Sunday, 22 April 2012

I like to make my friends their birthday presents. Not entirely sure that they always like me making it, but they seem to make the right noises in the right places!

But I also want to know what they would like as sometimes, even though we may have been friends for years, I'm not really sure what their preference is. And we've all been bought presents that someone else has admired, haven't we?

So, I was shown a chaise longue on a phone from here, although the one in question is in red. So I was thinking (as I do) about using the tree theme but adding cherry blossoms.

First, to make the blossoms. Tried lots of techniques, first with stuff I already had. I hoped my sizzix would go through the fabric The leather was too heavy for the effect I was after, anyway.

I bought some polyester two-tone fabric and organza. I tried circles and five slits, then melting the edges of the polyester to form the petals a bit like here. A bit dodgy! It does look like flowers, but the organza in particular was a little prone to flames (!) and I did end up with some quite hard edges. I'm not renowned for my patience......

Then it came to me - as these things do - why not 'cut' them out with my fabric master? It's man-made materials, so they will melt. The above pictures are my practice attempts:
  1. single layer
  2. two layers of organza, fused together with Mistyfuse
  3. one layer polyester, one organza, just placed together and cut out
  4. as above, but layers Mistyfused first
  5. single layer of polyester
None of them were quite what I had envisaged - until the additions of beads and stitched lines for stamens. That lifted the whole thing! I eventually went for number 3 and this is the result:

I am pleased with it; it has come out as I had in my head, which is very satisfying. I enjoyed the design process, too.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Well, hope you all had a nice Easter. I’ve had a couple of weeks off work and this last few days I’ve been home alone, just me and Cassie (my dog). The weather has been somewhat variable with brilliant sunshine one minute and heavy rain the next.

So, for the latest kiln work. First of all, I had an order to complete; set of 4 coasters that will be a wedding present.
I cut the hearts out of copper sheet and, using an embossing tool, embossed them with hearts and swirls. The smaller pieces are confetti - very thin glass in shades of pink. Cover with another layer of glass and fire to full fuse.
Simple but very nice; I've sold quite a few of these.

Then some experimenting. I saw some work by a glass artist who had made some beach huts out of glass and fancied a go. It certainly put my glass cutting skills to the test and these seem to be improving. I also made the flower panel, cutting the petal shapes.

One of the experiments didn’t go quite so well. I’d read that you can put organic matter between glass (top centre). Although the organic matter burns off, it should leave a residue, sandwiched between the pieces of glass. I used a skeleton from a physalis but I think it may have been somewhat too skeletal, as all I seem to be left with is a lovely clear piece of glass.

Win some, lose some!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Another (slightly shorter!) absence!

Hi all!

A quick check in! Haven't had much time for indoor pleasure at the moment; with the lovely weather, I've taken the opportunity to work in the garden, starting preparations for this year's Open Gardens in June. This has been happening for over 10 years now, organised by the lovely Lesley from Riddlers Cottage Flowers.

On the glass front, I've had a couple of learning curves (prefer to think of them this way rather that disaters!). I've learned:
  1. If you place more than one sheet of thinfire paper on the shelf (patchwork style), you get lines on the back of your pieces. I didn't think a layer of paper could make so much difference!
  2. When peices are refired, they may spread further than they did at first. (I was banking on the rule that says glass spreads to '2 layers thick')
  3. When peices are refired, air bubbles may pop, leaving a hole in the glass surface.

I discovered (2) and (3) after deciding to refire after (1). At least, now I know!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

When I visited Creative Glass in Bristol, I purchased quite a selection of glass, not really sure what I would need. This included scrap glass, as it is less expensive and the small pieces are large enough to make jewellery. I wish I’d photographed my goodies now! There was also a selection of dichroics to get me started.

So, now time to have a go with dichroic glass. Dichroic glass has more than one coating, refracting and reflecting light depending on how it is viewed. I think it is quite beautiful and the first experience I had with firing was with this on a day course with Fired Up Jewellery

On the day course, we followed a simple process; layer of clear, layer of dichroic, layer of clear, so I started with that.

Cutting obviously takes practice. As does drawing a straight line! The scoring doesn’t seem to be a problem, but straight lines definitely are! Also, I didn’t get a pair of running pliers and I feel that’s was mistake (one I put right but more of that later).

