Friday, December 30, 2011

360 Fusion: Year in Review; What's Ahead for 2012

This year, one of my goals was to use up my excess scrap (i.e. small pieces) glass. I fused enough glass to make 20 melts (pot melts, shelf melts and high temp melts) which made their way into plates and platters.

I also made frit, coaster sets and my window pendants as well as two new ornament designs (stars and snowflakes).

However, I didn't make as much of a dent as I wanted because as I was using up the smaller pieces, I was also creating additional scrap.  And, when you think about it, the scrap was created over four years so it's probably unlikely that I will use it up in one.  So next year, I'll still continue to look for ways to use up my excess glass.

There's also a couple of things that I did not get to this year that will be on the list to make for 2012.  Specifically, my fusing New Year "resolutions" are as follows:

  • Create pattern bars and use them in plates, platters and panels
  • Experiment with bowls using high temp shelf melts, frit and small glass pieces
  • Make small plates from pot melt centers
  • Create dichroic frit and consider using it to decorate boxes
  • Expand into new types of jewelry: wire-wrapped almond shaped pendants, wire-wrapped coiled pendants with gemstones, stretch and charm bracelets, rings, and new earring designs
  • Experiment with new holiday ornaments (hearts and a new snowflake design)
My favorite part of fusing is create new designs.  As you can tell, I already have in mind everything new that I'll make for 2012, including next year's ornaments!  Often, I have the design created long before I am able to make it, which is why I might not get to something.  The first part of the year is mainly for experimenting and creating while the rest of the tends to be production focused.  I'll keep you posted as I start making these.  Pattern bars are scheduled for next week after I cut up some kiln shelves to make the dams.

In the meantime, best wishes for a blessed 2012!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making Merry with Fused Glass Holiday Pendants

With the official start of the Christmas season starting on Friday, I thought I would share some the new pendants I made for the holiday season.  The first are variations of my window pendants that include bits of nipped glass or glass chards and holiday fracture/streamer glass.

When I purchased the fracture/streamer glass, I noticed that there were bits that didn't include enough green or red, so I augmented the glass with bits of red and green glass confetti or chards.  The pendants with the fracture streamer are on the right.

The second style of pendants are a variation on my wire wrapped heart pendant, adapted for Christmas of course!

I first make frit balls out of red glass as the ornaments.  Next I tack fuse them to the base glass before I grind a channel to hold the wire and refire them to polish the glass.  Then I wire wrap the pendant and finish by adding a red Swarovski crystal to the bottom and silver star to the top.  The above picture is of my prototype, which didn't include the star as I was still waiting for them to arrive.

While I don't have any holiday sweaters, I do have a green sweater and a red cardigan that I wear during the holidays.  I'm looking forward to adding the pendants for a more festive appearance.

My husband especially likes the Christmas trees.  Let me know what you think.  And, happy holidays!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall's Here: New Fused Glass Plates in Autumn Colors

For those of you who are familiar with my work, you know I tend to prefer bright colors - blues, greens, purples or neutrals like black and white, with some red.  Over the past few years, I've been accumulating a fair amount of light amber glass (left over from making my Christmas angel ornaments).  As I hate to waste glass, I decided to expand my color palate so I could incorporate some of the amber glass.  So, in addition to amber, I've added olive green, persimmon, terra cotta, and a range of amber colors.  Here's the first fused glass pieces out of the kiln.

However, as I still had a fair amount of excess amber glass left, I also made a batch of star ornaments.

I'm especially happy with how the plates turned out.  And, as I still have a fair amount of amber glass left, you'll be seeing more variations.  As this is new for me, I'd be interested in your thoughts about the colors.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gearing Up for the Holidays with Fused Glass Ornaments

Every year, it seems that Christmas comes earlier and earlier. Well, if you're making items for the holidays, then it comes even sooner as you need time to make everything. For me, it's also a nice change to what I've been making this year. I've gotten to experiment with a few new designs and learned some things in the process.

