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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Web Site Basics for the Fused Glass Artist

Photo of web site
jestersbaubles.com
I've seen several questions on-line lately asking about options for personal web sites. Stumbling across a question multiple times is often motivation for me to write down my thoughts in a blog post. What follows is a summary of what I have researched and what I have implemented. I hope you'll find the information at least gets you started in asking some of the right questions. But first...

The Disclaimer

I am not a web designer, nor do I play one on TV. I am a glass artist with a day job (or am I a working geek with a glass hobby?) I work as a software product manager at a scientific instrumentation company, and I know how to program our equipment in our Basic-like language. However, when it comes to the World Wide Web, I am just someone who has figured out how to hack a little HTML code and who Googles a lot to find answers to my questions. This means I know just enough to be dangerous. The information you'll find here is based on my knowledge and experience. There are tools similar to the ones listed below that I'm sure will work equally well. This is not an all-inclusive list, it's the tools I have worked with.

Consider Your Needs

The first step is to consider what you are hoping to accomplish with your web site. Do you want to provide an on-line gallery of your work and information on how you can be contacted? Do you want to set up an on-line store? Are you interested in sharing what you know with others by maintaining a blog? Is your goal to advertise studio instruction or your gallery events? Having a clear purpose in mind will help you determine which tools you will need going forward.

What is your budget? What you are willing/able to pay could be a big factor in which options you choose. (If your budget is unlimited, you can skip the rest of this post and contact your local web designer. Otherwise, keep reading!)

What are your skills? Can you hack your way through HTML code or are you more comfortable with a word processor? 

Answering these questions will help you determine which tool options to consider.

Tool Options

Payments: First things first. If your goal is to sell art, then you need a way for people to pay. PayPal is an excellent option. It's secure, reliable, it's integrated into many shopping cart apps, and most customers are comfortable paying through PayPal. PayPal takes a small percentage of the overall sale (2.9% at the time of writing). If you already have a Square account, that is another good option. Square is also compatible with with many shopping cart options.

On-line Market Places: If you want a place where people can search for the type of product you offer and buy directly, but you don't want the hassles and costs of a full-blown web site, you might consider an on-line market place such as Etsy or Artfire. These sites provide an on-line storefront that is easy to set up. Products are added to the store by uploading pictures, writing a description, and entering a price. A market place has a low barrier to entry and is relatively inexpensive. As an example, on Etsy you pay a small fee -- 20 cents -- to list an item for three months. If an item sells, Etsy takes a percentage of the selling price. (Just don't forget to also add fees assessed by your payment option; e.g., PayPal). The disadvantage to these on-line market places is because they are easy to use and maintain, many people use them and it is very hard for your product to stand out from other offerings. Sales often go to the lowest price regardless of quality of craftmanship, and they are not the best tool for building a brand around your work and helping people get to know you as an artist. On the other hand, they are one of the easiest options to set up and use, if your only objective is to make your work available for sale. 

Blog Publishing Services: Do you have passion and knowledge about a subject and want to share that with the world? Blog publishing services are typically as easy to use as a basic word processor (e.g., Microsoft Word or Google Docs). Many blog services these days are all-in-one tools for website building, ecommerce (shopping carts), and blogging, and they typically offer a variety of plans ranging from "free" (which usually gives you the ability to blog, but no ecommerce/store front) to paid-for services that can offer ecommerce, sophisticated statistical analysis of web-site traffic, and unlimited product listings. If your goal is to blog, I suggest looking at Blogspot, Wordpress, or Weebly. If you are looking for the ability to blog as well as have a web site from which you sell products, consider Weebly, or a Blogspot or Wordpress site coupled with a third party shopping cart plug-in. 

Third Party Ecommerce (shopping cart) options: For my money, one word - Ecwid. These guys have it aced when it comes to ease-of-use, functionality, and a reasonable price. When I was searching for a shopping cart option to integrate into my web site, I stumbled upon Ecwid. Within an hour, I had set up an account, added a few products, entered payment and shipping options, and Ecwid generated a line of code that I copied into my web site. Viola, a shopping cart automagically appeared on my web site. Five minutes later I was giving them my credit card for a year's worth of shopping cart bliss, all for the low price of $150 annually and no additional fees (just don't forget your PayPal fees if that is how you plan to accept payment). Ecwid also has plug-ins for Weebly, Blogger, Wordpress, and others. Yes, this is an unabashedly biased review of what I think is a great tool.

