small sculptures are celebrations of or offerings to
the small beauties of nature. The flowers andinsects
that inhabit our small section of the world provide
continuous inspiration in the form of sculpted relief.
Even the unadorned bowls are based in the colors and
patterns of the sky and of the earth. Many of our pieces
show a small face peeking out from the surface, a reminder
of the creative force that inhabits all things. The
classic bowl form imbues the pieces with a sense of
history, while the pate de verre method itself reflects
the antiquity of glass forming techniques. The work
is meant to have a timeless quality that speaks to the
ageless relationship of humans to the earth.
Ellen Abbott and Marc Leva, native Houstonians, have
been working in glass since 1974 and 1976 respectively.
They formed the studio Custom Etched Glass at that time
and have been producing carved and etched glass for
architectural installations since then. Ellen's artistry
and Marc's craftsmanship enable this studio to design
and create architectural glass in a range of styles
using sandblasting, laminating, and related techniques
for residential and corporate interiors. The quality
of their work and their attention to detail has attracted
a national and international clientele.
to opening her studio, Ellen attended college for several
years, including a year at the Chicago Art Institute.
Marc also attended college for several years at the
University of Houston. Since no instruction in these
glass art techniques was available at that time, this
team is largely self taught through a series of trials
became interested in cast glass in the early 1980s and
utilized custom cast crystal forms in some of their
commission work. This interest in cast glass eventually
provided another outlet for creative expression for
this art team. In 1994, they started exploring and developing
the pate de verre method of cast glass, in particular
the bowl form. They have been producing a series of
pate de verre footed bowls since then. Ellen considers
these her small works in contrast to the large canvases
of her etched glass.
glass bowls are made using the pate de verre mold casting
process. The oldest known vessels made by mold casting
are dated to the 3rd century BCE. The technique of pressing
or melting glass powders into a mold goes back as far
as Mesopotamia and was further developed in Egypt. Pate
de verre, or paste of glass, was revived during the
late 19th and early 20th centuries in France.
piece starts with a clay or wax model (this is also
called the lost wax method) that is carved or sculpted
by hand. A high fire plaster mold is then made around
the model. After the clay or wax has been removed, the
mold is ready to be filled with glass.
pate de verre, filling the mold is a lengthy and tedious
process. Colored glass is crushed into different grain
sizes called frits. Using a frit size comparable with
sand, it is mixed with a binding agent to form a sort
of paste. This paste is then packed into the mold, sometimes
with very small scoops, in order to place the colors
where needed. Some of these pieces take many hours just
to fill the mold. It is the use of these fine frits
that give pate de verre itÕs distinctive luster.
the mold has been filled, it is placed in the kiln and
slowly brought up to casting temperature - 1400 - 1600
hundred degrees - where it 'cooks' for several hours
or until it casts. When the casting is finished, it
is reduced to the annealing temperature where it must
rest for awhile. Finally, the kiln is slowly cooled
over a period of many hours - the larger the piece,
the longer it takes. If the kiln is cooled down too
rapidly, the pieces will crack. When cooled, the mold
is broken away and the finished pieces are washed and
About these Pieces
of the work we do (in architectural carved glass) is
on a large scale. So far, with the pate de verre, I
have preferred to keep it small. Part of this is imposed
by the technique itself. As of now, we produce 6 pattern
designs (with sculpted outer decoration) - Grapes, Scallop
Shell, Trumpet Flower, Little Flyer, Butterfly, Sea
Fan - and a series of plain bowls (sans sculpted decoration)
- Sky, Mineral, Flower, Parfait. The pattern bowls are
a limited edition series of 25 for each design and are
each unique since we use different colors for each one
and all are numbered. The plain bowls are also one of
a kind and numbered as well. Our newest edition piece
is Spring Trio, a short edition of 10, these will all
use the same colors but small variations will occur.
Our next 25 edition series is Gingko and will be available
in 2003. New designs are always in development and other
larger one of a kind vessels are also available.