New for 2011 will be a different snowflake design and poinsettia ornaments. I've been making snowflakes since 2008 and they've been fairly popular. Although each snowflake is fairly labor intensive with 17-18 individual pieces, I enjoy making them as I accumulate a lot of clear glass over the year and this is a great way to use up some of the excess (although I really haven't made too much of a dent). I start with drawing out several design options on paper and then pick the one I like best to make. As the snowflakes are rather detailed, drawing out designs tend to work better than coming up with something in my head. However, what I learned is that what may work on paper may not work in reality. Here's my first stab at a snowflake based on my design.

Not bad, but not quite at the same level as my original snowflake design and not quite the same look fired as pre-fired. Viewing the finished snowflake, I see that the design was not as tight as I would have liked and left room for error. So, I continued to play around with the design and came up with a new one that I like much better. What do you think?

My poinsettia ornaments were really an inspiration from one of my customers who commented that she could wear one of my red flower pins like a poinsettia. I was able to use some of the frit I had made too for the center.

These two new ornaments will be added to my existing ones: the original snowflake design and angels. I have a love-hate relationship with my angels. I love how cute they are when they're finished but the process of making them is laborious (lots of circle cutting, grozing or trimming the circles and then grinding or smoothing the circles) and precise (cutting and placing the stringer and glass chards for the face). While I made enough for this year, we'll see how I feel next year...

These ornaments are fresh out of the kiln, with the last load going in today. I have yet to drill the holes and attach the hanging ribbon but wanted to share with you what I've been doing the past two weeks. Hopefully they will be up on Etsy in the next week or so.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Frit Cast Experiment

During the year, there are times when you have more time to experiment on new work. For me, this typically happens at the beginning and end of the year when there are no shows. You may recall my post at the beginning of this year about making frit.

Well, one of the projects that I hoped to make was frit cast bowl. I had taken a class and made a 4.5" frit cast tile using only two colors of glass.

So, I hoped to use the technique to make a 12" bowl. I weighed the frit and fired the kiln. Unfortunately, this did not turn out as expected. This is because I measured the frit based on having 2 layers of glass, whereas my tile was based on a more than 2 layers. The technique was based on mounding the frit and having it spread out. Thus, I didn't have enough frit to nicely melt to the edges and the glass was at least 1" shorter than the intended 12" circle and of course, not uniform in thickness (thinner at the edges, thicker in the middle).

But not to waste anything, I've cut up the glass and incorporated it into the center of a plate.
I like the detail that you get from from the frit and could see doing more of these but adding more colors and making the frit more random (e.g. think of various colors of frit shaken up).

And, I'll still try to make that frit cast bowl. But, next time, I'll be more intentional at laying out the frit so it completely covers the base rather than mounding it and adding more frit overall. Once I get that done, I'll post it but most likely not until the end of this year or beginning of next, when I'm back to experimenting :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

How To Make Fused Glass Platters Using Pot Melts

I've made a number of platters using the glass I create from "aperture pours" or "pot melts." I like these because they are one-of-a-kind pieces as the glass used is individually created.

At shows, I am often asked I make these. First, I start by making the pot melts. These are created from putting various colors of sheet glass into a pot with one or more holes at the bottom. The glass is heated to about 1625-1700 degrees until it is molten and starts to flow out of the pot onto the kiln shelf. Because the glass is liquid, I use a stainless steel ring lined with fiber paper to act as a dam to contain the glass, so it doesn't flow off the shelf onto my kiln floor.

Depending upon the height that you place the pot above the shelf, you can create different patterns in how the glass drops. The way you lay out the colors in the pot also effects the design.

As I wanted to have 3 different centers, I created a third pot melt similar to the one above, then refired all three to thin them out as the dam resulted in glass that was a little too thick. Next, I sandblast the back to get rid of any kilnwash (what keeps the glass from sticking to the shelf) that may be on the back before I cut them up into 3" squares for the center.

Then I cut up sheet glass to add a border.

I fuse this face or design side down so that the lines are tighter around the border. After it comes out of the kiln, I coldwork or grind the edges so they are smooth and refire with the design side facing up. The result is the platter shown at the beginning of the post. And, the remaining glass from the pot melts is also cut up and used for other platters.