Hosted Web-Site: If you are looking for more flexibility than what is offered by a Blog Publishing Service, you may want to consider a hosted web site. To accomplish this, you typically need at least intermediate web design skills, or you will want to hire someone to do the development for you. The advantage to this approach is that your web site design is limited only by your skills and imagination (or your wallet, if you are paying someone for the design). There are some web-page development tools that offer low-cost hosting options. For instance, Coffee Cup Software offers a suite of web site design tools, including Coffee Cup HTML (an HTML Editor) and Coffee Cup RSD (Responsive Site Designer). Both offer you the ability to easily publish the web site you create to a site that they host for you at a very reasonable cost (~$5/month). There are many web-hosting companies, including local businesses if you would rather go that route (do an Internet search for web hosting and you'll find many options as well as reviews).

Custom Domain Name: A domain name is the "address" of your web site. It's what you see in the top bar of your browser when you visit a particular site. In many instances, when you set up a blog or a hosted web site, the entity with whom you are working will assign to you a domain name. For instance, I currently host my web site with Coffee Cup, and the name of my web site on their servers is danaworley.coffeecup.com. However, I wanted a unique name so I purchased two custom names from GoDaddy, who is a domain name registrar: danaworley.com and jestersbaubles.com. Both of these are linked to my site on the CoffeeCup domain server. (CoffeeCup had clear instructions on which settings to change to link the domain names to their server. Blogger has similar instructions.)

There are many domain name registrars. They are required to be certified and follow certain rules, so they all offer essentially the same product. When considering a custom domain name, pricing is one factor. However, many of those entities who manage domain names also offer services such as web site hosting, so you may be able to get a package that offers you a domain name and a web site. For example, danaworley.coffeecup.com is a domain name that comes free of charge with the web site I have hosted on CoffeeCup.

My Implementation

I've peppered the information above with several, "here's what I've done" comments. To summarize, this is currently what I have set up.

  • A web site hosted by CoffeeCup, danaworley.coffeecup.com. I started creating my web site using CoffeeCup HTML Editor. Publishing a web site to their servers is basically a click of a button so it did not require me to worry about the details of getting the web site files from my PC to their servers. The process was easy and the hosting fee was reasonable. I now use their Responsive Site Designer program rather than the HTML Editor, but it's still an easy one-click process to publish to their servers.
  • Two custom domain names, purchased through GoDaddy. (danaworley.com and jestersbaubles.com). These are both linked to my web site on CoffeeCup.
  • Ecwid shopping cart so that people can purchase my products on-line. 
  • I enjoy sharing what I know about glass, so I wanted a blog. My blog is set up on Blogpot: jestersbaubles.blogspot.com. Of course, if you're reading this on line right now, you know that!

Keep in mind that web sites are always a work in progress! I still have a lot of changes I would like to make to my web site, including getting more items in my on-line store and setting up a separate gallery of work. But, it's a good start and it's my own, unique web presence. 

As I mentioned above, this is not all-inclusive. It's based on what I understand, and it's what I've done. I hope it helps you in some small way start down the road to providing a great web presence for your art!

Best, Dana

Note: I made some changes recently, which may require a few days to populate across DNS servers. If you have visited my web site in the past and now try to visit danaworley.com or jestersbaubles.com, you may get a message about the site "no longer being parked". If so, visit my CoffeeCup site directly: danaworley.coffeecup.com

Learn!

Want to learn more about fused glass? Check out Bullseye Glass Educational Videos! (small subscription fee)
Bullseye Kiln-glass Education Online



Monday, April 10, 2017

Glass Art Guild of Utah Spring Show - Pioneer Theatre Company

Artist, Barbara Busche
The Pioneer Theatre Company recently hosted the Glass Art Guild of Utah in its Loge Gallery during the performance of King Charles the III. The play and accompanying exhibit ran from March 24 through April 8, 2017. The exhibit included kiln-formed, lampwork, and blown glass from 25 of the Guild's 45 members.

