Hom : What is Glass? : History of glass
It is essential to describe glass development and the process of making glass in detail in order to help understand glass before mentioning glass art. Compared with painting, it is thought that it is quite necessary knowledge how to mix paints using what kinds of solvent when painting oil paints on the canvas for drawing a picture, and how to enhance beautiful colors and durability of the picture by using which colors and by drying the picture to what degree. Like this, I’d like to approach glass art by explaining ‘what glass is, and how the glass can be made?’ before mentioning glass art. Of course, it may be difficult to discuss glass through limited space, but I aim to help your understanding as far as possible.
As glass needs scientific approach more than any other art materials, it may not have been spread in our artistic field until now. Glass is quite interesting material, and even scientists are only suggesting various opinions on it without any clear definition of glass. Among such various explanation, the most easy and simple definition of glass is that “glass is an inorganic substance, and a solidified substance without crystallization when melted and cooled, or frozen coolant liquid.

That is, it can be said to belong to liquid among three kinds of state according to scientific definition. Actually, glass is a liquid with high viscosity which can change its property by being melted slowly, and it is possible to check and measure such changes in a scientific way while it is not possible to confirm it visually.

Despite such scientific definition, we usually consider glass used in our daily life as a solid. When applying heat to glass, it changes from hard elastic mass like rubber into viscous liquid. Therefore, strictly speaking, it cannot be said that glass melts at certain temperature. When explaining glass more briefly without chemical and scientific explanation, glass does not boil, evaporate no matter how much it is applied with heat, and it melts like starch syrup, changes into flexible substance, and hardens into hard mass. Based on understanding on such property of glass, glass artists can bend glass according his/her skill for dealing with glass elaborately and state of heat, and can change it into various shapes in a jelly-like state. .

While in an initial stage, sand, sodium, and lime were used as a raw material for making glass, these days, 60% or more elements are used as additives for producing glass, expanding the range of application by making special glass in various specific fields for newly applying to the field of scientific technology. Also, as glass resource is quite abundant, it is being applied widely as replacement of natural resources which is being exhausted.
Though glass has been used by human being for more than several thousand years, there is no person who knows the origin of glass exactly. According to an interesting fable on the discovery of glass, seamen, who carried saltpeter mass in Phenicia of the shore of the Mediterranean, prepared some food by supporting a cooker with saltpeter mass on the sand of the shore, and then, they accidently found that peculiar liquid (glass) mixed with sand due to intense heat flowed over the floor, which is said to be the point of time of discovering glass for the first time.

Besides, there are various views such that glass was first made by mixing ingredients of glass naturally due to high heat when a volcano erupted 8,000 years ago, or that glass was first found through glaze colored by accidently mixing sodium with sand containing potassium when calcining earthenware. But, no theory has accurate evidence, only an assumption.
The time when human being started to make glass and to make works of art by using it historically is around 4,000 ago. This is one of the greatest invention among numerous substances invented by human, and is evaluated as a very unique and precious material at a scientific point of view. From an artistic point of view, glass is a transparent body which transmits light and color, and is evaluated as a material having various expressions out of all knowledge.

Ancient Mesopotamian people who started to make glass for the first time made delicate and elaborate containers or works of art by using casting technique (a way for making a product by making a mould and pouring glass in it) or sand-core technique (to make a hotdog-shaped stick by mixing sand with mud and dry it, then to make glass container by dipping the stick in glass in a crucible). These methods had been used to make glass for about 2,000 years dominantly. After blowing technique (to make glass by blowing glass with an iron straw like blowing a balloon) was widely known to the world for the first time, products such as bottles, dishes and cups became easy to make, enabling ordinary people who were not royal family, the clergy or the rich to possess glass. Even recently, we depend on those ancient methods of making glass, and such methods are still making many people’s heart flutter until now. That’s because glass still has many technical problems which cannot be solved even these days despite its attractive properties.

Some archaeologists are trying to confirm whether properties or techniques of glass which has been made over a long time is the same or not despite lack of clear evidences. Such effort is to rightly recognize and approach glass created in environment and climate 2,000 years ago, and it is thought that looking back upon the past is very valuable preparation for understanding and learning about glass in dealing with glass.

Nonetheless, glass has been establishing its position as a medium of new expression and educational tool for artists for last several centuries, and as a result of this, ancient techniques which remained in sleep started to be shed new light on and researched.

Making a shape with hot glass was achieved passively by using certain tools or materials, not dealt with by hands directly. Techniques through experience influenced on more things according to the size and situation of a kiln which melted glass. Such problems fundamentally depended on how to deal with soil, and above all, a problem on how to increase the heat by lighting a fire in a kiln had to be decided first. While materials were important, many conditions such as tools or equipment which can deal with such materials through practical works had to be equipped with.
As glass is a very rare and precious material, has special utility, and techniques are easy to be exposed by making glass products easily under the necessity and using them in daily life, people have developed the techniques only for themselves avoiding the exposure of techniques both commercially and morally with realizing that they should protect those techniques strongly.

Glass can be said to be created, not to be found in that human being made glass by combining ingredients artificially unlike other substances existing in natural state. Like this, glass has developed as one of valuable and unique materials by combining creation of glass with sophisticated and wide technique of other materials such as ceramics.

From the first century B.C. to the 19th century, technique of blowing had been more dominant than any other techniques making a shape with glass. However, in the early stage of the Industrial Revolution, window glass industry started to make glass with another technique. There were two ways for making such flat glass. The first one is to make a round glass plate as big as possible by dipping large amount of glass from the crucible with an iron rod and by rotating it through centrifugal force. Such a way for making flat glass for construction using an iron rod was passed on from Roman times, and was well settled over the whole Europe.