While it's difficult to tell from the photos, the pot melt glass contains raised ripples that were created as the glass dripped - I love this! What do you think? And, if you'd like to see some additional platters I've made, click here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Work: More Fused Glass Plates with Cut-Ups

Earlier I posted about various ways I make different types of glass that I cut up to create my fused glass plates. Here's a couple of the newer creations.

The first set are plates using a high temperature shelf melt:

Next, are some small and medium plates using a shelf melt that's sliced and laid on its side.

These styles are fairly new for me and I'm learning a lot about what I like and what others do as well. My favorite is the purple plate which looks really nice up close as you can all the different purple variations of the glass in the center. If you have a favorite or a style you like, let me know as I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Monday, May 30, 2011

New for Spring II: Fused Glass Window Pendants

I typically try to make new glass designs about twice a year, once before I begin my show schedule in Spring and the second before the holidays. Here's what I am calling "window" pendants because the solid glass creates a frame of the window that allows you to see the glass design. I have two styles, one where you see a glimpse and the other that reminds me of an open window with a roman shade.

To make these, I first make the patterned glass. This can be made from glass threads, chards, frit and bits.

After it's fused together, I cut it up with my tile saw and grind the edges to smooth them out so that they will fuse nicely in the next step.

And, I add the solid colored glass as the frame. This goes back into the kiln to be fused together.

Once again, I use my tile saw to cut the glass, this time into pendants. Next I grind the edges to make each pendant even. And then, these pendants go back into the kiln to be "fire polished."

Fire polishing gives the pendants a nice sheen as seen in the first photo above. This is my second batch of pendants. Here's a photo of the first batch just before going into the kiln to be fire polished.

I'm happy with how they turned out. In fact, the second batch is to restock some colors after my first show as well as expand into a few new designs. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New for Spring: Millefiori Fused Glass Pendants

The first fused glass pieces I purchased were years ago on my vacation to Venice. Of course, the dishes contained millefiori (which means a thousand flowers), something that one might associate with Murano glass. So, when I think of millefiori, I have fond memories of Venice (one of my favorite places) and wanted to capture that in my fused glass.

Millefiori isn't typically used much in glass fusing. First, it has a different COE or coefficient of expansion. This means that it cannot be combined with the typical fusing glasses (90 or 96 COE) as glass with different COEs expand at different rates when heated and is more likely to break. Recently manufacturers have made millefiori that works with the standard fusing glass but the color and design selection is rather limited. So, because I wanted the variety I decided to try making millefiori jewelry all with the glass coming from Italy.

When making the pendants, I decided to fuse the glass as a small panel that I would later cut up with my tile saw. I contained or dammed the panel using 2 sheets of fiber paper so that I would be less likely to lose the edges as the glass spreads out. Placing the millefiori into the panel was a little time consuming as each piece is placed individually.

But, the time and effort were worth it. I was very happy with how panel turned out. Next, I trimmed off the edges and refired. While I meant to fire polish the pendants because of the different COE, the pendants ended up fired more like a full fuse rather than a fire polish. This is because I used the temperature that I normally would without considering that these pendants were made from a different COE. After grinding all the edges, sandblasting and two tests later, I finally got the right temperature. And, here's how they turned out (before I attached the bails).

Lessons Learned:
  • When working with a different COE, testing is important unless you want to spend time coldworking the glass. To be honest, while I though the 2 layers of fiber paper would work, I didn't know that it would. I probably should have started with one panel and tested it. And, I should have tested one pendant with the fire polish rather than fire a whole shelf loaded with pendants.
  • Colors of the glass can change with firing, especially with the glass rods I used. The back side looks a little different than the front. Fortunately, a clear cap kept the rod colors in tack.
  • More consistent, smaller patterns work, especially when the glass is cut up as you don't see as much of the larger, entire pattern. Also, I found that I prefer at least 4 different millefiori patterns to make the design interesting.
  • Tiny millefiori expand with each firing, especially when taken to a full fuse.
I'm excited about these new pendants and am in the process of making the next batch in blues and greens keeping the above lessons in mind. Let me know what you think of these.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

An Experiment in Frit Making: Lessons Learned

I mentioned that my goal this year is to use up my scrap glass. For the red, orange and yellow glass, I decided to try making frit as I typically use these colors in tandem and they typically do not fire as well in the higher temperatures used for pot melts.

