Sorber talks about sculpting glass

By Page H. Gifford

Carol Sorber is a unique artist among Fluvanna Art Association members, sculpting in glass using a small flame torch. Her studio is not like the other members who paint, do mixed media, or pastels. 

At the FAA monthly meeting on Feb. 20, she described her working environment where she creates delicate glass decorative items and beads. Because of the danger of fire, the walls and ceiling in her studio are flame retardant, she has a fire extinguisher and flame retardant blanket to put out fires, and a first aid kit.

“It is harsh and you can get burned so you have to pay attention to what you’re doing,” she warned but added that regardless of the potential danger and extra protection needed, working in glass gives her a calming feeling most artists feel while working on their projects.

She understands the protection aspect having grown up in a family of firemen.

“I’m fascinated by fire,” she said. She explained her interest is in the native origins of fire and how we use it to forge and shape things.

After retirement as a professional developer for managers at PBS, she embarked on a new journey in art. She had painted and dabbled in pastels but when she saw her sister-in-law make tiny glass fish with a small torch, she was hooked and found her art medium.

In a video, showing her working in her studio, she described some of the tools she uses, including oxygen and propane. The members were transfixed but leery of using two potent elements together to create fire. The oxygen comes in a medical oxygen concentrator that once it is outdated is revamped for use in small flame work. She also uses a propane tank used for outdoor grills.

“Propane can leak so make sure it is not over five years old.” A good tip. In the video, while she is making her favorite “Goddess” piece, she described her process and the tools she uses to create these one-of-a-kind decorative glass pieces. She shaped the female curves of a torso with flame.

“I love the human form. Since we’ve been drawing it on cave walls, we have seen it in various ways in art. It fascinates me.” While shaping her form, she wears special purple lens glasses that help her to see through the flame. Beginning with a gather (ball) of glass and once on the mandrel, keeping it parallel to the floor, she continuously turns it.

“You have to keep turning it. The glass is the consistency of honey and can fall into a puddle.”

On the table in front of her, she pointed to the many tools she uses in her creations including dental tools, forceps to hold glass rods, shears for cutting glass, diamond cutters for crimping glass, and a scalpel to cut lines in the glass.

She uses a variety of glass, including clear and transparent glass, opaque colors, rods, tubes, frits, and powders and some glass that has metals in it like silver. For more advanced work she uses copper or gold leaf or gold dust.

“To work on larger pieces you have to be strong and it is hot, heavy work,” she said. She prefers to stick to making smaller works. Sorber recognizes this is not a medium for everyone. It can be a dangerous and complex medium and requires dedicated and passionate artists like Sorber who know how to master it.

For more information about her work, contact Carol Sorber at

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