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One of my galleries, Backstreet Gallery, holds special exhibits every so often and this time we were asked to create something showing warmth for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want just your typical heart and came upon a graphic showing hands holding a heart.  

Of course, I am always behind and this time was no exception. And when I am behind and in a hurry, I don’t always think things through.  I had carefully calculated how many days I would need in the kiln and made time three days before the deadline to get the first phase done.  What I didn’t take into consideration was a pending big storm which knocked out power. I knew it was coming! What was I thinking starting the kiln!

We lost power just as the kiln was ramping up and was approximately 1265 degrees F.  This meant no annealing on the way down to room temperature.  After we finally got power 2.5 days later, I decided to fire again hoping that going through an anneal cycle this time would be okay and the piece would not crack.

It cracked into 3 large pieces.  I could not say for sure though that the crack was caused by the loss of power.  My lay-up was a single sheet of 3mm white, on which I then placed the red heart and the black hands were overlapping the red heart.  So some areas were 3mm and some areas were 9 mm.  I took it slowly on the way up and then annealed it for 3 hours.  The crack definitely happened on the way down.  I have had difficulties before when the base layer was a single 3mm sheet.

Therefore take two involved first firing a base of 3mm white and 2mm clear.  Then I added the red heart and the overlapping black hands.  This time I went from 5mm to 11mm. This time I went even slower on the way up, and again annealed for 3 hours.  No crack this time! I like the sturdier base and my piece is finally at the Gallery albeit 2 weeks late.

Next time I will pay attention when I get a weather alert! Happy Fusing!

I would love to be a painter, but I think I had better stick with glass.  I never like my attempts at painting, but recently decided I may be improving as while I don’t like the end products, other do.  Here are two examples.

The first plate was for a challenge called “Spring Glorious Spring”.  For this challenge I decided to try my hand at Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny.   From reading various tutorials, it seems like you are supposed to apply frit in batches firing in between to get a scene just right. 

I started with a fused base of green and white swirl 3mm glass and clear glass. I then applied powder in greens, yellows and browns to try to match the painting.  I then applied larger frit.  After learning about perspective, I made sure to apply the larger frits in the foreground and the smaller frits in the background.  I personally didn’t think my version looked anything like Monet’s (sorry, Monet), but others did and loved it. 

Fused Glass Plate based on Money’s Garden in Giverny
The Artist’s Garden in Giverny (1900) by Claude Monet. Original from the Yale University Art Gallery. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Recently I tried again.  I saw a painting that was based on Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and thought it would look great on a night light.  I used Colorline paints to paint on a 3mm sheet of glass.  I tried using a plastic tool to get the lines through the blues, but that didn’t work.  My next goal was to wait until the blues dried and use white to make the swirls and add some yellow blobs, but hmm, I forgot.  I added course clear frit to the top and did a contour fuse at about 1350 degrees F.  

Again, I didn’t think my nightlight looked anything like the original (sorry, Van Gogh).  But then I showed the nightlight to my husband and he immediately thought of Starry Nights, although his comment was, “Have you ever thought of doing them from paintings like Starry Nights?”  I had to share that that was what I had tried to do.  Oops.  But he said it was a success because it did make him think about Starry Nights.

Fused Glass Nightlight painted similar to Starry Night
Van Gogh’s Starry Night image from Wikimedia Commons

Moral of this story, I need to keep trying.  Some will work and some won’t.  Glad these two did!

As we all do, I have been known to change my mind.  In a recent post, I shared a tapestry piece (based on work by Richard Parrish) and said I wasn’t sure I was patient enough to do another.  Two things changed my mind.  First, that piece sold and I was sad to see it go.  Second, I had a gestalt on the strips – make them longer and then you don’t have to piece together a bunch of small pieces.  You will end up with lots of extra little pieces though.  

This time, I made a quite large part sheet and cut the strips.  I was then playing with arranging them in a sort of flowing pattern when my husband said, “If you are going to do a sine wave, you have to do it right.”   He figured out based on my glass size exactly what the offset of each strip would be to do an exact sine wave and then I implemented it. 

Stringer Set-up in Kiln for Part Sheet

Arranging Strips before Cutting

Sine Wave Set Up in Kiln

Fused Glass Sine Wave Platter

Next up, I had some extra strips of stringer part sheet and was playing around with patterns mixing it with other colors of glass when my husband (yes, he has great ideas!) suggested that I should do a sunburst.  It took awhile to figure out a template for the black pieces, but once there it wasn’t too bad.  