A variety of work by guild artists.
Two of my bowls are on the bottom shelf.
(bottom left / bottom right)
The exhibit featured a variety of 3-D and 2-D glass art, along with several display cases of jewelry. All of the work on display was available for purchase. During performances, Guild members were on hand to talk about their work and the techniques they use, and to assist theater-goers with sales. Last night was "my night" to assist during the show, so my other half and I took the opportunity to attend the play during the afternoon matinee, grab dinner, and then return to assist for the evening performance.

I used my cell phone to capture a few snapshots of the work on display. At times I had to photograph the pieces from odd angles to avoid glare while still getting a reasonable photograph in the subdued lighting. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy seeing the work of our very talented artists in the Guild.

The patrons I had an opportunity to talk with had many favorable things to say about the exhibit, including the quality of work, the variety, and the unique beauty of glass art. While many pieces in the exhibit sold, we still have work available, and most of the Guild's artists are available to create custom pieces. If you are interested in any of the pieces displayed here, drop me a note or contact the Glass Art Guild of Utah for additional information.

Enjoy the show!

Dana
video

View this Video on YouTube instead: https://youtu.be/e5_om0cgl0M


New to glass fusing and want to learn more? Check out Bullseye Glass Educational videos!
Bullseye Kiln-glass Education Online

Monday, February 6, 2017

Using Fiber Paper to Make Your Own Shallow Mold

Fused glass candle/soap dish
Fused glass candle/soap dish

Based on discussions I have seen on-line lately, I thought I would provide a quick tutorial on using fiber paper to create a shallow mold for fused glass. This project started when I had a leftover frit mixture from another project and thought I would create a quick candle or soap dish for a local Valentine auction. My plan was to slump it into a small square mold I have, but once fired, I felt like the piece needed something to spice it up. I decided to cut a unique shape from the glass and get creative with the slumping mold.
Fused glass project before firing
Fused glass project before firing



Since Valentine was the theme, I shaped my square glass blank into a tear-drop shape. I drew the shape onto the glass with a Sharpie pen, and used my mosaic cutters to roughly cut the tear-drop shape (I was lazy and didn't want to drag out my ring-saw). Next, I took the piece to my regular grinder, first grinding with a coarse bit and then further refining the edge with a fine bit. After that, I worked the edges with diamond hand pads until smooth.

Once I had my new shape, I following the steps below to create my fiber paper mold.

Use a sharp blade for cutting the shape
Use a sharp blade for cutting the shape


Lay out 1/8" fiber paper on top of a fabric cutting mat. Cut around the shape of the glass using a sharp, straight blade. I used a cheap plastic break-away blade that you can pick up at any hardware or "big-box" store. When cutting the fiber paper, try to cut in long, continuous cuts. You'll have a much smoother edge this way.





A continuous cut leaves a nice clean edge
A continuous cut leaves a nice clean
edge


At left is the cut piece.







Mark the inside cut with a sewing gauge
Mark the inside cut with a sewing gauge


I wanted a 2 cm edge for my dish, so I used a small sewing gauge as my guide for marking 2 cm all the way around my shape. (Strange how all my sewing tools have migrated into the glass shop!)







Cut out the center
Cut out the center


Next, cut the center out of the fiber paper, once again, trying to use continuous cuts.







Cut fiber pieces for a decorative edge
Cut fiber pieces for a decorative edge



I wanted a bit of a ruffled edge, so I cut some small squares.







Glue the pieces in place
Glue the pieces in place


I placed the squares around the edge of the fiber paper mold and used a few drops of white glue to hold each piece in place.







Fire to 1260 deg F; 10 minute hold
Fire to 1260 deg F; 10 minute hold


Into the kiln it goes! I placed my fiber mold on a kiln-washed shelf, and placed the glass on top. I fired to 1260 degrees F (hotter than I would normally slump) and held for 10 minutes.






