Pâte de Verre is French for “paste of glass:. This term originated in France at the end of the 19th Century to describe a technique of glass discovered by Egyptians and possible influences from China and their purple and blue hard glazes. The Egyptian’s developed a sintered-quartz ceramic that was glazed by firing. Later they developed a harder more crystalline compound called Egyptian blue harder than it’s more porous faience counter part. While the true origin is unknown scientific laboratories are researching the influence the Egyptians used to make artifacts for the Pharaohs.
Archeologists from France came across Egyptian Blue and were intrigued by the glass and the iconic use of their research from the tombs of pharaohs. It peaked the interest of ceramists in the industry such as Henri Cros (b1840 – d1907). Cros had an interest in experimentation and his love of getting painterly effects lead him to a life of sculpting and glass making. During the Art Nouveau period glassing making for vessels and sculptures were being rediscovered and refined. All glass casting in a kiln was termed pâte de verre but in modern times it’s be redefined by methods of Hot Casting (ladle poured) vs. Kiln Casting.
Modern pâte de verre uses a sintered method (a tack fuse), or high temperature firings to create different looks. From single to multi-part molds you can use plaster-silica, ceramic fiber, press molded, drip molded using sculpted models in wax or clay.
To get the polychrome colors various frits and powders are used with a glue binder (CMC, Gum Arabic, Aloe Vera). Glass colors employ various colorants, which can cause reactions. Glass manufacturers publish which color interacts with another color so you can use or avoid the reaction. Lots of glass secrecy fell away in modern times with the understanding for the chemistry of glass. It is my reason for teaching so this art form is not lost in history again and new artists push the boundaries of what’s possible.