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Monday, May 25, 2015

Art Glass Poppies!

Orange fused glass poppy
Orange fused glass poppy
I have been slowly working my way through the products I picked up this year at the Glass Craft and Bead Expo in Las Vegas. One of the "must see" stops on my list in the exhibit hall is Creative Paradise's booth. They make lovely fused glass casting and texture molds, and it's always fun to see what new items they have.

This year I picked up a Large Poppy mold (LF113). Creative Paradise has a couple of great tutorials on their site for casting into the mold and for using various sizes of frit in the mold (see link below). However, I wanted to see what effects I could achieve using powders and sheet glass. Following is a short tutorial on how I created poppies using powders and sheet glass.

Yellow-orange poppy
Yellow-orange poppy

Tutorial

Begin by treating the mold with MR-97. I use a 1.5" paintbrush to brush out the mold, and then give the mold a couple of quick sprays with MR-97. (Color de Verre has good information on their web site about coating molds with MR-97, see link below.) Do not overspray the mold -- too much MR-97 may be hard to remove or dull the finished piece.

After the mold has dried at least 15 minutes, begin filling the mold with powders. I like to place molds I am working on, on short 1/2" kiln posts so that it's easier to pick up the mold later without tipping it. For the yellow-orange poppy (shown in a stand on the right), I put down powder as detailed below. Note that all powders listed were System 96 opals.

Fill center with black powder.
Cover black powder with white.


Fill the center with a small amount of black powder, and use a little black powder in the ribs of the poppy for shading. Use the black very sparingly -- too much can overwhelm the other colors.







Cover the black powder in the flower center with white.




Sift down marigold powder.
Sift down orange powder for shading.



Sift some marigold over the center, and then sift marigold along the sides of some of the petals for shading.






Put down some orange for more shading.



Sift down yellow powder and white highlights.


Now sift down yellow on some of the petals, and add white on some edges for highlights.





Completely cover with sunflower powder.


Cover the entire area with sunflower powder. Try to get sufficient coverage so that when the piece is fired, you have a good solid background of color.
Clean powder from edges and top with clear.


Use a small paintbrush to clean the over-sifted powder from the edges of the mold, and top the mold with two 10.25" circles of clear glass.
Close-up of clear resting on edges of mold.


The glass should be just large enough so that it rests on the top edges of the mold. It should not fit down inside the mold, as doing so will be more likely to trap air and cause bubbles.





Firing Schedule

I tested this firing schedule in two of my kilns, a Skutt GM1414 and a Paragon Fusion 14, with consistent results in each. However, you may need to adjust the schedule for your particular kiln or if you use 90 COE glass.

Segment
Rate
Target
Hold
Ramp 1
300
1100
30
Ramp 2
50
1250
60
Ramp 3
500
1460
15
Ramp 4
1500
950
90
Ramp 5
100
700
00

Note that both of these kilns are firebrick and cool quite slowly. Firing time was 13.5 hours, and then I let the kilns cool normally to room temperature (several more hours). Notice the long hold for the bubble squeeze (ramp 2).

Here's the yellow-orange poppy after firing (also pictured in stand, above).

Yellow-orange poppy
Yellow-orange poppy


Close-up, yellow-orange poppy
Close-up, yellow-orange poppy

















Here is the powder layout for the orange poppy shown completed at the top of this post. Colors include black, yellow, plum, red, marigold, and orange:

Powder layout, orange poppy.
Powder layout, orange poppy.

Covered with orange powder. Clear glass on mold edges.
Covered with orange powder.
Clear glass on mold edges.











This is after firing, before slumping.

Orange poppy before slumping
Orange poppy before slumping
Close-up, orange poppy
Close-up, orange poppy


















The orange poppy was slumped into this mold:

Slumping mold
Slumping mold











Here is a bright yellow poppy. The powders used were white for the center, orange for coloring the veins near the center, and topped with yellow powder.

Bright yellow poppy
Bright yellow poppy
Close-up, bright yellow poppy
Close-up, bright yellow poppy


When choosing powders for any project, keep in mind that sulfur-bearing glasses (reds, yellows, oranges) will react with copper-bearing glasses (blues, greens). The reaction can produce murky, undesirable results. If you want to use copper- and sulfur-bearing glasses in the same project, make sure they are separated from each other with a non-reactive glass (white, clear, and celadon are a few). See Resources below for another blog post on reactions and working with powders.

Bubbles

There is always a concern when using full sheets of glass with a fusing mold. There are two factors that minimize the bubbles in the fired poppies. First, the glass blanks were placed on the edge of the casting mold, not directly on the powder. Second, I used a slow, long bubble squeeze in the firing schedule. Both of these result in the center of the glass falling onto the powder first, which allows the air to be squeezed out as the glass levels into the mold from the center to the outside edges. While the poppies do have some small bubbles, they are on the backside of the glass and do not detract from the finished project (in my opinion). Here are pictures of the bubbles in both the yellow-orange and orange poppies.

