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Last year, I moved to a small city along the Oregon Coast.  At the time, there was a vacant movie theater which we hoped would some day reopen.  Our wish came true about six months later when the movie theater reopened as City Lights Cinema.  The owners, Michael Falter and Susan Tive, have created a wonderful place to relax while enjoying new release movies as well as independent films and documentaries.  They just celebrated their one year anniversary and I wanted to make a glass plate to help them celebrate.  Hence began my challenges.

Before a movie starts at the Cinema, the City Lights logo is displayed and it always reminds me of my white and black crackle plates which is how I began to envision these plates would develop.  You know me and crackle!   I was reminded though how important it is to take notes as it has been awhile since I made the white and black crackle and I had to try several combinations – french vanilla with dense white, white with grey, white with black, french vanilla with black – before getting a base plate I liked.  I went with the white and black crackle base.

First lesson learned:  Don’t forget to take good notes!  I keep having to remind myself of this especially when I am feeling lazy with the paperwork.

Their logo is representative of the old illuminated tin signs where the letters are formed out of sheet metal and there are light bulbs inside.  The tin color is red with the foreground color being a burnt yellow. 

City Lights Cinema Logo

City Lights Cinema Logo

Since I have been playing recently with powders, I thought perhaps the best way to create the letters would be to create powder wafers for each letter.  I printed their name onto Bullseye thinfire paper using my laser printer.

Second lesson learned:  The toner did not stick very well to thinfire and while it was good enough for my purposes, my printer cartridge needed a little cleaning to get rid of the extra toner that did not stick to the paper.  Perhaps my inkjet or just copying the letters over a light box onto the thinfire would have been better.

Powder Wafers for Letters

Powder Wafers for Letters

I added the powder using a paintbrush to fill in the letters on the thinfire paper and fused to 1325 degrees F.  The letters came out okay but I did notice that each letter shrank from its original size and some where quite thin in places which makes sense as the powder was pulling in during firing.  I then made a small sample powder letter I using the yellow and tried to see how they would look when I stacked them overlapping each other.  I debated if this would give me a nice finish as I wasn’t convinced they would fully fuse into the base.

Adding Powder Wafers Together

Adding Powder Wafers Together

While I was pondering how to do this, my sister-in-law suggested I try something like silk screening asking if there was such a thing in glass.  Why yes there is and it has been on my list of Bullseye classes to take however I know it requires silk screening materials and know how which I current do not possess.  This got me thinking that perhaps I could just put the powder directly on a sheet of glass and make one red and one yellow and then overlay them.

To do this, I use a sheet of cardboard to cut out the logo using this as my stencil for applying the powders to the glass sheets.

Third lesson learned:  Don’t use corrugated cardboard as the cut edges tend to shed.  I learned this several years ago but forgot.  Oh well.

After the crackle base was ready, I added a thin 2mm sheet of white to the back, while sifting the red letters directly onto the top of the crackle and took it to a full fuse.  To create the red letters, I taped the cardboard stencil to the glass, did a light spritz of hair spray and then sifted the red powder.

Cardboard Stencil with Red Powder Sifted onto Base

Cardboard Stencil with Red Powder Sifted onto Base

I then took a clear sheet of glass the same size as the base and using the same stencil and sifting technique adding the yellow letters to this sheet.  Because I wanted the final yellow to be offset from the red, I had to make sure I shifted my cardboard template the correct offset.  For this sheet, I didn’t want the single sheet of glass to pull in at a full fuse, so I only did a tack fuse at 1325 degrees F.

When both were fused, I needed one more fuse to marry the yellow letter sheet to the base.  I had read a good technique for fully fusing two pieces of already fired glass is to add a thin layer of clear powder between them eliminating bubbles that might form as the sheets will heat up at different rates.  So I decided to do this and it worked beautifully!

Fourth lesson learned:  Clear powder between sheets of glass works well to eliminate bubbles between the layers.  

Ready for Final Fuse (Base plate with Clear Powder Between, Clear Sheet with Yellow Letters on Top)

Ready for Final Fuse (Base plate with Clear Powder Between, Clear Sheet with Yellow Letters on Top)

Oh, I almost forgot about the light bulbs both here writing and when firing!  I had previously fired white and french vanilla course frit taking the kiln to 1510 degrees to create dots for my light bulbs.  I decided to go with the french vanilla dots as they showed better than the white dots which seemed almost transparent.  For the final firing pictured above, I layered the base crackle plate, a fine sift of clear powder, then the clear sheet with yellow letters, and finally I placed the dots onto the yellow letters.

