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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cache Valley Winter Gift Market December 2 & 3

Taylor's Creek Trail, Kolob Canyon, Zion NP
We're experiencing another spectacular Utah fall. The temperatures have remained mild, and the hills are on fire with the vibrant yellows of aspen and reds of the maples and scrub oak. With days like these it's hard to think that winter is just around the corner, and along with it the holiday season.

I've had a fun summer selling my fused glass designs at our local gardeners' market and participating in Art on the Lawn. Though the summer events are over, there's still one more event I'm participating in to wrap up the year -- the Winter Gift Market.

This day and a half art fair is being held December 2 and 3 at the Bullen Art Center. The market runs from 6 to 9 PM on Friday night, in conjunction with our Gallery Walk, and from 10 AM to 6 PM on Saturday. The market hosts a variety of artists, including potters, soap makers, wood workers, fiber artists, and of course, a "glasser" or two.

This market is a great place to find unique handcrafted items for yourself or for gift giving, created by the valley's local artists. I'm please to have been accepted into the market this year. For the next several weeks, you'll find me down in my studio after a full days work at my "day job" crafting functional and beautiful platters, small dishes for soap  or sushi, and jewelry. Of course, I still plan on finding a little time to enjoy the last of our beautiful fall days!

Platter, Fall-Inspired Design
Dana

Monday, May 30, 2011

Spring's Winding Path

Northern Utah's journey through the seasons can travel a winding path, and this year is no exception. Following a long and glorious fall, we've experienced 70 degree days in February, more precipitation than we'll soon know what to do with once the run-off starts in earnest, turbulent winds that toss garbage cans like toys, and snow on Memorial Day. Yes, snow on Memorial Day! As I look out my window the ground is blanketed with a thin layer of white, and I can only hope that my tender basil and tomato plants survive to bask in the sunlight that's promised to arrive later this week.

Despite the cool and rainy spring, we have managed to get outside and "enjoy nature". Spring and early summer are amazing in this high mountain desert. The valley's floor and benches are lush and green, and the mountains are capped in white. Yesterday we stole time before dinner guests arrived to walk up the gravel road to the north of our home and marvel at the display of early spring wildflowers.

We came across wild carrots, foothills death camus (well, it looks nice!), ballhead waterleaf, and other spring wildflowers that I couldn't identify. But the most notable bloomers were the balsamroot. Their brilliant yellow display covering the foothills is what drew us out for the walk to begin with.

When I started looking at the plants more closely, I noticed that, while all the flowers more or less looked the same, there were two distinct patterns of leaves on the plants. Later last night, I got out my plant books (and then resorted to "googling") to distinguish between the two plants. One is the arrowleaf balsamroot (the name I've always used for the plants) and the other is the cutleaf balsamroot.

Cutleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza macrophylla)
Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata)
Inspiration for my glass and other "artistic endeavors" abound in Northern Utah, and I always return from our forays into nature with one thousand ideas bouncing around my head. On what is sure to be a lazy and laid back Memorial Day, I'm planning to pull out my tools and get to work. Maybe the snow is not so bad after all!


Happy holiday,

Dana 

Death Camus (Zigadenus paniculatus)

Ballhead Waterleaf (hydrophyllum capitatum)


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Glass Craft & Bead Expo 2011 Review


This was my first time attending the annual Glass and Bead Expo in Las Vegas.  Ever since I registered for classes in January, I had been excited about spending a few days learning more about glass.

I arrived Thursday afternoon and had time for a quick dip in the pool and relaxing in the sun. After an Italian dinner in one of South Point’s restaurants (that was surprisingly good) I attended a slide show presentation by Peter McGrain (http://petermcgrain.com). Peter briefly covered a history of stained glass, reviewed work of both amateur and professional artists that he appreciated, and ended the evening by showing some of his work. His technique of glass painting is a unique style that brings a vibrant feel to his pieces. His presentation was light-hearted and engaging, and a great way to ease into the conference. 

