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Colourful creations: Meet Shropshire fused glass artist Ally Browning

Opening the door of her kiln after a firing is always an exciting moment for fused glass artist Ally Browning.

Glass artist Ally Browning
Glass artist Ally Browning

“Glass is so unpredictable – I’m never 100 per cent sure what it’s going to do next,” she tells Weekend.

But its variability is one of the reasons she loves working with this versatile material that can be both functional and decorative.

“It keeps you on your toes. I think it’s going to do one thing and when I open the door, it’s not done that at all. Sometimes you can have a disaster and it’s heartbreaking or a piece of glass you thought was clear turns out yellow, which is a shock, but you can also get some lovely colours and textures that you weren’t expecting,” says Ally, who lives near Shrewsbury.

Fused glass is an artistic technique where clear and coloured glass is bonded together in a kiln to produce a huge range of art pieces, from jewellery to bowls, sculptures, panels and ornaments.

Ally has been honing her skills since receiving a microwave kiln as a Christmas gift four years ago.

“It was a tiny kiln, only 10cm. I started making and people said it was really good. I got an update, a bigger 30cm kiln and it all went from there. Now I have four kilns,” explains Ally.

Her first creations were mostly jewellery and later she moved on to making bigger pieces such as her free-standing, decorative glass curves.

Working from a studio in a converted farm barn near her home, Ally takes inspiration from the beautiful Shropshire countryside around her.

Her collections, which also include bowls, tealight holders, coasters, lanterns, wall hangers and suncatchers, are centred around different themes that feature pets, farmyard animals and nature such as flowers and rainbows.

Ally with one of her decorative lanterns

“Most of my work is centred around the countryside so there are a lot of horses, sheep, cows and other animals,” says Ally, who also produced pieces for special occasions such as wedding and anniversaries.

Some of her most popular pieces are her rainbows which, like her other pieces, can be personalised, so, for example, customers can have family members and pets added to the design.

When making one of these, Ally starts with a piece of sheet glass and then creates the rainbow by placing glass frit, which is crushed up pieces of glass, in different colours on top.

“Frit comes in lots of colours and can be fine, medium or coarse. I make a rainbow and then I fire it in the kiln for 12 hours.

“Then I paint on the glass using special glass paint, which is like liquid glass. It then goes back in the kiln for another 12 hours,” explains Ally.

Next, after removing it from the kiln, she uses a technique called slumping to shape the glass.

It is balanced on top of a stainless steel mould and placed into the kiln for another 12 hours, where gravity and heat sink the glass downwards into the mould shape.

“This creates an S-shape so the piece will stand by itself,” explains Ally, who is completely self-taught.

Slumping temperatures are much lower than glass fusing, which can see the kiln heated to up to 1,800F.

In recent weeks, Ally has been making hearts decorated with sunflowers to raise money for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Ally with her sunflower hearts for Ukraine

So far, she has sold 82, generating more than £700, including Gift Aid, for the fund.

Ally is keen to encourage more people to try their hand at fused glass projects and has started offering kits by post as well as teaching workshops.

“I’ve got Easter egg kits which provide everything you need to make a fused glass Easter egg decoration. They include full instructions, and people can follow the template or create their own design. It also includes fixing spray which sets hard. They just leave it for 24 hours, then post it back to me in the pre-paid box so I can put it in my kiln. I will then send it back to them. I’m working on other kits for tealight holders, suncatchers and lanterns. I’ve got lots of ideas,” she tells Weekend.

Her workshops help participants design and make their own pieces of glass including self-standing waves, lanterns and suncatchers and she also offers sessions specifically for children aged five and over.

While working in her studio, Ally loves experimenting with different techniques, colours and textures.

“I love the creativity – there is no end to what you can do with glass. I love the design aspect and playing around with it and seeing what happens.

“There are so many things you can do with glass and so many different things you can make. The colours you get from glass are incredible.”

For more information about Ally’s workshops, see allyglassstudio.com or follow her updates on facebook.com/allyglassstudio/

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