City Lights Cinema Anniversary Fused Glass Plate

City Lights Cinema Anniversary Fused Glass Plate

Check it out.  The City Lights plate turned out to be one of my better creations and I was happy to give it to Michael and Susan for their first City Lights Cinema anniversary.

I would love to learn other ways to create the letters, so if you have any suggestions, please share.  Thanks!

We are still in the process of getting organized after moving, but I am starting to get back into the swing of glassing. Thought I would share with you what I have been exploring recently.

Several years ago when I was first starting out, I saw a glass plate using a method which I now know Bullseye calls Kiln Carving.  I made a small plate at that time which I used on a table by my front door for my keys and often visitors would comment on that plate even though I had many other glass plates which I thought were better scattered around my house.

The first plate I made was a single layer of 3mm glass in which I placed some fiber on the kiln shelf and then laid the 3mm glass sheet on top and then added a few extra strips of 3mm glass on top of that.  It worked okay, but I didn’t like the needled edge of the glass and I personally thought it was too thin.  I did really like its three-dimensional quality though.

Kiln Carved Fused Glass Plate using 3mm glass sheet

Kiln Carved Fused Glass Plate using 3mm glass sheet

Now, many years later I decided to re-explore this technique.  I cut two layers of each shape out of 1/16″ fiber cloth in various patterns and lay them on the kiln shelf.  Yes, I could have used a single layer of 1/8″ fiber but I thought this was a great project to use scraps. I then added a 3mm sheet of clear topped with a 3mm sheet of Adventurine Swirl Iridescent.  To increase the dimensions, I cut two pieces of Royal Blue glass and added them to the top and bottom edge and then took some white and Grey Swirl glass and added two strips to the top but in between where the fiber was below.

You can see in the following picture the fiber peeking out below as I extended it beyond the edges since I wanted the indentation to be all the way to the edge.

Kiln Carved Set Up before Firing

Kiln Carved Set Up before Firing

I then fired this to a contour fuse as I wanted to keep the dimension on the top layer.

I was very happy with the result, but when I took it out of the kiln, I had two dilemmas:

1) Which side did I want to be the top as I liked the bottom slightly better than the top which was not my original intent,

and

2) Should I sand the edges or keep them inconsistent?

You can see in the finished picture that I decided to go with the bottom as the finished top surface and to keep the sides flowing.

Kiln Carved Fused Glass Plate Completed

Kiln Carved Fused Glass Plate Completed

I will include a picture of its bottom as well as you may have an opinion on which should have been the top surface.

Bottom of Kiln Carver Fused Glass Plate

Bottom of Kiln Carver Fused Glass Plate

Here are a few lessons learned:

* This is a great method for adding some creativity to your piece and it is pretty easy to have success with this if you just go with the flow and not worry about making things exact.

* If I did want to make things exact, I am going to have to determine the right schedule for better lines and consistency.

* I did have some bubbles on the outside edges about an 1/8″ outside the lines where the fiber had been.   I realized later that Bullseye Education has a video dedicated to Kiln Carving and highly suggest that you subscribe to their videos and watch it.  The video explained that it is best when doing kiln carving if you fuse your layers of glass together first before firing over the fiber.  In my case, the bubbles are so consistent that it actually adds to the glass piece, but keep this in mind for your projects.

Next I plan to try keeping within the bounds of the glass and include a more specific design.  Stay tuned.

A local supplier of glass decided to get out of the glass selling business.  Unfortunately before he announced it to the public, he sold all of his fusible glass and supplies and hence all that was left was his copious amount of stained glass.  I wanted to take advantage of his great glass prices and knew that as long as I did not fuse two different pieces of glass together, that I could use the stained glass, so I bought some transparent iridescent pieces and also some opaque swirl pieces.

My first test was a clear iridescent glass which I cut into a circle and first fused to 1350 degrees F so I could soften the edges.  From past experience, if the iridescent is exposed, it sometimes burns off, so I put the iridescent side down.  Then I put the circle on a stainless steel floral vase former and slumped it taking the kiln to 1235 degrees F.  It came out great.

I then wanted to try a vase with a square blank and used a yellow/orange swirl glass for that vase.  The seller had told me his experience with heating the opalescent stained glass was that it needed more temperature, however I decided to keep the edge softening temperature the same.  It actually needed less temperature as at 1350 degrees F, I ended up with some needle points on the edges and needed to grind the edges some before slumping.  Similarly on the slump, I could have used less than 1235 degrees F.  The vase ended up touching the shelf, but still has a nice look to it.

I did two other tests each using a single sheet of the stained glass and fusing it to itself.  For the first test I cut a rectangle out of the 12″x12″ sheet of glass and then took the remaining pieces and cut them into smaller pieces and fused them around the outside of the plate so that it had a raised edge.  Worked great.  Since I took this piece to 1400 degrees, I ended up with a little devitrification on the glass, but overall it is nice for a candle plate.

The last test was cutting my 12″ x 12″ piece into strips and fusing them together looking like a basket weave except I left out the weave.  Took this piece to 1380 degrees F and then slumped it at 1170 degrees F.  Again it worked very well.    Still some devitrification, so I think the opal stained glass pieces are very similar to the opal fused glass pieces and temperature and firing schedules are important to consider.

Fused Glass Pieces Using Stained Glass

Fused Glass Pieces Using Stained Glass

The picture shows three of my four test pieces.  If you have access to stained glass, and want to create a piece that is basically one color or want your piece to be just a single piece of glass thick, try using stained glass!

NOTE: I learn much of what I know from reading other websites, classes and blogs and hence, I haven’t really invented anything new here.  But I am sharing what I found to work and not work.  If you have found other ways to do something similar to this, please share.  Thanks!

A couple of months ago, I received a custom order for cobalt blue dinner plates.  The customer was great and very patient as she had waited years to get these custom plates made exactly as she had dreamt.  The task for me was to figure out how to accomplish her dreams.

Cobalt Blue Ruffled Fused Glass Dinner Plate

Cobalt Blue Ruffled Fused Glass Dinner Plate

The first decision was color and it ended up being a decision of glass.  I am mostly a Bullseye fused glass person, but this time the Spectrum cobalt blue transparent color matched her ideal, so I went with Spectrum for his project.

The second challenge was how to make the ruffles.  Often when making a glass plate, you use two sheets of 1/8″ glass in order to get a nice even 1/4″ glass plate.  See my previous post on glass thickness, Do the Math – Fused Glass Likes 6mm or 1/4″.  And often one of the two glass sheets is clear as it helps fuse the other colors without changing their colors and let’s be honest, it is cheaper than other glass colors.   Typically to get a ruffle you do a contour fuse (1380 degrees F in my kiln).  However, if I used clear glass as the bottom layer and cobalt blue on top, you would see a clear gap between the blue ruffles not to mention a clear rectangle in the center.  So instead, I used blue for both layers of glass.

Ruffle Plate using Clear Glass as the Base

Ruffle Plate using Clear Glass as the Base

The last challenge was the shape of the final plate.  She chose a rectangular plate and wanted the outside ruffle to be 1.5″ deep and then the drop of the center of the plate to be .5″ deep.  I called/wrote every mold manufacturer I could find and no one had a mold that shape nor made custom molds.  I am quite sure there is a company out there that would make the custom mold, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune for one set of dinner plates.

I investigated Duraboard and decided that this was perhaps my best option but it was very expensive and I was nervous about spending the money on something about which I didn’t know that much. In addition, in order to get the .5″ drop, I would need to get a deeper board and then carve the bottom and make sure it was level.  I called D&L Art Glass and talked with my favorite sales person, Beverly, and while she said Duraboard would work for my application, why not try several layers of fiber cloth which I already had and with which I could experiment. She was absolutely right!

I stacked three layers of 1/8″ fiber, cut the inside rectangle out and slumped the first plate.  It was perfect for my goal and gave me the exact shape I wanted.  However, I had forgotten about making sure to burn off the fiber and it left a haze on the plate.  The next couple of plates I vented the kiln until it reached about 1000 degrees, but then stopped on subsequent plates and they were fine.  So I believe you really only have to do it until you completely burn off the fiber.  Since I was using it for slumping to 1235 degrees, it took me several firings to completely burn things off.   It would have been better if I had just burned it off on its own by taking it to a higher temperature.  Hindsight!

Three Layers of Fiber for Custom Mold with .5" Drop

Three Layers of Fiber for Custom Mold with .5″ Drop

Plate After Slumping on Custom Fiber Mold

Plate After Slumping on Custom Fiber Mold

I was a great project with many challenges and wonderful lessons learned.  And I ended up with a very happy customer who saw her dreams come true!

Here are my key lessons learned:

1) Make sure you burn off fiber before you use it or vent the kiln if it has not been allowed to burn off.

2) I was only able to get three firings on the Spectrum Cobalt blue glass.  If I did a fourth firing to correct issues, I ended up with lots of small holes in the bottom.  In my experience with Bullseye, I can get more like 5 firings before weird things happen with the glass.

Have you ever needed to make a custom mold? What material did you use?  I would be very curious to learn more for my next project.  Thanks!

We are slowly getting some order back to our lives after moving.    As I sit here in the early morning gazing out the windows, enjoying the sun and colors shouting Springtime, my thoughts turn to glass and sharing some new insights with you.

While we still have boxes everywhere, I have one kiln set up in my workshop area and enjoy each day stepping away from the boxes and getting lost among the glass.

When choosing our kitchen cabinets, we added a plate rack and my husband winked and smiled as he asked for a set of dinner plates.  The first challenge was to pick colors.  We painted the steel beams in our house Fireball Orange which hints at burnt orange rather than a vibrant orange.  Shopping through Bullseye glass, the color that matched best was carnelian transparent.  But I also needed a complementary color.  My husband and I both love the adventurine colors and holding the adventurine blue up to the carnelian became a winning combination.

As many of you know from reading my other posts, I also love to make “crackle” glass, although I will add my disclaimer here again.  I have not been able to take the official class on the real crackle glass taught by its creator, Bob Leatherbarrow, and hence, I explored my own substitute but can honestly not say whether my way is the real way to make crackle.  I like what I have figured out and so am happy to share with you my method, but please do not construe that this is the real way to make crackle glass.

Okay, now back to my dinner plates.  I decided to go with round plates and marry a combination of solid and crackle carnelian and adventurine blue and make each plate a slightly different design.  To make my life easier, I made my crackle carnelian pieces into 10″ circles as well as cutting 10″ circles out of the other colors and then I could just cut the circles and combine the pieces but not have to worry about getting the circles round since they started off that way.

I put a second clear sheet of glass on top rather than the bottom as I wanted to keep the lines between the different glass colors crisp which is best done when those sheets are against the kiln shelf. 

The crackle part sheet is first fused on fiber cloth which imparts a somewhat rough surface to the glass, and by putting the clear on top, the bottom of the plate now has the bottom of the crackle part sheet and is not as smooth as I would like.  I accidentally came upon the solution when I needed to sandblast one of the plates to get rid of some guck and decided to sandblast both the top and bottom surfaces.  This was a winner as now the bottom of the plate feels great and I don’t have to worry about any scratches to the surfaces on which the plates will sit.  You can either sandblast your part sheet ahead of time or sandblast it after the plate has been fired the first time.  Either way works.

Shown here is a picture of two of the plates.

Fused Glass Dinner Plates

Fused Glass Dinner Plates

I wanted to make some simple ornaments to donate to a Holiday Bazaar and decided to try using a technique I learned in a Bullseye Glass class.  The technique involved using glass stringers to make a part sheet that was then turned into jewelry but can also be used in plates, bowls, etc.    For the first firing, take a piece of 2mm glass (I used clear) and completely cover the glass with a single layer of stringers.  I used 1mm ones, but you can do the same with 2mm stringers.  To keep the stringers from rolling, apply some Glastac or other glue perpendicular to the stringers.  You really only need them glued in one or two places; more is not better here as it may leave a haze.

Fire the glass and stringers to a low tack fuse.  For my kiln it was 1325 degrees F.  I didn’t worry about a bubble squeeze, but did anneal it for an hour at 900 degrees F.

Now, you can cut this part sheet up to use in other pieces.  I wanted to use them to make Christmas tree ornaments so cut them into triangles.  I put the non stringer side on the kiln shelf, added another sheet of 2mm clear to the top and then fired them to 1420 degrees F to fully fused the clear onto the stringers with a nice beautiful, slightly rounded edge.  I did have a little distortion of the stringers and so perhaps 1400 or 1410 degrees F would have been better.

The stringer part of my task was the easy part!  I saw on Pinterest and other places where people embedded wire into their jewelry, ornaments or wall hangings to get a wire bail and set out to do this for my ornaments as it is hard to drill a hole in the tip of a point nor do I have any glue on bails that work for points at the moment.  I didn’t realize that this would be a complete learning experience. 

