Sand delivers magic for Tallahassee glass artist Kim Campbell

Sand delivers magic for Tallahassee glass artist Kim Campbell

Artist Kim Campbell fuses technique and form to create layers of colored textured glass that evoke emotions as deep as the ocean.

As Tallahassee and Leon County celebrate Women’s History Month in March, Campbell’s newest collection, Women in Art, will be on display at the Bruce J. Host Northeast Branch Library.

Surprises found in the sand

Like sands through an hourglass, art travels through time and culture. The evolution of our earth has shaped the materials used today. Sand is a compilation of continents whose environment has eroded along the ocean floor over thousands of years.

When heated, the sand undergoes a chemical transformation that—in a seemingly magical flow—allows it to move from a solid to a liquid state and live in the medium like glass. The fluidity of glass inspires artists around the world and provides a medium that balances fragility and strength to create welcome surprises.

Fused glass artist Campbell enjoys what the sand delivers every time she opens the kiln.

“Working with glass became so interesting to me because the final project was never quite what I thought it could be,” Campbell said of why she keeps coming back to glass as her choice.

Campbell, a self-proclaimed artist at the age of 5, came to Florida State University in the late 1980s to pursue a BA in Studio Art. After graduation, she made her home in the capital, beginning work as a graphic designer for the Florida Teaching Profession – National Education Association, now the Florida Education Association.

Campbell eventually started his own graphic design business, Graphic Visions. The effort helped sharpen her understanding of color theory, composition, and visual balance. With these elements in mind, Campbell continues to work in the world of visual art, including painting, drawing and construction.

“I was a pastel portrait painter in the ’90s,” Campbell said. “I made money by creating portraits of friends’ children and later portraits of local people. I won a few ribbons at the local fair for my local portraits.’

Fate led Campbell to the FSU Art Center, where her initial interest in mosaics led her to discover glass fusing and begin a decade-long affair with the art form.

“The rest is history,” Campbell said. She took classes for years until she became a glass fusing teacher. Her craft has evolved over time as Campbell seeks to improve the process by experimenting with enamel paints, frits and powders. Each time, she better understands how glass reacts to heat, how materials can fuse, and how her artistic intent affects them.

Layer by layer

Local artists often share how their process is “queen”. Campbell’s process is no different, exuding royalty and reverence for the craft of glass melting.

Campbell takes us through her artistic mirror to zoom in on her process. She starts with glass dust. “I sift the powder on the kiln shelf until it’s pretty thick,” Campbell said. “Then I take a razor blade and make little slits in the powder. It goes into the furnace and is fired to 1325 degrees. It takes about 6 to 8 hours to fully bake.”

After completing the first round of firing, she repeats the process on the other side. The purpose and function of the part will dictate the shape of the mold. The glass is then placed over the mold and fired a final time.

Color and texture are crucial elements that greatly influence Campbell’s process. They create depth, dimension, variety and contrast, influencing visual impact. For Campbell, color evokes mood and conveys themes, while texture adds dimension and tactile appeal.

To begin with, she chooses the type of glass to use to create a character; transparent, opaque or textured. She achieves interesting work by layering or layering and stacking sheets of glass to add depth, create patterns and contrasting color gradients. Once the stacking was complete, Campbell focused on surface treatment.

Here she can create texture by manipulating the surface of the glass with techniques such as sandblasting, etching, enamel paints, gold glitter or applying glass frit (crushed glass particles).

Finally, the glass is fired layer by layer in a kiln until each piece fuses with its neighbor. This technique allows changing the texture from smooth to shiny to matte; each achieved by temperature regulation.

Campbell has built her process around color and texture and considers them the backbone of her artistry. “Overall, the interplay of color and texture in glass fusing allows artists to create visually stunning and expressive works of art that engage the senses and evoke emotional responses in viewers,” Campbell said.

“Women in Art” shines in the library

As Tallahassee and Leon County celebrate Women’s History Month in March, Campbell’s latest collection, Women in Art, will be on display at the Northeast Branch Library of the Bruce J.

Campbell’s recent works of ocean-inspired fused glassware also honor women in art. “Glass can be a particularly suitable medium for capturing the beauty of the ocean because of its inherent qualities and versatility,” Campbell said.

“Glass has the unique ability to mimic the transparency and depth of water when layered or shaped appropriately,” Campbell said. And its reflective properties “allow me to emulate the shimmering and ever-changing surface of the ocean, as well as the play of light and shadow beneath its waves.

Her work, along with that of other local women artists and local women’s history, will be displayed in select locations throughout the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library system. So be sure to catch the Women in Art wave and take a look at the multi-layered craftsmanship of the glass pieces created by Campbell to honor the creativity and imagination of women artists everywhere.

Dr Christy Rodriguez de Conte is the topic writer for the Council for Culture and the Arts (COCA). COCA is the Capital City’s umbrella arts and culture agency (

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