Using a Handmade Glass Sink in the Bathroom – Combining Art & Function
All About Glass Sinks
The hottest trend in bathroom design today is the handmade glass sink – often referred to as a glass vessel sink – which has become the latest must-have for luxury homeowners. Combine the versatility in color and design offered by glass with the vessel mount trend and it’s no wonder that our company, Glass Artists Gallery, can barely keep up with demand. Vessel-mounted, fused, slumped, mosaic, under-mounted and hand-blown sinks have even influenced the faucet manufacturers’ designs because of their unprecedented popularity.
We find ourselves answering questions and dispelling myths surrounding sinks just about every day. This article was created to answer some of the more common questions such as “What is a handmade sink?” “Are they expensive?” “What are the differences in the glass sinks I see in the showrooms and online?” “Are they durable?”
Types of Glass Sinks
To better understand the three main categories of glass vessel sinks, it helps to understand the three main types of glassmaking:
Cold Glass — Working with glass at room temperature. Examples are mosaic glass, stained glass, glass carving and etching.
Warm Glass — The process of fusing, slumping or other kiln forming techniques at temperatures between 1100 and 1700 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot Glass— The process of blowing glass using a furnace that melts the glass at 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the glass is gathered on the end of a pipe, the artist forms the hot glass using a “Glory Hole” (an oven that maintains a temperature of around 1200 degrees Fahrenheit). The resulting work is then slowly cooled in an annealing oven.
With the above in mind, there are three main categories of artisan crafted glass sinks you will find at Glass Artists Gallery:
Fused & Slumped — Glass fusing is the process of joining together pieces of glass. When the right kind of glass is heated and then cooled properly, the resulting fused glass piece will be solid and unbroken. Using fusing techniques, the artist creates patterns and designs in color. The resulting sheet of fused glass is then slumped into the vessel shape. In the slumping process the glass is laid into, or on top of a mold and heated just to the point where it “Slumps” to fit the form of the mold. Once the glass reaches the desired form it must be cooled quickly enough to stop the movement that will result in cracking. Although this might sound simple, the resulting sinks can be quite intricate in their design and require hours of painstaking labor.
Blown Glass — Hand blown glass sinks are created through a much different process. This “hot glass” process allows an artist to create myriad different styles, colors, shapes and sizes that are always unique. Layers of glass are “gathered” onto the end of a “rod” or “pipe” and formed, blown and worked into a vessel shape. Color is applied in many different forms at the beginning of the process. Once finished, the piece is “annealed” for a minimum of 48 hours for maximum durability. Due to variations in the glass blowing process, every sink will be unique.
Mosaic Glass — Pieces of hand-cut colored art glass are adhered to the inside surface of a 1/2″ thick annealed glass bowl. Annealing is a process of bending the glass at extremely high temperatures to assure durability of use in the most extreme temperature conditions. The sink is then grouted with a specially mixed blend of sand and tinted cement, then sealed and finished with a protective clear polymer coating to create a smooth surface which is colorful, sturdy, easy to care for and a breathtaking focal point for any bathroom.
Handmade or Production?
As you can see from the types of glass sinks that are available, you have many different choices for incorporating a stunning centerpiece in the bath. The choice you will need to make is whether you want an original “work of art” – an artisan created sink – or a “factory produced” glass vessel. The trend in glass sinks has created a flood of offshore imports that are now available. We liken the current choices to the art world where you can find original art as well as “prints” or “reproductions”. Production sinks made in a factory are mass produced generally using single sheets of glass. Many are painted with a design. Few, if any, are truly “slumped & fused”.
Durability of Glass Sinks
How do we, as glass specialists, reassure the end user of a glass sinks durability? The analogy I use is that the glass sinks we sell are made by professionals and are able to withstand similar abuse as a porcelain sink. In other words, if you drop a heavy object into a glass sink with enough force to break it, you would have also broken a typical porcelain sink. They both have similar strength characteristics.
The difference between these two materials is that glass is more prone to “thermal shock”. Thermal shock can occur when there is a sudden temperature change of more than 70 degrees. For example, you don’t want to pour scalding hot water (over 120 degrees) into a glass sink. Hot water from the tap is generally 100 – 110 degrees, so the temperature difference is well within the safe zone. The most common occurrences of thermal shock happen when a sink is left on a jobsite where the temperature is unregulated.
When installing a glass vessel sink, be sure your contractor knows that thermal shock can be a problem if the jobsite is not yet heated. In addition, make sure they know that the drain assembly should be hand tightened only. Over-tightening the drain is the second most common cause of breakage.
At Glass Artists Gallery, our clients use glass sinks not only in the powder room, but also in the master bath, guest baths and even children’s baths. When treated and installed properly, they are durable, safe and fantastic design options. With proper lighting, they will “glow” and cast wonderful light and shadow effects throughout the bath. They will certainly set your project apart!
To see all of the glass sinks available, as well as artisan crafted sinks in other mediums including stone, metal, ceramic and even wood – please visit Sinks Gallery