Archive for the ‘stained glass’ Category

My jewelry-making skills are still pretty limited, frankly. A couple of simple rings and the prehistoric bracelet accounted for most of the first term, and this year has brought one pendant and a lot of faffing. The pendant was a cute enough sterling silver ball of yarn with knitting needles.

I had decided to make a knitting-themed item especially to auction off as part of a Haiti-relief fundraiser on Ravelry, and I was pretty thrilled when some generous soul snagged it for the bargain price of $150. I also offered a mitten kit with yarn to make a pair of Swedish Fish mittens, and was blown away when that went for another $130. I could never afford to donate that much cash to Doctors without Borders/Médecins sans frontières, but I was willing and able to donate my labor and material costs. For the record, that round of auctions raised something in the range of $25,000 and it’s been so successful that ‘by popular demand’ a second round of auctions has started.

Other than that, most of what I produce in silver class could be classed as a dog’s breakfast, frankly. I’ve been circling round, but not knuckling down to a commission I rashly accepted at the beginning of the year, to make a mezuzah case with a dachshund on it. ‘Sure’ I said, ‘no problem’ and I took some money and then promptly panicked a bit. And then decided that the obvious strategy in the circumstances was just to ignore the whole problem. Until 10 a.m. every Wednesday morning, when I’d come into class, draw a few very terrible sketches, and put the project aside for another week (vowing to have the drawing part done by then). So every dog has his day, and yesterday, I got my saw out and finally, finally cut that hund out. Copper is tough, and the saw was flimsy, and my technique is probably not the finest, so it was all a bit of a struggle, but I did it. The neck was rather too long, so that the resulting animal looked either like a dinosaur, or at a pinch, like a rather unfortunate dachshund/greyhound cross. So I cut the head off, and soldered it back on lower down, under a snazzy silver collar. (Yes, since you ask, I was going to put a collar on the dog anyway. Probably). Then I got worried about the time whooshing by, and daunted by the prospect of doing any more sawing, so I rather stealthily found a pair of just-about-working scissors and hacked out an ear and a tail (not, I fear, a terribly approved technique), and soldered the whole lot together. A more sensible, less impatient person would probably have done this in several discrete operations, with careful pickling in between them. I’m afraid after the weeks of dithering I had no time for such niceties, and instead whacked on a load of solder in lots of places where the sun won’t shine, and blasted away for all I was worth with the largest blowtorch I could find.  In the end I had to resort to an uncouth combination of prayer, swearing and the Really, Comically Big Flamethrower Thing. But it worked. And although I should by rights have pickled the whole thing to clean it up afterwards, I was truly thrilled and astounded by how much I loved the patina created by the heat work, and determined to leave it. Serendipity is truly the collaborator of the artisan. As the icing on the cake, fate had even given the dog a perfectly placed eye. Look.

Today I made the glass case, declared myself thrilled, and above all thrilled to be DONE. I emailed the client a photograph with a view to getting her final approval and collecting the balance. She’s thrilled too. I’m thrilled she’s thrilled. There’s only one slight wrinkle to all the thrilled-ness: she’s so very thrilled, she’d like another two, please. Flattering indeed, and I’d love to oblige. The only thing is, will Serendipity agree to collaborate so nicely again?

Better yet – in a fatedness-overdrive moment of spontaneous synchronicity, down in the crèche, Yarnzilla was busy too. I went to pick him up, and was presented with his morning’s work:

Every dog truly has his day, and today was a very dog day indeed.

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Acrylic, remember, and sparkly too

Acrylic, remember, and sparkly too

Apparently it is possible after all. A while back I made a few swatches of different yarns, sandwiched them in glass and baked them in the kiln. None of them were a rip-roaring success, but one showed possibilities. The problem was that is was knit from a deeply unpleasant pink acrylic with a metallic thread (which is the bit that survived the firing process) and I haven’t been able to bear to knit with it further. Can you blame me?

So, I have since managed to acquire, by processes over whih I shall draw a veil, a small reel of fine silver wire. Wire fine enough to knit with, if you try. I’m struggling to work out the right sized needles to use, and can’t manage to get neat stitches, but perhaps I will acheive that some time. And it’d be – well – neat if I could, because then I could produce “swatch” art glass using different stitch patterns.

In the meantime though, here are three prototypes: the first swatch was simply soldered (with lead-free solder) onto a stained glass copper-foiled pendant, the second was just laid on top of a single piece of random glass that was then fired, and the third was sandwiched between two layers of Bullseye and fired.


The first one I quite like, but I’m concerned it’s very fragile, and might tarnish; the second one is an abject failure, but shows glimmers of hope for some interesting manipulations further down the line (I quite like the way the silver has partly melted in and partly stayed on the surface) and the third one I am very pleased with indeed.

