A photo of Kelly Biggs smiling at the camera - Fused Glass Artist

Kelly Irvine
Fused Glass Artist

Kilncare Profuser Kiln - My big Kiln in my workshop - Where all the firing gets done.

My beautiful Kilncare Profuser Kiln – Where all the firing gets done.

About me:

Hello, my name is Kelly and I’m the owner, designer, maker, photographer, accountant, packager and everything else associated with Vivid Lux Glass.

I’m a mum to two boys aged 13 and 6 years and live with them and my Husband in Southampton, Hampshire. In 2017 I left my day job to concentrate on my glass and it was the best decision ever! I get to spend all the important moments with my children but also get to work with beautiful glass and enjoy my job. I’m incredibly lucky, I know!

Family photo

Family Photo

My sons Kai & Roux

My Husband and I on our wedding day

My husband and I on our wedding day in 2023.

My sons Kai and Roux

Kai & Roux

New beginnings

I’ve always loved glass. The tactile nature, the beautiful colours. In 2015 I was struggling with having any enthusiasm for my previous business. I made lots of keepsake gifts using wood, clay, paper etc but my passion for it was waning.

I decided I needed to try something new, something I always wanted to do. I considered a glass blowing course but although it looked awesome, I quickly realised I’d never be able to afford the set up costs or even doing it as a hobby. Then I saw an advert on YouTube for a microwave kiln….. from there my journey started.

Learning

I spoke to my partner and told him I’d love to try glass fusing. I’d not really heard of it before, I’d seen some gorgeous artistic pieces but didn’t really know how they were made. So I took to trusty old Google and researched for weeks. I was all set to buy a new microwave, a microwave kiln and some glass and tools but then I discovered Creative Glass Guild in Bristol were running courses.

My partner suggested going on a course to find out more and to see if I liked it. He paid for me to go on a weekend beginner course, for my birthday. Unfortunately I had to wait months until the course date, so in the meantime I looked into it even more.

The weekend of the course finally came round, April 2015, I was nervous, apprehensive and excited! I was spending two nights away from my family for the first time so I felt a little lost. Arriving at the Creative Glass Guild, we were all introduced and offered tea/coffee while we waited for the rest of the small group.

There were 5 of us in total, I think. Once all seated, we got onto learning about glass, how to cut glass safely and from there, the course went more in depth.

On the first day I made 2 tiles, a window hanger and 2 items out of float (window) glass. The 2nd day I made a square bowl. You can see some of the results in the photos below. I learned so, so much in those 2 days. I couldn’t believe I’d actually made beautiful things from glass! My passion for glass just grew from there.

Course photo 3
Pieces of glass and copper sandwiched between clear glass.

As soon as I got home, I decided I wanted to do this. I spoke to my partner and told him I was buying a kiln haha. And I did! I worked some serious overtime at my dayjob to afford it, and all my set up tools and glass. I had to wait until June for the kiln to be built and delivered but it was so worth the wait!

It’s been 6 years since the course and I’ve learned so much on this journey. I’ve already upgraded my kiln for a much bigger one, quit my dayjob to run my business, I have my own workroom in the garden, won awards, have lots of beautiful specialist art glass and tons of ideas in my head.

My old work area:

This is my old workroom which was a converted garage so I only had to enter a door and I was “at work”! It suited me for a while but as my business grew, I was running out of room. The kiln also gives off fumes and smells so whenever it was on, the whole house smelled. It wasn’t ideal!

I started with a Kilncare Hobbyfuser which suited my needs perfectly, it was a 3 pin plug so no wiring needed, compact enough for my workspace and didn’t cost too much to run.

I soon needed a new kiln as my business grew. I opted for the Profuser, again made in the UK by Kilncare. They’re fantastic kilns and the customer service and support is top notch.

A collage of my old workspace

My old workroom – a converted garage inside our house

A photo of my old workspace

My old workroom – it was small but functional!

My original HobbyFuser Kiln

My original kiln – Kilncare HobbyFuser

Kilncare Profuser

Current, bigger kiln! Profuser

My NEW Garden Workshop

In 2019 we decided it was time for me to upgrade my workspace. We built a purpose built workshop in our garden! I absolutely love it.

