Cast glass waka
above:cast glass canoe
by Shona Firman,
New Zealand

If you are looking for
cast glass there
is always some for sale
on eBay. See what there
is just now - click
Cast glass

Cast Glass: from the Glass Encyclopedia and Glass Museum
featuring the cast glass of Shona Firman

Cast Glass: A short explanation
The techniques for making Cast Glass involve creating a paste from powdered glass and colouring agents and filling a fire-proof mould with this paste then firing it in a furnace to melt the glass.

The technique was known in ancient Rome and Egypt, but in the art nouveau period (very early 1900s) it was called Pate de Verre and developed to a very high artistic level by such French artists as Gabriel Argy-Rousseau, Henry and Jean Cros, Albert Dammouse, Francois Decorchemont, Amalric Walter, Emile Galle and Georges Despret. These artists put the coloured glass paste into the mould using a paint brush or similar tool, first filling the sections which would eventually stand out in relief. The background of different colours was then added to a thickness of several millimetres and the centre of the mould filled in some way to prevent the paste from slumping. Argy-Rousseau filled the centre with powdered asbestos. For both cast glass and pate de verre, the filled mould is fired to melt the glass paste and fuse it into a single piece, and then allowed to cool very slowly to anneal the glass.

Some of today's glass artists incorporate computer controls and thermocouples (for measuring high temperatures) in the mould itself, giving them very precise control over the heating and cooling of the glass to avoid damage during the process. These techniques were first developed for making cast glass lenses and mirrors for huge telescopes. When the glass has cooled the mould is removed either by pulling apart the separate pieces or by lifting out the glass object (only possible with certain shapes) or by destroying the mould to release the glass. Further work on the glass, such as polishing or engraving or decorating is then undertaken.

Making cast glass is a slow process requiring a large amount of skilled craftswork. Experience and knowledge is needed to avoid bubbles, cloudiness, and cracking during annealing (cooling). Many cast glass sculptures are solid and quite large. Even a small piece 10cm thick can take a month of carefully controlled cooling to ensure it does not crack, and at 20cm thickness the time required to cool safely will be about four months. It was not until after the 2nd World War that techniques were developed for making very large sculptures using cast glass. Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova were the leaders in this development, but their work in communist Czechoslovakia was not widely disseminated in the West until the Czech Republic was set up and greater freedom allowed. Methods of working with cast glass were also developed in the USA, notably by Howard Ben Tre, in the UK by Colin Reid and others, and in New Zealand by Ann Robinson. Today cast glass is some of the most magnificent and skilfull glass produced.

It has been said that New Zealand has developed its own "Silicon Valley" of cast glass artists. Led originally by Ann Robinson who has been casting glass since the early 1980s, there are a growing number of glass artists in New Zealand who specialise in Cast Glass. Shona Firman, whose symbolic tribal canoe is shown above left; Emma Cambden, Greg Smith, and many others have acheived international recognition and awards for their work. One reason for the success of these cast glass artists has been the work of Gaffer Glass in New Zealand, in preparing and supplying suitable glass for casting. Further down this page you will find the story of Shona Firman and examples of her beautiful cast glass.

If you are looking for cast glass, it is worth searching under different names. Pate de Verre, for instance, or the major producers of cast glass such as Daum or Galle. These links will take you to some of the current listings on ebay.
- click here for Pate-de-verre glass - click here for Daum glass - click here for Galle glass - click here for Cast glass

Glass Encyclopedia

Click here for the full
list of latest topics

or click on any of
the following links:

Advertising glass
Akro Agate glass
Amberina glass
American glass
Ancient glass
Apothecary glass
Apsley Pellatt glass
Art Deco glass
Art nouveau glass
Arts and Crafts glass
August Walther Glass
Baccarat glass
Bagley glass
Barolac glass
Beads (glass)
Bimini glass
Blenko glass
Books on glass
Bottles (glass)
Boyd's Crystal Glass
Brierley Crystal glass
E O Brody glass
Bubble glass
Burtles Tate glass
Caithness glass
Cameo glass
Cameo incrustations
Carnival glass
Cast glass
Chance glass
Charder glass
Cire Perdue glass
Cloud glass
Cobalt blue glass
Consolidated glass
Contemporary glass
Coralene glass
Coudersport glass
Crackle glass
Cranberry glass
Custard cups (glass)
Custard glass
Cut crystal glass
Dartington glass
Daum glass
Davidson's glass
Depression glass
Dew drop glass
Dorothy Thorpe glass
Drinking glasses
DVDs on Glass
EAPG glassware
End-of-day glass
Etling glass
European glass
Fairy Lights
Federal glass
Fenton glass
Fire-King glass
Flygsfors glass
Fostoria glass
Frank Thrower glass
French glass
Fry Glass
Galle Glass
Glass hand vases
Glass Dumps
Gold ruby glass
Goofus Glass
Gray-stan glass
Greeners glass
Hand vases
Hazel Atlas glass
Heisey glass
Historismus glass
Hobnail glass
Hunebelle glass
Imperial glass
Intaglio glass
Irradiated glass
Isle of Wight glass
Italian glass
Jack-in-Pulpit glass
Jade glass
James Derbyshire
Jeannette Glass
Joblings glass
Joe Rice glass
John Derbyshire
J Walsh Walsh glass
Kemple glass
King's Lynn glass
Komaromy glass
Lalique glass
Leerdam glass
Le Verre Francais
L G Wright glass
Libbey glass
Libensky glass
Lobmeyr glass
Loetz or Lotz glass
Lost wax technique
Malachite glass
Manchester glass
Marbles (glass)
Marqueterie de Verre
Mary Gregory glass
Mdina glass
Mercury glass
Milk glass
Molineux Webb glass
Monart glass
Murano glass
Nailsea glass
Nazeing glass
New Zealand glass
NZ paperweights
Northwood glass
Opalescent glass
Orient & Flume glass
Orplid glass
Orrefors glass
Pallme-Konig glass
Paperweights of NZ
Pate de Verre
Peachblow glass
Pearline glass
Percival Yates & Vickers
Perthshire Paperw'ts
Phoenix glass
Pictures on glass
Pilgrim glass
Pirelli glass
Powell glass
Riverside glass
Reverse paint on glass
Roman glass
Rose bowls
Royal Brierley glass
Ruby glass
Sabino glass
Scandinavian glass
Schneider glass
Shoes in glass
Silhouettes on glass
Silvered glass
Silver overlay glass
Slag glass
Sowerby glass
Spatter glass
Stained glass
St Clair glass
Steuben Glass
Stevens & Williams
Strathearn glass
Stretch glass
STS Abel Zagreb glass
Sulphides in glass
Sun changed glass
Thomas Webb glass
Tiara glass
Tiffany glass
Tiffin glass
Toothpick Holders
Tortoiseshell glass
Tudor Crystal glass
Uranium glass
Val St Lambert glass
Vasart glass
Vaseline glass
Venetian glass
Venini glass
Verlys glass
Videos on Glass
Vistosi Glass
Vitro Porcelain Glass
Walther Glass
Waterford Crystal
Webb Corbett glass
Webb, Thomas glass
Wedgwood glass
Westmoreland glass
Whitefriars glass
WMF glass
Ysart glass

