Creating Sculptural Glass Beads and a Whole Lot More

On May 16, 2017, Carol Fonda-Clark and Monty Clark gave a free-standing presentation on their history and mission of intent as it applies to the glass community of California and beyond. Carol and Monty took turns explaining “Dichroic Glass”, how it is created, and what they do with it that makes their work stand apart from other artists. For the last 20 years, “Coatings by Sandberg” has been their Dichroic coater.

Monty has a Masters Degree in Art Sculpture with an emphasis in Metal Arts. He instructed metal arts and sculpture at American River College in Sacramento for 35 years. Carol worked as a professor’s assistant and produced jewelry, working in the Craft Fair Circuit beginning in 1986.

When Monty was little, he used to climb the hills and lick rocks to find the pretty ones. His family totally supported involvement in the arts by purchasing all the equipment he needed to explore the various venues. Today, you can watch You Tube and learn how to cast glass in your home safely; but in the old days, the equipment was more primitive, and he shared stories of burning holes in the kitchen counter with his first experiments.

Monty and Carol met and started creating glass beads in 1991 at The Source glass shop in Rancho Cordova, CA, sponsored by Craig Milliron of Arrow Springs Glass Company. The bead teacher used Moretti glass; but Carol and Monty loved Bullseye’s colors, so they showed up to class with the wrong glass, broke all the rules, and were off and running. To this day, they only use glass made in the USA for their work.

They are devoted to the arts as partners in life, as well as in their business, Dichroic, Inc.  Jewelry and glass working is not just a hobby, but is their way of life. They work seven days a week, sometimes 16 hours a day…it is work…a regular job. Most of the people who work with hot glass do so as a hobby, only about 20% say they actually make money. Over the years they have brought in 1.5 million dollars in glass sculptured beads and Dichroic glass sales. They are also known as innovators in the glass material by consistently breaking the rules, discovering and inventing new techniques, and innovating with large shipments of glass that came in all at the same time.

They were the first ones to offer Dichroic on Bullseye colored glass. They had Uroboros make colored ripple glass in 96, and had that plated. Bullseye made their Soft Ripple 90 glass in colors and that was plated as well.

Carol and Monty donated a lot of scrap 96 uncoated glass to the Girl Scouts Jamboree in the Bay area, and the lady who was running the” Glass Badge Class”, gave them a Photo Shop for a very reasonable price as a thank you. Now etched glass has become a part of their line.

Then in 2009, they saw a small sign at the Wissmach booth at Glass Craft Expo. It said, “We can make 90 COE”. So, they had two mixed cases of their wonderful textures made in thin 90 COE instead of standard thickness, hoping the fusers in America would love it. They took a big risk, and introduced it in 2010 at Glass Craft Expo. It was a hit!  Now, Wissmach is part of Sandberg’s regular line of glass.

Howard Sandberg showed them some glass tiles they had sand blasted before they were coated. Most of their designs were large, so they could be used in kitchens and bathrooms. So, Carol and Monty made it in some with their smaller etched designs, so they could be used in jewelry.  Voila!  Sandcarved dichroic was born!  As you can see, new ideas keep coming; and people love new things.

Carol and Monty studied with some of the best teachers, locked themselves in their rooms for four years, and learned to make something wondrous to see and exciting to own.  They played with techniques seen in old museums, and discovered ways to make them with modern equipment. Their bead designs are heavily influenced by both Italian Botanical Sculptures and by Mother Nature herself.

Their personal relationships also have led them into on-going challenges of innovation. It is a story of “Craft vs. Creativity”, where they want to invent techniques that no one else has discovered…and they have succeeded brilliantly in doing this.

Dichroic, Inc. sells materials for fused glass, bead making, and glass sculptures. Not satisfied with sales of glass materials, however, Carol and Monty also proffer their finished pieces of jewelry and art. They have learned over the years that they had to be innovative in order to survive. With a ton of glass in inventory, they enjoy letting their imagination go!  While four out of five attempts may not come out as desired, ahh…that one that does was well worth it!

Monty described the steps to creating Dichroic glass as putting little cups of various chemicals into a vacuum chamber, zapping it with 50,000 Volts, and plating 32 layers onto whatever (glass) is hanging at the top between the rising vapor and the magnets.  WOW!!

Monty also told a story about the Hubble mirror:  that the scientists made two of them, and then sent the wrong one into space. There is Dichroic coating on the Hubble mirror, which now has a corrective lens.

Carol and Monty even look to fashion for ideas. Pantone annually announces their new colors for the coming year, which are then used world-wide by manufacturers of home décor, jewelry, yarn, fabrics, cosmetics, and beyond. Of the colors chosen each year, they pick 80% cool tones and 20% warm tones, to match the ratio of people’s skin tones.  This helps to prevent a lot of the wrong colors being left over for the following year. They study fashion magazines, runways, and genders. The glass has die lots, just like yarn and seed beads, so it is always changing, as well.

Now that Monty has retired, they will be changing part of the business, attending fewer shows, only Tucson True Blue Bead Show, Glass Craft Expo, and BABE in Oakland. They related that after 2011, conditions for flying got tougher. For some reason TSA and the airlines didn’t want them to bring their torches on board. TSA actually pulled Carol to a private booth to explain her kazoo…you know the little metal gun thing that she and Sharon Peters play to close the shows by playing “Happy Trails to You” Their eyes got soft when they heard the song.

Another shift will be their teaching some private lessons, with the focus on helping people who never had an opportunity to play with glass and metal related art, to be exposed to it, safely. They will be allowing their students make things they really want to make, so they will be self-motivated and excited to learn!

Glass bead making has started to see a resurgence, as new students learn the hows and whys that have become ingrained in the day to day life of Carol and Monty. Sit down with some good music and a torch. If you still can’t get inspired, take a look at the work of Georgia O’Keeffe. The flowers will come!

Dichrocinc has a number of their beads for sale over the end of August. Visit their website to see the special items for sale.

by marilyn peters


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