I really wasn’t keen on moving, I’ll admit, but now its all done, I can’t imagine working anywhere else!

Moving the kiln was a HUGE job and we roped in some help. We had to take the kitchen door and frame off for the kiln to fit through and we hired a pallet pump truck to get it down a steep ramp from the decking to the garden….My heart nearly came out of my chest I was so nervous! But all went well and I soon moved everything else in.

I now have specific areas for different parts of my work. I use a grinder and glass saw, which can get messy, so these are set up on a table away from everything else. My cutting desk is next to my glass for easy reach. My printers are on a shelving unit along with all the paper and stationery I use. I also have packaging shelving and a newer packaging area, I also have a small storage shed outside my workshop for all the extra packaging I use, I could fill a whole room with it.

I have walls decorated with artwork and trinkets from other Small Businesses. They’re right in my eyeline at my desk and bring me lots of joy to look at. I have a lot of prints from my favourite illustrator Marnie Maurri, they bring me joy!

I absolutely adore my workspace. It’s so calm and peaceful and I feel very lucky to have it.

The outside of my workshop
Inside the door of my workshop
My workshop shelving
New workshop - photo shows prints on the wall, glass in cabinets and work table

The Fusing Process

First off, I want to explain what Fused Glass is. Many people get confused with Stained Glass, Blown Glass, Sculptured Glass, Factory made Glass – They’re all very different with distinctive processes.

Put simply, glass fusing is the technique used to join glass pieces together by melting the glass at a high temperature in a kiln. The fusing process usually requires multiple pieces of glass. There are different types of glass available to fuse. All glass can be fused but not all glass is compatible! You cannot mix different types of glass in fusing, unless you want them to crack or even explode!  This is liable to happen either straight away or years down the line.

Types of glass

Some people use float (or window/greenhouse glass), glass bottles or tested compatible Art glass (System 96, Bullseye etc). I personally use Oceanside System 96. I love the colours available, the fact it cuts so nicely and it’s just beautiful glass! I also use some Bullseye glass, mainly for jewellery.  Most fusers use a special glass kiln, rather than a pottery one as you need to be able to have precise control of temperatures using schedules and a controller.

Fusing does have its limitations. Most pieces are flat, 2D. You can make different shapes using moulds but things like drinking glasses, oven dishes, items that go from hot to cold quickly are not really suited to fused glass. There is a thing called Thermal Shock – if the glass is suddenly exposed to extreme heat or cold, the thermal shock (strain) will cause the glass to break.

Most kitchenware, like Pyrex, is made of borosilicate glass which is a special type of glass. Borosilicate glass is a type of glass with silica and boron trioxide as the main glass-forming constituents. Borosilicate glasses are known for having very low coefficients of thermal expansion, making them more resistant to thermal shock than any other common glass.

There are many, many types of glass out there. All have different uses but that’s a subject for another time!

Annealing

A note on annealing – Annealing of glass is a process of slowly cooling hot glass objects after they have been formed, to relieve residual internal stresses. Annealing of glass is critical to its durability. Glass that has not been properly annealed retains thermal stresses. Inadequately annealed glass is likely to crack or shatter when subjected to relatively small temperature changes or to mechanical shock or stress. It even may fail spontaneously.

I use a glass manufactured in Mexico called Oceanside 96 (used to be Spectrum System 96). I buy it in sheet form, frit (small bits of glass in different graded sizes), powder and stringers, as shown below.

 

Photo showing different colours of sheet glass

Colourful individual sheets of glass.

Glass Frit in jars

Colourful jars of frit.

Glass stringers

Colourful strands of glass (stringers).

How I work

Each piece I make is carefully planned and designed. I research first, make a drawing, then make prototypes and design a kiln schedule for the item/s. I check it won’t be mega expensive to produce, therefore making the retail price too much and not worth carrying on with…..I’ve had a few pieces that were just one offs because they cost too much to make. Art glass and Fusing isn’t cheap and I have to maximise the amount of pieces I can cut out of a sheet of glass. I have a nifty spreadsheet which works it all out for me!

Whatever I’m making, I take the utmost care in creating every single piece.

