Glass art shines at chamber

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Former Minnesotan Denise Elvrum likes to craft shimmering, iridescent glass into glistening accents for the home and sparkling accessories to bedeck yourself. She also wields one helluva bandsaw. She’s a glass artist, whose pieces will adorn the Socorro Chamber of Commerce office for the month of April.

When asked how she got interested in the medium, the ex-Minneapolis native smiles.

“My car died and I needed a new one. I had been a quilter for years. I love it, but there’s no money in it. I started learning a little about this kind of glass work and I totally got into it,” she said.

Elvrum uses a mix of dichroic and fused glass to create functional and decorative pieces, such as glass wall hangings, bowls, business card holders, or coasters. She also specializes in jewelry of all sorts, glass earrings, necklaces and pins radiant with jewel-like, splendiferous color—sapphire blues, emeralds, ruby-reds.

According to Elvrum, the medium is a constant source of surprise, always staying fresh for her.

“You never know what’s going to come out of the kiln,” she said.

Glasswork 101

For those not in the know, dichroic glass has multiple, micro-thin layers of metals, such as gold or silver. This gives the glass unique color range, due to whether light passes through it or is reflected back. This causes a rainbow-like color display, with different shades seen depending on the angle of view.

Fused glass is a term used to describe glass that has received heat-processing or firing at a range of high temperatures, at minimum 1,099 degrees to about 1500 degrees. Once Elvrum marries the two types of glass via her kiln, she then begins a process known as slumping. Slumping uses lower temperatures than ceramics or porcelain firing. Known as warm glass working, a glass worker will apply enough heat to soften the glass.

It begins to liquefy, becoming soft enough to “slump” into or over mold or form. The molds themselves are coated with graphite or sand or some other substance that will assist in removing the item. The heat is then vented quickly and the item slowly cooled to prevent cracking. Then it’s time for fun with power tools.

Power Tool Art

Remember the old TV series with Tim Allen, “Tool Time”? Finishing glass is where Elvrum has the fun of a kid in a candy shop. Except this shop is stocked with Makita power tools.

Armed with a drill press, tile saw and wet belt sander at the ready, she painstakingly takes on the process of cutting, sanding, and filing newly fired pieces into their perfectly polished shapes.

“It’s not for the weak,” laughed Elvrum. “Thank God for my boyfriend, who helped me learn the ropes. You can’t be afraid to use this stuff.”

She’s got her battle scars for beauty’s sake, too, brandishing her right hand to show a long scar along her right thumb tendon.

“Can’t be spoiled,” Elvrum chuckles.

Having carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger thumb are all part of this glass worker’s sacrifice for the art-making she clearly adores.

“This isn’t for the soft, either. I waited a day to go get stitches.” She pauses for a moment and sighs, “I wish I had a sand blaster.”

She also is branching out, sourcing her work is recycled glass, beach glass from a recent trip to Puerto Rico, as well as keeping herself stocked via trips to Albuquerque and forays online.

Sparkling Praise

Her highest compliment about her work to date came from someone who purchased some jewelry.

“They told me it was the best they’d ever seen. That blows me away,” she said. “I do take the time grinding and polishing to where it’s what I would buy. If I wouldn’t buy it, I won’t sell it.”

Elvrum’s pieces are not only for sale at the Chamber but also available at the Alamo Gallery and Gifts on California Street and directly through her. Custom-designed orders are also available. She can be reached at 575-835-8909 and via email: glass.fiber1@gmail.com.

 


-- Email the author at lalvarado@dchieftain.com.

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