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Archive for August, 2013

The small palette of fused glass night lights offers a huge opportunity for creativity!  Who knew.  🙂  I have wanted to work more with powder and some paints I have, and so decided to try to create some ocean landscapes.  The first firing on a 3mm sheet of glass was just paints, frit and powder.   In the second firing, I added on top on one of the night lights, a Colour de Verre mold sea-horse and shells and on the other I added some dichroic pieces of dolphins and smaller pieces which I made into seagulls.

Seascape Night Light Shown in Daylight

Seascape Night Light Shown in Daylight

Dolphin Night Light Shown in Daylight

Dolphin Night Light Shown in Daylight

Night-lights can be made into specific shapes or left as a square of circle.  It seems like the typical size is between 3″ x 3″ and 4″ by 4″.  And you can make them entirely of pieces of glass as in a typical fusing where you lay the glass pieces side by side, or you can use frit, confetti, stringers, shapes, transparent pot melt left overs, …

One key consideration I found is figuring out what is the optimum amount of light to let through the night-light.  One I made is a little darker than the other.  The second lets a lot more light through.  I used a white and clear swirl  Bullseye Glass as the base and then added the frit on the bottom only.  You can check out the pictures taken in the dark to see which you like better.

Seascape Night Light Shown in Dark

Seascape Night Light Shown in Dark

Dolphin Night Light Shown in Night

As usual with many things, I assume how much light you like is just a personal preference.

If you are new to fused glass, you might want to give night-lights a try.    Or  they are great if you have someone visiting who wants to give glass fusing a try as it is a small palette but a lot of fun to create.

The night-light parts are available from a wide variety of places such as Delphi Glass or D&L Art Glass (if you can buy wholesale.)

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Two exciting things happened this last week.  The first is that a good friend of mine, Elecia White, and I discussed glass fusing and Etsy on her podcast, Making Embedded Systems: The Show for People Who Love Gadgets.  While fusing glass is not exactly embedded systems, we do use lots of gadgets like kilns and tools.  The episode is called “Hot” and here is the link, http://embedded.fm/episodes/2013/8/12/14-hot .  I had a lot of fun, so Thanks, Elecia! for giving me the opportunity.

While on that site, you should check out Elecia’s other podcasts.  She is a very creative and excellent engineer and loves trying new gadgets to create new gadgets that will make you smile when you hear/read about them.

The second is that I braved walking into a local store to learn more about how to get my glass sold in stores.  It was a wonderful learning experience and there were definitely some interesting lessons learned.

1.  Wholesale pricing, what does that mean?  I have watched several videos and read forums and newsletters and what I learned is that basically the store wants to sell your item for the same price that you sell it on the internet.  They give you then typically 50% of this price.  So if you sell something online for $20, they will buy it from you for $10.  So you need to make sure that you can make money selling it to them for $10.

I have struggled a lot with pricing as I know many others do.  There are great formulas out there for how to price your product including materials, time, marketing, and then doubling to add profit.  But then you search Etsy, as an example, and look at all the others selling similar items and if most of them are selling something for $20 dollars and you are selling it for $40, yours had better look from the pictures worth the extra $20 or you will not get the sale.  So now if you want your items sold in a store and you sell to the store at a price that makes sure you make a little money (or at least covers your costs) you will have to ensure that your prices online are high enough even if this means you are higher than similar sellers.  Interesting quandary.

2.  The owner explained to me that some stores rather than buying your products outright will instead do consignment.  With consignment, the store does not pay you until your item is sold.  Here you have the greater risk of your product not ever selling or breaking or … and so you tend to get a higher percentage like 60%.  With selling to the store before they sell, they are taking the risk of it never selling, breaking, getting stolen and hence why they take a higher percentage in this case.

3.  I have also read that you need to have a portfolio created which includes pictures of your products, an artists bio and then a price sheet made all in a nice folder that you can leave with the owner of the store.  I am sure if I were walking the streets going into a wide variety of stores trying to get them to buy my products this would be a great thing to have.  Don’t laugh – the owner to whom I was talking indicated this is exactly what she used to do to try to sell her jewelry and it was hard work.  However, to get started and get into a single store perhaps similar to the one I visited which is mostly handmade items, the owner said she really didn’t care about a bio and glossy info.  So if you are like me and just starting to brave the walk-into-a-store-you-like and talk to owner, don’t spend  a lot of time creating your portfolio.  You can do that later if you decide this is really how you want to sell your products.

4.  The last and perhaps most valuable insight I received was peddle one line.  Basically do not overwhelm.  After talking with the owner for a while and gathering all this valuable advice, I asked if she was interested in seeing some of my fused glass.  Since I knew this shop specialized in smaller items, I brought a variety of small items:  coasters, barrettes, soap dishes, glass boxes, christmas ornaments.  To her, as a perspective customer of mine and potential seller to others, she was overwhelmed.  She told me to pick a “line.”  That line could be coasters, as an example.  And  then when I approach a store, take a sample of maybe 10 sets of coasters.  But definitely not a little of lots of things.

Since right now I am still enjoying the learning and experimentation with which I can make a wide variety of things and assumed showing such a wide variety would be better, this was very wise advice.  It doesn’t mean you can’t sell coasters in one store and barrettes in a second, just have a single line for each store.

There, now I have shared my wonderful learning experiences for the week.  Didn’t get any new experiments completed this week, but did make a nice new set of coasters.  I also started a new experiment which I will hopefully share next week.  Have a great week!

Seaside Coasters (available in my Etsy Store)

Seaside Coasters (available in my Etsy Store)

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I am on a quest to learn more about selling my fused glass.  In analyzing my statistics on both Etsy and WordPress, I notice many searches for the smaller items like barrettes, coasters and soap dishes.  So I am going to try to be creative in a smaller way and make more of these than I have in the past.  I started with soap dishes only because last year I had bought a new soap dish mold and wanted to give it a try.  However, after firing, I was a little disappointed in how small the dish was.  I liked the colors and pattern, but when I put a small hotel hand soap bar on the dish  the soap consumed the dish.

This made me wonder what is the correct size for a soap dish.  So I made two other style soap dishes all designed similarly to better visualize the mold differences.  I also decided to compare these with a piece that I originally made as a coaster so for this piece the colors are different.   I took pictures of all of them with a soap bar trying to determine if any one mold is better than another.

The size and shape differ for all four dishes.  From a creation standpoint, there is another difference.  For soap dishes 1 and 2, you basically fill the mold with small pieces of glass called fit.  You can also embed larger pieces of glass, but essentially you are fusing together these small pieces of frit.

Soap Dish #1 Pre-Firing Showing Pieces of Frit in Mold

Soap Dish #1 Pre-Firing Showing Pieces of Frit in Mold

Soap Dish #1, 2.5" x 3.75" Size, Sides Taper Off

Soap Dish #1, 2.5″ x 3.75″ Size, Sides Taper Off

Soap Dish #2, 3.5" x 5.5" size

Soap Dish #2, 3.5″ x 5.5″ Size, Thicker Sides all Around

For soap dishes 3 and 4, you are fusing larger pieces of glass together flat and then slumping the fused plate into a mold to take on the concave shape.  They both have their pluses and minuses, but I find that I can be more creative with designs using the method in soap dishes 3 and 4.

Soap Dish #3, 3.25" x 5" size, Slightly Sloped Sides

Soap Dish #3, 3.25″ x 5″ Size, Slightly Sloped Sides

Soap Dish #4, 4.5" x 4.5" Size, Sides Gently Slope Up

Soap Dish #4, 4.5″ x 4.5″ Size, Sides Gently Slope Up

Of course, with both options, you can add embellishments.  I added the blue bars on soap dishes 1 and 3, but you can also add shells and many other glass pieces as you can see in soap dish 5 and 6 which I made last year.

Soap Dish #5, 3.5" x 5.5" Size with Embellishments

Soap Dish #5, 3.5″ x 5.5″ Size with Embellishments

Soap Dish #6, 3.5" x 5.5" Size with Embellishments

Soap Dish #6, 3.5″ x 5.5″ Size with Embellishments

My husband and I are leaning toward soap dish 3 as being the right size and shape for a typical soap dish and I like its ability to be more creative with the design in the base sheet of glass.    Do you have a preference on one of these shapes and sizes?  I would love to hear your preference. Thanks!

