Archive for January, 2012

I have been making vases off and on for the last year and the base of them always baffled me.  The tops would keep a similar ruffled shape. But on some, the ruffles came straight from the base.

Amber Vase with Little Pull in a the Bottom

And on others, it pulled in tightly before it began the ruffles.

Red Vase with Definite Pull In at the Bottom

So I decided to figure out why the difference.  I had 2 theories.  The first was based on color as I tended to see the former on the lighter colors like amber and light blue.  The second theory was based on size as it seemed like the bigger circles are the ones that pulled in.  Of course, I wasn’t sure on either of these since I had never really paid attention to these details.

To start the experiment, I made a 10″ circle of deep blue.  This would test if the color mattered as it was a darker color.  For this one, I ended up not getting a pull in at the bottom, so it blew the theory about the color being what made the difference!

Blue Vase with Little Pull In at the Bottom

My next test was immediately after the first test so I could make sure everything stayed the same with kilns and firing schedules (meaning temperature and time).   I made a second vase in red, but this time, I made the circle 11.25″ (the largest I can make in my kiln).  With all the other variables being the same, I ended up with the nice pull in you see above on the red vase.  Retrospectively looking at many of my previous vases, it seems to follow that if you like the pull in at the bottom, then you need to make the circle larger and let gravity be your friend!

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I thought I would talk about Marketing a little.  Was I naive!!!!

Originally, I thought I would add my fused glass art pieces to Etsy to sell them and that would be that.  People would easily see my work and buy it.  Hoorah!  But alas, it is so much more than that.

Yes, Etsy is a great place to sell your handmade works and yes, the site makes it easy for you to list your items.  But you are not done there.  You have to continually work to ensure that your items stay relevent and are seen among all the other millions of items that are listed on Etsy.

How do you do that?  Well, here is the list which I have discovered needs to be done regularly:

  1. Keep increasing the items in your store until you have at least 100 (people say that is the magic number for people to be able to find you and get regular sales) – Working on it
  2. Learn about SEO and ensure you have good tags and descriptions so more people can find you from a search – I have tried
  3. Participate in Etsy teams and forums as then people see your comments and may follow the link to your shop – I do as much as I have time for
  4. Have a Facebook page where you discuss, advertise, communicate with others about your product – I do but mostly to communicate, I am not so good on the advertising 🙂
  5. Recently Google+ business pages were added similar to the Facebook page and you should participate similarly – Not gotten there yet
  6. Use Twitter daily both tweeting from your account and comments on others tweets, retweeting and so forth – Sorry, twitter still baffles me, so definitely not there yet although I did snag the Idle Creativity name
  7. Here is a new one, Pinterest.  Etsy team members swear this gets them a lot of views and say that it is addicting.  –  It is kind of fun to have a place where you accumulate all of your interest and share with others, but so far hasn’t brought my store any views.   You need an invite to join so if any of you reading this want an invite, let me know.

One benefit of participating in the Etsy Forums is that every once in a while you will see an offer to list one of the items in your Etsy store on their blog.  This actually has brought views to my Etsy store.  Thanks to everyone who offers this!

An interesting Marketing discussion on Etsy has been people’s opinions on sales.  Some say that sales have not worked for them at all and others say they really help; some say that free shipping is psychologically more appealing to people as people just hate paying for shipping.

So I decided to try my hand at some sales.  For the week before Black Friday, I did a 25% off sale.  Then for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, I did a 20% off sale.  Between then and the of the year I offered free shipping.  For me, free shipping was much more successful even though I didn’t really advertised it but you could see when you looked at an item that shipping was free.  Good to know!

I did finally get my official business cards and have gotten braver about handing them out.  I gave one recently to my eye doctor!

Last challenge that I know of (I am sure there are millions more that I don’t know of) – my website.  My sister has been helping me learn web design by sending me small lessons which is so very cool and helpful.  So one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to tackle designing a new website!

When I worked in high-tech, Marketing was just not my thing.  But now, I will have to admit, it is challenging and kind of fun.   Maybe I still need some left brain things to go with the right brain glass fusing.  🙂

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Last year, Bullseye came out with a tutorial on making a bowl out of frit balls using their opaline striker glass.  I loved it and so bought the opaline course frit to give this a try.  However, since opaline is more expensive than other colors, I decided to try this first using primary colors of glass.

To read Bullseye’s tutorial go here:   http://www.bullseyeglass.com/methods-ideas/frit-balls.html

I am going to walk you through the steps I took and the gotchas that I faced as I will have to say, mine doesn’t quite look like theirs!

The step to make the frit balls (or dots as I like to call them) was fairly straight forward.  Just lay course frit out in your kiln and take it to 1500 degrees F.  And yes, you can laugh, as I was kind of anal in how I laid it out.  You will get the same results if you just pour it out and make sure there is a little space around each piece.  In my defense, I was trying to pick pieces that were about the same size as the jar of course frit tends to have varying sized pieces.  🙂

Course Frit before Firing to Create Frit Balls or Dots

After my dots were fused, it was time to lay them out to make the bowl.  It made sense to do this one as a square since this was a test and squares are easier to slump.   I used shelf paper to avoid having to clean primer off the bottom of any of the dots.  And to create my square, I using white glue to glue 4 pieces of fiber paper (like 1/8″ thick) to the shelf paper.  This ended up being a really good idea as then it didn’t move on me as I was laying out the dots inside the square!