Useful glass links

Glass Message Board

Glass Museum on Line

Books on Glass

Glass Target Searches

References and Further Reading (click on picture)

Sand Cast Chinese 2014 Kiln-Formed Glass 2014 Kiln Cast Glass 2013 Knitted Glass 2013 Knitted Glass 2008 Techniques of Kiln Formed Glass 1997 Glass Casting 1989 History of Glassforming 2002 Beginners Kilnwork 2012 Rousseau glass book Daum glass book

Shona Firman Cast Glass

Shona Firman casting glass
Above: Shona Firman releasing a blue cast glass sculpture from its mold material.

Cast glass has become a specialism amongst glass artists in New Zealand, and Shona Firman is one of the leading teachers and artists working with cast glass in NZ. Her spiritual and symbolic pieces are stunningly beautiful. Many of Shona's vessels and sculptures are blue, since the touch-stones of ancient people were often blue, giving this colour a special significance. Her series of canoes, based on ancient New Zealand wakas, are each unique. Each one is made from a mold which is destroyed when the glass is released from it. In the picture above Shona is digging out her blue glass sculpture from the white "plaster-type" mold material. Some of Shona's vessels are three-quarters of a meter long - truly monumental sculptures in cast glass.

Art glass by Shona Firman
Above: Detail from a cast glass canoe by Shona Firman

Shona Firman was born in Whangarei, in the North of New Zealand, in 1940. She started her career as a display artist for a retail store, and in her thirties spent time sailing in the South Pacific and working as a designer and artist in Hawaii and in Canada. In the 1980s she started her own business designing, manufacturing and selling soft toys. She studied management and later attended Northland Polytechnic studying applied arts. It was here that she studied glass making under Keith Mahy's direction.

Two canoes sculpture by Shona Firman
Above: Two Canoes, a sculpture in cast glass by Shona Firman.

After graduating with merit and majoring in Glass, Shona was awarded a scholarship to attend the Pilchuck Glass School, in Seattle, USA. She was awarded a New Craft Artist Production Grant from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand, and made a study tour to Perth, in Australia. On her return she became Glass Tutor at Unitec, Auckland, and a year later in 1995 she and Keith Mahy became partners and set up the Burning Issues Glass Studio and Gallery in Whangarei.

Canoe by Shona Firman
Above: another ancient canoe vessel by Shona Firman.

Shona commented "We all paddle our own canoe through life, and its a different journey for each of us, but basically its the same canoe".

The cast glass "Jessie House" below is something completely different, a design drawn by Shona's grand-daughter Jessie, and converted by Shona into a series of incredible little sculptures.

Jessie House by Shona Firman
Above: Shona Firman's "Jessie House" designed by her grand-daughter.

Shona Firman is one of the artists featured in Angela's book about New Zealand Glass.
This book covers both extensive historical information and current glass artists in New Zealand, with some superb photography and explanatory text.

INFORMATION about New Zealand Glass !
Including many original catalog pictures and dozens of photographs.
NOW available - this is the second edition of the book and it covers the fascinating history of glass in New Zealand,
the story of Crown Crystal Glass, NZ bottles and an overview of contemporary New Zealand glass artists.
Available as a paperback or as a Kindle book.
Buy Now or take a look

If you are looking for New Zealand glass, you can usually find items on offer on ebay
- click here to see New Zealand glass currently for sale on ebay.

Browse specialist books on Glass
- what's new?
- what did you miss?
The place to browse through interesting glass books -

Books about cast glass -by title

Our Glass Blog
- take a look

The Last Word:
Don't forget to look at your kind of glass in Angela's Designer Glass Searches - save time
and don't miss an opportunity even when you are busy! - - CLICK HERE

If you have any questions about glass that you think we can help with,
please ask at the Glass Club Message Board.
And special thanks to all of you who share your knowledge by answering questions on the Message Board.

Copyright (c) 1998 - 2021 Angela M. Bowey.
All rights reserved. Copying material from this page for
reproduction in any format is forbidden.

Written and designed by: Angela M. Bowey.
URL to this page: