Leslie Perlis working with her Paragon GL-22.
Just outside the Brigantine Restaurant in Del Mar, California, waves from the Pacific Ocean hiss and foam as they roll across the beach. Inside the restaurant, a 45-foot mosaic of a fused glass ocean wave spills across the windows and three walls. Sunlight sparkles through the green and blue glass.
Leslie Perlis fused the entire mosaic project in her 12-year-old Paragon GL-22 glass kiln. “Barbara Morton from the Brigantine Restaurant and I bounced ideas off each other for the mosaic,” said Leslie. “The project was going to be five stained glass windows, but it turned into the mosaic. This project has inspired me to make life-size mosaic figures, which have become a major chapter in my art career.”
Pointing to the glass mosaic waves, Barbara Morton said, “It is fabulous. I love it. No one I know could take my thoughts and translate them into beautiful art like Leslie has.”
Typical of artists, Leslie is unassuming about her work. When she shows her environmental glass art to friends, they say, “Wow, I didn't know you did work like that!” Or, “How do you do that?”
“I love my Paragon kiln,” said Leslie. “It has been an important part of my studio for 12 years. After I’ve put in a lot of work into a piece, I can count on my GL-22 for even firing.
“I’ve had great success in fusing everything from sheet glass to frits and powders in several types of molds. It is a great size for all types of fusing. I can fuse flat pieces, and the kiln is high enough to accommodate a mold for slumping. And it is easy to load. I can’t wait to see what projects I come up with to fuse in the future.”
Leslie has even glazed ceramic tiles in her GL-22. “For a bathroom, I painted ceramic tiles with glass paint and fired it in my GL-22. It worked great.”
Leslie discovered glass in 1971 while going to UCLA. “I fell in love with stained glass,” said Leslie. “The glass colors were so intense, and it was a challenge for me to bring a contemporary twist to this ages-old art form. I started doing stained glass commissions, which I still do. I took a glass painting workshop with Dick Millard. In the mid 80's the modern version of fusing was developing, and I took classes with Dan Fenton, Boyce Lundstrom, and Gil Reynolds.”
Is the GL-22 still exciting to fire after 12 years? “Every time I open my kiln up, it is like Christmas,” said Leslie, “even if I fire something I have done before. It is especially exciting after a piece has taken 2 - 3 days to fire and anneal. It takes a lot of patience not to open the kiln door too early, but after all the hours of preparation I don't want to take any chances.
“It's disappointing if something doesn't come out the way I wanted,” Leslie continued, “but I usually learn something from it because I'm forced to figure out a solution. Once a slumped piece cracked, so I figured out how to hang a decorative piece over the cracked part to cover it up. I really liked the look, so I began to include hanging parts on other pieces. It led to all kinds of interesting pieces. One time I did a pot melt into a rectangular mold. The wall of my mold fell over and the glass puddled in a really cool circular pattern. I put it in a stand and sold it right away.
“In the future I want to create whole environments,” said Leslie. “I believe that architecture can create fun and inspiring places to work and live.”
The Leslie Perlis glass mosaic wave at the Brigantine Restaurant in Del Mar, California.