From start to finish, this is the rough process of making a piece:

  • Cut the glass: Most of the time I hand-cut using a glass scorer. Sometimes, for more intricate pieces or shapes, I use my glass saw and grinder.
  • Clean the glass: This is really important as any foreign objects or specks can ruin a piece once firing in the kiln.
  • Arrange the glass: Some designs are more time consuming than others. My large snowflakes are tricky to make and take a long time – Each one has over 60 individual pieces of glass to arrange! Whether it’s a simple or technical design, I must be careful to make sure everything is joined together so it’ll fuse! Most pieces have two layers of 3mm glass, fused together.
  • Clean the glass again.
  • Transfer to the kiln shelf, making sure everything is still in place and held together.
  • Set the kiln schedule: Different pieces need different schedules, depending on the outcome I want. I won’t get too technical here! The hottest my pieces go is 804 degrees Celsius . A full schedule takes around 14-20 hours to complete, plus cooling down time! Everything is heated in the kiln through a series of ramps (rapid heating) and soaks (holding at specific temperatures) to melt and fuse the glass pieces together. The process also ensures the strength and stability of the glass (annealing).
  • Wait out the slooooooow cooling time.
  • Inspect each piece before cleaning and either storing or packaging to go to a customer.
  • Some pieces go through a second kiln schedule to mould it into a shape or add pieces to it.

The images below show pieces before and after they’re fired: the glass is more rounded and no longer sharp!

Glass squares before firing in the kiln.

Glass after firing in the kiln

The glass squares are now round after firing in the kiln!

Glass before firing in the kiln.

Glass after firing in the kiln.

Glass before firing in the kiln

Glass before firing in the kiln.

Glass after firing in the kiln.

2022 A New Chapter

I rebranded!! I went from Rainbow Lux Glass to Vivid Lux Glass. My business name, my logo and branding all changed. My focus also changed. I still make rainbows but that isn’t my sole focus anymore.
 
It used to be my niche but I’ve grown and there are so many others things I can and wanted to do, the name didn’t fit me anymore. I felt a bit hemmed in, despite the fact that to me, “Rainbow” means all the colours…to many, it doesn’t. And it limited my opportunities and customer base. So I needed to adapt and change to survive.
Through the covid years, everyone was making rainbows.. And that’s great! They make people happy. But for me, it was time to branch out a bit. I’ve had my fair share of copycats and no doubt that will still happen.
 
It was a really scary thing for me! It was also quite exciting! I had felt a bit stuck in a rut and this gave me a kick up the bum.. To spread my wings and explore more. I do sometimes miss my old name, it had been part of me for 6 years, but a change is as good a rest.
 
I’ll started making lots of new products in different colours, no longer feeling like I had to make rainbows all the time. I experimented and made things I’d wanted to make for a long time. You can see my vase experiment on my blog.

You can read about Fused Glass quality and what you should look out for on the blog post I wrote.

 

2023 and beyond

In March I finally got married! Me and my partner had been together for 14 years but never got round to tying the knot. We booked the wedding and I had 6 momths to get everything sorted. I made everything myself from the beautiful flower arch to my bouquet, table decorations, place names and signs – it was a lot of work but I was so proud of what I’d achieved on a small budget. I even adjusted my own dress! It was one of the best days of my life!

I also made the favours out of glass – 3cm square magnets with paper hearts inside. And made some special gifts for our close loved ones – glass flowers.

Some photos of our day are below.

Glass flowers in the kiln before firing

Cremation Ashes Jewellery

In 2023 I started making cremation ashes jewellery again and added new products to my range. This is something I really value doing within my business. I love that I can bring a smile or a small amount of comfort to grieving people by giving them a lasting, beautiful keepsake made using their loved ones ashes. 

This has become a huge part of my business and I’m developing more jewellery, art and keepsakes incorporating ashes in 2024.

February 2024

My work was shown on National TV! BBC2’s Great British Menu – you can read all about it here: Great British Menu Props.

Great British Menu Fish Dish by Kate Austen on a handmade Glass Rainbow Plate
Great British Menu Rainbow Plate

I hope this page has given you a little insight to me as a person and more about the Fusing process. It’ll be kept updated as time goes on.

Kelly x