Sunday, June 20, 2010

What I Learned from East Bay Open Studios

For the past two weekends, I participated in East Bay Open Studios (EBOS) with over 460 other artists across the Bay Area. The event is put on by Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland. Each artist gets a 20" x 20" space in the gallery to display their art as well as a photo in their printed directory (distributed via the newspaper and through the artists) and a web page that can house 8 photos, with a link to each artist's website.

As I'm fairly new to selling via shows, I am still trying to find the right venue and thought I would try this as it reaches a different audience, one that is more interested in buying art and supporting local artists. Since I live in the Oakland hills, my location is not ideal for someone wanting to visit my studio. Fortunately, I teamed up with 36 other artists to show at Jack London Square, a highly trafficked retail location in downtown Oakland, where there's a farmers' market and restaurants. Here's what I learned:
  1. Showing in a large group (in fact, we were the largest of any group) helped as the size of the group provided a bigger draw. The group itself was very well coordinated and did a great job of promoting the event (e.g. group postcard, website, signage...etc.).
  2. Mailing a postcard to and/or e-mailing those on my interest list paid off as I had people seek me out.
  3. Having a range of items helped even in a venue where the majority of the artists were painters. This is because the group received a lot of foot traffic from people who were at Jack London Square rather than people who came from the Pro Arts Gallery or its directory.
  4. Location is critical - Being at Jack London Square brought additional traffic; however, being in front of a dark maroon wall did not help in displaying the glass. Actually, the organizers tried to give me a good location - in front of a window and under a skylight. However, because the window also functioned as a display area, it had a fairly high maroon wall in front of it.
  5. Having great neighbors makes the difference in the show experience. I was fortunate to be next to Gabrielle, who makes great metal jewelry (mangosteenjewelry) and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with her and John :)
  6. Most people who came from Pro Arts came to look for traditional wall art rather than jewelry or glass. In retrospect, this makes sense. When the majority of artists are painters and the event is put on by a gallery, most visitors are looking for wall art.
Overall, I am glad I tried out the show. While I met my sales goal, EBOS is not something I would do again. EBOS is for the traditional artist or painter and that's really what its audience is seeking. Unlike the other artists, I didn't have anyone mention that they saw my work in the gallery or directory and then came to see me. Fortunately, I was in a location with built in traffic and benefited from my own marketing as well as the efforts of the group.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How Fused Glass Art Panels are Made

I've been making fused glass art panels for a while. Part of the process has been trial and error but I am finally happy with the design and firing schedule. Each panel contains as its center a unique piece of glass that is created from an aperture pour or "pot melt" with both transparent and opaque glass surrounding it as the frame.

Aperture pours are a great way not only to use up excess glass but create a truly stunning one-of-kind glass pattern. The final pattern is a result of how the glass is stacked (horizontal or vertical), colors used, the height from which the glass drops onto the shelf, and the size, shape and number of holes in the pot. Each glass artist has his or her preference. For me, I've tried a variety of combinations and prefer to have the glass flat, the pot about 2" above the shelf and many holes in the pot. I tend to layer in the following order: colored opaques, white, colored transparent, clear. It's helpful to do a number of these and take good notes, so you know what works for you.

I buy predrilled pots that are wide and shallow (because my kiln isn't very deep) but any store bought clay pot can be used. I line the shelf with 1/8" fiber paper and use a stainless steel ring as a containment dam for the glass (this is also lined with fiber paper). Note: it's best to have one pot for each color as some glass will remain in the pot after it's done as pots are not kilnwashed.

Note: for a detailed firing schedule, see Steve Immerman's site

My firing schedule heats the glass to 1625 degrees, enough to melt the glass so it drips through the holes. An hour hold at 1500 allows any bubbles to surface as well as evens out the glass.

Next, I measure and cut the glass with my tile saw and then build a glass frame around it. The panel is fired design side down to create a tight design. Then, the edges are coldworked or ground to make even and the panel is flipped over so the design is facing up and fired again. The final result is below:

8 Ways to Recycle Glass into Works of Art

With fused glass, it's easy to accumulate a lot of excess glass scraps, those pieces that remain after sheet glass is cut for a desired design. As glass is expensive and I don't feel right tossing the excess, I've tried to figure out a ways to use up the pieces. Here are 8 ways that I recycle (or plan to recycle) excess glass:

1. Nip glass into bits that can be used in molded jewelry.
2. Crush with hammer to make into frit that can be used as a glass accent or entire piece. I plan to make bowls from frit later.
3. Cut into small squares and fire hot to make pebbles or rounds that can be used as design accents. I've used these as dots on business card holders and ornaments on Christmas trees candle holders.
4. Cut into small squares to be used as detailed designs. I cut excess glass into 1" squares and use these to make plates and coasters.
5. Make snowflake ornaments for the holidays. This is an excellent way to use up clear glass - takes a lot of cutting but the end product is quite nice.
6. Melt glass together as a shelf melt. Glass pieces are put on fiber paper and dammed. From this, I cut up the pieces to use in plate designs or other pieces.
7. Heat glass pieces together in an aperture or pot until molten and let the glass drip through to create a unique design that can be cut up and used in other pieces. As an alternative, glass can be stacked on wire mesh and melted.
8. Use in pattern bars. Pattern bars are made by either stacking layers of glass on top of one another or on its sides to create a bar once fused together. The bar is sliced to reveal a pattern through all the pieces. While I've made these in a class, I've yet to do this on my own but plan to do so.

Shortly, I'll be putting all my glass into storage as I'll be moving to the Seattle area. With glass being heavy, I certainly wish that I had acted on using up more of my excess glass earlier in the year. In the future, look for more plates, platters, panels, and bowls made from cut up melted glass as well as bowls made from crushed glass. These techniques require more time and work but certainly create a very nice and unique finished product.