In 1984 Jon Firth met high profile Sydney glass artist Marc Grunseit. He was trained by Marc in both stained and kiln formed glass for more than a year. Jon and his wife Sue then moved to Darwin in late 1985, where he set up his studio Unicorn in the light industrial area of Coconut Grove. Over the ensuing years his passion for glass has never waned. He has undergone extensive further training, perfecting his skills and expanding his knowledge. In 1996 he toured France and the UK researching glass, both ancient and modern. He is the Ausglass (Association of Australian Glass Artists) representative for the NT, and is involved with the local visual art, craft and design body Tactile Arts. Jon’s kiln formed glass has been acquired by collectors from all over the world. It has also been presented as gifts to a number of world leaders by the NT Government. His stained glass adorns houses and churches throughout the Top End, most notably a 10 square metre window in St Mary’s Cathedral, commissioned in 2009.
The process of the manufacture is involved and should be understood by prospective buyers. There is no paint of any kind used in the process. All of the elements that make up the work are glass. By melting different coloured glasses together and drawing the mixture downward as a long thread of glass, out of a special kiln, called a Vitrograph. This thread can be bent and/or twisted as it is pulled from the kiln to create different elements, or simply pulled out straight to produce long colour bars. These bars are later cut into thin slices called Murrini to reveal the coloured pattern inside. Other elements are produced by working glass in a blow torch flame (lampworking). Once all of these elements have been produced they are assembled on a piece of usually clear glass and then further colour is added by way of crushed glass called frit. The assembly is then fired in a kiln up to about 800 deg C. This process can take upwards of 24 hours to complete. The work is then inspected and the edges ground and polished. It is then returned to the kiln on a mould to be finally shaped at around 700 degrees C, another day long process.
After a final inspection the work is signed and a serial number is added. The work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and artist’s statement.