Lucent Glass Tangrams

Fused Glass Tangrams by Christie Andresen

Willow Tangram 800xThe invention of the tangram is lost in time. A geometric construction, created to form solutions to visual puzzles, it has been made from carved ivory and shell, highly polished wood, and even simple cardboard cutouts.

A friend gave me a book on tangrams, and I saw only one made of glass. I knew I had to make them in my studio, using simple but balanced surface visuals. Each single tan is essential to the whole tangram, and all my designs are based on honoring each geometric shape.

My Willow Tangram is fused Clear and Emerald German Antique glass. Clear glass is cut for the bottom layer, to let light through and illuminate the Emerald Green glass I use for the surface. Both layers are fused for 2 hours in my kiln, to a temperature of 1800 degrees. Fusing the glass while keeping the crisp geometric shapes is challenging, and the finished pieces need to have soft “fire polished” edges. They are meant to be touched and handled and held up to the light.

Post fusing there is an 8 hour cool down, and then the pieces are ready to be etched.

I love the dichotomy of the incredibly smooth fired glass, and the roughness of the hand etching on the surface. Yin and Yang.

These tangrams all measure 4”x 4” square. The Willow and Beach Grass tangrams are set up in a square, the Crane Flower tangram can be set up as a square or rectangle.

I carefully draw my design, and take into consideration the ratio of each part of the design on each piece of the tangram. Sometimes I leave a completely blank tan, and sometimes I etch on the back of the tan: the trapezoidal shape can sometimes be tricky, as a finished visual sometimes has a left trapezoid or a right trapezoid…only the finished puzzle tells you which way it needs to go.

The etching of the tans usually takes about 4-15 hours, depending on the design, and the clarity of the glass. I use a small electric rotary tool, with various sizes and shapes of diamond bits. One mistake in a design means starting over…you cannot erase a slip of the etching tool.

The Beach Grass Tangram used Clear and Cobalt Blue German Antique Glass, Clear on the bottom again to help light pass through and illuminate the blue glass on the top. This mixture of light and dark glasses allows for me to use rich tones of glass, while keeping them from looking “black” when assembled.

The Crane Flower Tangram is handled a little differently: this tangram is fired twice.

The Ruby Red Spectrum glass is fused as the bottom layer, and the Clear Spectrum Glass used as the top layer. This allows the Crane Flowers “float” on top of the tangram post the second firing.

The next step is to torch fire the “stringers” (vermicelli type glass rods), mixing colours, and carefully shaping, with gravity and heat, delicate Crane fronds.

Once the Crane fronds are created and cooled, they are carefully placed on the separate tans and the tans are fired for a second time, long enough for the Crane flowers to gently melt into the surface, while leaving their texture on the very top of the tan.

Another 8 hour cooling comes to a close with the tans having smooth edges, and the look of a red lacquer box, hand painted with flowers.

The Willow and Beach Grass tangrams are $185.00 and the Crane Flower tangram is $225.00.

They are a labour of love, and an experiment in using different effects to create the finest of finished craftsmanship.