Alicia Lomne's Pate de Verre Class

Lomne class, Part I

>, pate de verre>Alicia Lomne and pate de verre


Whew. Been so busy my eyes are crossing (which makes it kinda hard to write), but did want to mention what I’m up to this week: Alicia Lomne’s pate de verre class at Bullseye. I am having a ball, and sorry that the week’s drawing to a close.

Most people employ pate de verre techniques (there are many) to create “classic” vessels, i.e., Art Nouveau/Art Deco stuff: Flowers, bugs, leaves, fish, birds, curly-haired Greek gods with grapes, that kinda thing. I love that stuff–I’d better, since that’s where I’ve been living lately–but it’s fascinating to see what happens when you head it in another direction, as Alicia does.

Alicia’s pate de verre is modern, simple, aesthetically pleasing and absolutely without guile. It also defies gravity (and is a heckuva lot faster than the methods I employ…)

Pate de verre, for those of you that don’t know, is probably one of the first techniques the ancients used to make glass objects, and it’s rediscovered about every other century.

In most versions, the artist builds a mold in the shape he wants, packs it with crushed colored glass, and fires it. Pate de verre is French for “paste of glass,” which most people say refers to the glass/water/binder that’s often employed to stick it to the vertical sides of the mold. I’m not sure I agree–one of the credited discoverers, Henri Cros might not have done it that way–but the idea of “painting” finely crushed colored glass is the key.

In Lomne’s case, she’s making remarkably steep-sided forms, generally without cores, which means there’s a huge chance that the glass will fall away from the sides and into the bottom of the mold during firing. She does some very tight glass frit packing, calibrates the firing speed and temps to the quality of the pack, and slips in just under the gravity wire.

I’ve learned a lot in her class, had a lot of fun, met some good artists…pretty much checked all the boxes I need to call this a topnotch experience. We’re not just making test tiles–we’re making vessel forms, and so far there’s some very impressive stuff coming out of the kilns.

As usual, I immediately started chasing difficult; the photo at the top shows my first vessel form this week, which the class nicknamed “the mold from hell.” I built the model in clay, invested it, started painstakingly “inlaying” the first color of glass into all the little rivulets you see. And I smiled forgivingly when maybe half of Bullseye’s tech staff stopped by to suggest that it probably wouldn’t work.

Of course, I’ve been doing PdV for a few years now, so I know about how far I can tempt fate. This one was complicated enough that in the time it took me to finish it, the rest of the class had probably made 30 or 40 things. 😉 I decided that my second classroom vessel would be a LOT simpler.

Fortunately, that one has come out of the kiln intact and with a better top edge than I’d hoped. I’m more excited about the second piece, which takes a page from the “Emergents” series. If it works–middle-of-the-night doubts about that nose–it should be cool.


Sifting dry powder onto a fresh, wet mold produces a velvety, “flocked” surface that I’d like to reproduce in the final piece sometime. This is the light “coloring” layer that will be followed by three thicker “packing” layers.

I did kinda miss that “go easy on the second one” goal, though. The shape of my second piece is a lot simpler, but the negative slopes may do me in (right).

Update: Two more pieces coming out of the kiln Sunday, one is a little eerie. I asked Alicia’s permission to go a little more in-depth about her methods in a second posting, and she agreed.

In the meantime, here’s some of the other artists’ stuff, fresh out of the kiln:

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  1. cynthia September 28, 2008 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Claudia, I generally hand-pad it with flexible diamond pads (the little 2 inch ones) or with wet-dry sandpaper from the hardware store, works wet. Makes a wonderful velvety sheen and doesn’t take all that long.

    On the packing, it’s really just working in thin layers and tamping very firmly and regularly from the center out. You don’t put on much glass with each application, and you’re giving the granules the opportunity to slide into available spaces and lock together.

  2. Claudia Atkins January 8, 2008 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Hi Cynthia:
    Thanks for the info…I did some experiments with Haiguchi which worked much better:)….and I totally understand if you cannot share details of the class that are “proprietory” to Alicia”s techniques. I will take a class with her in the future for sure. She is a hard woman to get a hold off!!!
    Another question, which is more of a general techniques question…when you talk about packing the powder tightly …other than wet and pressing it….in layers…are there any other secrects to it?
    And… how did you cold work, if at all, the side of the glass that is laying against the plaster?

  3. Cynthia Morgan January 4, 2008 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    Hi, Claudia. Since they’re not my techniques, I’m not really comfortable sharing much more, particularly specific schedules (there’s a range of them) without Alicia’s permission.

    One thing, though–these aren’t done on a kilnwashed ceramic mold, as you can see above, but rather packed on wet plaster-silica investments. I’ve had some success on my own with pate de verre techniques on a kilnwashed permanent mold, and you CAN get it to work with enough fine/powder frit and a very solid, tight and layered pack.

    Still, the kilnwash does have a tendency to stick, I suspect because you’ve got so much wet that it lifts the wash. This is a case where–at least with more complicated or vertical shapes–it really does help to “roll your own” molds.

    Alicia’s got kind of an evangelical bent with this stuff, so I know she’s interested in sharing, and I’ll keep you posted if something comes up. But I think she’s got to be the one to share.

    Sorry about that–



  4. claudia atkins December 29, 2007 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Hi Cynthia:
    I sooo wanted to take Alicia’s class but it was full..and so far I have not found another class coming up in 2008. My own experimentation with firing open vessels always has led to to glass sliding down..often taking kilnwash along. Not pretty…my firing schedule is loooong…about 35 hrs in my kiln.
    Would you share a bit more about the process, as well as the firing schedule?

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