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I can tell from my readers that Crackle glass is very popular, so I wanted to start by letting everyone know that there are two great online resources to learn more about making crackle glass. The first is an ebook from Lena Beckéus called, “Glass Fusing Design Techniques with Powders on Fiber Paper” available on Amazon and the second is a new ebook from Bob Leatherbarrow called, “Introduction to Kilnformed Glass Powders: Basic Crackle Texture, Micro and Backed Wafers” available on Bob’s website.  They are both excellent reads with wonderful instructions and firing schedules.

Since I started to try to figure out crackle before either of these books was available, my technique is a modified version of both as I wasn’t measuring my powder thickness or worrying about depth of color.   However, I have come to love my method. After reading Lena’s book, I wanted to try something different and explore the options. I had always before sifted the powder onto the fiber, and then covered the powder with a sheet of glass before firing. This method truly makes the piece look like the glass has cracked.

Crackle adding Clear Sheet before First Firing

Crackle adding Clear Sheet before First Firing

After reading Lena’s book and also getting feedback from readers of this blog, I wanted to explore creating crackle where the first firing is done without adding the piece of sheet glass and then adding that glass later. I also decided  to see if I could make my “crackles” be larger or smaller by modifying the thickness of powder I put down. Time to make test samples.

For the samples, I put the powder on the fiber, sprayed with water and moved the fiber like I normally do. I then fired the powder to my normal 1410 degrees F (the book suggests higher, but I stuck with what I know). 

After Firing Just Powder

After Firing Just Powder

After the first firing, I added powder in a different color to fill in between the cracks, added a sheet of clear on top and re-fired to 1450 degrees F.

After first fire, added Powder between Cracks

After first fire, added Powder between Cracks

I discovered that the thicker the depth of powder, I ended up with more crackles closer together.  The thinner the depth of powder, the more the powder tied to pull in and hence fewer larger crackles.  You can also see that the crackle now looks like round blobs rather than “cracked” glass.

Finished Crackle Samples

Finished Crackle Samples

Last, Bob’s book has a section on powder wafers that I decided to try.  Following his instructions, I created the dragonfly and sailboat powder wafers. I read the caution that sometimes with darker colors of crackle glass, the background shows through the lighter powder sample, but I decided to go for it anyway with the sailboat. If I left this sample on a table (as in the picture), the sailboat shows okay, but using it as a night light, the sailboat does not show up well when backlit.   Something to think about next time.  I am also not sure I quite got the right process for attaching the powder wafer to the night light base as even though I added the wetted powder to the back of the wafer, I still have curled edges of the wafer, but I am okay with this look.

Crackle Glass with Powder Wafer

Crackle Glass with Powder Wafer

Interesting how you can get different looks by just varying the powder or adding decor.  If you love crackle fused glass, I strongly encourage you to get either or both of the two books mentioned at the beginning as they are a wonderful resource with lots of suggestions and options to try.

Just wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays and thank you for reading my posts and following my blog.

Have a great 2016.  Happy Fusing and Creativity!

MerryChristmas2015

Fused Glass Holiday Ornament

Fused Glass Holiday Ornament

I mentioned in my article on using stainless steel with fused glass (https://idlecreativity.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/stainless-steel-great-for-fusing-glass/) that I wanted to try using chalk to create holes as I had seen others talking about this. I decided to use a stainless steel cookie cutter for my test.

Similar to before, I put my cookie cutter on a prepared kiln shelf, cut Bullseye Thin Fire shelf paper into thin strips to line the cookie cutter and then cut small pieces of glass layering them inside the cutter.  I wish I could tell you how to calculate the exact amount of glass to fill out your mold, but I can’t.  What works for me is to do two layers of colored and clear glass and then add a third level of all clear glass on the top.

I wasn’t too concerned about the exact shape and hence I wasn’t worried that my shelf paper did not fit snugly into the corners. If you want your glass to be the exact shape, spend time to make it fit and perhaps even use some white glue to attach the paper to the cookie cutter.

Mold Set-up Using Chalk to Create Hole

Mold Set-up Using Chalk to Create Hole

I borrowed a piece of chalk from my husband and since I had the best of intentions to return it, I actually used the whole length. In hindsight, after fusing it became pretty brittle and broke off, so I highly recommend that you cut the chalk to a little higher than the depth of your piece and then you can use the remainder piece another time.  Also, make sure you line the chalk with fiber paper so the glass doesn’t stick to the chalk.

