The challenge of working with soda lime glass (so called "soft glass" as opposed to borosilicate or "hard glass" which is much more durable in the flame) is an experience unlike that of any other medium. It can only be successfully manipulated when molten just right; too molten and it boils, burns, drools out of shape, or changes to a hideous color; not molten enough and surface embellishments don't stick or "striking" colors don't take on the hue they're supposed to. Maintaining a hot enough temperature is critical in preventing soda lime from cracking or exploding (called keeping the glass happy), yet the constant bathing in the flame that this requires serves to diminish sharp features. This is because glass is always trying to defy its handler by pulling itself back together into a ball.
There is no rest period when undertaking a labor-intensive piece. No looking back once you've wrapped your stainless steel mandrel with molten glass and have begun the creative process. The act of transforming rods of glass into beautiful works of art is a fast waltz with the flame. The larger the piece, the more difficult to keep it happy, yet small decorations on its surface cool much more quickly and are prone to popping off. But, keep them happy for too long and they collapse into the mother bead. The sculptural glass artist is in a sort of creative frenzy - five seconds to add a detail, then ten seconds to bathe the entire piece back into the flame - five seconds, ten seconds, five, ten, five, ten. Some of my pieces take two hours of such nonstop concentration.
I use absolutely no molds when creating my beads. Each piece is sculpted completely freehand in the torch with most of my work being on the large end of the scale for this temperamental type of glass. For example, my dogs range from 2.3" to 3.5" long and my horses from 2.1" high for the very arched necked ones to 2.7" for the higher headed ones, with my typical steed bead averaging 2.4" high.
My sculpturals are all beads (except for my buttons) because my mandrel hole runs completely through them. This is the definition of a bead whether it be a simple orb or a complex form. The fun of beads, therefore, can be their versatility - display a free-standing figure in a curio cabinet one day, and wear it as a pendant the next.
I've owned horses nearly all of my life and couldn't live without them, so it's no surprise that they're my number one interest for reproducing in glass. I live with my husband, American Saddlebred horses, cats, dogs, laying hens, geese, goats and other critters on our 85 acre farm in southeast Michigan.
I hope you've enjoyed viewing my creations and seeing the wonderful possibilities this unique medium we call glass can provide. I'm completely self-taught and am honored to say I've been featured in books, magazines, calendars and screen-savers.
wtobler@tobler_glass.com (remove the underline! toblerglass is one word)
Tobler Glass Creations
Sculptural glass beads
individually designed and
handcrafted in a mixed gas torch
(called lampworking), by