Saturday, February 28, 2015

Post Card from Italy II: Italian Ceramics

As a member of the Association of Clay and Glass Artists, I find that most people either lean towards glass or ceramics.  For me as a glass enthusiast, I know which one I lean towards even though I must say that the ceramics artists in this group are excellent!

Of course, Italy is known for both glass and ceramics.  However, on our most recent trip, we were in the southern half, which is known more for its ceramics.  After looking at several shops along the Amalfi coast, the ceramics begin to look similar... that is until we found a quaint and amazing shop in Ravello.

The unique designs and color combinations are what attracted me. Here's a close-up of one of the plates hanging in front:

All of their plates are hand painted.  And, they have a wide array of designs that it was so difficult to narrow down the selection -- of course, we had to get a few souvenirs from our trip ;)

Here I am standing with Pascal with the pattern of the bowl I purchased.  He was very accommodating and even offered to have a piece custom-made and shipped to me.  The final piece turn out great and looks fantastic in my kitchen (of course, accented by glass):

As mentioned, there were so many great designs that it was hard to make a selection -- which was a first for me with ceramics!   Here's one of two smaller pieces that we got in this design:

From an artist perspective, I appreciate the time it took to create and hand paint the designs.  And, I love having unique decor that reminds me of my travels.  If I were to apply some learnings to my glasswork, it would be the power of design whether it be on larger statement pieces or smaller inexpensive ones (even the smaller pieces contained better artwork than those I saw elsewhere).  While I was deciding on which ceramics to buy, a past customer from California walked in who was there to buy more.  And, while Ravello is not one of the main destinations along the Amalfi coast, I would certainly visit this ceramics shop again if I were in the area just to look at wonderful artwork -- that's the power of good design :)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Post Card from Italy: Italian Glass

Last year, my husband and I spent a week in Italy attending an Italian cooking school in the province of Rome and a week touring the Amalfi Coast.  We used to live in Europe but it's been some time since we've been back.

Above are a few photos that I took that look like they could be from or book or postcard. Of course, the food was phenomenal and plentiful, especially at the cooking school, and the views were fabulous.  At the school, we became friends with a great group of people with whom we're still in contact.

And, as a glass enthusiast, I couldn't help but notice the Italian glass although there were not the same quality and quantity of glass shops like there are in Venice and its surroundings.  Interestingly though, much of the glass was found in our hotels!  Here's a sampling of some of the glass we saw.

Having looked at a wide array of light fixtures for our remodel, I notice that we don't have a lot of similar glass lighting options in the U.S. -- perhaps this is what makes seeing these so special.  Although these aren't our style, I still admire them for their design and think it would be pretty amazing to live in a place where you can appreciate them daily.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Fresh Start to Fusing in 2015

For those of you following my blog, you know that I typically post about my goals at the beginning of the year.  As usual, I plan to focus on creative ways to use up my excess scrap glass.  One of these ways will be to focus on drop vases (see image below from Bullseye glass to give you an example).  These are the closest looking items to blown glass and are made from dropping a fused piece through a ring and then coldworking.  I may also play with deep slumping, which can give a similar effect although done through a different technique.  I'll be experimenting with a new kiln that will allow me to work larger and deeper.

On the flip side, I still plan to also work small and play with new jewelry designs.  So, watch my blog for new items -- some of which have been "designed" in my head for over a year.  In addition, I plan to play around a little with casting.

As you may know, I've taken a hiatus from my blog and fusing -- my last post was in May.  We sold our house during that month and all my fusing equipment has been in storage.  Well, we're finally moving into our new place later this month, so I hope to get back to creating in the near future, once we're settled in.  I have a lot of ideas and the break was good for me -- very rejuvenating!

Until then, I have a couple of glass-related posts to keep you occupied such as the glass I saw in Italy on vacation and the glass tiles we've used in our new place -- of course, how could I not take advantage of glass tiles!

Wishing all of you a happy start to a great new year!

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.