The other way is to make a round plate glass by rotating glass which had too large gap by mistake when blowing glass. Above two ways had been used until the 18th century except the Venetian’s way for making a mirror (a way to make a mirror by polishing rough surface of glass with hand for a long time which was made through casting by pouring hot glass into a mould). Plate glass made by blowing technique was irregular, had small size, and was limited in designing work, having quite many limitations as a source of window glass for construction.

France was place in a situation where it had to select a certain inspiring method for the first time being encouraged by such motive power as it produced plate glass for Versailles, a palace for Louis XVI in such an economically infeasible way of manufacturing plate glass like this. With that change, the country opened Royal Glass factory. Though it settled that factory well and provides high-qualified economic window glass, the factory distinguished production of window glass from glass blowing, approaching it newly and specially. Based on such initial experience, the glass factory became larger, but consumption by the royal family was fundamentally low, and accordingly, production was also low.

Under such condition of plate glass, in 1851, Chance Brothers in West Brom in UK made Crystal Palace in London into the whole glass palace by making 300,000 sheets of plate window in a blowing way, and glass factories then frequently produced both bottle glass and window glass.

Thanks to such development, glass factories faced a situation where window glass and blowing glass separated from each other, and this meant that it is not necessary such a technique to produce window glass, and it had an advantage that cooled glass could be developed into clear quality by dealing with materials at an engineering aspect.

A machine developed for making plate glass for the first time is to scoop hot glass, to pour it into a ceramic container, and to make it flat by pouring it on the table made of an iron plate. Plate glass made through this process is quite a simple and large one, and it is true that it was passed on from mirror glass of Venezia, but it advanced surely.

Development of important window glass was made in a way to melt glass and to pour it through thin and long entrance in the 19th century, and techniques were mechanized completely in the 20th century.
On the one hand, glass art has recognized the ways of leaders who made glass for 2,000 years, and such ways have made similar concept of glass by continuing to change.

According to the changes of the times, glass was manufactured gradually centering small-sized factories, and used for their kingdom. And glass blowing was the most dominant way to make glass from the ancient times, enabling factories to make glass successively. Also, it enabled them to make their own special and monopolistic substance in their workplace independently. Especially, artistic shape of glass which they could not make only one piece of from the 1st century to the 18th century, and traditional technique by strong basis became the orientation for making functional shape and various kinds of glass. The dominant atmosphere of such factories made only blowing glass challenge for last 100 years as a container in daily life.

In the 19th century, each glass factory became veiled in mystery industrially, and factory owners were separated in order to make special types of glass products by using a sole machine. Such influence of the times has created a factory of bottle glass and window glass.

New technology helped manufacture blowing glass quickly and simply, and according to invention of gas or electricity, people developed glass composed of special components in order to use it for lighting up (initial light bulbs were made by blowing). At the end of the 19th century, two famous glass artists named Tiffany and Galle made quite decorative glass as they worked for a glass factory, and they made glass ornaments in a way which was not possible to be used again. Such unique way of production became the pre-process of production for repetitive production. Galle and Tiffany raised a question about glass in their own group, solved the problems and continued invention.

Furthermore, new techniques influenced on glass blowing, and all of them became the new technology by combining other techniques. This technique was to make a product only once, or to make the limited number of products, so it took much more time than producing method of normal factories, and it was a quite uneconomical way. Above two artists were fascinated by ancient glass and influenced by it. Galle studied in Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and Tiffany was fascinated by pearl color and green-blue color of the Roman times, and reproduced ancient glass for the first time. Such experiment was quite important, and it enabled him to know the technique of ancient glass.

Then, glass art field reappeared with new shape and a shift in generations by some glass artists such as Morris, Ruskin, and Dresser. As a result, different two groups appeared; one focused on industrial design field with organized skills; and the other, a group of artists, used an ancient method with ancient materials, which were far from industrial products from factories.

Such glass artists or craftsmen continued to research and development in order to make amazing and new glass continually by inventing new techniques with new ideas supported by several factories during the 10th century. Those products were uneconomic ones, but their development played a leading role as a kind of ornament, not as a product from the factory, dominating the glass art field until the end of the century. Such changes raised interest of the public and furthermore, they were known to glass artists.

In the 20th century, there were two excellent glass artists, and they made their own living by being distanced from the system. Marcel Marinat was a painter before starting to make glass at the age of 20, and continued to draw pictures for ideas about glass.

Rene Lalique was a foremost artist in metal craft of Art-nouveau, and moved to glass art, creating quite different-style glass from metal. This has made a special Art Deco style by contributing to glass art field in the 20th century greatly.
Recently, artists are suffering to search new materials and study them only with instant novelty and interest of glass, and from this point of view, fundamental criticism can create quite many things. An object named glass is immune to certain judgment as it spread in our daily life too widely. That is because standard by other media is used to glass in the same way.

Rene Lalique was a foremost artist in metal craft of Art-nouveau, and moved to glass art, creating quite different-style glass from metal. This has made a special Art Deco style by contributing to glass art field in the 20th century greatly. Recently, artists are suffering to search new materials and study them only with instant novelty and interest of glass, and from this point of view, fundamental criticism can create quite many things. An object named glass is immune to certain judgment as it spread in our daily life too widely. That is because standard by other media is used to glass in the same way.

As arts cannot be maintained without education or discussion, glass is the same. Glass as a medium of art has a property to transmit, refract, and reflect light and it can be colored. But, unfortunately, glass has come to get a shape only by pure artists who are the mainstream recently, or by being labeled commercially.