Pâte de Verre Glass – A Short History
The origins of Pâte de Verre glass can be traced as far back as the second millennium BC, with records being found that indicate the Mesopotamians used the process, or a very similar one, to create inlays for both jewellery and sculptures.
Methods used in ancient Egypt and Rome are thought to be like those used by the Mesopotamians. These produced glass with similar qualities to those we now refer to as Pâte de Verre. An Egyptian name for the process is “Stone that Flows”.
The process then fell into disuse for many centuries before re-emerging in the late 19th century, when Henry Cros (1840-1907), a sculptor and archaeology enthusiast, rediscovered the medium. It is believed to be one of the oldest forms of glass working.
The technique behind Pâte de Verre glass
Literally translated; Pâte de Verre means paste of glass. The process begins with the creation of a clay model, which is then used to make a mould from either plaster or silica.
Finely crushed (frited) glass, which has been mixed with a binding material, and then sometimes colourants or even enamels are then layered into the mould.
When complete the whole mould is fired which allows the fragments of glass to fuse together. The thickness of the item produced can be tailored depending on how much of the paste is used. The mould is carefully removed and the glass piece is then polished and the sharp edges removed.
Modern techniques have made it possible for artists to use a much more powdered form of the crushed glass which they can control more accurately to create more intricate patterns.
Pieces created using the Pâte de Verre technique are quite fluid in shape, with a degree of external texture which is common with pieces made in a mould. Colours are mostly muted shades, which due to the nature of the fragmented glass and the firing techniques, lend themselves well to blending into each other.
Apprenticed from the age of 15 to the Sevres Porcelain factory, by the age of 30 Walter was a skilled pâte de Vere glassmaker.
In 1903 he joined Daum Freres at their factory in Nancy, having come to their attention at the Exposition Universelle, and in return for a studio and a good fee, he shared his knowledge of the techniques with them. Pieces produced by him during this time are often signed A Walter, Nancy.
Walter received several medals for this work at the Exposition Universelle – a diploma of honour in 1900 and a gold medal in 1901.
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