Friday morning was my first hands-on class. The class was entitled Mixed Metal Clay Bracelet and was taught by Arlene Mornick (http://lemordesigns.com). When I walked into the classroom, Arlene said, “Oh, you must be Dana!” 

“Wow, how did you guess?” I asked. Arlene responded that I was the only one who had signed up for the class. I offered to give her the day off (I would have understood if she had wanted to cancel), but Arlene said it would be fun and it would give her time to work on some pieces of her own. 

The class was called Mixed Metal Clay because Arlene was showing ways to combine copper and silver metal clay in a single piece of jewelry. Metal clays are typically 90-99% pure with clay filler that burns out during firing. The silver clay is very expensive, while the copper is comparatively inexpensive. There’s a challenge with combining them because the two clays are basically incompatible for firing – they will not sinter when fired and they are fired at significantly different temperatures (1200-1650 for the silver metal clay and 1778 for the copper). 

The assembled bracelet.
The construction of the bracelet consisted of five copper clay rectangles, two silver rectangles and a two-piece bar clasp. With each rectangle, Arlene encouraged the use of different textures. Some pieces had holes that were used for incorporating silver clay embellishments later. The copper pieces were formed first and then the silver – I’m sure this was not by accident.  The practice on the copper pieces was a good way to get the hang of it before starting on the more expensive silver. 

While pieces were drying or firing, Arlene talked about how to set firable stones (which I did in my bracelet), and other tips for metal clay. All told, it was a great day which left me thinking of many ideas for future jewelry pieces. For those who considered taking the class and didn’t – they missed out on a fun and informative class.

Dinner was a quick chocolate malt before running to my evening class, Impressions in Glass, taught by Nicole Lozano (http://www.glasstouch.net). Like most people I met during the weekend, Nicole is passionate about her work and her passion shined through as she presented her technique for “kiln carving” using fiber paper. Nicole discussed positive and negative space in design, and showed different completed pieces using the fiber paper technique. She then went over how to transfer a design idea onto fiber paper. With that information in mind, we were given two sheets of iridized glass and some fiber paper, and were set loose with our imagination.  It was an interesting and challenging exercise to create a design while considering the flow of glass into the empty, or cut-away, space and the recession of the glass in the fiber paper space. 

Mountains with sun. The fiber-side-down side.
Opposite side.
The pieces were fired overnight, and we picked them up the next morning. I had left the class excited about the possibilities of using this technique, but was disappointed in the results of my finished pieces. I was hoping for beautiful test pieces that were full of reflected light from the iridized glass. Obviously, these were not destined to be Chilhulys, but the glass ended up cloudy and I would consider the experiment less than successful.

The following day at the exhibit hall, I ran into Nicole. She asked for my honest opinion and so we talked about the results. There were many factors at play that may have affected the end result, including the fact that the kilns were just-out-of-the-box and had never been fired, we were packing the pieces into the kilns as closely as we could, and fiber paper and thin fire (used for covering the shelves) have filler that will burn out and cause fumes in the kiln. I will try the technique at home and hopefully achieve better results in a more controlled firing environment.

The class I took on Saturday was on mold making with Kaiser-Lee board (http://kaiserlee.com), taught by Petra Kaiser. The class was called “Two for One”. It was called this because we completed two projects – a jewelry pendant and a dimensional piece of choice (light screen, small dish or bowl, etc.). Also, the pendant was designed to be two-sided.

I found Petra to be delightful, if not feisty. Again, she is passionate about what she is doing. I was delighted to find that Petra was the author of the book “Introduction to Glass Fusing” that I used as my how-to guide when I started fusing. There were no fused glass classes in my area, and I found this book invaluable for providing easy-to-follow projects with good solid firing schedules. 

