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Archive for May, 2014

I recently was asked to make a picture frame for someone’s parent’s 50th Anniversary.  (Congrats to the wonderful couple!)  The only requirement was to use gold in the design.  I decided to use both black glass with gold iridescence from Bullseye as well as gold mica powder.

True to any project I do, I learn a lot and usually have to do things twice before I am happy.  I started by making the corners of the frame.  I cut templates for the 50th, Hearts and Wedding Bells out of cardboard and taped them to 2 inch squares of black glass.  Then I lightly brushed on a glass glue and sifted the mica onto the glue.  After they dried, I removed the cardboard templates.  Some spots were well, “spotty”, so I mixed some mica with the glue and used a paint brush to touch things up.

In order to remove extraneous mica powder I used Q-tips and water and basically cleaned up the edges of my design and removed excess mica that had fallen anywhere on the black glass it didn’t belong.  I then fired the squares to 1275 degrees F.   I guess I didn’t examine them carefully enough as they looked fine at a quick glance, and in general the squares looked good although the mica was somewhat muted.  Since my client said her parents were not flashy, muted was fine.

I put all the remaining pieces together for the frame (clear as the base, black glass on top with strips of the black gold iridescence) and fired it to a full fuse.  Unfortunately, the corners ended up with streaks of a haze basically where I had done the cleaning.  In hindsight I realized that I should not have used tap water (or in my case lake water) to do the cleaning as who knows what chemicals are in the water.  So what to do.

Picture Frame Before Firing the First Time

Picture Frame Before Firing the First Time

I decided to sandblast the frame and of course, since the mica only sticks to the glass it touches and it is really only on the surface, the mica disappeared.  Therefore after sandblasting and religiously cleaning the frame, I reapplied the corner designs.  This time though I just used a paintbrush rather than sifting to apply the mica and did my clean up of the excess mica powder with Bullseye’s Spartan glass cleaner.

I re-fired to an almost full fuse.  The mica corners are actually vibrant where before they had been muted.  If I had to guess it is because mica got down into the tiny holes of the sandblasted glass and so there was more mica remaining after the fuse to sparkle.

Finished Picture Frame after Second Firing with Brighter Mica Powder

Finished Picture Frame after Second Firing with Brighter Mica Powder

Lessons learned:

  • For a more vibrant Mica look, apply the mica to sandblasted glass.
  • Use distilled water or glass cleaner for the mica clean-up step.
Close-Up of the more Vibrant Hearts

Close-Up of the more Vibrant Hearts

In the end, it turned out very well and I hope her parent’s really love the frame!

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Spring is when many of us get the motivation to freshen up something or someplace in our lives. Glass drawer pulls are a great way to add a special touch to a dresser or cabinets.   I had bought a mold for making drawer pulls over a year ago and never gave them a try, so I found the mold and instructions from Creative Paradise and began to experiment.

This process is actually fairly simple with some lessons learned which I will describe below.  The basics of the process are to start with a hole punch to punch disks from 1/8″ fiber cloth and then add all 5 disks to a nichrome wire which comes with the mold.  You then cut fiber paper 1/2″ x 3/4″ and wrap it around the disks and glue it in place.  I will have to admit that this task is the hardest of this whole process.  You are working with small pieces and my fingers just had a hard time getting the paper around the disks and glued evenly.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.

After making four of these fiber disk stacks, prepare your mold (I used MR-97) and then push the nichrome wires into the holes in the mold, so the wire is sticking out the bottom of the mold and the fiber disk stack is resting on the cavity on the bottom of each drawer pull.   Add frit and fire to a full fuse temperature.

Fused Glass Drawer Pulls

Fused Glass Drawer Pulls

While the process was straightforward, I did have several lessons learned:

1) The instructions indicate to use medium frit at the bottom of each knob around the fiber disk stack so you get as little air around them as possible and get a nice fully filled base.  My first attempt was with medium frit and I had a very uneven base on the knobs (see red and yellow knob in the picture below).  My next attempt was using fine frit which I thought worked much better (see aqua blue knob – 2nd from left), but still room for improvement.  For my third and fourth attempts, I stuck with the fine frit, but actually patted the frit down into the hole to get a very dense pack.  This worked the best.   See the light blue and adventurine green knobs below.

Illustrates Impact of Frit Size on Drawer Pull Base

Illustrates Impact of Frit Size on Drawer Pull Base

2) Use a very fine spoon to place the fit around the stems in the cavities and try hard to make sure the stem is standing straight up to get an even fill around the stem or your finished knob base will be a little lopsided.

