Archive for August, 2012

Today, my IdleCreativity blog surpassed 2500 views.  The one year anniversary of the start of the blog is September 11, 2012, which means 2500 views in one year!

I really appreciate so many people reading my blog over the last year and especially those that comment back as I learn and share my ventures in the world of glass fusing.

Thank you!

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Cutting small circles in glass is difficult, at least for me.  I have gotten pretty good at circles over 3″ and am better when the glass is transparent rather than opal.  But typically less than 3″ and the tools are hard to use or I don’t have a the right tool or … it is just me.  🙂

To make very small dots, I use course frit, laying the pieces directly on a kiln shelf, fusing to 1500 degrees and each piece kind of sucks in and becomes a small dot.

In my recent flameworking class at Bullseye, I learned to also make small dots by heating the glass rod while holding it perpendicular to the steel plate below and letting the glass drop in small circles onto the steel plate.  These dots tend to be cleaner, meaning they don’t have any kiln shelf residue on them which may show later when using them especially if they are transparent.

How to make dots in between these sizes?  In another class at Bullseye, we used some scrap glass to make magnets by heating about 9mm high stacks of glass (mostly cut into squares) to 1525 degrees F and as it heated to this high temperature and the glass naturally tries to get to 6mm, the sides spread out and the squares became circles.  Perfect, or so I thought.

I am part of a wonderful community whom I met through Etsy called O.C.E.A.N. which stands for Oregon Coast Etsy Artist Network.  Those who are physically close to Coos Bay, Oregon, get together once a week to build camaraderie, share ideas, develop joint plans for events and brainstorm how to help the greater team and then they share their conversations on Etsy and Facebook.  Anyway, several of the members are going to share a booth at an event in September in Coos Bay called ZombieFest and I decided while I can’t be there physically, I wanted to participate.  Since I have to send the items to Oregon and then what doesn’t sell have sent back, I decided to work on smaller pieces and decided Zombie eye magnets were just the ticket.

So I started some tests.  I created 1″ vanilla circles for the eyeball base, and then also created smaller yellow circles and even smaller black circles all using the square technique I described above and layering each color with clear.

My Small Yellow and Black Circles

I then stacked the completed circles together (vanilla on bottom, then yellow, then black) adding small red stringers for bloodshot-ness and fused again.  However this time, I fused to only 1450 degrees F (normal fusing temperature for my kilns) since the individual pieces were already circles.

Stacked Circles Ready for the Kiln Again

What was interesting out of this test is that while the individual pieces were circles before the final fuse, when they fused together, some of them appeared to try to go back to their initial square shape.  It could be that I should use a lower fusing temperature.  Or it could be making my circles with both clear and the color as perhaps what appeared to be a black circle wasn’t really completely black all the way around.   It may be better to stack all black squares as an example rather than black and clear.

The good news is that Zombie eyes are not exact and so while these would not pass for real eyeballs, for Zombie eyeballs, why not!

Zombie Eye Magnets

If anyone knows how to make perfect small circles, please reply and share with others!  Inquiring minds would love to know!!!

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! 

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You may remember awhile I ago I talked about a fused glass melt I had created using a Sur La Table grill pan.

Grill Pan Melt

As is typical for me, I looked at that piece of glass for months before deciding what colors with which to marry it and how to architect the piece.  In the end, I decided to try my hand at a technique called strip construction.

I first read about strip construction on the website of a veteran glass expert, Steve Immerman.  He has beautiful work and writes excellent tutorials.   Thanks, Steve!

For those of you not expecting to do this but wanting to understand the basics, you cut your glass into thin strips, typically 3/8″ thick and then rather than laying them flat in the normal fashion where they are 1/8″ thick, you actually stand them on end.  Because what you just cut (3/8″ thick) is greater than the glass “properties law” that glass wants to get to 1/4″ thickness, you need to create a dam around your piece to keep it at that thickness.

Well, I was a little lazy because my melt was 1/4″ thick already, so instead of trying to figure out how to use 3/8″ thick strips and get the melt to match, I cut my strips to 1/4″ thickness, but I still needed to dam the project using pieces of kiln shelf as the dams with fiber between the glass and the damn.

Strip Construction Project Kiln Set-up

What did I learn:

1) Cutting strips evenly and thin is hard and tedious so be prepared to make more than you need because well, they don’t all work out.

2) When the strips fuse, you can see the lines of each strip.  What I didn’t realize was that the lines on top of the piece are much more fluid and so they don’t stay very straight.  The lines on the bottom do, so I guess people usually end up using the bottom as the top – which I did as well.    I was lucky that melts tend to have very different looking tops and bottoms, but usually both sides are cool.  So the end result is still nice, just not what I had originally planned.

