hard to come up with something you can get excited about. You go through disappointments along the way, but eventually, if you stay with it long enough, you make fused pieces that really do excite you.

In the Creative Stage, which comes next, you are relaxed with fused glass. The hard work and discipline of the Design Stage somehow leads to a stage where you can make exciting pieces without even trying. In the Creative Stage you can create without the constraints of discipline that you needed in the Design Stage. Your creative ability in this medium has developed to the point where you can make pieces that are even more beautiful than you made in the Design Stage, yet you can do it with the indiscipline that you enjoyed in the Process Stage. You understand the term “effortless effort.” At this stage you find that glass fusing is enriching your life. So from the indiscipline of the beginner, to the discipline of the craftsmen, you return to the indiscipline of the beginner.

Each stage is necessary in developing your creative talent in this medium. So if you’re in the Process Stage now, enjoy it. Experiment all you want. Don’t try to make every piece a masterpiece. But don’t get discouraged if your first pieces end up in someone’s trashcan. When you’re in the disciplined Design Stage, don’t try to hurry through to the Creative Stage. Creative Stage fusing comes by itself. If you try to rush it, you’ll just end up in the Process Stage again.

When you do enter the Creative Stage—and you will definitely know when you do—you will find your life enriched. You’ll begin to see things differently. The Creative Stage is well worth waiting for, but in the mean time, enjoy whatever stage of glass fusing you’re in.



We have holding an Advanced Kiln Maintenance Seminar here at the Mesquite, Texas Paragon kiln plant February 24 - 25, 2006. For information, please email Customer Service:


This is likely our last communication before Christmas. I hope you stay warm, have a chance to spend time with your family, and have a joyous holiday season.

Best wishes from all of us at Paragon,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. - Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd. Mesquite, TX 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 /

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