Fused Glass Crackle Technique with Bob Leatherbarrow

Ganges Harbor, Salt Spring Island
When it comes to the crackle technique in fused glass, Bob Leatherbarrow is "The Man". For years he has worked to refined his techniques, and he produces some beautiful pieces of art as a result. Bob also shares his techniques during week-long classes held at his home studio and in other studios around the world. In October, I was lucky enough to travel to Salt Spring Island, British Columbia to attend a workshop entitled, "Powders: Colour, Components and Crackle" at Bob Leatherbarrow's studio.

I had been interested in learning more about working with powders, and specifically crackle, so I could incorporate it into my own work. Tutorials can be found on the internet for the crackle technique, and while I've read them, I've avoided experimenting. Partly because the tutorials are fairly rudimentary and partly because I felt if I were going to learn how to do crackle, I should learn how to do it right!

The week started off with a meet-n-greet on Sunday night at Bob and his wife/business partner Liesbeth's home. It turns out that the delicious carrot cake we enjoyed while getting to know everyone was just a precursor to the morning breakfast muffins and wonderful lunch-time meals that Liesbeth prepared each day. (I joked that I would take the class again just for the food!)

Crackle technique - powder wafers
Powder wafers
The class started with a discussion and demonstration on creating wafers. After learning about wafers we jumped right in to learning the basics of Bob's crackle technique. We then talked about what Bob refers to as back wafers. Once we had these basics down, we rolled up our sleeves and began creating crackle with glass powder and water. Here are a few photos of my "works in progress".

Cracking it up!
Cracking it up!
Assembling components on fused base
Assembling the components
on a pre-fused base

Capped wafer and crackle ready for the first firing
Capped wafer and crackle
ready for the first firing
Assembling wafers and back wafer on pre-fused crackle base
Assembling wafers and back wafer
on pre-fused crackle base

Cold worked and ready for slumping
Cold worked and ready for slumping

Bob Leatherbarrow
Bob, in action!
Over the course of the week, we created five 6" bowls using different variations of crackle and wafers, and one 9" square sushi dish. We practiced cold working, including the use of a grinder, flat lap, wet belt sander, and sand blaster (sandblasting was new to me -- there may be a sand blaster in my future). Bob also talked about making molds, firing schedules for optimum results when using his techniques, displaying your glass art, powder blending for custom colors, glass reactions, and photographing glass. On Friday we wrapped up with a full review of techniques, schedules, tips, and tricks (including the final exam!).

Veined crackle, 9" sushis
Veined crackle, 9" sushis

Kiln full of crackle bowls!
Kiln full of crackle bowls!
Wafers ready for firing
Wafers ready for firing

My finished bowls (6" blanks fired in Bullseye ball mold):

My Favorite!

Bob is a great instructor who is very generous with his knowledge, and he and Liesbeth were fantastic hosts. In addition to this workshop, Bob also offers "Further Studies in Powder". I wasn't able to stay for this workshop that was offered the following week, but I have a feeling I'll be back to visit Bob, Liesbeth, and Salt Spring Island again some day!

Well, time to get cracking!


Learn  more

Workshop information: Powders: Colour, Components, and Crackle
Coldworking: Bullseye Educational Videos

Leatherbarrow Glass
Leatherbarrow Glass

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