Was Supposed to be Top of Final Glass Piece (see wavy lines)

Ended up Being the Top of Glass Piece (see how straight the lines stayed)

3) Usually when I see someone else’s strip construction piece, they have outlined their focal piece with strips that are perpendicular to all the other strips.  I thought this was just a design choice.  Now I think this has a purpose to make all the strips appear to be very even when they truncate at the focal piece.  As you can see, mine are jagged looking since I did not include these perpendicular strips.  Note to self to add these pieces next time.

4) It probably would have been better to use 3/8″ strips as they are easier to cut and get even.  Since my strips were not very even, I ended up with a very wavy edge where the strips ended on each side.  It wasn’t that hard to cold work the edges and get rid of the waves, but doing it right the first time might have saved me this step and an extra firing. (See interim pictures above as I took these before I cold worked the piece.)

While these were interesting lessons learned, completed strip construction pieces are very eye catching and elegant and something I will definitely try again!

Completed Fused Glass Plate using Pan Melt and Strip Construction

Usually I point you to Etsy where my pieces are for sale.  This one I am keeping!

NOTE: I learn much of what I know from reading other websites 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! 

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I love wandering through kitchen stores looking for stainless steel items I might use as molds for my glass.  Last week, I was in Bed Bath and Beyond and came across a large spoon rest and thought – maybe!  $20 bucks and it was mine to give it a try.

Stainless Steel Spoon Rest (picture taken after being in kiln hence why darkened)

I don’t usually make something where the base is not a square or a circle, so it took me awhile to cut out (using many different tools!) both a clear base and the individual stripes.  I eventually got the pieces to all work out and fused it flat.

I then had to decide whether to fuse into the spoon rest or over the back of it and decided I would probably have the best luck over the back of it.  I had also made my fused glass spoon base larger than the mold which reinforced my decision to fuse over the mold.  If I fused into the mold and the overhang ended up fusing outside the mold, I may not be able to get the slumped glass off the stainless steel mold and this would not be good – both ruined glass and maybe ruined mold.

I also debated on how to prepare the mold.  You can use boron nitride but sometimes on stainless steel it sticks to my glass and leaves a cloudy residue.  I could use kiln paper which I sometimes do on vases.  Or I could use kiln wash but this takes extra time because you have to heat the mold to 500 degrees then carefully remove from the kiln and add kiln wash; then put back in to the kiln and reheat to 500 degrees and remove and add kiln wash.  Typically this takes me like 3-4 cycles to get all the stainless steel covered with the kiln wash.  In my opinion, kiln wash is the best for stainless steel, however for this first attempt, I decided to be lazy and careful and so I used the boron nitrate and the kiln paper.

It slumped nicely at 1235 degrees F.  Where the kiln paper wrinkled at the corners left dents in the final glass piece, but overall a nice and useful spoon rest.

Completed Fused Glass Spoon Rest

And another picture!

Fused Glass Spoon Rest in Use

For my next attempt, I decided to just use the boron nitride (and not the shelf paper) and to use a single layer of glass (3mm rather than 6mm) to see if this was sturdy enough for real use as a spoon rest.  The base was clear glass with glass confetti* to give it some color.

Since it was a single layer, I took the kiln only to 1220 degrees F for the slump and it was perfect.  I can’t decide if I like the bulk and solidness of the 6mm glass for a spoon rest or the more dainty and subtle 3mm version, but both are functional and would make a nice addition to the kitchen!

Second Fused Glass Spoon Rest

* Confetti Definition:  Small, thin pieces of glass.

NOTE:  I noticed another blogger offering a disclaimer that she is just sharing information that she may have found other places and I decided this is a great disclaimer as it is true for me as well.  So I will be adding something like the following to all of my posts.

I learn much of what I know from reading other website 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! 

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Sometimes it is hard to visualize how something will work.  And so it was for me getting rid of rather large, not intended bubbles in a fused glass piece.  I read other’s hints (and even my husband suggested) to drill the bubble to open it up, fill the hole with frit and refire, but the skeptic in me thought that the addition of the frit would leave the glass looking cloudy in that spot and bumpy.

A quick definition of frit is small pieces of glass in different sizes: powder, fine, medium and course.  Course is still somewhat small, but large enough that it would not fit through the mesh of a standard colander.  If you were to fuse in a mold each different frit size, the powder and even fine size frit would look somewhat milky or opaque because each piece of frit is surrounded by air which can trap bubbles.  The larger the frit sizes, the clearer the glass made from frit will appear.

But I had two bubbles in a recent coaster that I thought would make a good test case and so I drilled the bubbles to open up the glass in each area and then filled those holes with medium size frit.  I put enough in to fill the hole, but did not mound it.

Coaster with Two Bubbles Which I Have Already Drilled Out

Then I refired the piece to a full fuse temperature and it actually worked.

Completed Coaster Refired with a Nice Smooth Top Surface

As you can see in the picture, there was some copper near the hole and I think since the copper was exposed to air, it changed colors slightly, but this adds character and trueness to the leaf since rarely is a leaf all one color.

Yellow with Copper Leaves Coaster Set (available in my Etsy Store)


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