I tried to find details on adding wire bails on the internet and while some websites explain it briefly, I couldn’t find good details about do’s and don’ts, so off to experiment.

I already had some high temperature wire, called Nichrome, on hand thanks to my husband.  On my first attempt, I was afraid if I just put a straight piece of wire between the part sheet and the clear glass it would pull out later, so I decided to make a loop and then twist the ends together.  This failed as I believe it was too thick and ended up cracking the glass (see two pictures below).

Tree Ornament with Crack at top due to Included Wire

Tree Ornament with Crack at top due to Included Wire

Other side of Cracked Tree Showing Twisted Wire (too much)

Other side of Cracked Tree Ornament Showing Twisted Wire (too much)

I then decided to do a quick test on small extra pieces and just add straight wire both just at the top and then all the way through the glass to see if this would really hold.  It actually did.

Sample Pieces with Successfully Added Wire

Sample Pieces with Successfully Added Wire

Of course, I never do things easy and since ornaments you can often see on both sides, I wanted it to look a little nicer and decided to put a simple loop in the wire.  This time I had 50% success (4 good, 4 bad).  In hindsight, I think this can be done with 100% success if you make sure the wire is completely encased within the glass and not near the edges as those of mine that didn’t work were very close to the edges.

Successful Tree Ornament with Included Wire Bail

Successful Tree Ornament with Included Wire Bail

Front and Back of Successful Tree Ornaments showing Included Wire Bail

Front and Back of Successful Tree Ornaments showing Included Wire Bail

I added a small square of 1/8″ fiber cloth underneath the wire not encased in glass.  I wasn’t sure if it would fall to the shelf at such high heat and wanted to prevent this from happening so the fiber cloth did the trick.

I had read on several sites people indicating that the wire would “tarnish” from the high heat.  I noticed after my first firing that the side of the wire against the fiber cloth did not “tarnish” so for my final set of trees, I put a piece of fiber cloth both beneath the wire and on top of the wire and it stayed the original wire color.  I didn’t want to get the fiber cloth too close to the glass, and hence I ended up with some tarnish on the wire very close to where it entered the glass, but this was okay as I planned to add a ribbon at its base.

I was pleasantly surprised how easily the wire fused into the glass and I didn’t end up with large bubbles around the wire.  For a quick recap, here are my lessons learned:

  • Use high temperature wire, Nichrome
  • Keep your wire to a single layer meaning don’t twist it (at least not if you intend to put it close to an edge)
  • You can use it both slightly embedded, straight through, or complete embedded in the glass
  • It is best, in general, if not too much of the wire is close to the edges as it seemed that even though it fused around the wire, if I pulled too hard on the wire loop near the tip of the tree, I could crack the glass.
  • I actually hammered the wire a little to get it flatter, although I don’t think this is required as for my test pieces I didn’t do this and they worked fine.
  • If you don’t want the tarnished look, try covering the exposed wire with some fiber cloth
  • One quick lesson on using the stringers.  Opaque stringers maintain their straightness better than transparent.  Not a big deal, but you can see that my all green tree is more wavy and has more bubbles than the opaque red and green tree.

True confessions.  While this was a great experiment, I have more to learn with regard to adding the wire and I am just not comfortable giving these ornaments to others in case they crack later.  So I will use them myself and test the results and know more for making future ornaments, jewelry, or hangars.

Would love to know if you have had success with wire and what lessons you learned!

Can you bury your passions for a while?  I believe only on the outside as I sit here in the wee hours of the morning dreaming of glass projects I desperately want to create –  and lamenting that I don’t have any new fusing experiments about which to blog.

Life has been busy.  We embarked this last year on changes – moving to a new state and building a house, actually our dream house.  While I expected us to be busy as we built the house, I didn’t expect it to be all-consuming such that I would not even be able to find 30 minutes each day to sneak into the glass shop and create something small.  But alas, I am relegated to dreaming of new projects and jotting down my ideas down on paper so I can still remember them when I do have time.

On the positive side, in our new house, the glass shop will be front and center with a beautiful view to inspire my creativity!   And the shop is already wired for my eventual bigger and better kiln!

So wonderful readers, I ask you to please stand by for a little while and I promise some new and interesting glass fusing experiments and tips hopefully before the end of the year.

In the meantime as I watch the leaves begin to change colors, Happy Fall!

Autumn Fused Glass Bowl (available in my Etsy shop)

Autumn Fused Glass Bowl (available in my Etsy shop)

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