Back of yellow-orange poppy
Back of yellow-orange poppy

Back of orange poppy
Back of orange poppy












I hope you have found this information useful, and can use some of the ideas in your own work with either Creative Paradise's Large Poppy mold, or another mold of your own.

Thanks for reading!

Dana

Resources



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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fused Glass Design Elements - Glass Combing

Fused glass bowl with combed design
Fused glass bowl with combed design
Glass combing, or raking, is a fused glass technique where the glass is heated to a temperature high enough to allow the glass to be manipulated in the kiln. The glass is typically brought to between 1600 and 1700 degrees fahrenheit and then a stainless steel tool (or rake) is used to swirl the glass.

I have taken several classes where glass combing has been a small portion of the class, but this year at the Glass Craft and Bead Expo I had the opportunity to take a day-long class dedicated to combing with Janine Stillman. Janine is a great teacher, and the class was a catalyst to get me thinking about creating intentional designs with combed pieces. I've spent some time experimenting with combing the last several weeks, taking pictures along the way, so I thought I would share some of the results in a blog post.

Typically glass combings are done by cutting strips of glass and laying these strips on edge to be combed. I have done combings this way, and I've also done some pieces where at least a portion of the glass has been larger pieces of glass, stacked instead of placed on edge, with the idea that these larger pieces were background glass and would be uncombed. My experiences have taught me that strips or smaller pieces of glass are better for combing. I have experienced pinhole-sized bubbles with the combings I've done with larger pieces of glass. The bubbles did not significantly detract from the piece, but I would have preferred not to have them at all. Using strips or smaller pieces of glass ensures air has a chance to escape, thus avoiding bubbles.

Cress GK2 drop-bottom kiln
Cress GK2 drop-bottom kiln
The kiln I use for combing is a Cress GK2 drop-bottom kiln. As the name implies, the bottom of the kiln drops down by using a lever. This type of kiln is ideal for combing because the heat is contained within the kiln and your working area is well away from heating elements. The kilns are also designed to heat quickly and easily maintain temperatures hot enough for high temperature combings and pot melts.

Warning: Follow safety precautions when combing glass! Always turn off the kiln. Wear IR eye protection (a face shield is recommended). Wear non-flammable clothing (cotton -- no synthetics, long sleeves, long pants, closed toe shoes). Tie back long hair. Wear heavy-duty, non-flammable gloves. Comb with a partner. This is not an all-inclusive list of the precautions that should be observed when working with extremely hot glass in an extremely hot kiln! Always follow your kiln manufacturer's recommendations. 

Glass strips dammed and ready for firing
Glass strips dammed
and ready for firing

Here is the layup for a couple of pieces that later would be used as design elements in other pieces. I was trying to optimize kiln space and firing time, so I set up three combings, separated by dams and fiber paper. The dammed pieces were laid out in a stainless steel fusing square.




Combed pieces ready to anneal
Combed pieces ready to anneal
To the left are the pieces after combing, hot in the kiln and ready for annealing. The piece on the left was combed from each outer edge inward, stopping in the middle. For the middle piece, the white (actually Spectrum's vanilla cream) was swirled into the other colors of medium amber, sky blue, and dark amber. With the piece on the right, I combed down through the squares at the top to create the look of flowers. Tip: Wear a headlamp or ask your combing partner to shine a flashlight on the glass to better see the different strips of glass and the design while combing.

Here are the combed pieces above incorporated into completed pieces, after several more firings in the kiln.
Yellow, apple jade, orange, white

Vanilla cream, apple jade, sea green, clear


Dark amber, medium amber, sky blue,
vanilla cream


Here is another layup I did, using larger pieces of glass.  I first drew up the design on paper, and then cut and assembled the glass in a metal fusing ring. I was using Spectrum's Vanilla Cream glass, and I wanted to include some strips to take advantage of the nice reaction achieved when the pieces are placed on edge. If you look closely at the finished piece, you'll see that the layup resulted in a few pin-hole bubbles. If I were to do this over again, I would create the design piece first and incorporate it into the background glass later to avoid the bubbles.

Glass set up in the metal ring
Glass set up in the metal ring

Laying out the design on paper
Laying out the design on paper













Close-up of the combing after firing:
Close-up of combing
Close-up of combing


Finished bowl
Finished bowl









And here is the finished bowl after more firings and coldworking.



Celtic knot design
Celtic knot design
Combing was completed in Janine's class.
I incorporated it into a finished piece
at home. 


Glass combing opens up a world of design possibilities in fused glass. I hope this short blog post has inspired your creativity and helped you to understand what is possible by manipulating glass in the kiln!

