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Out on the tiles

The wine bottle tile saga is still inching along slowly.

Following the bottle cutting I fused the middle part and then cut it to make a 4 1/2″ inch tile.

The trimmed tile

The trimmed tile

I then ground the corners off and readied it to be fused again over a fibre heart.

Ready for the second fusing

Ready for the second fusing

But when it came out it looked a little odd, cloudy and a bit distorted!

Tile after second fusing

Tile after second fusing

Looks like some more experimentation is needed but in the meantime, lovely new glass offcuts arrived today!

 

 

Back from the Day Job

I must apologize for my lack of posts over the last few weeks but, after a rather intense session on my day job, I’m back!

Since I got started on my glass journey I have been  wondering how I can recycle all the wine and beer bottles we accumulated over Christmas.

Thinking what fun it would be to make some mosaic tiles of various glassy hues, I sent for a clay mosaic mold.

100 piece mosaic mould

100 piece mosaic mould

I then proceeded to smash up a carefully cleaned and de-labelled wine bottle and, mixing it with a little water (to keep the glass dust down) I loaded teaspoonfuls of the glassy paste into the mould.

Following a firing schedule for recycled glass in one of my glass books, I set the kiln going and kept my fingers crossed.

Disappointment!!

The not-very-well-fused glass tiles

The not-very-well-fused glass tiles

Despite the higher temperature and long soak time prescribed, the glass had not fully fused and not run to the edges of the mould. I put it all in again but this time devitification had triumphed and I dumped the whole lot in the bin, vowing to take the rest of the bottles to the bottle bank.

But then I remembered reading that a standard tile cutter with a diamond blade was good for glass cutting. So, having sourced a second hand cutter, I got togged up in goggles, leather gloves and apron and called my other half to standby in case of injury. I really couldn’t believe that I was the only one who thought this was a good idea!!

But despite the rather wet jeans and shower of ground glass, the cutting was remarkably easy.

sawn up wine bottle

The centre section and base of the bottle is cooking as I write with a top temp of 804C and a soak time of 60 mins. I have laid the centre on its side and am hoping for a nice flat slab by tomorrow morning. I don’t know what the base will do but we shall see.

I have also been experimenting with the glass I was given (with unknown co-efficient of expansion) and some 6mm fibre paper.

Plain glass love token

Plain glass love token

This was made with two slabs of 4mm glass with the 6mm fibre heart positioned underneath. At first I thought that the two marks on the lower right of the heart were cracks but on closer inspection I found they were long bubbles.

Large heart slab

Large heart slab

This is a larger slab also made of 2 4mm slabs and it didn’t fare so well after 2 fusings. The glass has become stressed around the top edges of the heart and the small bubbles that were apparent after fusing have already began to run into cracks! There is also some evidence of tin bloom which is apparently common in window glass after a few fusings!

My Patchwork tile is complete but hasn’t turned out quite as I’d hoped…

I cooked it on a glassfire automatic program, full fuse on medium but it didn’t fuse completely.

Tile after full fuse

Tile after full fuse

As you can see, there are little gaps at the corner of the green squares, dark lines around the turquoise square and the two tiles  at the top and bottom are not quite fused.

So in it went again.

This time I went for the full fuse, slow cook and its looking quite a bit better. There are still a few tiny gaps and it’s not perfect in every way, but it’s fun.

Patchwork tile after second fusing

Patchwork tile after second fusing

As you may remember from my last post, this was a flip and fire exercise so, as it went in with the design layer on the bottom the first time, I turned it over for the second firing so the design layer was on the top.

I don’t think this is a piece to sell but it looks a treat on my studio window ledge with the snow behind it!

 

Alternative Patchwork

Before I took up glass fusing, I was an avid patchworker and quilter. I taught it for 10 years and still turn my hand to it now and again. But since falling in love with glass fusion it has struck me how similar the process, of arranging pieces of glass to make a patterned tile, is to patchwork.

I have a substantial library of patchwork books and have been looking through them for ideas for tiles.

Here is an exploded view of the first design. All the pieces cut and laid out ready for grinding and cleaning.

Exploded view of Patchwork Tile

Exploded view of Patchwork Tile

All these small pieces have sorely tested my cutting skills and, as you can see quite a few are less than perfect! But grinding will sort that out – hopefully.

Here is the tile, ground and washed and arranged ready to go into the kiln.

Reassembled Tile

Reassembled Tile

I have recently read on one of the blogs I follow about the flip and fire method of firing multi-layered tiles. In this method, the pattern layer is laid face down on the thinfire paper and the base layer laid on top of this. The lines of the design layer will be smoother and more evenly fused but will of course have a more matte appearance from being in contact with the paper. To counteract this, the piece can then be flipped over and fire-polished until shiny.

But I wondered if, as my piece is inspired by a design intended for fabric, should I retain the matte appearance which may echo the texture of fabric?

The piece is in the kiln, ready to go, but as my kiln is not close by, I don’t like to leave it firing overnight. So I will set it going in the morning.

Design layer on the bottom!

Design layer on the bottom!

In the Kiln, Ready to Fire

In the Kiln, Ready to Fire

Hope to be able to show you the results soon. Watch this space!

A Fishy Tale

I have long – well as long as I’ve been fusing glass, which isn’t that long – wanted to make a mirror for our bathroom and in keeping with the watery environment, fancied a fishy theme.

I have bought a box of 30cm x 30cm Tekta squares which just fit in my Skutt kiln, and some 20cm square mirror tiles.

As you know from my previous posts I am rather keen on using copper inclusions in my glass, so cut out a variety of aquarium fish shapes for my fishy mirror, then I cut out a selection of curved glass pieces for the greenery. For the gravel, I got together all the scrap pieces from other projects, into a bag and smashed them with a hammer.

The fish were sandwiched in between the two pieces of clear glass, the edges of which I had rounded off in the grinder, and then the greenery, which I had also ground smooth, laid on top.

Wearing a mask and goggles (some of the glass had turned to powder) I spooned it along the bottom of the piece once I had laid it in the kiln.

 

Aquarium mirror in the kiln ready to fire

Aquarium mirror in the kiln ready to fire

 

Detail of fish and greenery

Detail of fish and greenery

 

Detail of broken glass gravel

Detail of broken glass gravel

 

As this was quite a large piece, it only just fitted in my kiln, I cooked it on a Slow Full fuse Glassfire program which took about 8 1/2 hours.

I then placed my mirror tile on a piece of 6mm fibre paper, a little larger all round than the glass and cut round it leaving a border of 1/2″ all round. I them cooked it again on a medium slump program and here is the finished result.

The finished mirror

The finished mirror

 

The spotty background is in fact the spotty tablecloth on my desk!

Here’s another shot on the carpet.

Finished mirror

Finished mirror

 

I loved doing this mirror and am pleased with the result. The only thing I would change if doing another would be to change the slump time to Slow as, although the mirror fits the base just fine, I think the recess could have been just a little deeper.

 

The Lion Inside

After several visits to nearby cathedrals, I have taken a bit of an interest in heraldry. I’ve made two cushions – which you can see on my other blog T4mworkshops.wordpress.com  – but was also keen to do something in glass.

I’d recently got some copper foil so thought I’d go for the rampant lion design.

Green Tile with copper lion inclusion

Green Tile with copper lion inclusion

For this tile I downloaded a royalty-free lion emblem from the internet and printed it out at the right size (to fit comfortable on a 4″ piece of glass). I then taped it to the copper foil and cut out both with a scalpel.

I then flattened it out with the rounded edge of a pencil and laid on a 4″ piece of 2mm glass. I had to put a few dots of PVA on the back to stop it moving around. I then overlaid it with a 4″ piece of 3mm tekta glass.

And I think therein lies the problem. I remember reading in one of my books that it isn’t a good idea to mix different thicknesses in the same piece and I think that may be why this piece – when cooked – has pulled in a bit on the edges between the corners.

The second piece only came about because I didn’t want to throw away the negative piece of copper sheet I was left with after cutting out the first lion. So I laid it on a piece of opaque yellow 2mm glass and covered it with a precut piece of 2mm clear glass.

Yellow background with negative copper lion inclusion

Yellow background with negative copper lion inclusion

This appears to have remained much squarer but has also pulled in equally all round! I know this because, despite leaving a 2mm border between the copper sheet and the edge of the glass, there is a slight rough metal edge all round. I quite liked the crushed silk look that the copper has developed after cooking but there are a lot of large air bubbles on the back.

To fuse these tiles I used an automatic glassfire programme on full fuse and slow firing (as I had my daughter’s uni project in there as well).

I’m enjoying my kiln but have not yet been brave enough to write my own programs. I intend to try making some tiles out of the ton of wine bottles we accumulated over Christmas but have read that they require a high firing temperature to rid them of their impurities and lose that sandy look.

Having learnt my lesson about compatible glass I have put together two trivet-sized pieces. Several days out of the kiln, they are still crack-free and providing quite a boost to my glass education.

The first, a conglomeration of scrap and sample pieces of opaque glass and clear bullseye tekta has, I think, quite an Art Deco feel about it.

image

Those of you with some experience in fusing will recognize my mistake in placing two of the red squares in the ‘accent’ layer too close to the corners. As well as distorting the piece into an elongated diamond rather than a square, they also appear to have run over the edge rather than staying on top.

image

Rather than seeing this as a fault, my other half quite liked the quirky, handmade look this conveyed. I can live with that…
The second piece was more technically successful.

image

This was formed from two layers of clear tekta glass with copper sheet strips sandwiched in between. The coloured squares were cut slightly smaller than the clear windows in between the copper and laid on top.
I like this piece best although the copper has stopped the glass flowing as fluently as it has in the spaces in between giving it the looked of a tied parcel! I like the dark red/purple colour the copper has turned.
Both pieces were fired on a slow, full fuse auto program but I wonder if a medium program would produce less distortion?

Getting Cracking

Since my last post things have moved on apace as, nervous that my all-wood and frankly freezing studio wouldn’t fare well over the winter, I have moved the whole show back to a studio in the nearby Brickworks Museum.

I say back, as this is where I used to run my sewing workshops, but now something new.

After my last post in which my sample piece – made despite advice to the contrary – of different grades of glass – cracked 48 hours after firing, I had a few more attempts with the gifted glass and bullseye glass. All have cracked to some degree.

You would think by now that I’d have learnt my lesson. But, having put together these Christmas ornaments, I just had to try the addition of some millefiore  pieces, bought when I went on a mosaic course. Christmas decoration for the trees, I thought, and sprinkled them liberally.

Here are the pieces just before firing.

Ready to Fire

Ready to Fire

I am always excited when it’s time to open the kiln. Firing and cooling takes such a long time and the result is so different each time that I can’t wait to see what’s happened.

I was pleased and disappointed at the same time.

Round hanging ornament

Round hanging ornament

Doesn’t look too bad but on closer inspection there is quite severe cracking around one of the millefiore which is also a little too close to its neighbour.

Cracking Detail

Cracking Detail

The two tree shaped ornaments fared rather better but there is still a little bit of cracking around the inclusions.

I was interested to see how the yellow one had bulged into a bottle shape. I think this is either due to too large a piece of glass on top or overcooking!

red tree ornament

yello green tree ornament

I also like the way the milliefiore have shifted in the molten glass creating the sort of effect you get with adverts on football pitches.

But despite the cracking, these pieces were only intended as extra Christmas decorations and are still usable, I think. Also, my lovely glass suppliers sell milliefiore that is compatible with Bullseye glass so guess where I’m going next?

I think the lesson is learned though. No more incompatible glass experiments!

I’ve got two new (compatible) pieces in the kiln at the moment so watch this space!

The First Step

Kilns are expensive. I hadn’t realised quite how expensive until I looked into buying one.

But, as I only want to work with glass, I don’t need something as big and powerful as is required for ceramics, and have settled on a specialist glass kiln. Small, compact, but quite big enough for my intentions for the foreseeable future. I was concerned that something that gets as hot as a kiln may be a step too far for my all-wood workshop. But I was assured, by the aptly-named and very helpful Warm Glass Company of Bristol, that it would be fine as the exterior of the kiln doesn’t get much hotter than a radiator.

 

My Skutt Firebox 14

My Skutt Firebox 14

I was tremendously excited when the kiln arrived, packed up in an enormous box all the way from Portland, Oregon. It took some time and effort and the help of my long-suffering partner, to get it out of the box (which wouldn’t fit through the door) and into my studio.

It lay in the middle of the floor for a few days, until I got some ceramic floor tiles to sit it on and until the rest of my tools arrived.

My Kristall Glass Grinder

My Kristall Glass Grinder

Once it was installed on the metal stand and was all ready to go, I suddenly became a little nervous of it and wasted another few days shilly-shallying around and being busy with other things.

I had been given a large quantity of art glass by a local community outfit who are hoping I might be up to doing some workshops for them next year and, having selected a sheet of what looked like 3mm thickness, I decided to give it a go.

I have always found glass-cutting a bit of a dark art in the past, but after taking Brad Walker’s advice in his ‘Contemporary Fused Glass’, I bought a medium-range oil-filled cutter and am surprised how easy it is – once you have the right tools!

I have read a lot about using compatible glass (which has the same COE – Coefficient of  expansion) in the various library books I’ve got (and the Brad Walker book) but as I had no idea of the COE of the gifted glass, I just had to give it a try.

I had also bought a student pack of Bullseye glass offcuts, which I am reliably informed has a COE of 90.

I cut a 5″ square from the glass that I’d been given and cut a few vaguely Christmas tree shapes from one of the green Bullseye glass pieces. I laid the green shapes on the clear glass and, after lining the kiln shelf with the Thinfire paper which came with the kiln, I placed the tile on the shelf and was ready to go.

The beauty of my new kiln is that it comes pre-programmed with a number of automatic programmes which allow beginners to get going without having to write their own firing schedules. All I had to decide was if I wanted a Fast, Medium or slow heating rate which depended on the thickness and size of my piece. Impatiently, but rightly, it turns out, I went for Fast! I also had to choose from Full fuse, tac or slump. That was of course Full fuse.

When the kiln started, about 3:15pm and for the next few hours, I kept to the far end of my workshop (which is 30 feet long) and fretted about things going wrong.

I had assumed that Fast meant my piece would be ready quickly, but seven hours later, the kiln was still showing a toasty 200 degrees C (even though the programme had declared itself complete after about 6 hours) so I decided to switch it off  and save the pleasure of seeing my first attempt until the next morning.

And here it is.

first sample piece

 

Now you may notice the little crack on the top left hand side. That wasn’t there when I first opened the kiln and didn’t appear until 48 hours later! So at first glance I was delighted and declared to anyone who would listen that it had been a success and about all the things I was going to make with my gifted glass.

I had of course read that this was likely to happen with untested glass and cracks could appear on firing or even months or years later! I don’t know if it may also be because I only used one layer of glass and an accent layer. If I had read the books more fully before I got started, I would have realised that ‘glass needs two layers’ and I should have used a base layer, a design layer and an accent layer.

The impatience of beginners!

incompatibility crack

I was a little disappointed when the crack appeared as it means I’m going to have to buy some compatible clear glass for my planned projects. But I have plans for the gifted glass and I hope to share these with you in my next post.

 

After 30 years of practicing sewing and embroidery, and 10 years of teaching sewing and embroidery, I decided it was time for a change.

10 years ago I did an arts degree at university where I dabbled in various crafts and, although I went on to specialize in textiles, I always looked back fondly on the time I’d spent in the glass workshop.

Although I’ve always admired worked glass objects, I’ve never had the chance, since college,  to try my hand at cutting, fusing and slumping.

Until now.

I’ve sold all my workshop sewing machines and bought a glass kiln and just enough tools and supplies to get me going.

I am looking forward to the journey and hope you’ll tag along and share in my successes and failures as I pick my way gingerly through the world of glass!