Fused Glass Sunburst Platter

Things don’t always work out as planned though.  I have been making my part sheet with 3mm Tekta clear but then the part sheets are more than 3mm which takes extra work and glass when combining with other pieces of glass.  This also means you have to be extra careful with your schedules for proper annealing as the piece is thicker.  My latest piece, again using extra pieces, must have cracked on the ramp up as you can barely see the crack, but it is there (starts at bottom on third purple from the left and heads up and to right).  I should have ramped slower.  Guess I will break out the tile saw as this will become a part sheet for coasters or smaller dishes.

Work in Progress with Crack

My next attempt will be to make the part sheet with 2mm Bullseye Tekta and then perhaps it will end up as a 3mm part sheet and easier to work with in a final project.  Stay tuned.

My Screen Printing Results from Class

Several years ago I was very fortunate to take a screen printing class at Bullseye Glass Studios in Portland OR.  It was awesome.  I learned so much about all the different tools and techniques as well as mixing colors as the two instructors were great.  The above are my creations from the class and I will never part with them!  The optical illusion one was particularly challenging as I had to take the picture, separate out all the different colors into different layers, screen print each one onto a different sheet of glass and then combine all the layers trying to carefully line them up.  It was ambitious but so very rewarding and it very much satisfied my engineering slant to life.

Fast forward to present day and I still have not had the time nor the desire to pony up for a screen printing exposure unit.  Therefore I am currently using pre-made screen prints which I purchase from AAE Glass.  I have also only bought black silk screen paste hence why all my projects are using black.  A small container goes a long way but it is quite the investment.

Here are my first attempts using the simple screens.

Screen Printed Coasters

Screen Printed Coasters

Screen Printing with Touch-ups

Screen Printing with Touch-ups

Lessons learned:

1.  If you are doing something like coasters, and want to do several, use blocks to ensure you put the glass in the same place each time,

2.  I could only print 2 coasters before I needed to clean the screen.  It could be that my paste was too thick, but it spread nicely.  So I just think the screen gets messy and then hard to keep the other areas on the glass clean.

3.  On the lighthouse one, I ended up not quite getting things lined up as well I as had thought and I could see a gap between the black enamel and the darker blue border.  So I used a brush to add a little more.  You can tell it is not quite the same.  The silk screen has no blemishes whereas where I painted it is not quite as smooth.

So now for a comparison.  Over the years I have used plastic stencils I buy or even cardboard ones I make combined with glass powder to create different patterns.   I tape these stencils onto the back of a fine mesh screen and then use a similar technique to screen printing only using glass powder.  

Powder Printing

These work quite well and are definitely pleasant to look at.  The difference is crispness.  With the stencils and powder, it is difficult to ensure an even thickness of powder everywhere and so you have some areas darker and some lighter.  Given other inconsistencies in working with glass, it all adds to the beauty of handmade, but if you are after crisp colors, go for screen printing!  I think I just convinced myself to buy another color of paste!!!

I have written in the past about people’s preferences for a glossy finish versus a matte finish on fused glass.  I always let the piece tell me what it wants after its first firing in the kiln.  I usually start off assuming glossy, but then after that first fire you can just tell if the colors need a matte finish to pop more.  No clue why a matte finish often accentuates the colors, but it does.

Mondrian Fused Glass Plate with a Matte Finish

Recently I decided to try a combo effect.  I started with a clear platter as I was curious if the effect would work (it did!) and then progressed to two colors of blue.

Finished Clear and Blue Glass Platters with Combo Matte and Glossy Finish

Here are my steps:

  1. Start with a round circle of 3mm fused glass and then cut smaller pieces of 3mm to layer on top.
  2. Fuse to a contour fuse (for my kiln this is about 1380 degrees F).
  3. Cover all the places you want to maintain the glossy look with blue masking tape.  For my piece, this was the base sheet of glass.
  4. Sandblast all the areas not covered in blue tape.
  5. Slump the sandblasted piece onto the mold of your choice.

After Sandblasting (showing blue tape to keep areas glossy)

After Sandblasting (showing blue tape to keep areas glossy)

Lessons learned:

  1. When I did the blue piece, I couldn’t remember if I had fired the clear sandblasted piece first before slumping just at a low temperature.  After two attempts at lower and lower temps, I decided any temperature above slumping temperature was just too hot.  Even 1220 degrees F in my kiln glossed up what I had sandblasted. 
  2. You could argue the real lesson learned was to take better notes!!!!

Fused Glass Platter Combining Glossy and Matte Finish

Do you have a preference for a matte finish or glossy finish?  Just curious.  I think my husband and I always lean toward matte, but glossy sells better.

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