Frit Balls Laid out in Square Before Fusing

Now, I thought this step would be easy, but it was actually quite a pain!  And as you can see, there were many places were a dot wouldn’t fit even though I tried to squish them all in.  So my end product had a lot bigger holes than I thought it would.  It is still a cool plate, but hole-y!

Okay several tidbits for you.  First, there were a few dots that just did not attach and so as I lifted the fused plate, they were left behind on the shelf.  Second, the balls did shrink somewhat which is why I think there were gaps.  I took this to 1375 degrees F which was perhaps too hot and if I had kept it lower they would not have shrunk and they would have all kept attached.

It is more solid than I had thought it would be but still somewhat fragile.  So while cleaning I knocked 2 dots off the side.  So I thought, what the heck, I can just fuse again and fill in the holes with dots, using glue to attach them to another dot hoping they would then fuse together.  No such luck and I tried this twice.  So your best bet is to ensure that each dot is crammed next to others so that they all fuse the first time.

Still a cool test and definitely worth trying again!  Perhaps not worrying about them facing up and instead just cramming them in the space even if they are overlapping!  A new experiment for another day.

Glass Dots Small Plate

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Happy New Year, Everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

Are you ready for the New Year?  I am and ready for an aggressive New Year’s Resolution – Continuous Experimentation!

Sometimes with my glass work I take the easy road and make pieces similar to other pieces I have made before.  I don’t plan to stop this completely as if something sells, then perhaps another like it will sell.  But I also do not want to lose my drive to experiment, so I am setting my goals high.

Over the last year, I have had quite a few surprises.  Pieces like two vases that I thought would look exactly the same ended up draping differently.  Was it the glass, the color, or something else?  I have heard from others that different colors melt at different temperatures.  So how does this affect a piece you are making?  Also, often what I thought a color would end up looking like, didn’t.  So this year, I am going to do many experiments changing only one variable at a time and see what I can learn from it all.

Where to start?   Let’s try something for Valentine’s Day since from a Marketing perspective, it appears I am behind.  🙂

Before beginning you have to pick a base glass and powder which you know will have a reaction with each other.  Sulfur reacts with Lead as does Sulfur and Copper.  I can find the properties of each color on Bullseye Glass’ website at http://www.bullseyeglass.com/products/about-our-glass.html.  Pick the color you want to explore and then select the Sheet Glass tab and it will tell you what chemicals that color contains.

I chose French Vanilla as the base color which has sulfur in it.  And then a Salmon Pink powder which has lead in it.  When combined the salmon pink takes on a brown reactive color.

The second thing you need to decide is what stencil you are going to use.  I chose hearts, but you can use stencils in any shape or actually real objects like sea shells.

HINT:  In order to make the objects easier to remove without affecting the powder, I always take a piece of masking tape and make a little handle and then stick the tape on the stencil.  Then you just have to pick the stencil up straight using the handle.

Here are the steps to create your plate:

  1. Cut your base color (French Vanilla here) and cut it to the size of your place.  I made one 9″ square.  Cut a piece of clear to get to the right thickness, but make sure when you lay your piece out, that clear is on the bottom and French Vanilla on the top so it can react.
  2. Similar to what I explained in using powder in a previous blog, set up your environment so that your pieces are elevated so you can get your fingers under it to move it to the kiln.  I always put wax paper down on the table so I can recover the extra powder and use for something else.  So wax paper, then an upside down container and then my clean pieces of glass on top.
  3. Now apply your stencils where you want them.
  4. First apply a coat of Clear powder all over the plate.  This will stop the reaction where you have applied the clear as the Salmon Pink powder will not react with the clear.

    French Vanilla with Stencils and Clear Powder

  5. Then carefully remove the stencils.
  6. Now apply a coat of Salmon Pink powder over the entire plate.  In some places it will cover the clear powder and in other places where the stencils were, it will go directly onto the French Vanilla sheet and have a reaction.

    French Vanilla with Stencils Removed and then Covered wtih Salmon Pink Powder

  7. Carefully move your piece into your kiln and fire to a full temperature.

Voila!  You can see the reaction in the plate where the stencils were for the hearts.  And you can see in other areas the Salmon Pink.  Of course, you can also see reactions in other places.  This is because I did a light coat of the clear powder rather than a heavy coat as I like to see the reaction come through lightly around the stencils.  If you wanted more pink, then apply your pink heavier especially over the clear powder.

Completed Hearts Plate of French Vanilla and Salmon Pink

What other colors react?  I have seen Jade Green (copper) react nicely with Marigold Yellow (sulfur) and Turquoise Blue (copper) with Golden Green (sulfur).    So I am going to search for another set of colors that I haven’t seen or tried and try them next!

Have you played with reactions?  What colors do you like to combine?

Thanks to Bullseye Education and Bonnie Celeste for the Reactive Class which taught me so much!

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