Yes. With a bit of luck -because with inclusions you never know (and the person I bought the silver off had had no luck including it in glass) – look out for swatch pendants coming to an Etsy shop near you soon.

I’m off to celebrate six months of knitting with a little more wire swatching.

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mirror after flwIt’s finally back from the exhibition, and ON THE WALL.

Cracked slightly in two places due to inexplicable mishap, but not too obviously. I used to have some spare glass of the right color to repair it, but then I foolishly gave it away to someone who was drooling over it  for some random fairies or angels or some such, and now I don’t think I have enough left. So I’m praying I don’t need to bother (in addition to hoping to avoid the absolute pain that is renovation work).

mirror small

I’m also praying that it doesn’t fall off our rather terrible wall. Things have been known to. On the other hand, there was once, in that very spot, a large, plain and extraordinarily heavy mirror, so we might be OK.

Frank Lloyd Wright it ain’t, but it was the best I could do. I do think it’s actually quite pretty. The dark color is a deep winey purple, complemented by a wispy white semi-opalescent and you see those really small bits between the purple and the white? They are clear with a crinkled texture that reflect the light. I love it. Sorry Frank.

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three butterflies

Sometimes, there are circumstances where you don’t know what to say, or make, or do. Perhaps because the options feel too big, or too many and too confusing, or perhaps because you can’t think of a single one that meets the needs of the moment. Luckily, when that problem strikes you at a glass class, there are always butterflies to be made. Easy, cheerful, and providing instant gratification at the cost of only tiny pieces of scrap glass, they are a handy stand-by. The Victoria sponge of the stained-glass world, perhaps. Also, they can be incorporated into something bigger at any point (I made a mirror for the girls’ room last year, with butterflies fluttering around in a grass-green frame), or just given loops and turned into some last-minute or after-thought gift – a suncatcher, or maybe a mobile. Either way, however kitsch they may be, they are a spirit-raiser. I think it’s the instant gratification part that really does it. At least I achieved something today.

Oh, and I found a missing puzzle piece (but two others were lost), and after a frustrating tussle with the Wales Millennium Centre website I managed to book some opera tickets for next season before they all sold out. Amonst other delights, I have happily sentenced the Beloved to over six hours of Wagner (excluding intervals), but at £5 a ticket, that’s cheaper entertainment even than knitting socks. And did I mention that Bryn Terfyl is singing?

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I’m getting very excited about my Frank Lloyd Wright mirror (or do I mean, my ‘Apologies to Frank Lloyd Wright’ mirror?).

Frank Lloyd Wright mirror in progress

The first thing I should say is that I was astounded at how fast this project came together. Good old geometrics. Fast, fast cutting. Slow, slow deciding on the final color scheme though: there was an abrupt change of plan in the larger (now purple, once opal/iridescent white) squares and the (now dusky pink, once planned as clear textured) area immediately bordering the mirror. Now it is the way it is, I can’t imagine what I was thinking of before. I suppose it’s proof that you need to keep  your thinking flexible, and that it might – just might- be a good idea to do a colored version of the initial sketch. Ahh…

The second thing is that leading up geometrics is both easier and harder than leading curves. It’s technically less complex, but boy, are any mistakes more obvious. Straight lines, anyone? Sure they’re straight? Quite sure that wherever you’ve used the “well, I didn’t cut that piece the right size but the lead will hide it” strategy, that strategy has really worked? Certain that, having carefully soldered the lead on the one side (taking pains to shove all the lines truly vertical as you go along), no “just slightly small”  pieces of glass are going to fall out as you turn it over to solder the other side?

The third thing is that I’m reminded quite how shockingly, embarrassingly, I love lead. I mean, I lurve it, I ♥ it. It is deeply, viscerally satisfying stuff. The way it bends, but without being floppy or flimsy; the just yielding bite it has when you cut it with the lead knife; the denseness of it. I am occasionally tempted to just try the tiniest nibble, despite the fact that I know lead poisoning is no joke, and I must resist the urge. But I wonder what it would be like…? Probably not at all bad. After all, the Romans used it to flavor wine, and one of the reasons it was always such a menace in paint was that children used to find that lead gave the paint an attractive (or not unattractive) sweetness unleaded paint apparently does not possess (which is why fewer kids now gnaw the skirting boards than they used to in the dangerous old days). But, I have to say, it is a delight to work with. And yes, I am good and careful to wash my hands before I go and pick up my little one from the on-site creche after handling it.

So, anyway: the mirror is nearly done. I have cemented one side, and cleaned it, and hopefully this week I’ll get a chance to cement the other side. Clean it, black it and bring that baby home. I can’t wait. Even though there is cementing to be done between now and then. And as much as I enjoy leading, I cordially loathe cementing. When they bring back slaves, can I have a cementing slave please?

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