Front of the finished candle/soap dish
Front of the finished candle/soap dish
Back of the finished candle/soap dish
Back of the finished candle/soap dish

Here's the finished piece, both front and back. The piece sits flatly on a table, but since it is intended as a soap or candle dish, I put rubber bump-ons on the bottom so it would not slide.

I hope you've found this write-up helpful. The process used here is basically the same as "kiln-carving" glass. If you want to learn more about kiln-carving, check out this tip sheet from Bullseye Glass, and also the links to the Educational Videos, below.

Happy fusing!
Dana

Resources: 

Bullseye Video: Kilncarving
Bullseye Video, Kilncarved Sconce Project

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Touring the Gallery with Peppermint the Elf!

Fun little compilation of images taken at the Artists Gallery, Cache Valley Center of the Arts today!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Holiday Candle Dish


Finished candle plate in green Fusers Reserve
Finished candle plate in green Fusers Reserve
This time of year finds many of us in the studio looking for quick projects for holiday markets or gifts. I don't often work in "production mode", but in this instance I was looking for something that I could create multiple pieces of, for our local Winter Gift Market and for the artists' co-op I belong to. I decided on a candle plate in holiday colors.

Following is a quick tutorial on how to create this simple but beautiful holiday gift item. The size of this plate means it requires minimal materials, and it is created with a single firing. This means that you can offer this piece at a reasonable cost for holiday shoppers or give one to all of the people on your holiday gift list!


4" squares of Fusers Reserve green/red/white and clear
4" squares of Fusers Reserve green/red/white and clear

Candle Plate Materials

  • 4" square of colored glass (I've used Spectrum's Fuser Reserve in green/red/white and in red/white)
  • 4" square of clear glass
  • Clear coarse frit
  • Medium frit in complementary colors
  • Mica powder (I used bright gold)
  • SuperSpray
  • Rubber bump-ons


Directions

Mica-coated frit
Mica-coated frit




Put some clear coarse frit in a container. Add a small amount of SuperSpray and then sprinkle in some mica powder. Mix well and spread the mica-coated frit on a paper towel to dry.







Lay out squares of clear
Lay out squares of clear



Arrange the 4" squares on a sheet of craft paper. The craft paper catches the frit and makes clean-up easier.






Top squares of clear with colored glass
Top squares of clear with colored glass



Top the squares of clear glass with the squares of the colored glass.






Sprinkle with frit
Sprinkle with frit


Sprinkle on more clear coarse frit, and then the medium frits in complementary colors. Finally, sprinkle on some of the mica-coated frit. I tried to keep the centers of the candle plates relatively free of large frit pieces so that the candle will sit flatly in the middle.




Ready for firing
Ready for firing

The squares are now ready for firing.

Place the pieces on a kiln shelf prepared with kiln-wash or shelf paper, and fire to a contour fuse. I used the following schedule in my kiln; you may need to adjust for your kiln. Note that this kiln-load had a few larger pieces (8x12"). The bubble squeeze hold and longer annealing hold reflect this.


Firing schedule
















Add bump-ons and sign the back
Add bump-ons and sign the back
Close-up of the glass
Close-up of the glass

After the pieces were fired and cooled, I cleaned them and used a diamond hand-pad to smooth any stray frit from the edges. I finished them by signing and adding rubber bump-ons to the back.



Keep in mind when cleaning that some of the frit edges could be sharp! You can smooth any sharp points with a small diamond file or hand-pad, but be careful not to mar the finish of the plate.

Finished candle plate in red fusers reserve
Finished candle plate in red fusers reserve

For the Winter Gift Market and co-op gallery, I plan to wrap the plate along with a small candle, in clear cellophane to create a "grab and go" gift item for market shoppers.

I hope this short tutorial inspires your creativity for the holiday season. If you have questions or comments, leave a note in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!

Dana


Learn More!

Want to learn more about fusing? Check out Bullseye Glass Educational Videos (click on the banner below)
Bullseye Kiln-glass Education Online