Scientist finds her way to glass art

Jul 22, 2013

Gloria Badiner at her glass art studio in Mattawan
Credit Nancy Camden

When Gloria Badiner of Mattawan saw some glass art, she instantly fell in love. She was a working scientist at the time.

“Glass is a material that has a scientific component to it,” Badiner says, “so, it just fit really well for me.” 

The type of art glass Badiner makes is kiln-formed. With the help of friends, she got her first kiln, which needed rewiring, out of a dumpster. She didn’t know that she could buy art glass for casting. So, with a book for guidance, Badiner made her own by mixing sand, soda and limestone in a crucible, heating it up and pouring it out into molds. Badiner cuts, grinds and torches work for fused-glass art works. She explains what’s involved in combining glass pieces.

“All of the glasses have to expand and contract with temperature change, at the same rate. And that’s called the coefficient of expansion. And every material has that but if you don’t pay attention to that, the glasses will not meld well together and they’ll crack. So, a lot of time is spent in the studio testing material,” she says. “The thicker the object in the kiln, the longer it has to be held at 900 degrees. So an architectural panel of mine might have to set 10 days at 900 degrees. And, the firing time for that panel can be 30 to 50 days for one piece of glass.”

Gloria Badiner: “Every once-in-a-while, a certain texture or two colors next to each other create a stress in the glass and you can even take it out of the kiln and its fine and then ten days later it cracks.”

Nancy Camden: Is that stressful?

Badiner: “Opening the kiln can be a wonderful thing or it can be a disaster.”

With a residency at Pilchuck, a glass school near Seattle, Badiner had the opportunity to spend ten days finding her internal voice.

“As a scientist and both as an artist, one of the issues that’s really forefront for me is hunger in America," says Badiner. "And, I realized, through this residency, that all these changes we are making about food and fuel, I really have a strong passion for that. Corn became a symbol to work that out. So for the last three years, most of the imagery has been about fuel and corn controversy and how it relates to hunger. Also, how we are degrading our environment with overfarming.”

Badiner creates work for gallery exhibitions. But, in order to make a living as an artist, she does functional and decorative pieces that sell at art galleries and museum shops or through customer commission work.

“I dream it. I live it. I’m journaling all the time about it," she says. "The hard part is picking the one to work on. What’s important? Not just making an object but what’s important to me. What it says to me.”

Badiner’s art as well as others in Kalamazoo’s Signature Artists’ Cooperative can be seen at the Holland Area Art’s Council until August 31st.