Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fused Glass Class: My First Teaching Experience

When I'm at art shows, I frequently get asked whether I teach.  As I haven't taught before and teaching isn't something that I pursued, I typically say "no"....  However, recently someone reached out to me to see whether I would teach her how to make my millefiori pendants (which she found through this blog).

This is a picture of Donna, my first student, who came up from the Palm Springs area.  Donna is millefiori enthusiast and has searched high and low for all things millefiori.

I had a great time not only teaching her but also getting to know her as we spent 2 1/4 days together
last week.  Donna does lampworking and makes earrings as well as fabulous bracelets.  She also did woodworking in the past, so she already has a full studio!

We worked on various millefiori techniques ranging from making pendants (similar to the one above as well as in the style of my window pendants) to using millefiori in part sheets that we would later incorporate into plate designs.  We also made frit to use with the millefiori and tested making millefiori jewelry using some unique molds that Donna found online.  Plus, we did some coldworking using the tile saw and grinder. We covered a lot in a short amount of time!

Here's a photo of some of the pendants Donna made.

Overall, this was a good experience for me.  As mentioned, it was great to get to know Donna and teaching also confirmed my knowledge of fused glass as Donna is quite inquisitive :)

When I mentioned to Donna that I would be including her in my blog, she wrote:
Please include how much I learned and much more than I even thought I needed to know! 
Spending the time with you is absolutely invaluable!! You taught me things a "class" never could. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insight to so many things...
even to setting up my own studio.

Nice feedback for my first class!  Here's a few tips of things that may be helpful to others considering teaching:

  • Plan out in advance what you'll make - the limiting factor will be how many kilns you have and what type of firing you'll be doing (e.g. full fuse vs fire polish).  It also makes a difference if you are using glass of different COEs as the process temperatures will be different.
  • Be flexible.  Since this was a one-on-one class, I needed to adjust to the projects that Donna wanted to do.
  • Use the opportunity to test and learn if you're venturing into something new.  Donna came with 3 different molds designed specifically for millefiori, so we tested kiln wash vs. MR-97 and tack fuse (per the mold instructions) vs. full fuse.
  • Be available.  It helps to watch as your student is working on projects, then you can instruct along the way, if needed.
And, if any of you are interested in taking a class in the future please let me know :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fused Glass Class: Taking BE's Layered Assemblage Class

If you're familiar with my work, you'll notice that most of it is pretty structured.  When I try to create something that is looser and more flowing, it just doesn't look right to me.  This is true whether I'm playing with paint or making something with glass.  So, I enrolled in Martha Pfanschmidt's Layer Assemblage class at Bullseye.

On the first day, we made a series of part sheets using stencils and powders.  We could use existing stencils or we could make our own.  Since I had all day, I decided to make some of my own.  I wrote out a variety of techniques that I wanted to try and used different colored powders.

On the second day, we cut up our glass with the assignment of putting 2 layers together.  This may sound easy as all fused glass is at least two layers of glass but normally, one of those layers is clear.  With this task, each piece of glass needed to have a design, so you're laying design over design.  I found this particularly challenging.  And, because most of my sheet parts ended up being more geometric, the ones that weren't, just didn't fit.  Here's the end result:

At the end of the day, we also made a few more part sheets.  Since I had one part sheet of bird imagery, one with dark blue squiggles, and another resembling paint splotches, I needed to create some sheets that would allow me to use those.  Obviously, looking at the glass piece above, neither of those sheets would have worked with this design.

The exercise for day three was to create a composition using four layers of designed glass.  However, we could also add in clear as well as colored glass.  I found this much easier than the task of creating the two layer design as the clear glass added much more flexibility.

Given that I had sets of distinct glass styles (painting splotches, darker blues and outdoor imagery - birds, leaves and trees), the layering was relatively straight forward.  The bottom layer consisted of the painting splotches while the next layer contained the blue sheet parts.  The layer above those contained the leaves and the top layer consisted of the birds and trees.