Fused Glass Ornament After Firing

Fused Glass Ornament After Firing

I fired this to a full fire at 1460 degrees F and the chalk came out quite easily. Well, it sort of disintegrated so hold it over a trash can!

Happy Holidays!

I recently bought a ceramic ruffled plate mold at a sale for $6.  What a deal!  However, when I used the mold the first time, the resulting plate did not rest flat on the table, and instead rocked driving me crazy.  I realize that not all tables and countertops are completely flat either, but this was enough of a rock that it was clearly an issue.

At first to resolve the issue, I put the plate back into the kiln and refired to only 1050 degrees F rather than 1200 degrees F but the result was less of a ruffle on the plate.  Time to figure out how to resolve the real issue.

Ruffled Christmas Plate

Ruffled Christmas Plate

My husband works with metal which is very exact and helped me figure out how to solve the problem.  Here are the steps I used.

1.  Figure out which diagonal is rocking and mark that both on the glass and the mold.  It is really important to keep track of this diagonal as you work through the issue.  The glass is rocking on this diagonal because one of the corners on the mold is not low enough for the glass to slump into.

2.  It doesn’t matter which of the two corners you work on that diagonal, as long as it is one on the problem diagonal.

3.  Use sandpaper (I used 220 grit) to sand down the ceramic mold in that corner where the glass needs to slump lower.  The goal is to sand it far enough that the two corners can slump equally.

4.  So how can you tell if you have sanded the mold far enough?  Take a small ball of clay and put it on the mold where you are sanding at the low point.

Mold with Clay Ball Placed where I Need to Sand

Mold with Clay Ball Placed where I Need to Sand

5.  Place the glass plate onto the mold and flattened the plate into the mold squishing the ball of clay.

Clay Ball Flattened Between Glass and Mold

Clay Ball Flattened Between Glass and Mold

6.  When you lift the plate, turn it over and see how thin or thick the clay is.  This thickness is how much farther you need to sand to get the mold even.  You can test this by taking the glass with the clay still attached and placing it on a known flat surface to see if it lays flat.  My plate no longer rocked with the clay so I knew this is how much farther I needed to sand.

Thickness of Clay is How Much I Need to Sand Away on the Mold

Thickness of Clay is How Much I Need to Sand Away on the Mold

7.  Sand some more and repeat the test until you get to where the clay ball thickness was miniscule.  Ultimately I learned to sand this slightly more than I thought I needed as I am guessing re-kiln washing ended up adding slightly to what I had just sanded.

8.  I then kiln washed the mold and re-slumped the plate.

Final Test Plate with Nice Ruffle and No Rocking

Final Test Plate with Nice Ruffle and No Rocking

Ultimately I did this test and re-firing twice to get it right but it does work.  And remember that many surfaces which we think are flat are indeed not flat.  My husband owns something called a Surface Plate which is designed to be flat for just such testing.

For me this was worth the effort as the rocking really bothered me.  I did have to laugh though as I later realized that many of my store-bought regular dining plates did not sit flat on the table either due to either typical manufacturing inconsistencies or tables and counters not always being flat.

I loved learning how to resolve the issue with the mold and make my glass plates better.

Recently my husband was placing an eBay order for some electronic components from China and noticed if he got to a certain amount, he got a discount. He looked to see what else was available on their store and noticed some stainless steel cookie cutters. He is always on the lookout for stainless steel for me as it works so well with kilns.  They were three small different size circles and were just a couple of dollars for all three.  Awesome!

It was hard to be completely confident that they really were 100% stainless steel, so when they arrived I fired one to 1400 degrees F to see if is flaked and it came out the same as it went in with a little less shine to the metal. Now ready to test with glass.

I decided to use each of the three rings differently. First I lined each ring with Bullseye Thin Fire. And yes, if you look closely at the picture you will notice I had the wrong side facing the glass. I was surprised, but it didn’t seem to matter.

I had made some pattern bars with one color being steel blue opalescent and I wanted to see how the pattern bar would melt, so I added one rectangular slice of the pattern bar to one of the rings. For the second ring I nipped some rods into 3/8″ pieces and set them on end with pieces of clear Tekta on top. The third ring was comprised of pieces of Tekta mixed with green and red confetti and green, red and white stringers and some small pieces of dichroic course frit for effect.

