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Posts Tagged ‘frit painting’

More is less

I think this needed to be added to the frit tutorial. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m not sure I was quite clear enough before, so here it is, spelled out in the least uncertain of terms:

  • More frit than you can possibly imagine is still less than you think.
  • Quite possibly it is less than you need.
  • Any less, it just won’t be enough, especially for pale shades. It will disappear. Completely.
  • So go heavy with it, and the finer the grade, the heavier you need to go.

So for powder, imagine you are trying to murder someone with a sodium overdose and that your frit is the salt; whereas for fine frit, you are merely trying to make them very, very ill.

Coarse frit is much more “wysiwyg”, so you can exercise relative caution.

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Cold snow in warm glass

img_28851Well, I did the glass snow-scene thing I was thinking about, and it came out promising. I don’t know what it is: maybe some kind of a hot dish mat thing? I’m afraid I can’t even think waht that’s called: my table is not worth protecting from anything. Toddlers have had the better of it for quite some time, and now a hot dish here or there would be the least of its problems. I am planning to scale this up and put it on the wall. Or perhaps a less representational scene? And how will I get it onto the wall anyhow? I believe there are clip-glass-to-the-wall systems out there you can buy, or I may be able to cobble something together in a more satisfyingly homemade way, given time.

Meanwhile, the scene-thingy in all its glory. If not too clear. You may have to trust me on this one.

The scene itself is two layers – a base layer of clear (Tekta), with a sky of juniper tint. You can’t really tell from the picture, but it’s a very (too?) subtle wintry blue/gray. The snowy fields were cut from a single piece of white opal that was cut into the different sections you can see. They were placed a couple of mm apart and tack fused to retain  definition. There wouldn’t have been much point in fusing hot enough to melt it all back together again, would there. Then I added the detail in my favorite black powder frit, including running a little black into the channels I had created in the white glass, and refired. This was also the point at which I added the bottom – framing – layer of clear glass, to make the wole thing look more finished and substatial.img_28821

I would actually do this differently next time. I think a) I fired too high second time around, and lost some clarity in the black, and b) there were rounded edges to the channels that made applying frit a nightmare, which is why the trees came out crap (although, again, it may not be obvious in this picture). I think it should be possible – nay, preferable – to do it all in a singe firing.

Hey! A trivet? Isn’t that the term for a hot-dish-thingy?

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I’ve been meaning to get around to this for a while, and have finally managed to make my frit painting tutorial a reality. It was quite awkward to take the photos while doing the work, as the camera is too heavy and expensive to hold in my teeth and the frit painting is a delicate job better done with both hands free. Or at least, one hand – the same one I’d take the pictures with. Can’t quite recall how I managed it, but apologies for the resulting poor quality.

frit-tutorial

the frit painting tutorial

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– and I have seriously stalled on making the decorations. I somehow didn’t get any made over the weekend at all, or any today. I sent off a cheque for the big Christmas fair too, so I am now really and truly committed to doing it. Yikes, help and double-yikes.

frit decorations

So here finally are some -not very good- images of the aforementioned decorations. The cat looking out of the window at a snowy landscape is about 2.5 inches across, and the others are just under 2 inches. There are various others – quite a lot of different trees (in the snow, with red berries/baubles) and several snowmen (wearing fedoras, assorted bobble hats and scarves of many colors, and at least one deviant snowman actually smoking his pipe – complete with 1mm wide smoke rings [why?] ) as well some angels, and black cats turn up around the place from time to time…

These frit scenes are “painted” with the following technique and tools:

  • a teaspoon
  • a cocktail stick
  • a tweezers
  • a small paintbrush with a sort of spatula/chisel end (this is lifesaver)

For a really frustrating, fiddly, self-torturing experience, the results of which will be well-nigh invisible, proceed thus: take a small amount of fine or powdered frit on the end of the teaspoon and knock it off with either the cocktail stick or the end of the paintbrush, depending on whichever you happen to have in hand at the time, trying to get it as closely as possible where you need it, and in a thick enough layer (you always need significantly more powder than you think as it seems positively to disappear when it’s fired). Reposition the frit more accurately with the back of the brush and very carefully sweep excess away from the painted area. Doing this without proper precaution just swirls the dust around as it moves in the faint draft you create (I did say it was tedious work), and any slightly out of position brush hairs also drag through the design. For powder, gently level off the domed frit you will likely have (no dome probably implies not enough powder). To finish sharpening the outline of the shape, use the chisel end of the brush again. Proceed to the next color. When all powders have been applied, add any grain frit elements (eyes, baubles, etc.), dropping them on one grain at a time with the tweezers. A single grain of fine frit will often stick irritatingly to the tweezers, but can usually be knocked off with the cocktail stick which you are already holding awkwardly in the other hand. Pray that you do not have to do this – it’s the most risky part of the job and if you get it wrong, you can have a lot of reworking to do. Don’t drop that cocktail stick! Alternately, try using a fingernail (but be warned, the frit can end up just transferring onto that, which is the main advantage of the stick).

