Basket Bowls – Making Birds In Flight

Birds in Flight was made with a pate de verre process using fine glass frit to make cast glass pieces.  I learned this process from Alicia Lomne.  Visit her website to see some amazing work using this process:

The Bowl

Glasswork by Barbara Barnett

This bowl is inspired by coiled native american baskets.  Birds In Flight is a native american pattern that I adapted to this glass casting process.  The alternation of the orientation of a triangle seemed like such a simple pattern but I needed to dust off my geometry to get the triangles to fit the circumference of the bowl correctly. The last triangle in the circle needed to be pointing down to match the first triangle which was pointing up.  The Birds in Flight pattern has many variations, the more complicated the design, the more sophisticated the math. Native american women basket makers had to understand the concepts of geometry to weave these patterns.  Art loves math and math loves art.  Here is a google book reference if you would like to read more about native baskets and their patterns.  I especially liked this one because it features California native baskets: Illustrated History of Native American Baskets and Plates published in the early 1900’s.

This is an abbreviated description of my process to create this bowl but I hope for find it interesting.

BIF Clay Model

Figure 1: Building the Clay Model


I started by building  a clay model of the bowl.  I then invested that clay model in a wet plaster/silica mold material.  After the wet plaster/silica hardened, I pulled out the clay from the plaster. This left a reverse of the clay model as you can see in the fig 3.

Mixing Glass

Figure 2: Preparing the Frit

I used Bullseye fine glass frit for this process.  The glass frit is mixed with water and gum arabic. I used Light Bronze and Deep Plum for the outer layer of the bowl.  I lightly drew my pattern on the plaster/silica mold and started loading a thin layer of the frit onto the bowl wall.  The first layer of of frit will be the outer side of the bowl.

Building Layer 1

Figure 3: Loading the glass grit

The second layer of white frit you can see below on the right side of the bowl below.  The white frit layer completely covered the first layer shown in figure 3.

Building Layer 3

Figure 4: Layers 2 and 3

The third and final layer of frit was Deep Plum and Light Plum.  I am starting to load this third layer on the left side of the bowl above.  Once all three layers have been added, the bowl is fired in a kiln.  This process heats the glass and melts the small grains of glass to form a hard surface.  Firing the kiln to different temps can alter the look of the bowl surface.  I used the sugar fire temp which is call that because final surface looks a little like fused sugar crystals.

Bowl detail3

Figure 5: Outside detail

Using the light bronze glass (figure 5) makes this surface look a little like felt.

Inside Bowl detail

Figure 6: Inside detail

My inspiration for the pattern on the inside of the bowl was Van Gogh’s starry night.  Scientist theorize that migrating birds use the night sky as one of their tools to find their way to the same nesting and wintering areas each year.   This seemed like a good choice for the Birds In Flight pattern on the outside of the bowl.

Antler Stand

Wax antlers

Figure 7: Wax antlers

I only have a few pictures of the steps I used in making the antler stand.  But here is a short summary of the process.

To make the antler stand, I made a three part mold of an antler. I used “shed” antlers that I bought on eBay.   I then poured hot wax into the mold to get a wax model (above).  (Shed antlers are those “shed” at the end of each season by the bucks.  Someone in Minnesota gathered them in the fall and then sold them to me.)

The wax antlers were then invested in a plaster/silica slurry. After the plaster/silica hardened around the wax antlers, the wax was melted out leaving the antler form as a cavity in the hardened mold.

Glass was then added to the cavity and the plaster/silica mold and glass were heated in a kiln.  The heated glass then melted into into the cavity taking the form of the antlers.  Bullseye Amber (left antler) and Rhubarb Shift (right antler) billets were used for these pieces.

Glass antlers.JPG

Figure 8: Finished Antlers

Bowl-stand detail

Figure 9: Finished bowl detail