Notice the cracks on the left & right sides.
Kaiser-Lee board is a great medium to work with for creating molds. It’s easy to cut and carve with tools as simple as a putty knife and a spoon. As shown in another one of Petra’s books, “Glass Forming with the Mold Block System”, a few basic shapes can be combined in various ways to create different sizes and shapes of molds. The Kaiser-Lee board can also be used as a kiln shelf (at 1” thick it is lightweight yet sturdy). Since I was in the market for another kiln shelf and because the board offers so many possibilities for making molds, I left the class with a “six-pack” of 12x12” boards. Of course, the strength of this product – it’s “carvability” – is also its weakness. The molds are easily scratched so they have to be stored and handled carefully.

I’m still trying to figure out which of the glass gods I angered (perhaps it was my interest in metal clay), because the Kaiser-Lee board project was unsuccessful as well. When I arrived the next morning, again eager to pick up my treasure, I found that there had been a power outage the prior evening. Most of the pieces were fired only to a tack fuse, and a few of them – including mine – were not fired at all. While I was a little disappointed, I knew I could fire the piece at home. Unfortunately, when I pulled it out of the kiln today I found stress cracks. I assume they are the result of the aggressive firing schedule that Petra recommended. But, I’ll certainly give it another go (I have 6 pieces of expensive Kaiser Lee board!) and work with a more conservative schedule. And, I might sacrifice a chicken or something to the glass gods – or maybe my metal clay bracelet?

All-in-all it was a wonderful weekend that started my brain spinning in circles about the possibilities of new techniques for my glass and a new art form for jewelry. I only regret that I didn’t arrive earlier and take advantage of the full week of classes.  I’m starting now to save my pennies for next year!

Happy fusing,
Pendant: side touching KLB.
Dana (aka, the Jester)



Sunday, March 27, 2011

Glass Craft & Bead Expo 2011

In less than a week I'll be heading to Las Vegas for the 2011 Glass Craft & Bead Expo. The expo consists of four full days of hands-on instruction in various glass, bead, and metal techniques and a trade show floor of over 130 vendors.

I'll be hitting the road on Thursday. It's an 8 hour drive from Logan to Vegas, so I should arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon. The weather forecast for the area shows temperatures in the 80s. Given that it snowed overnight here in Logan, the warmth and sunshine of the Las Vegas desert will be a welcome change. With any luck I'll have a chance to unwind from my drive by the hotel pool, reading a book and soaking up some rays. The next few days, however, I'll be soaking up as much information as I can about the wonderful craft of glass.

Friday at 8 AM I'll be heading to Ballroom A8 for a class called "Mixed Metal Bracelet". We'll be using copper and silver metal clay to create a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. For nearly a year now, I've had a package of silver clay in my supply drawer, but I've been too intimated to pull it out and start creating. The clay is 99% pure silver, and trial-and-error learning can result in some pretty expensive lessons. I'm looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and figuring it all out -- with the help of someone who knows what she's doing!

I've also scheduled a Friday evening class called "Impressions in Glass". The technique taught in this class uses fiber paper to introduce texture and relief into the glass. I'm sure I'll pick up some new ideas for the use of fiber paper.

Saturday's class is called "Two for One -- Mold Making with Kaiser Lee Board". Kaiser Lee Board is a rigid, carvable substance that comes in blocks. It can be used for building three dimensional forms and for making custom molds. The class is called "two for one" since the first half of the day will be used for making a pendant using the KLB and the second half of the day will be used for creating a stand-alone clock, light screen, or sculpture.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the vendors will have their booths set up in the show hall. I'm interested in seeing the latest in fused glass supplies and equipment. I'm also hoping to pick up a show floor "deal" or two.

While Las Vegas itself is one of my least favorite places on the planet, I'm excited to be heading to the Glass Craft & Bead Expo. I'm hoping to learn new techniques, meet new friends, and come home with a head full of new ideas for my artwork. And who knows... I may even get adventurous and pull that silver clay out of the supply drawer!

Regards,

Dana (aka, The Jester)
Pendant, combining the techniques of fused glass, wire wrapping, and Chinese knotting.