Whether gallery work or public installations, Susan Hirsch’s Fire Fusion Studio in Southern California produces glass art that reflects the endless possibilities of her material and techniques. The artist’s signature line of fused and slumped glass sculpture features poetry, lyrics, or other messages embedded in multilayered patterns, textures, and finishes. She believes these words help viewers think differently and more deeply about the work than is possible when using color and form alone.
Hirsch came to glass art from a fine arts education and a 30-year career in advertising and design. As a graphic designer familiar with Illustrator and Photoshop software, Hirsch does most of her design on a computer to give her clients a good representation of the final product. Designing in a vector program such as Illustrator makes on site client presentations possible and transfers smoothly to water jet, where computer aided design (CAD) software can read and cut intricate patterns.
In 2012 at the Glass Craft & Bead Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hirsch came across a booth for Rayzist, a leading manufacturer of photoresist films and sandcarving equipment. It occurred to her that glass fusers could benefit from Rayzist’s offerings. The following year she demonstrated techniques on glass in the company’s booth at Expo and has done so for the past four years. Hirsch also developed and markets workshops to teach other fusers how to use Rayzist products.
Hirsch’s artwork falls into three distinct categories— ancestry work, gallery work, and public installations. Her aesthetic can be described as contemporary and minimalist, appealing to an exclusive group of contemporary art collectors. The artist makes extensive use of Rayzist masking in much of this work, as well as powder sifting, engraving, and enamel imagery to produce contrast and texture.
With the freeform, fragmentary quality of memory, Hirsch’s ancestory work begins with the artist scanning historical family documents and photographs in Photoshop. Transparencies, somewhat like negatives, are developed creating a mask that is exposed to ultraviolet light and rinsed. Multilayer sandblasting using Rayzist photomasks permits the etching of tiny lettering and fine detail to create an historical context for ancestral pieces.
Fire Fusion Studio also produces public artwork and installations including a series of fused trees that line a wall of a Kaiser Permanente facility – one of many Hirsch artworks commissioned by Kaiser. The artist recently produced 40 panels for another hospital that were etched with positive, peaceful, health-promoting sayings, created using Rayzist photomask and etching.