Places & Faces
The Fusion of Art and Science
11/1/2013 9:17:28 AM

For Frank Thompson, a local glass artisan, it’s truly a fusion of art and science when it comes to creating his fused glass gallery art. The Lake Charles native has been crafting with wood, glass and metal for more than 30 years in his studio just north of Lake Charles.

Upon graduating from St. Louis High School in 1978, Thompson began working as a carpenter and soon began building homes. He turned his attention to historic restoration projects and started making custom art glass doors and windows.

In 2005, following Hurricane Rita, he found himself extremely busy replacing windows and doors at many local churches, while dealing with the devastation at his own shop where tree toppled onto his workshop, destroying everything.

"That summer we had started making crosses to help my son who was going on a pilgrimage to Rome,” says Thompson. "We had about 300 of them made when Rita hit. People began buying them up and to this day we are still selling the crosses. They allowed us to recover from the storm.”

With hurricane recovery pretty much complete, he says he set his sights on a new project about two years ago. "I wanted to do a little finer art with glass. Stained glass has to go in a window where there’s light so I started thinking about doing something where you could hang it on the wall.”

Using light’s reflective principles, Thompson began to experiment. He first tried fusing his glass to a mirror but realized when he looked at it, he saw himself and what was behind him in the mirror.

"This was not good, so I began looking in my blacksmithing studio and decided to try aluminum,” adds Thompson. "I am now to the point where I am polishing the aluminum to match the patterns of the glass so there is movement, dynamic in the pieces.”

Thus, the creation of his fused glass gallery pieces were born. They are considered fine art and he is now selling them at juried shows throughout the country. He’s attending 30 shows this year alone and this new venture is now his main source of income.

"Each piece is photographed, archived and comes with my signature and a certificate of authenticity,” Thompson says. "I have commissions coming in now from the various art shows for custom pieces.”

The path to notoriety with this new project wasn’t without its challenges though. "It was a process to get people to understand since it is so new,” Thompson adds. "I had to show them how it could fit into their homes.”

The pieces range in weight from 30 to 60 pounds for the bigger pieces to eight to 10 pounds for some of the smaller ones. The real science comes in when determining which types of glass can be fused together and perfecting the temperatures needed for successful fusion.

"You have to use glasses of compatible COE’s or coefficient of expansions for proper fusing,” Thompson adds. "When you fire it in the kiln, you have to be cognizant of the time and temperatures used. If you fire it too quickly, it will crack. If you cool it too quickly it will crack.”

Now that Thompson has the process figured out, he’s able to truly enjoy making his pieces, each of which has a story.

"I find my inspiration from the natural world,” says Thompson. "I search through my own spiritual and life experiences. I’m very happy doing this and it’s a great way to make a living.”

For more information or to view more of Frank Thompson’s work, visit www.frankthompson.com.

Posted by: Katie Harrington | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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