Glass Jellyfish in the Making


Creating a glass jellyfish using a hand-torch has several steps.  The first steps involve developing the different profiles for the sculpture.  When I say profiles I am referring to the different views one captures when walking around an actual sculpture.  These profiles evolve and change in exciting ways! Drawings and notes are the backbone of my work.  I refer to my sketchbook throughout the creative process making drawings and taking notes about ideas that come to mind.  It is not unusual to have multiple ideas stem from a singular work.

This is the final completed glass jellyfish photograph in the article on creating a glass jellyfish, 2013, fused borosilicate glass, Columbus, Georgia
The finished jellyfish in the steps to creating a glass jellyfish. The glass jellyfish was created in 2013 using fused borosilicate glass.

Cleaning Your Glass

When creating a glass jellyfish, I begin by cleaning the glass rods with alcohol.  Cleaning the glass rods and the sculpture throughout the creative process is critical to success.  This is something one probably learns the hard way.  Dirt on your glass rods leads to headaches in the form of black specs, and poorly fused joints.  It is better to keep the glass clean from the start.  I always wipe down my rods and the sculpture before I begin to work.  This is so much easier!  Speaking on cleanliness I apply that habit to my workspace as well.  I always wipe things down and tidy up after working so the next day every thing is ready to roll.

Emily Williams creating a glass jellyfish skeleton, 2013, Columbus, Georgia
Emily Williams creating a glass jellyfish skeleton, 2013, Columbus, Georgia

The Skeleton

The first step in creating a glass jellyfish is building the first lines of your form.  This can be a tricky step since you will need lay some rods flat for fusing.  I usually do this on a marver pad which I preheat with the torch.  As you pull up the first few lines you will need to add structural glass supports.  The supports will be removed later but in the first stages they are critical.  The first glass elements will be the skeleton of your sculpture.  In essence you will be locked into this form until the end!  So I spend days and days fiddling around with what appears to be a very minimal form.  After I have achieved satisfaction I will anneal the sculpture to remove any stress in the glass.  If creating a glass jellyfish with smaller diameter rods you my find less annealing is needed.  As I move into larger rods I am annealing more frequently.

Emily Williams shows steps for creating a glass jellyfish and fleshing out the form.
Creating a glass jellyfish and fleshing out the form.

Building the Form

Once I have created the main glass lines of the jellyfish body I then begin to flesh out the form.  I begin adding glass lines from the center out while rotating the piece.  I work in a spiral fashion from center to top.  In this glass jellyfish I also played with twisting the rods quickly in the heat to shape the rod from thick to thin.  I find the fleshing out phase to be the most difficult and the most rewarding.  You may find that when creating a glass jellyfish that it begins to swim with a mind of its own.  The form may begin to evolve and you may need to make changes.  This is the part of working with glass that I really love…

Emily Williams creating a glass jellyfish tentacles, 2013, Columbus, Georgia
Emily Williams shows the process of creating a glass jellyfish and the final step of adding the tentacles.

Glass Jellyfish Tentacles

The final step is to add the jellyfish tentacles.  These swaying lines give a sense of movement to the sculpture.  For me they bring it to life! The tentacles are also easy to knock off while working.  Adding protective glass braces while you bend, shape, and tweak the tentacles is key!  Once the tentacles are in place then the temporary bracing can be removed.  I find this phase of creating a glass jellyfish very rewarding.  I have some good advice to share with the reader.  Someone once told me that you must figure things out for your self.  You must find your own ways of getting things done.  You can only learn so much from a book or the web.  The real work is developing your own ideas and letting those ideas dictate the process.  This glass process will vary for everyone!

For fun check out the glass jellyfish of Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka