The art of Space Age glass

Dec 10, 2013
Photo by: Dagney C. Ernest Dichroic jewelry and glassware by local artist Marie Bickford is displayed at Michael Good Gallery in Rockland, one of two Midcoast galleries currently carrying her work.

Marie Bickford of Pure@Heart Glass Art is showing her dichroic works locally at the Michael Good Gallery, 499 Main St., downtown Rockland; and Lincolnville Fine Art, Route 1 at Lincolnville Beach.

Bickford was born in Maryland and was raised in the South, and parts of Europe. As a young adult, she moved to the Northeast and helped put the first man on the moon through MIT at Lincoln Labs in Massachusetts. She later found her way to Midcoast Maine; in West Rockport, she set down roots, raised a family and discovered a new world of dichroic art glass.

During the Space Age, million-dollar chambers were created in order to produce a special material known as dichroic, which was used as sheathing for re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. The term dichroic refers not to the glass piece itself, but rather the technique of creation that involves a chemical coating of several vacuum-sealed layers over glass. The complicated process is in large part what makes dichroic glass the most expensive glass in the world.

Dichroic glass is very fragile — if over fired, it will burn and disappear. Encasing the dichroic material in clear glass can prevent this. The extra glass material is then annealed through a heating and cooling stage. The annealing process completes by setting the kiln to a slow cooling phase and waiting until it is completely finished. This may take hours, or even days, depending on the thickness of the glass, but the result brings out the beautiful dichroic accents latent inside. This is part of what makes each piece unique.

Anticipation can prove to be the most challenging while waiting for the glass to cool. Even the smallest peek into the kiln too soon may result with a "ping," which means the glass is cracked or broken as a result of cooler outside air.

“I learned very quickly to respect the glass at all stages and in return it rewards me with a very beautiful piece of art,” said Bickford.

In the past 15 years, she has been showing glass art in various galleries. Top on the list was the Prism Gallery & Cafe in Rockport. Prism showcased glass artists from all over the country, but Pure@Heart was given the honor of being the No. 1 jewelry art seller for eight years until Prism closed its doors.

For hours or to make an appointment to see Bickford’s work, contact Avi Good at the Michael Good Gallery, 594-2580; or Dwight Wass at Lincolnville Fine Art, 592-2984.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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