Art is a glass act for Jackie Low of Texas City. She fuses pieces of glass in creating jewelry, dishes, and more in her kiln, where temperatures top 1,400 degrees.
Low, 77, has been working in the medium about 11 years. She is a member of the Galveston Art League ― which has galleries in Texas City and Galveston ― and enters the league’s juried competitions as well as the annual Texas City Art Festival. Low took second place in the 3-D category at the 2015 art festival and more recently received an honorable mention at a Galveston Art League juried competition. She has donated a blue-and-white dish of “woven” glass to be auctioned during the Art League’s annual gala fundraiser to help the nonprofit organization increase its operating funds. The gala will be Saturday, Oct. 6, at the San Luis Resort Grand Ballroom at 5222 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston; tickets and details at GalvestonArtLeague.com.
Following are insights into her work with fused glass.
Q: What’s needed to work in fused glass?
A: Basic instruction on the properties of glass and on scoring and cutting glass. Kiln access. You need eye protection and shoes, preferably closed-toe ones because chips and fragments escape while you work. You need a willingness to have things come out maybe not exactly as planned. And it’s ideal to have a dedicated workspace because bits of glass get on the floor.
Q: Do you cut your fingers?
A: [Laughing] Oh, yes! I consider blood an organic element mixed into my work. I keep Band-Aids around.
Q: Describe your process of creating fused-glass coasters and bowls.
A: To make a coaster, I cut a 4-inch square of clear glass. Then I cut glass in colors to cover the 4-inch piece. I fire the glass at 1,450 degrees to get a completely smooth finish. I take it out, put rubber feet on it, and it’s done.
For something with a raised design ― like the sea turtle bowl I entered in the Galveston Art League’s spring competition ― I cut a 9-inch square of clear glass and a 9-inch square of blue-green glass to make the base, in this case to resemble water. I fire those pieces flat at 1,450 degrees on day one. On day two, I put pieces of green and iridescent amber glass for the sea turtle on it. I glue them on; one of the best fixatives is unscented hairspray from the dollar store. I fire it cooler, at 1,350 degrees, so the turtle is raised and doesn’t flatten. On the third day, to curve the glass into a bowl, I fire it at 1,250 degrees over a ceramic mold with a layer of kiln wash, which allows the glass to release.
You fire things at different schedules for different effects, and there are controlled heating and cooling cycles to keep from breaking the glass.
Q: Where do you buy supplies?
A: At Harmony Stained Glass in Pasadena and online.
Q: What are your favorite things to make?
A: I like making coasters. They’re little 4-inch canvases. You can take these and make a set around a theme. And I like jewelry because you can create a variety of special effects and you never know exactly what you’ll get until it comes out of the kiln. I also enjoy making bigger pieces because they can tell a story; my Fruit Salad in Paradise piece is about Adam and Eve and the snake in the Garden of Eden.
Q: Where do you sell your art?
A: At the Galveston Art League Gallery in Galveston, which has a jewelry case in addition to shelf space for my pieces. I also sell at Affaire d’Art gallery in Galveston and at Galveston Boutique on 25th Street.
Q: You’re active in Galveston Art League, editing its quarterly newsletter and serving on its board. Why is the Art League important to you?
A: I think the availability of arts of all sorts is important to the quality of life in a community, and the Art League is a huge supporter of visual arts and arts education. The league’s children’s programs and workshops [details at GalvestonArtLeague.com] help give Galveston County its character. We have this incredible wealth of people here who share their art through performing and visual arts. Accessibility to art is important because exposure to art enhances learning in other areas.
Q: Where can someone learn about fused-glass techniques, tools, and supplies?
A: I started with classes in the senior adult program at the College of the Mainland in Texas City. There are many great books. I watch stuff on YouTube, too, and there’s a lot of material on the internet about problem-solving and techniques. I also take workshops occasionally at Harmony Stained Glass.