Frit is basically crushed glass, which comes in a range of sizes from powder to coarser bits. Frit is made by crushing glass either with a hammer or a pre-made metal device called a "frit maker," which is designed to more easily crush the glass. Given that this is my first time and I'm not sure how often I'll be making frit, I decided to go with the hammer method. To make it easier to crush, I first quelch the glass. Quelching involves heating the glass (I heated the glass to 1000 degrees) and quickly cooling it in water. I heard that there would be steam and a little splattering at this point. This didn't happen with me although I could hear some sizzling when it first hit the water. As you can see the ice is still in tact after the glass was dumped in.

The glass is still in tact as well. I thought it might break up into pieces but it did not. However, there are tiny fractures in it. It has the sound of plastic rather than glass, and I can break a piece by bending it with my hands.

To crush the glass, I contained the glass using a stainless steel ring. As you crush the glass, the pieces want to fly somewhere and the ring helps keep them contained. I also placed a plastic baggie on top. The bag keeps the glass from flying but allows me to see through it. In addition, it keeps any metal from the hammer from falling into and contaminating the glass bits. I also placed the glass on a few pieces of re-inforced plastic tarp. The tarp was strong enough to withstand the crushing (although I had to double it towards the end) and didn't leave fragments of plastic in the glass.

After I crush the glass, I pour it into the frit sifter, which contains a grid on the bottom to separate the glass by size. The bigger pieces stay on the top and smaller pieces fall to the bottom. Fortunately, I want coarse pieces of glass, so I am saved from all the pounding required to get the glass to be really tiny :)

Lessons Learned:
Use a stainless steel bowl for heating the glass. This makes it easier to dump the glass into the bowl of water. I also used tongs and welder gloves to protect me from the heat.

Use the side elements to heat the kiln if you have this option. There's much less heat radiating out than if you're using the top elements (forgot about this with the second round).

Quelching, while more time-consuming, is much better than just hammering. The glass is easier to break and less prone to having sharp edges, which is a huge benefit! With all the broken glass, I did not get one cut and could run my hands through the broken glass. I'm positive that had I not quelched the glass, that I would have used my fair share of bandages.

Using the tarp, ring and baggies are great ideas, especially since this is fairly messy. The tarp is sturdy and great for pouring, while the ring and baggies help keep the glass contained. A vacuum cleaner is also a must.

Make the frit, starting with the lighter colored glass and move to the darker colors. While I vacuumed the tarp, ring and frit sifters between crushings, there's still a possibility that tiny bits of glass could have been transferred. Having each glass color be slight darker, minimizes the appearance of any stray fragments should this have happened.

Buy or make a frit sifter. Even if you want large pieces, you will get every size from powder to chunks. A frit sifter helps sort out these sizes and is especially helpful for the smaller sizes (powder, fine, medium).

Thoughts Moving Forward:

For me, frit making was a little more time consuming, labor intensive and messy than I would have liked. If I choose to make more items using frit, especially using smaller pieces of crushed glass, I would purchase pre-made frit rather than make it myself. However, given that this is a great way to use up my reds, oranges and yellows, I'll still continue to make frit. And, I might consider making more frit with excess glasses that I don't have alternative ways of using. For example, I have a lot of excess amber glass. Amber is not a glass that's in my color palette but was something that I used quite a bit for Christmas ornaments. Another consideration is how my fused glass pieces turn out with the frit I've made. I'll write about these projects as they happen down the road. I can tell you that the first one didn't turn out. However, now the challenge is to make it into something usable. Thank goodness for my tile saw! More on this in future posts (once I create something worth sharing)...