I find it very relaxing, cutting and placing the pieces together. On this firing, I was just practicing; seeing how things came out and hoping that it was as simple as I’d remembered. Judging by the results, it was. I used a slightly different firing schedule this time, using a medium fuse, meaning it takes a little longer to heat up. You can see from the coaster with the cross that the cutting needs refinement, but overall, a good start

I did have a bit of a hiccup; set the kiln up, went out the next day to find everything exactly as it was when I put it in! This happened a couple more times until I worked out the cause; I wasn’t pulling the lock on, so the kiln timed out and didn’t run. You live and learn!

Friday, 2 March 2012

The first firing...

So, I have the kiln, but no glass! The kiln arrived earlier than expected and I had decided to visit Warm Glass rather than mail order it. The shop only opens weekdays and as I work in a college, the only time I can visit is in the holiday, so the timing wasn’t great.

Back to the book for advice. Now, glass that is going to be fused together has to have the same coefficient of expansion. In other words, when it gets hot, it all has to heat up and expand at the same rate or it makes the glass unstable. In general, it’s best to use the same make as well, so I decided on Bullseye. No particular reason for the choice!

Never having been blessed with patience, I dragged husband to Creative Glass. I wandered around helplessly for about ½ an hour and then decided to ask for help. Great advice from these guys as well, I came away with a variety of glass, a glass cutter, stringers (long spaghetti shaped pieces of glass in different colours), confetti (very thin glass pieces in different colours) and some copper sheet.

Prepare the kiln – the shelf and kiln base must be protected to stop the glass from sticking to them. The kiln wash supplied with the kiln came as a powder and when mixed with water, looks like kaolin; it needed 4 coats, allowing it to dry between coats. This seemed to take forever!

Then a pre-fire just to make sure the shelf is dry. Excitement! I follow the instructions to the letter and fire the kiln to 500°. It works!

So now to test the kiln. The book says to try coasters and I bought some pre-cut 4” squares to start with. I started simple; well, I wasn’t sure it was going to work (I have very little faith in myself) I set the kiln to the basic setting - another reason for selecting this kiln is it has an idiot-proof setting that you can start with.

And this was the result!

Before & after

Not too shabby! There did seem to be lots of bubbles; I emailed the very helpful people at Warm Glass and they said there could be a couple of reasons:
· Temperature raised too rapidly
· The stringers and confetti trap the air
Now, I had used the fast programme, so that’s something to change next time!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A new era!

So, how long has it been since I blogged? Mmmm…….! No doubt anyone that was following me has long given up on me!

Been thinking though and have decided to start again. Maybe just once a week; reckon that’s do-able. The main prompt for the decision has been the start of a new (to me hobby) – glass fusing. It’s been nigh-on impossible to find useful information on the web (or perhaps I’m just not looking in the right places!) and so I thought I could share my learning curve with the blogosphere. Hopefully, someone may be able to steer me in the right direction!

A couple of years ago I bought a day’s tuition for a very good friend for her birthday. We cut dichroic glass and put the pieces together and left them with the tutor to fire in her kiln. Once the
pendants arrived, I was hooked. My family will testify to the hankering! ‘What do you want for Mother’s Day/Birthday/Christmas’ all received the same response – a kiln! Then I did a PMC course with Chris Pate, which made me even more determined to purchase a kiln.

But - not an easy purchase; it costs a little more than a metre or two of fabric and needs
more space!

So, first of all – what size? Plan A was to make jewellery, so I didn’t need a large one. Now,
I take after my Dad; if you’re going to take up a new hobby, you read a book (or several) on it. The recommended title was Contemporary Fused Glass by Brad Walker. Whilst barely understanding the content at the time (it is a fab book, though and is often referred to), it did open my eyes to the possibilities. So, I didn’t want to make the mistake of getting one that I would grow out of.

Now, if you didn’t know before, I’ll bet you can guess that these things don’t come cheap. Or easy.
Or even with much information. I quickly established:

1. A kiln for glass is not necessarily the same as one for ceramics
2. They cost less to run than you think
3. Timing and temperature control is everything
4. I didn’t know nearly enough to buy one without help
5. It would be great if the help was relatively local

I checked out ebay and discovered that people do not do their homework when purchasing a ‘bargain’. Some of the kilns I looked at could be purchased new for the price a second hand one was going on ebay. No customer support, either!

So, for me, it came down to a choice of 2 – the Paragon SC2 and the Skutt Hotstart Pro. I
had some really helpful advice from Warm Glass (they must have been really fed up of me by the time I’d finished!) near Bristol and the choice was – Hotstart. So here she is.