The handmade glass rhubarb leaves you see here were made by the Pate de Verre method. “Pate de Verre” means “Paste of glass” and refers to the process of creating glass objects with molds and powdered glass.
I begin the process by selecting a leaf from the rhubarb plants in my garden. I build a support structure underneath the leaf with water clay to hold it level and in a natural shape. Using more clay I then create walls or dams around the sculpture. The next step is to fill the resulting space with a plaster mixture which has been modified for use at high temperatures. This will be the top half of the mold.
After the refractory plaster has set I turn the structure over and carefully remove the clay supporting pieces, revealing the back side of the leaf. I make more clay dams around the edges so I can pour the second (back) half of the plaster mold. Once the second half has set up, I can pry the two halves of the mold apart and remove the leaf from in between them. Now I have a two-part press mold.
The mold must be cleaned and any imperfections must be repaired. When everything is ready I fill the bottom half of the mold with powdered glass. The glass powder may be mixed with water and a binder to make a paste which is brush-applied into different parts of the mold, giving precise control over the placement of color. Or the color may be dry sifted into the mold in layers, allowing for gradual changes in color across the surface of a leaf or flower petal.
After the bottom of the mold is filled with glass powder I place on the top half and fire it in a kiln to 1500ºF. This fuses the powder together into a solid glass object in which the top and bottom sides are exact replicas of the original rhubarb leaf. The hot glass must be gradually cooled to room temperature over several days. After cooling, the plaster mold is broken away and the resulting glass sculpture is cleaned and polished in a process that takes many additional hours.
Each of the leaves you see on this page is part of a limited series. In order to make them more affordable, these have been made using one additonal step to produce a silicone mother mold. This allows me to make several versions of an individual leaf, each slightly different from the others. This spreads the labor of the initial mold creation across several final works and make each one less expensive than it would otherwise be.
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