These 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.

Previous 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 and errors.

They 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.

About the Work
These 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.

Each 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.

For 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.

After 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 polished.

About these Pieces
Most 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.

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