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I continually read that it is essential for small businesses like my glass business to mine their statistics both on their blogs and their selling sites like Etsy.   So I have recently begun keeping track of interesting searches which bring people to my sites.  One that caught my eye this week was “how to make glass jewelry look matte.”   I did a blog awhile ago talking about glossy versus matte finishes on glass, but only touched on one method to achieve this.  So I thought I would delve more into this.

I am sure there are many more methods, but I employ two different methods for jewelry – firing face down on the kiln shelf or sanding with loose grit – for getting a matte finish on jewelry pieces depending on the look I want.

First, if I want a matte finish on dichroic glass, it is best to just fire the piece with the dichroic down on the kiln shelf.  I tend to put the pieces on Bullseye thin fiber paper rather than directly on the shelf as I get a smoother finish.

Second, if I want a high lustre matte finish, this takes more work, but is well worth the effort.  It is subtle and hard to see in the picture, but the piece on the left is glossy and the one on the right has a very smooth matte finish.

Glossy Finish on Left Pendant and Smooth Matte Finish on Right Pendant

Glossy Finish on Left Pendant and High Lustre Matte Finish on Right Pendant

I get this finish using loose grit and then refiring the piece to smooth it out.  Here is the process:

  1. You need to ensure the piece is completely flat on top.  If you had previously fused the piece with the side you want to sand facing up, chances are the edges are slightly rounded and it may not be flat on top.  To achieve this, you can use the loose grit, but this will be very time-consuming.  So for this first step, I recommend using a disk sander.  You need to be pretty careful here since the piece is very small and I find that I have to actually stop the disk sander before I can pick up the small piece from the sander but it makes this step so much faster doing it this way.
  2. Sometimes if there are any bubbles in the piece, sanding will open up these bubbles and expose the holes and unfortunately, my next steps will not fix this issue.  So if you end up with a large hole, refire the piece to an almost full fuse to fill in the hole and start the sanding process over.  If it is a pretty tiny hole, then proceed, but before fire polishing you will need to ensure that you use some air to blow out the hole to remove any loose grit that may have embedded itself in the hole.
  3. Now that you have a flat surface of glass, you are ready to move on to the loose grit.  My set up a piece of glass recycled from some past project and a rubber mat to keep the glass from slipping.  Since my glass is repurposed you can see some unwanted holes which I have to work around, but not an issue.  I also use the one sheet of glass for both my 400 and 600 grit*.  You really should use two separate pieces of glass to ensure you don’t accidentally mix the grits and if I were creating a larger masterpiece, I would do so.  But for these jewelry pieces, just being careful using a single sheet of glass is fine.

    Set up for Sanding with Loose Grit

    Set up for Sanding with Loose Grit

  4. Start with 400 grit and then finish with 600 grit.  You can actually keep going to higher grits and get a nice smooth finish just using the grit without fire polishing in the kiln, but I am too lazy and too impatient to do it this way.
  5. Put about a teaspoon of the 400 loose grit on your glass and slowly add water a drop at a time until you get a thick paste which I think the experts call a slurry.  Then place the side of your jewelry piece that you want to sand down into the slurry.  Using a figure eight pattern, move your piece through the slurry.  You may need to add more water and/or more loose grit, and you may also need to keep moving the grit back into the center of your glass (feel free to use your jewelry piece to do this).  Keep a container of clean water and towel nearby and periodically rinse your piece and dry it.  Once the surface of your piece is dry you can see better how you are sanding.  When you feel you have a smooth surface meaning you can’t see any grinding marks, then rinse and start the process again with the 600 grit.  You can stop this process when your piece is not necessarily smooth like a finished product, but smooth of any grinding marks or any other inconsistencies.
  6. Now completely clean the piece not forgetting if there are any tiny holes to blow them out with air or you will end up with black dots in your finished piece.  Put the piece back into the kiln with your sanded side facing up and refire only taking the kiln to about 1200 degrees F.
Jewelry Piece with Matte Finish (available on Etsy)

High Lustre Matte Finished Pendant

* For loose grit, I use Loose Graded Silicon Carbide grit from HIsGlassworks.

Last, if I don’t need high lustre or glossy, but want a smooth matte finish, then I just fire with this side down on the kiln shelf.  As an example, I made a 2-sided pendant where one side is glossy (fired up) and the other side is matte (fired down).

Glossy Finish Pendant (one side)

Glossy Finish Pendant (one side)

Matte Finish Pendant (other side)

Matte Finish Pendant (other side)

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