Taran Flaten: Glass Art

Report on the Visit to Taran Flaten´s Glass Workshop on 11 May 2016


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Aptly, glass artist Taran lives in Corte Vidreiro in the freguesia of Santa Catarina.  She moved to Portugal 12 years ago from Norway where she used to teach.  When she saw a glass tile 13 years ago - she knew what she wanted to really do with her life.  Despite the dangers of glass working (she nearly lost a finger last year), she is passionate about her work - the design and experiments give her a great deal of job satisfaction and around her gallery, studio and garden you can see the stunning results of her work.  On the day of our visit the heavens had opened up but the 9 of us sat on her terrace were interested in hearing a brief history of working with glass.  

The history of glass making can be traced back to 3500 BC in Mesopotamia and the earliest known glass objects were beads.  During the Late Bronze Age in Egypt, there ws a rapid growth in glass-making technology and archaeological finds from this period include coloured glass ingots and drinking vessels.  During the first century BC glass blowing was discovered on the Syro-Judean coast, revolutionising the industry.  A growth in the use of glass occurred throughout the Roman world and glass became cheaper than pottery.  

Taran does not use the technique of glass blowing, she fuses glass and adds different materials e.g. metal pieces or foil to create designs and pigments or coloured ground glass to give different colours.    She explained that glass can also be shaped by putting it over or into moulds.  Taran uses float glass, normal window glass, for her work because she likes the results, and also art glass is difficult to find here in the Algarve. She occasionally uses small pieces of art glass for jewelry. She also uses bottle glass.

A pre defined program is used to heat and cool the glass in the kiln and the electricity supply needs to be constant. One of the difficulties she has is the unreliability of the electricity supply in Corte Vidreiro!  She explained that different types of glass expand in different ways and that each type of glass has a different code and the same code has to be used otherwise the glass would fracture.  Once Taran has fired her glass art and the objects have cooled then Robert, her husband would drill a hole for hanging purposes, if required.  The alternative would be to insert ceramic fibre paper to create a space between 2 pieces of glass.   Taran´s latest experiment is using photographs of people to make glass tiles.  She says that what is important is that the contrast on the photograph is strong.  

Robert makes frames for many  of the tiles and he likes using old wood.  Taran also uses cement to house her tiles.  

Visiting her workshop, studio and house and garden is a delight - there are glass decorations everywhere including the one I wanted to buy but it was stuck between two branches of a tree.  On our first visit we had people coming from Spain as well as from the Algarve.  9 people enjoyed the visit and Taran´s coffee and Norwegian style biscuits.  I shall be organising further visits!