Toni Johnson

Fire I and Fire II


I am inspired by the work of Giles Bettison ( http://www.axiamodernart.com.au/gilesbettison/) and the sense of movement he creates with his use of murrini.  Having been accused of being a bit anal and rigid, I wanted to loosen up and try to approximate this sense of freedom and movement within my work.  I was advised early on by Brock Craig to keep working with a technique until I have done and said absolutely everything I can with it and since I’m not yet done with the use of pot melts, I decided to create murrini pieces out of pot melt slices left over from another project.  These pieces are experimental and are helping me to tweak and develop a series based on this concept.  In case you can’t quite tell (my son couldn’t), these pieces are supposed to represent fire, with the reds, oranges, blacks and yellows of the pot melt pieces and the movement of the slices within the piece emulating the color and movement of fire.

How To:

Each slice was 1/2″ wide by approximately 3/4″ tall and wrapped with two layers of different colored glass, properly dammed and fired to 1500 with a 30 minute hold and annealed to Bullseye’s schedule for a 1″ thick slab.  These murrini bars were then cut on the tile saw to varying thicknesses ranging from 1/4″ thick to 1″ thick.  Each slice was then sandblasted on all six surfaces and placed closely together, but somewhat randomly thickness-wise on top of an 8″ square of clear glass.  The piece was dammed and then the murrini slices were covered with handmade frit of clear glass with a big mound in the middle.  The desired result of a finished piece 1″ thick was achieved, amazingly enough.  A slow ramp up to 1000, followed by a bubble squeeze ramping at 50 dph to 1250, and then to process temp, followed by an anneal according to Bullseye’s schedule as mentioned above.  I was concerned that I might have over filled the dam since I forgot to weigh everything, so to cover my … I annealed for 1 1/2″ instead of 1″. Even with the slow ramp through the bubble squeeze I still had lots of little champagne bubbles, which are growing on me.

The second piece is actually my first attempt.  Instead of using all murrini slices, I added pieces of various colored glass to create interest, two or three layers thick and placed loosely together so that the pieces would flow and create movement.  I used a different approach to filling in with clear on this piece.  Because everything was different thickness, I cut lots of rectangles to build up each slice to the same level and then capped it with two layers of clear 8″ square sheet glass.  I used the same schedule as above.  I had planned on using my 8 1/4″ stainless steel square ring, but when I measured it, it was 8″ square or slightly less and the finished piece would have been 7 3/4″ after the fiber paper was added.  So, I constructed my own dams out of ceramic tile and fiber paper.  My dam did not hold during firing and one end spilled out a bit.  I waited a couple of days, or a week, and cut off the edge where the glass spilled over.  I did end up with a couple of big bubbles, which I Photoshopped out.  Hey, I’m nothing if not honest.

Both pieces still need to be cold worked, but you get the idea of what the finished piece will look like.

Toni Johnson


  1. Beautiful work. I love the effect of the bubbles, especially in the top piece.


  2. Wow Toni,
    You certainly ‘loosened up’ here!!!
    They are amazing! Beautiful work.


  3. Toni,
    I actually thought your first tile represents a volcano(fire)under water – ready to blow its top – and the second one reminds of burning hills in California. So I got the fire part :-).
    You made me laugh with our honesty comment.


  4. Hi Toni,

    Great idea and I love your pieces. The bubbling effect in the first really reminds me of water. I like the more vibrant colors in the second because the range is most reminiscent of earth and fire.

    Hope you had a nice mother’s day.


  5. Toni, This is absolutely beautiful. I don’t know much about art, but thank you so much for sharing this with me. I see the resemblence to fire even if your son couldn’t. Bonk him for me would ya!

  6. Hi Toni,

    Your pieces have a lot of energy in them. Very nice!
    I too like the bubbles. The pieces remind me of fire and ice. Thank you for sharing your passion with me.

    Karen :-]

  7. I love the bubbles in the first one, too, and my first thought was also an underwater volcano. I love the colors of both, but the red in the second one really pops. Both pieces look very much alive.


  8. I would really like to be able to hold these pieces and see the visual depth.

    Perhaps because there is less clear space in the first piece, it seems to have a greater sense of fire to me, more fluidity.

    I really admire people who have the patience to work with pot melts, and tile saws, and long anneals of thick work.

  9. Toni I love them they reek of the seventies to me ( which I loved) they make me smile and I want to look at them and compare the differences and similarities.. After reading your statement again I like your son don’t see much fire in there..but then i never see the face in the rock everyone else sees but I do see the beauty, very nice Toni.


  10. Toni, your tiles are indeed ‘loosened up’…balanced, yet on the verge of toppling. The suspense & rhythm hold the viewers attention. They remind me of veiled curtains, with an occasional breeze and…is there something or someone behind looking out at us…nice.

  11. Toni, I like the direction you’re going with your work. Keep it up, I can’t wait to see what’s next! Great stuff!

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