Stainless Steel Rings with Glass Before Firing

Stainless Steel Rings with Glass Before Firing

  • The glass in the smallest ring flowed all the way to the ring and came out very nice and for the purposes of testing how to use the ring worked out quite well. After some smoothing of the edges, fire polishing and a bail, it will be ready to be worn as a necklace.
  • The second mostly filled out the ring, but I wish I had added more color and covered the dichroic pieces with Tekta as they didn’t flow as well.
  • The pattern bar melt did not fill out the largest ring, but it was still a good way to contain the glass melt.
Glass after Firing in the Stainless Steel Rings

Glass after Firing in the Stainless Steel Rings

Since I have a very hard time getting circles for jewelry and wine stoppers to end up both the right size and a perfect circle, I think finding stainless steel circles the right size is the best way to go.

Over the years I have bought shaped cookie cutters and was planning to use them as templates to contain frit and then remove them before firing. However, now I that I know these circles work so well, I might give them a try for say Christmas ornaments. If you do give this a try, make sure you test your cutters first to ensure they are really stainless steel.

As a side note, I have read that using chalk with thin fire around it works well to create holes in glass, so I think a Holiday shaped cutter with chalk will be a great next test and will make a nice ornament.  Stay tuned for the results of my tests!

Too many things I want to try however not enough hours in the day, so I decided to use one piece to play with two ideas.  The first goal was to replicate the Wonky Vase I had accidentally made awhile ago however many people really liked.

The second goal was to play with the Bullseye’s French Vanilla and Dense White color combination. Typically the reaction between them is a grey outline and very striking. I have seen debates on whether to make vanilla the base with dense white on top or the opposite. For this experiment, I went with vanilla as the base and dense white on top.   

I chose to start with a crackle glass and as often is the case, messed up on my first try as I grabbed white glass rather than the french vanilla. My dense white powder on white base was barely visible. With long drop vases, I like to have at least 3 layers of glass, so no worries. I did another crackle base with the dense white powder and french vanilla glass on top and then added to the top of that the other base so I had crackle on both sides.

Dense White Powder on Vanilla Base Crackle

Dense White Powder on Vanilla Base Crackle (Side 1)

Dense White Powder on White Base (Side 2)

Dense White Powder on White Base (Side 2)

The dense white on vanilla side ended up darker grey than I had expected but I remember reading others’ posts where they indicated that the reaction depended on the amount of heat and the number of times heated.  I had heated this already twice, first to 1400 degrees F and later to 1465 degrees F, to fuse the two bases together.

Now for the process of creating the wonky vase, I set up the kiln for a drop vase and let it drop. As typical with drops, each one takes a different amount of time depending on the colors of the glass and this one took exceptionally long, almost 2 hours at 1365 degrees F.

What amazed me is how the dark grey color deepened and turned browner as the vase dropped.   In hindsight, I realized I should not have been surprised about the brown color as this is exactly the reaction you get when mixing these colors where there are lots of points of reaction as in the Bullseye River Rock technique which uses french vanilla frit and dense white powder.

My first thought looking at the drop vase was hmmm, not what I expected.  But it grew on me as I let it sit for a while and realized how much it looked like a mushroom.  Now, what to do for the base to hold the vase vertical.   First I tried greens for grass, but they almost detracted from the vase.  Then I remembered some extra river rock glass I had lying around.   The river rock reminded me of a fall/winter ground where a mushroom might just pop up.

I needed a sturdier base, so I added the river rock on top of a brown transparent glass and fired the base into an organic form.  The drop vase then went back into the kiln to be tack fused onto the vase.   Since I needed to elevate the drop mold to allow for the base depth under it, I added fiber on top of the drop mold using different depths to add some wavy dimension to the top of the vase.  I took the tack fuse a little too hot and ended up making the vase wonkier which was great because this is exactly what I wanted!

Wonky 'Shroom Fused Glass Drop Vase

Wonky ‘Shroom Fused Glass Drop Vase

Detailed View of Wonky Vase

Detailed View of Wonky Vase

Next step is to try the opposite, dense white as the base with french vanilla on top.

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!

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!

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