Nadine Barker


Passion For Glass, All Started With a Class!

 Meet Nadine Barker, founder and owner of Fused Inspirations.  Based in nearby Mars, Pennsylvania Nadine (or one of her extremely artistic friends) hand-designs each fused glass creation. After an accomplished career in corporate finance, she has now transitioned (almost completely) to retired life with a full focus on growing the fused glass business.

 Let’s start with a quick history lesson. Fused glass art began roughly three and a half millennia ago, in ancient Egypt. It was by the shores of the Nile that artisans first discovered a way to produce colored glass objects through a mixture of silica, fluxes, and a variety of oxides that were melted at temperatures in excess of 2500 degrees Celsius. Fusing was used to create beads, bottles, bowls, jewelry, and even slightly larger objects like jars and vases. The bright colors and intricate patterns of these decorations proved highly popular among Egyptians, and as a result, fused glass art quickly became widespread across that ancient civilization.

Fast-forwarding a few thousand years - how did it all start for Nadine?  Several years ago, she attended a fused glass class at a local Pittsburgh studio. It was “love at first kiln” and she moved on to found Fused Inspirations.  While glass may seem hard and rigid it is quite amazing what can be created using the heat of the kiln. Consider vitrigraph as a fantastic example. Vitrigraph is a special technique that involves pulling hot glass through a hole in the floor of the kiln. Yes, really! The result - abstract strings of glass that can be used to create unique curved forms which add softness and realism to each design.

 Other design elements include beads, stringers and noodles – all made from glass. Beads are made by placing small fragments of glass into the kiln and heated to the magical temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.  At that specific heat – those fragments of glass form perfectly round balls of glass, which are then used as decorations in other designs. Stringers (spaghetti) and noodles (just like noodles!) look just like pasta and can also be used as decoration.

 With raw materials in hand, the process moves on to designing. The glass is shaped by scoring and running the score to break the glass. This is very similar to how stained-glass artists make their art. Now the design is laid out carefully piecing together, for example, the cut class, beads, stringers, noodles and/or vitrigraph.  Once the design is complete, it moves into the kiln. The next decision is what type firing should be used since there are many different results you can get when firing the glass. One is a full fuse which takes all the items placed on the glass and melts them smooth to the touch. Another option is a contour fuse which allows the added design inclusions to retain some texture.  Finally, a tack fuse which, just as the word says, tacks the pieces together but does not melt them.

 The first firing of the design can take anywhere from 18-24 hours. The cooled design is then removed from the kiln and thoroughly washed. If a mold was selected for the design the next step is to slump. The glass is heated again in the kiln just long enough to have it slump down into the mold. Slumping can take another 14-18 hours. Because of the characteristic of glass, it must he heated very slowly and cooled just as slow otherwise it will crack from internal stress in the glass. No project takes less than one kiln firing for a minimum of 18 hours.  This explains why you can never have too many kilns!   

 Nadine works from her 1,000 Sq Ft studio – complete with 5 kilns and a full assortment of tools and materials. Just with every other project she’s undertaken, Nadine subscribes to the “go big or go home” philosophy. This also applies to her product assortment, where she is committed to offer her customer new and innovative items. This year she is excited to offer an expanded assortment of lanterns along with several new whimsical holiday creations.

 Stop by Christmas in the Woods booth #28 to see all of the latest designs.  Try to spot the vitrigraph, beads and other design elements or ask us to tell you more about how each piece is created. Nadine can also tell you more about how you can do fused glass. If you have an opportunity to take a class you will likely understand how she fell in love with it. See you soon!


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