Glass is made from a combination of sand and other materials heated to a very high temperature to create a molten substance that can be manipulated. The secrets of this process came to the UK with the Romans who closely guarded their secret for many years. Before this however, glass was still in existence. The natural activity of volcanoes and other natural occurrences such as lightening striking sand both produce a glass-like substance.
Throughout history glass has been a useful and often expensive commodity. The ancient Egyptians are generally credited with creating the first glass bottle, the Romans the first glass window, (although this didn't become popular until Tudor times when great houses like Hampton Court were being built), in the 19th century Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace was a marvel of glass and architectural engineering, and by the 20th century windscreens were being made for the motor care and that great product, Pyrex, was invented.
Glass however is not just used for functional objects that we take for granted. Glass as an art form has also been around for thousands of years. Early glass was used in mosaics and glass was also used in decorating beads as early as 4,000BC. Glass blowing is also an art form that has its roots back in the Roman times - today this technique hasn't actually changed that much and the technique can create the most stunning pieces of sculpture and tableware. Today of course, glass is a huge industry both as a commercial entity and as an art form. Contemporary glass making and sculpture has always captured the imagination. The big names of yesteryear such as Tiffany and Lalique command high prices today and glass is a big part of modern art.
Example areas of study
Courses in art vary from institution to institution so it is best to check with them first, the sort of modules you may study, but the list below should give you some idea of the subjects available:
- Properties of glass
- Critical and analytical studies
- Professional practice
- Staining and firing glass
- Acid etching
- Glass manufacturing
- Shaping glass
- Architectural glass
- Glass painting
- Kiln processes
- Visual studies
- Glass forming and manipulation
- Design practice
- Sculptural glass
- Surface decoration printing
- Glass blowing
- Processes and tools
- Glass in concrete
- Glass painting
- Moulding and forming
- Glass appliqué
Some career possibilities
Glass manufacturing is big business so there may be management and technical career possibilities within this industry. There are some very successful artists who use glass as their preferred medium, so with some dedication and talent this would also be an option. Other options may include jewellery making, art history or teaching. There are some postgraduate courses in areas such as glass technology and product design.
What do I need to get on a course?
To study on any art and design course, a demonstrable element of talent will be required, usually in the form of a portfolio. You will also be expected to have some academic qualifications and these will vary between the institutions. Below is a guide to the qualifications and grades that you may need but it is best to check with the institutions themselves before submitting an application.
- UCAS Tariff: 60-220 including and art and design related subject (the lower points indicate entry requirements for HND/Foundation degree courses)
- A-levels: DD-BCC including a relevant art and design subjects
- SQA Highers: CCCC including a relevant art and design question
- Advanced Highers: CC-CCCC including a relevant art and design subject
- Irish Leaving Certificates: BCCCC including a relevant art and design subject
- International Baccalaureate: 24 points including an art and design subject
- HNC/D: relevant subject area
- Foundation degree: relevant subject area
- Art foundation course
- Access course: for mature students
- BTEC National Diploma: relevant subject
For your application or interview the following will be useful:
- A good portfolio will be required. This should include designs and photographs of finished pieces that you have produced as part of previous study and in your own time. You should be able to discuss each piece with confidence at your interview.
- There are a number of websites that may be useful:
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk