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Glass and metal are next in my combining glass series.

Fused Glass on Stainless Steel Wall Art

Fused Glass on Stainless Steel Wall Art

I was recently at a metal supply store in Portland and bought a couple of scrap pieces of stainless steel.  To make my first attempt easy, I started with the smaller piece so I didn’t have to figure out how best to cut the metal.  I made my glass piece 2’ shorter than the metal on all sides.  That was the easy part.

I knew I needed to do something with the stainless steel to make it look nice. While in general stainless steel has a nice finish, it had scratches and smudge marks.  First I sanded it to remove the scratches.  Then I used an angle grinder and started playing with flap discs of various grits trying to add an artsy finish to the stainless steel.  I still wasn’t happy with my results and so my husband suggested I try a wire brush on the angle grinder and I liked the results when I stopped trying to make things perfect and just went for truly artsy.

I had grappled for weeks with how I was going to hang the finished piece.  If I hadn’t already made the glass piece the perfect size, my husband suggested we take the top edge and fold it over forming a C and then put a hole in that which then one could use to fasten to the wall.  Maybe for a future piece.  For this one, I finally decided to cut a piece of wood about the same size as the glass, paint it black, add a keyhole with the router for hanging with a screw and then attach it to the backside of the metal.

You can see a trend in my trying to get this done.  I solve one problem only to think of another.  Now how to glue the pieces together.  I looked at epoxies, silicone, liquid nails and VHB (very high bond) tapes.  If I held the glass up to the metal, I could see that the metal was not completely flat, and I was concerned in getting everything to hold together well.  I decided I needed a little bit of a give in the attachment.  I have a silicone that is made specifically for attaching metal to wood and glass (http://www.caulkyourhome.com/ge-silicone-II-aluminum-and-metal.php) and have used on plant stakes with success so decided to go with silicone.

Side view of Glass, Metal and Wood after Attaching

Side view of Glass, Metal and Wood after Attaching

The day after I attached everything together, my husband woke up remembering that different kinds of metals can react with each other and cause what is called a galvanic reaction potentially making the stainless steel rust.  This would not be a problem if the wire brush I had used had only been used on stainless steel, but alas it had not and since it was putting small tiny scratches in the surface of my metal, it could also leave other metal pieces behind from previous uses.  Hmm, I was definitely not going to sell this piece to anyone then.  I decided to hang it in my bathroom where there is the most moisture and see if over time, it did indeed develop rust.

Next dilemma, since this might only be a temporary hang in the bathroom, I didn’t want to put a screw in the wall and would rather use a picture hanger which would only be a tiny hole in the wall.  I bent the picture hangar and chiseled some wood out of the back piece trying to make the hangar fit snug in my keyhole and have the piece lie nicely on the wall, but in the end I was concerned that it was not sturdy enough and might fall on the counter.  I fell back to traditional picture hanging and attached screw eyes into the wood back, added picture wire between them and now it is hung quite sturdily.   The good part of this whole process is that it made me realize that a customer may not want to put a screw in their wall either and so perhaps my keyhole solution was not the right choice even though it is a really sturdy option.

Back of Piece for Hanging

Back of Piece for Hanging

The lessons learned on this project are numerous and I think many still to come, but I really want to do more of these.

1.  This probably goes without saying, but think about the whole process before getting started and figure out how you are going to solve each issue.  I still consider finding the right way to hang it my biggest issue and want to try the metal bending method with my next piece.

2.  Silicone moves a lot for a few minutes after applying and attaching so perhaps next time I will try VHB with the goal of having each piece stick exactly where I place it the first time.

3.  I had tried to attach the front (glass) and back (wood) to the metal in one step and then use clamps to hold them together hoping this would make it easier to get all pieces to hold together flat.  However, I had a really hard time with the silicone still moving a little to get everything lined up and stuck where I wanted it and didn’t really succeed.  Next time, I will attach them in two steps.

4.  Understand your materials and tools meaning if I am going to continue to use stainless steel, I guess I need to purchase new grinder attachments that are labeled only for use on stainless steel.

If any of my readers have suggestions for how to hang which would be appealing to most customers, I would love to hear from you.  Thanks!

I seem to be obsessed these days with combining different materials with glass as I try to learn how to work with mixing materials.  One surprising but very exciting combination was ceramics.  Recently I started a ceramics class at Alissa Clark’s Clayworks and one day had this gestalt about what might look cool.

Fused Glass and Ceramics Plate

Fused Glass and Ceramics Plate

My next visit to her studio, I made a ceramics plate leaving the center unglazed where I would later add the glass.    For some reason I had thought that the glass would stick to the ceramics if I left the ceramics unglazed.  Why did I think this?  For kiln shelves and ceramic molds, if you don’t prime them, your glass will stick.  Right?  After getting back the fired and glazed ceramics plate, I added my inset of glass and fired the piece to 1200 degrees F.  It didn’t stick.  Hmm.

My husband likes it better this way as it is easier to clean the glass.  Positive thinking!  I had posted a question to a glass group on Facebook asking about combining glass and ceramics and several responded that it would work but would probably not be food safe as the glass would potentially crack.  In hindsight, perhaps they were thinking I would fire this hotter.

I guess this experiment needs more testing.  Alissa has offered to fire a piece in one of her ceramics kilns and take the combo of ceramics and glass up to a higher temperature than my glass kiln will fire.  I will let you know how this experiment turns out.

For now, I will just enjoy this piece I made as I really like the black and white combo of glass and ceramics!

Hidden Sea Treasures Fused Glass Plate

Hidden Sea Treasures Fused Glass Plate

Believe me, I am not the only one making lemonade from lemons with my glass.  I learned this from other glass fusers and it is one of the beauties of fused glass.  Don’t like something you made or in my case it failed, just fuse the glass again into something else.  These past couple of weeks I have seen my fair share of failures.  They seem to come in waves for me and the hard part about this is that when so many come at once, it can get discouraging.  Usually I just add the pieces to a redo pile for the future, although so far that future has not arrived.    

This time, I was inspired to “fix” it.  Here’s what happened and sorry, but I don’t have any in between pictures.  I started with a 6” round clear sheet of glass and added some Colour De Verre Serpentines I then filled in the gaps with different frits and fired it to a contour fused.  The result wasn’t bad but it needed something.  I then tack fused two fish and a starfish with the starfish sort of hanging over the edge.  I loved it.

Back into the kiln it went to slump into a shallow dish mold.  I knew I needed to take it slow as it was not a consistent depth of glass, however, I still must not have annealed it long enough as it has a long crack in it when I opened the kiln the next day.  

NOTE:  How do I know it cracked on the way down?  You can tell based on the edges of the crack.  If they are soft edges it probably cracked on the way up and softened as the glass was still getting hotter.  If the edges of the crack are sharp, then it probably cracked on the way down and the edges were not able to soften since the kiln was basically just cooling down.  My edges were quite sharp so I knew that next time I needed to hold a lot longer at the anneal temperature.  The best guide I know for annealing thick pieces is from Bullseye:  https://www.bullseyeglass.com/methods-ideas/annealing-thick-slabs.html

I have read that you can flatten out a piece that is cracked and sometimes the crack will heal itself.  I also thought that I could add some course frit along the crack and it would just add to the already pretty fritty piece.  But I had to flatten it out first before I could add the frit as the frit just kept rolling down the side of the bowl shape.  Flattening it out worked well although the crack didn’t heal and so I wanted to add the frit to fill in the crack.  As I was cleaning it to add back into the kiln with the frit, I pushed too hard on one side and the crack gave and half of the plate dropped on the floor and cracked more.  So now I had 4 separate pieces.  I decided to crack some of the larger pieces more and then add all the pieces into a stainless steel ring randomly and fire again to just get it all melted together.

The end result was much better than I had expected as even though the Colour De Verre pieces were now fused in completely (rather than tack fused) I could still see the fish and the part of the starfish.  Not a bad batch of lemonade!

I don’t know what took me so long to do this project as the results are so valuable.  I have three small to medium kilns and have learned over the years which kiln works best for different goals.  Ann is a small 8” kiln and works best for jewelry pieces, small dishes, business card holders.  Betty, my 14” glass kiln, is my workhorse and where I fire all larger plates.  Cindy, is a tall ceramics kiln that my husband resurrected from an auction listing of “bricks”, and is great for vases and frit molds.  However you may notice that my descriptions are pretty general, because while I had this high level knowledge, I didn’t really have any specific data to validate the above or help me make decisions on different pieces.

I saw a Facebook post about someone making test tiles and I was reminded that I had put this off for too many years.  I took the lull after my Art Festival where I needed to get other things done in my life to make the test tiles.  They don’t take much time at all to make, but they take up a lot of time in the kilns to fire each to the right temperature so this was a perfect time to do the test tiles.

I used a Bullseye Technote, Knowing Your Kiln, for the design of the tiles incorporating a high viscosity color – white, with a low viscosity color – black as well as adding frits and stringers of different sizes.  Note that the technote is really more for finding hot spots in your kiln which I think would be a different good test for Betty, but I took the test tile design for my kiln temperature test purpose.

Fused Glass Test Tiles

Fused Glass Test Tiles (Part 1)

Fused Glass Test Tiles Part 2

Fused Glass Test Tiles (Part 2)

The results are so interesting and will help me considerably in the future make decisions for each project on the firing schedule and top temperature.  On each tile, I have written the top temperature and either A, B or C for Ann, Betty or Cindy.  As you can see in the pictures, a nice contour fuse in Ann is 1425 degrees F, in Cindy it is 1450 degrees F, but in Betty it is only 1375 degrees F.

I had assumed the difference in temperatures between Betty and Cindy was only 10 degrees and so if I was making a large number of something like these dichroic picture frames, I would use both Betty and Cindy and set Betty 10 degrees lower than Cindy and they just never looked the same.  Now I know why!

Fused Glass Dichroic Picture Frame

Fused Glass Dichroic Picture Frame (available in my Etsy Shop)

When you get the chance, you really should do your own set of test tiles as I am quite sure over time these tiles for reference will save me time and glass money with more successful projects.

My First Art Festival

My First Art Festival

Last weekend was my first art festival and craft show where I set up a booth to sell my art glass.  It was a wonderful experience.  My hopeful goal was just to sell something as I would hate to do all the work, sit there for two days and not sell anything.  My secret goal, of course, was to sell lots, (1) just because it would make me feel good and (2) I didn’t want to cart all the unsold items home!  I would say, I was some where in between the two goals probably closer to the first.  I covered my costs which included having to buy things like tablecloths and a sign so that was very good.

While getting ready for the show, booth layout was probably the most stressful for me.  I knew I needed some dimension meaning not just a flat table and kept trying to figure out how to add this.  We had some IKEA shelves we were no longer using and my husband suggested cutting one in half which I could then put on the table as a shelf system and then remake the other to hang earrings.  We used some old antenna wire between the peg holes for the earning hangers and then used twine and S hooks to hang sun catchers.  I also brought the other shelf unit just in case, and we ended up setting it up at the back of the booth.

IKEA Shelf Repurposed for Earring Stand

IKEA Shelf Repurposed for Earring Stand

I hadn’t thought I would need help sitting there for the two days, but my sister-in-law joined me both days and it was wonderful to have someone better at engaging people, keeping me company, and also helping wrap as I was doing the money transactions.  Thanks, Kim!

The best part of the weekend was all the valuable lessons learned from listening to people’s comments, both those they intended me to hear and those they did not.  Here are some of the lessons learned:

  1. I have a mold for spoon rests and have made several over the years, however I heard a couple of people indicate it was just too big. Time to buy a smaller mold.
  2. I wanted to offer choices so I put some pendants on chains and some on cards without chains (for a few less dollars).  Regardless of how the pendant was displayed, people always wanted a chain, but often of their choice.  So I think it would be better to somehow display so people could pick the pendant and then pick the chain.
  3. A corollary to #2 is that I only had chains that went up to 18” and many people needed a larger size.  So I have ordered some that are 22”-24” for the future.
  4. At first we hung some pendants onto the wooden shelves on the table.  But we noticed that everyone tended to just look down and so we moved them all to the table to get seen.  I still think dimension is good, but am not quite sure how to set things up so that people look at everything.
  5. My last lesson was to talk to others who had done the show before and listen to their advice.  Several people indicated that while they liked the show and it was a good show, it was mostly attended by visitors who were in town more for the festivities and to eat and drink rather than open their wallets to items.  So while I really prefer to make the larger plates, I made sure to have lots of small items on hand like pendants, small dishes, soap dishes, picture frames and so forth.  And these were exactly the items I sold.

Overall well worth the experience to give this a try and perhaps one day I will do another show, maybe for the Holidays.

It appears I am on a trend of getting back to basics and thought I would share my effort to close the gaps between pieces of the same color.  Bonus though because I will also share some thoughts on using fusing photo paper.   I have been working with fusible photo paper using local images for some art sculpture. 

Fused Glass Art Sculpture Featuring Rhododendrons

Fused Glass Art Sculpture Featuring Rhododendrons

Let’s start with the base glass fusing which is what took me back to the basics.

For the blue Siuslaw Bridge piece below I cut a piece of french vanilla 8 inches square.  I then cut strips of Bullseye Sea Blue 1 inch wide and staggered them.  I put all of this on a sheet of clear and fused it.  While I had made very nice seems between the blue, I still ended up with some clear gaps after firing.  I thought of using the same blue for the entire back piece rather than clear glass, but then sometimes my colors might react and the back would not look as nice.  Since I wanted to put this piece in a stand, I wanted the back of the piece to have an appealing look.  I then figured out that if I cut the clear also into an 8 inch square, cut 8 strips of color and then staggered them when I lay them down, the same color would show through any gaps and look solid.  Check out the corners of the pink Rhododendron piece above.

Clear showing in Joint of Sea Blue Glass

Clear showing in Joint of Sea Blue Glass

I was trying to figure out if I could retrofit the blue one, but my husband thought it had an artistic flair so I left well enough alone on this piece.

Fused Glass Art Featuring the Siuslaw Bridge

Fused Glass Art Featuring the Siuslaw Bridge

Now, if you are also curious about the photo paper, it comes in 8-1/2” x 11” sheets and you print onto them just like any other sheet of printer paper.  The gotcha is that you have to use a laser jet printer that has a good amount of iron oxide in the toner.  And you have to use a printer that is not too hot.  We have a very old HP Laserjet 5 printer and it was just too hot so the toner did not adhere well and came off the paper easily and was blotchy.  I then pulled out an HP Laserjet 2200 and this worked like a charm.  If you want to see a list of HP printer cartridges/printers that have iron oxide, check out this HP forum:  http://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Inkjet-Printing/iron-oxide-in-current-laser-toner-cartridges/m-p/1788717#M16053.

After you print onto the paper, it is a fairly easy task of soaking the print in distilled water just like any fusible decal and them sliding it off the back paper and onto your glass.  Use a towel or squeegee to get the water out from under the decal and make sure it is smooth.  Then I let the glass dry until the next day as my prints are large and I want to ensure the decal is truly dry.

The decal only needs to fire to 1300 degrees F to fuse onto the glass and works best if it is left uncovered, so you should fire your base first if you want it to go to a full fuse.  Then fire with the decal on a second firing.

One lesson learned is that there appears to be a film between the photo decal and the back paper and so if this film gets onto the glass (in my case the strips of colored glass around the border) it leaves a weird shadow after firing.  So make sure to re-clean that class before you fire the piece again in the kiln.

I am busy getting ready for my very first art show in which I will participate in two weeks.  Can’t wait to share my experiences from getting ready and share pictures of the show!

While this post may seem simple to some glass fusers, the “rule” for straight lines is one that I often need to remind myself.  Many fused glass plates/bowls are made with two sheets of 3mm glass. Sometimes it is easier for me to put the larger glass sheet on the kiln shelf and then layer the varied color pieces on top of the clear sheet. However, since I am a lover of straight (I mean really straight) lines, you accomplish this by putting those pieces for which you want to maintain the straight lines on the bottom layer as I believe the weight of the top sheet helps keep that layer from spreading and does a better job of maintaining the lines.

I forgot in the Daisy plate below and layered my yellow daisy part sheet on top along with the blue and white pieces and if you look closely you can see that the blue lines and a few others are a little wavy.

Daisies Fused Glass Plate

Daisies Fused Glass Plate

Of course, it usually takes a misstep to trigger a memory and this plate reminded me what to do for future linear pieces. In the black and white piece, the lines are much more crisp as I put them on the kiln shelf first and then layered the clear on top. Then after the first full fuse, I flipped it, sandblasted the new top and fired it to a nice matte finish.

Black and White Window Panes Fused Glass Plate

Black and White Window Panes Fused Glass Plate

The Mondrian piece below was an experiment. I was trying to figure out an easy way to get a very thin line for a small fused glass piece and decided to use black noodles which are about 5mm wide. (The right way to do this is to cut 6mm strips of black glass and lay them on their side, but thin strips are much harder to cut and I was taking a short cut.) I cut each glass piece twice once with the blue, red, yellow and white glass and then secondly with clear. I then layered the colors on the bottom on the kiln shelf separated by the black noodles and then added the clear pieces on top. I should have taken a little more time with the grinder to get each piece exact as you can see where some of the noodles had a little room to spread, but overall, I accomplished the look I wanted and this piece ended up being one of my favorite pieces. Again I flipped it after firing, sandblasted and refired with the bottom now as the top to a matte finish.

Mondrian Fused Glass Dish

Mondrian Fused Glass Dish

Simple rule to follow if you like straight lines like I do!

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