3) Be very careful that none (or very little) of the nichrome wire is sticking up above the fiber disks.  I had one wire get stuck in the finished glass knob.  After pulling and twisting with pliers, I was able to remove it, but best to just make sure the wire doesn’t get stuck in the first place.

You get a very different look from course frit (recommended in the instructions) versus medium and fine fit as well as solid or multiple colors.   My husband’s favorite is the solid adventurine green as he likes the single color, and depth that the adventurine gives.  I like the multiple colors like the light blue and white one or the cranberry pink and vanilla one which I think are perfect for a baby’s dresser.  Which do you like best?

The last step is to insert a brass insert for the screw, but since these inserts didn’t come with the mold, I will have to buy these.  Can’t wait.

I believe that these drawer pulls might be hard to sell as most people already have their colors and want the drawer pulls to match those colors, but I think there are some cases where these little extras come first and set the colors.

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I am still on a roll working with some of the new techniques I learned in my class at the annual Glass Craft Expo in Las Vegas.  The class was taught by Roz Stanton and Debbie Patana and included many different techniques.  The concept that I want to describe this week was using Georgie’s Trillium Porcelain clay to make your own small molds to create components to add to a larger project.  This project was simpler than I had thought it would be.

To start, you pull or slice off a small amount of the Porcelain clay and work it in your hands for a few minutes.  You just want to basically soften it some and get it ready to mold.  If it seems too stiff just add a very small amount of water and work it into the clay.  Create about a 1/2-inch thick patty.  If your object is thin, you can go thinner and if your object is very deep, go thicker with your patty.   I borrowed a flower petal shell from my class neighbor as I loved its look.  Press the object into your patty and leave it there for about 5-10 minutes.   You want the clay to still be damp when you remove your object otherwise it might get stuck.

The set-up time is really a judgment or guessing game as to when it is ready so just give it your best guess and feel.  Peel your object out of the clay patty and set the patty aside.   Leave it to dry completely overnight.

The following is a picture of my patty after removing the shell.

Porcelain Clay still damp with Shell Impression

Porcelain Clay still damp with Shell Impression

Place the patty in your kiln and fire it slowly to 1800 degrees F, hold for 10 minutes and then let cool.  Now your new mold (yes, it is a fusing mold now!) is ready to be used.

Porcelain Clay Mold after Curing and Firing

Porcelain Clay Mold after Curing and Firing

Prime it with MR-97 boron nitride or your favorite mold wash.   My mold is very shallow, therefore I decided to make thin, fine frit castes of the flower to then put on a plate.  Because this was a class project, I only have the one mold, so this task took me awhile to make multiple flower castes.   It was basically very easy to prepare the mold with MR-97, add the fine frit making sure to add enough so it would not leave any holes after firing, and then firing it each time to 1325 degrees F.

Flower Petals after Firing Fine Frit in the Mold

Flower Petals after Firing Fine Frit in the Mold

For the plate, I used another class technique.  Part of Roz’s business is stencils to help the glass artist create patterns on glass.  (Sorry but I could not find a link to where she sells these.  So if you are interested, you will have to just contact her.)  One of the stencils I bought from her booth at the Show was a flower and stem.  I took a piece of Bullseye cream-colored opaque glass and using the stencil sifted Green Adventurine.  On the clear glass, I sifted spring green powder.  It may be possible to then place the clear on the cream glass and fire.  But I didn’t know for sure, so I fired each as a part sheet to 1390 degrees F.  Then I combined the two together and fired a second time taking it to a full fuse of 1460 degrees F.

The next go round in the kiln was a tack fuse of the flower components onto the base plate at 1300 degrees F and last the plate was slumped into a plate mold at 1180 degrees F.   I am guessing I could have combined some of these firings such as the powder and base plate firing together and then perhaps even the tacking of the flowers and slumping together, but I decided to play it safe this time as I wanted a good completed project with my porcelain mold flowers.

Completed Fused Glass Dish (available in my Etsy Store)

Completed Fused Glass Dish (available in my Etsy Store)

I am currently imagining all of the wonderful things I can do with Georgie’s Trillium Porcelain clay for both components and for actual slumping molds not to mention it is very easy with which to work.  I guess the hardest part will be getting the actual porcelain clay and not paying high shipping costs for 25 pounds which is the smallest bag!

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