David Barnes was first inspired to work with glass more than 30 years ago when he was traveling abroad. The stained glass windows of churches and cathedrals in faraway countries inspired him to do some of his own work. At first, he worked on stained glass projects. Then he started experimenting with sheets of glass. He layered different colors on top of each other and fired them up in a kiln. After some experimentation, the Sterling artist began fusing sheets of glass together to create works of art.
"I’m interested in glass because of its optical properties as an art medium," Barnes said.
The majority of his work is inspired by nature. Barnes said he goes on hikes to gather up ideas for future projects, and he always carries a camera to take pictures of trees and flowers and landscapes that appeal to him.
"When I see something neat, I see how I can translate it into glass in some way," he said.
ONCE BARNES gets an idea, he heads to his home studio to map out his project.
Barnes rummages through sheets of colored glass in his shop made specifically for fused-glass projects. Once he has the sheets of glass he needs, he cuts them into a design.
"I cut the pieces to fit like a mosaic," he said. "Like a quilt, I piece them together. I place them in layers."
Once his design is set, he places the pieces of glass in a kiln set to 1,475 degrees. Barnes said it is important to heat the glass to just the right temperature. If the glass gets too hot, it will turn into liquid and drip.
Right before that happens, Barnes turns the heat off for the sheets of glass to cool to room temperature. Then, he takes his piece out of the kiln to shape it with a diamond saw and grinders and Barnes puts it back in the kiln on top of or in a mold.
"I either drape it or slump it. Make a bowl or a plate," he said. "And voila! You’ve got your piece of art work."
LINDA CALLAGY has carried Barnes’ glass works in her store, the Potomac Gallery in Leesburg, for seven years.
"We just love his work," she said. "People come in, love his color combinations and need something for a particular place in the house."
Callagy not only carries his sculptures and mosaics, which sell for anywhere between $600 and $1,000, she also carries pieces of his jewelry collection, including bracelets and necklaces that range from $55 to $130.
The storeowner said she has a few customers who collect his jewelry.
"We sell quite a lot of his jewelry," she said. "It’s all so different. People come in looking for his work."
Barnes’ fused art glass pieces will also be featured at the Artists’ Undertaking Gallery, 309 Mill St. in Occoquan, in conjunction with the gallery’s 30th anniversary celebration, June 5 through July 9. An open house will be held at the gallery Saturday, June 9, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
David Ernst is co-owner of the Artist Undertaking Gallery, a place where Barnes’ has showed his work for about 10 years.
Ernst said the distinction between Barnes’ work when compared to other fused-glass artists is the quality of the color of his glass.
To achieve such bright colors, Barnes buys only the best quality materials and makes sure the temperature is just right in his kiln.
"His colors are so much more intense," Ernst said. "When you compare them to other artists, they come up flat."