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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Experimenting with Flexi-Glass Medium and Mica

Cabochon with bronze and gold mica
It seems like I always start my posts off with "a few weeks (or months) ago," "I took a class | read a book | learned a new technique..."  Well, this post is no different!

In May, I joined other members of the Glass Art Guild of Utah in attending a class taught by David Alcala (see previous blog post). One of the techniques David taught us was using his Flexi-Glass Medium.

Flexi-Glass is a thick liquid that you paint on a non-stick sheet, sprinkle glass frit or powder over the sheet, and then fire in a kiln to create thin, flexible "glass" sheets.  These sheets can be cut with scissors, easily torn, or punched, and then fired along with other fusible glass. This lets you create much more intricate shapes than you could ever cut by hand or with a ring saw. You can also mix the Flexi-Glass Medium with mica powders, spread the mixture on the non-stick sheet, and fire.

Flex-Glass Mica sheet
A couple of years ago, I purchased some mica powders. I've had varied success in working with them -- sometimes I like the results and other attempts have resulted in pieces that have hit the scrap bin. This weekend I decided to experiment with creating mica sheets using the Flexi-Glass. I wanted to start small with my experimentation, so I laid out a few cabochons.

In the photo on the right, you can see part of the Flexi-Glass sheet I created. I spread gold mica on one half of the sheet, bronze on the other, and then combined the two in the middle. Below left are the cabs ready to be fired -- I've used a colored glass for the base, placed mica cut-outs on top, and then capped with clear:

Cabochons waiting to be fired
Cabochons, out of the kiln!



I used a fairly "standard" (e.g., fast) firing schedule for the cabs.

The results are on the right.




I was somewhat concerned about the uneven texture of the mica sheet, and about what the pieces would look like after firing. I've had powdered mica "clump" on me, and I wondered if these sheets would do the same. However, I think the cabs turned out nicely. While I don't design a lot of jewelry these days, these little guys will probably end up as pendants.

I've currently got some larger pieces in the "big kiln" waiting for the kiln to be filled up so they can be fired. I'm concerned about bubbles near the mica sheet on larger pieces, so the largest piece right now has small glass chips at each of the four corners (fusers call these chads), to help air to escape during firing. The idea is the middle of the glass relaxes first, and then the glass relaxes outward, pushing air as it goes, resulting in fewer trapped air bubbles. I'll also make sure to include a nice long bubble squeeze in the firing schedule.

As always, I learned a few lessons with this experiment.

  • I have (since) read that adding some alcohol to the Flexi-Glass/mica powder mixture helps with smoothing out the powder. 
  • I like more organic edges on the mica sheet, so next time, I won't spread it so neatly on the non-stick sheet.
  • I should have cut my clear caps a little larger or the mica pieces a little smaller. I knew this, and did it anyway ;). If you look closely, you'll see some rough edges on the cabs as a result of the mica not being completely covered by the glass.

I'm going to continue to play with this technique. When the pieces in the big kiln are completed, I'll post some pictures. In the meantime, if you have any questions, let me know!

Happy fusing,
Dana
A finished cab using
Flexi-Glass and mica powders.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Vase Adventures Continue!

Fused glass drop vases
Fused glass drop vases
A few weeks ago while experimenting with the techniques in Paul Tarlow's ebook, "Creative Fused Glass Drop-Out Vessels" (see previous post) I was inspired to design a few more traditional drop vases (I call them traditional because of the rim on the vase). I finally made some time today to get some photographs of the finished vases. I thought I would share the results, along with the firing schedule for the drops.

The round blanks for the vases were all three layers thick with varying diameters and designs, which were fired to fuse the pieces together and then cold-worked to refine the edges. For the second firing to turn the flat slabs of glass into vases, I used the basic drop technique of putting a drop-out mold on kiln-post "stilts" and letting the glass drop through.

Fused glass blank ready for firing
Round blank ready for firing
Completed fused glass vase
Completed drop vase


The kiln set-up for the drop is at the left, and the completed vase is at the right. The finished piece is 6" tall with stand/4.5" without. 
Here's another, larger vase. Dimensions are 4" tall without stand; 7.75" rim diameter, and 5" opening.
Blue wispy fused glass vase without stand
Blue-wispy fused glass vase without stand.
See this piece with its stand in my on-line store.

Mauve vase. The design on the rim is created with hand-painted enamels and various sizes of glass frit. I really like how the light mauve opaque glass stretches as the glass flows to the center of the vase.
Pink and mauve fused glass vase
Pink and mauve fused glass vase
Pink and mauve fused glass vase - closeup
Closer look at the rim. 












Each of the vases was completed in a separate firing, and I watched them carefully at the drop stage of firing. Here's the schedule that worked well for me, in my kiln. Note that the glass I use is System 96; the sheet glass was Spectrum and most of the frit was Uroboros. 

image of firing schedule
Schedule for the two smaller vases. The larger vase had a longer anneal time at 950 deg F. 
Note that the schedule above shows a 60 minute hold at 1250 deg F for the completion of the drop. The two smaller vases took approximately 40 minutes each; the larger one about 20. Total firing for each vase was just under 15 hours!

Firing schedule Excel template courtesy of Paul Tarlow. It can be downloaded from his www.fusedglass.org web site here.

Perhaps this blog post will inspire you to create some drop-out vases of your own. Feel free to leave a comment if there are questions I can answer!

Dana
These drop vases and a few other new items will soon be available in my on-line store.