Here's a few lessons that I learned along the way:
  • Don't "design" the sheet part - I tried to angle the designs on the sheets, which made it more challenging to cut (see the first photo).
  • It helps to have a lot of sheet parts to have enough choices when assembling the piece.
  • It helps to have groups of sheet parts (e.g. outdoor elements - trees, birds, leaves)
I'm pretty happy with how these turned out, even though both pieces still seem structured to me.  I enjoyed the experience of using layers to create designs but think that I might used them as a design element rather than having them as the entire piece.  I'd be interested in what you think.

Friday, January 31, 2014

What's New: Tiny Fused Glass Plates

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I'm on a path to use up my excess glass -- this not only includes clear and smaller sheet glass but also the leftover bits from prior work.  Often, because I like the glass design, I save it hoping that the next time I make similar glass, I might be able to incorporate it.  However, over time the only thing that I've done is to accumulate lots of little bits of glass.  Until now.  By sizing down, I have just enough to make smaller 4" x 6" plates.  And, since I have a small accumulation of glass, I am able to make a wide variety of designs -- I've already made 15 so far!  These tiny plates are not only a nice size for gifts but also fun to make.  I'm happy with how these turned out.  Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas! New Fused Glass Ornaments

Merry Christmas! By now, I'm sure those who of you who put up a Christmas tree already have it decorated - mine's been up since just after Thanksgiving.  But, in the spirit of the holiday, I just wanted to share with you some of the new fused glass Christmas ornaments that I made this year.

Two of the new ornaments involve wire wrapping.  The first is a take off on my wire-wrapped Christmas tree pendants.

The base is made from bits of green glass and the balls are made from pieces of glass rod that have been fired at a high temperature to become round.  I played around with the wire wrapping a bit to get a design that I liked -- keeping in mind that the challenge with wire wrapping glass is how to get the wire to stay firmly in place.  Unlike the pendant, which has grooves around the outside, the ornament uses two holes at the top and the bottom to anchor the wire, while the wire embellishes the ornament as garland and decor at the top and bottom.

The next set of ornaments are two different versions of hearts - one wire wrapped and the other not.  Like with the tree, I needed to play around with the wire-wrapping of the curved heart.  I found that the hole at the top did the trick to help anchor the wire in place.  The base of the speckled heart is simply clear glass that's been sprinkled with red, pink and white frit to create a marbled effect.  This also helps keep the glass light enough to hang on a Christmas tree.

The second heart is also created to be light, using just a single strip of clear thin glass to fused the three different colors (red transparent, red opaque and red/green fracture streamer) together.

I've been making ornaments since 2008 and try to add a few new ones every year.  This year, I found that I have nearly one ornament for every branch (16) of my wire Christmas tree, even though I retired some of the ornaments over the year!  Looking forward to figuring out what the new ones will be for next year.  In the meantime, I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Working with Powders to Make Fused Glass Votives

In my prior post, I shared how I made flower plates using clear glass and powders.  The process for making the votives is pretty similar with a couple of adjustments, the main one is that the technique calls for draping rather than slumping. 

As mentioned, I'm on a quest to use up my excess scrap glass.  As I have smaller pieces than what I used for the flower plates, I decided to make petal votives.  I cut out my leaf or petal pattern based on the size of the glass - for this project, I had 3 sizes of petals.  Then I applied the excess powder from the flower plates, which was really a blend of all the colors that I used previously grouped by primary color (e.g. red, green, blue).  After these are fired, instead of the colored dots, I used clear ones to create a design.

The dots are made from clear frit that I fused to 1500 with a 45 minute hold.  I picked out similar sized dots to create a design on the petal and put these back into the kiln to tack fuse before they were draped onto stainless steel votive cups that have been kilnwashed.  The kilnwash needs to be applied while the stainless steel is hot.  What I do is to heat them with a blow dryer but you can also heat them in the kiln to 500 degree and then apply the kilnwash.

The draping process takes a lot longer than slumping as you want to have a uniform drape.  I could have tried something faster as these are small and have open spaces but went with something conservative (100 degrees/hr to 1225) as I didn't want to use up kiln time to test out a different schedule.  And, when I opened the kiln, I was very happy with the outcome for the most part.  Some of them didn't drape evenly, which was probably a result of not paying more attention when I tack fused them together.  I really like the look of the clear dots.  Let me know what you think.