Dana


Resources: 

Janine Stillman, Designs by Ja9 (including information on classes): http://www.designsbyja9shop.com/
Patty Gray, Glass combing instructions: http://www.pattygray.com/demo/instructions.html
Stainless rings and squares for fused glass, Bonny Doon Fused Glass: http://bonnydoonfusedglasstools.com/stainless-steel-forms/
Cress kilns, GK2: http://products.cressmfg.com/item/all-categories/glass-kilns-2/gk2?

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Combings in the kiln ready for the final  firing to slump into molds
Combings in the kiln ready for the final
firing to slump into molds







Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fused Glass Boxes Using Colour de Verre Casting Molds

Fused glass cast boxes
Completed fused glass cast boxes
One of the optional projects in the classes I've taken with Patty Gray are fused glass boxes using Colour de Verre molds. I purchased one of these molds several years ago, and on my first attempt at firing a box on my own I ended up with something so ugly it went straight into the recycle bin. I put the mold on a shelf and haven't touched it since.

A month or so ago, I purchased a second box mold. Don't ask me why... (maybe I should have worn out the first one before I bought another). I guess it's because every time one of the two cute little boxes I made in class catches my eye, I am intrigued to try again. So this weekend I decided to dust off the molds and give it another try. Following are a few notes on the process.

I have two boxes -- the 3.5" round box and the 6" elliptical box. Colour de Verre produces a tip sheet for its boxes and the tip sheet includes fill weight for the boxes and firing schedules. The instructions call for using frit, and I decided to make my own using the Aanraku frit crusher. 

Weighing the glass
Weigh the glass before crushing frit
I started by weighing out odds and ends of sheet glass on a standard kitchen scale set to weigh in grams. The round box mold called for 115 grams for the lid and 295 grams for the box, for a total of 410 grams (I weighed out a little extra). I washed the glass by putting it in a plastic pan, filling it with warm soapy water, and swirling the glass around with a paint brush that I use for this purpose (much safer than putting your hands in that pan!). I rinsed the glass well, and then dried it with a microfiber cloth.

Tools for crushing the frit
Tools for crushing the frit
Next, I used my mosaic nippers to "chunk up" (that's a technical term) the glass for the frit crusher. For whatever reason, the glass seemed to crush better when I did each color one at a time, rather than mixing the different glasses. 

Keep in mind that you should wear safety glasses and a respirator when crushing frit. I also worked outside to minimize the dust in my studio. 

Frit mixture, ready to fill boxes
Frit mixture, ready to fill boxes
Once the glass was crushed, I combined it in an empty 4 pound frit jar and mixed it up. After mixing, I put a strong magnet in a baggie and put the baggie in the frit, and then gave the container several turns so the magnet could remove any metal in the frit from the frit crusher. 

The molds were prepared using MR-97 mold release (Colour de Verre also has a tip sheet on using MR-97.) To fill the box pieces, I placed each piece on the scale, zeroed out the scale, and then poured in the appropriate amount of frit. I used a small stainless cup to scoop out the frit so that I got a good mixture of the different frit sizes. 

I fired the boxes and lids according to the schedule given in the Colour de Verre tip sheet. The tip sheet suggested 30 to 60 minutes for the hold at the top temperature -- I watched the progress and skipped to the annealing segment after 40 minutes. 


Boxes in the kiln
Boxes in the kiln

Seg
Rate
Target
Soak
1
300
1250
30
2
300
1430
40
3
1500
950
90
4
50
800
01
5
100
600
00

More boxes in the kiln!
More boxes in the kiln!







The total firing schedule took about 13.5 hours, plus several more hours of cool-down time. 









Tips:

I suggest using at least one third clear glass. Just like when doing pot melts or combings, dark and opaque glasses can overwhelm a piece.

The frit crusher makes all grains of glass, from powder to mosaic. I did not sift the glass, I used all the different grain sizes. 

Make sure the boxes are completely cool before removing them from the kiln and washing them. Thicker pieces hold internal heat, and if the boxes are not completely cool they will crack!

I like the look of larger pieces of frit. Notice the base of the elliptical box -- I was short some frit when I filled the base, and used some medium opal "cotton candy" frit from a jar. I much prefer the pattern on the lid to that on the base. 

Colour de Verre's tip sheet has information on fire-polishing the bases of the box if you wish, along with some ideas for enhancing the lids with dichroic glass, sheet glass, or tack-fused elements. 




I hope this post has been informative and will inspire you to dust off that mold and give it a try!

Dana

Resources: 

Color de Verre Project sheet library: http://www.colourdeverre.com/learn.php?c=8

Aanraku Frit Maker: http://www.aanraku.com/aanraku-frit-piston.html

Learn more about fusing! Bullseye offers educational videos for a small annual fee:

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