For hundreds of years men have been fascinated by the
beauty and elegance of glass which was used then and now in its different
forms and applications. The search was on – trying to find
more ways to decorate and manipulate glass, using both hot and cold
In the late 17th Century the use of acid was discovered to etch the
glass surfaces of window panes to decorate them. This gained high popularity,
especially in the Victorian Era as etched table ware and kitchen ware
became in demand.
What is Etching?
The term ETCHING originally refers to the reaction of hydrofluoric acid
on glass or metal substrate as it abrades or erodes the surface. This
approach of decorating the glass was slow to develop until the creation
of sand blasters almost one hundred years ago. Today we can literally
choose from several techniques available to cut, etch, carve and decorate
the glass. Yet the term ETCHING, through common usage, when applied
to decoration of glass surface, has come to mean the effect of any process
that erodes the glass surface, to produce a frosted appearance. ETCHING,
then, is a label that is technically inaccurate but nonetheless pervasive.
A Range of Techniques
There are various techniques for Glass Etching. Techniques commonly
used are SURFACE ETCHING, CARVING and SHADING, or the combination of
all of these for a richer and more dramatic finish.
SURFACE ETCHING is the type where elements of design
are separated by clear outlines and blasting is done one time with the
same depth throughout. This can be coloured or left as is, depending
on the chosen design or usage.
USING THE 'SURFACE ETCHING' TECHNIQUE
CARVING, on the other hand, is a multi-stage technique
where elements of design are made distinct from each other by the varying
depths and extent of blasting done on any element that touches other
elements. CARVING can be done the POSITIVE way which simply means carving
the front side of the glass, or the NEGATIVE BAS-RELIEF which means
carving is done on the rear side of glass, although it is viewed from
the front. Positive carving can be coloured as well as the Negative
bas-relief, yet the latter is also more outstanding without colour,
but back-lit against a darker background.
INVOLVING THE 'CARVING' TECHNIQUE
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SHADING, like the CARVING technique, is also
very complex and intense as this is also done in multi-stage. This affects
only the surface of the glass and is therefore applicable even to the
most delicate crystal classes and tempered ones. Unlike SURFACE ETCHING
and CARVING, SHADING cannot be coloured as the shallowness of etching
cannot hold the glass paint in a clean manner although it can adhere
to the surface well. Yet SHADING can produce the most delicate and elegant
results as different degrees of shading resembles perfectly the airbrush
strokes as elements of designs are made distinct from each other through
different shades of grey.
DESIGNS INVOLVING THE 'CARVING' TECHNIQUE
Please visit our GALLERY
to see applications of these different techniques.
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