A note on sorting frit: be aware that there is quite a wide variation in the sizes and shapes of individual grains within a given size, at least with the Bullseye frit I use. Take a small spoonful and sort through it for, say, a likely pair of eyes that match (somewhat).

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Really  exciting: I had a frit painting work commissioned the other day, from a woman who had bought something off me through Etsy and had seen one of my bowl there. I have done a couple of plates and a small bowl in a Japanese-inspired cherry blossom design, and now I need to make a larger bowl. This design relies on a quite nice pinky-purply medium frit that is float compatible and came with the kiln. The woman I bought Kelvin off only used float glass – no wonder she got bored and moved onto lampworked beads. It turns out that while the base glass is cheap as chips and readily available, all the “float-compatible” stuff costs a fortune and is pretty hard to source, and mostly, it’s not that interesting.

At the risk of sounding like an advertising feature for them, I do think Bullseye glass is spectacularly nice to work with. The range of colors is fantastic, and the glass has depth, texture and character to it: it is prone to tiny bubbles that give it individuality. I love it. I love it. I love it. I just wish it were less expensive (relative to – say – Spectrum glass, which is boring and looks dead).

So, anyway, I mostly used the float stuff for a while, largely because I was never quite able to bring myself to invest in costly glass, mostly because I felt so much at the bottom of a very steep learning curve that it didn’t seem reasonable to do so. But eventually I did buy glass, as I’ve said recently. One of the first things I bought was black powdered frit, for painting. I was originally planning to use it to outline Babar the Elephant for a bowl for my daughter, but I haven’t got around to that yet.

Meanwhile, I thought if I used a very tiny amount, it should be compatible enough with float not to cause a problem. I think I got this idea from a lampworker talking about the 5% rule (up to 5% non-compatible glass being OK). I’d have to say that the cherry blossom design uses way less than 5% and looks alright, but I did push it a little further recently with some white Bullseye frit on a float and float-compatible stringer plate and it was not at all fine. The plate cracked after about an hour, and I really didn’t use that much. I should have photographed it to have some kind of record, but of course that’s the kind of thing you only think of a week after the glass has gone to the recycling…

The other thing worth noting was that the three-layer arrangement I’ve been using in the kiln doesn’t work half so well with float glass. I’ve been sticking something to slump on the bottom, something to slump or fuse in the middle, and something to fuse on the top. When it’s all Bullseye, that’s been fine, even with a top temp as low as 1325°, but when it’s all float… At 1400° for 15 minutes, the frit decor on the disc on the top shelf is well fused, but the middle shelf is barely tack fused, and the bottom – while slumped – is quite hard-edged. Still I think it’s come out quite nicely in the end. Since it was a commission I am doing a spare, or back-up dish a day behind the first one (so fused on the top shelf last night and set to slump tonight) to be on the safe side and I will send the client whichever comes out better.

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Dog bowl/cat bowl

The bottom shelf is still cracked, but I figured I could get away with using it, once I took it off the little posts and made sure it looked more or less level. I absolutely had to get last night’s disc slumped immediately. I’m too tickled by it.

This features another of the new molds I got at the beginning of the week (I think that’s them all tried now): like the round slumper, which is proving such a hit with me, this is another one I’ve seen and coveted at the center where I first learnt stained glass and now go to hang out and chat while pretending to work…

It’s known there – and possibly universally – as the dog bowl, though it’s much less catchy official title is something along the lines of small deep dish with flat base. Something like that. The shape suggested the design, which I thought was really obviously a cat trying to fish in a goldfish bowl. As though seen from the bottom of the bowl – from the fish’s perspective, with the cat looking in over the side. I used powdered frit for the cat (I could have used more, and maybe will another time, though I’m not displeased with it. I meant a sort of tabby effect, but maybe it could be denser. The eyes are in light aventurine green (fine grade), which is slightly sparkly, although I do find that getting it exactly where I want to go is more of a chore with fine frit than it is with either the powder or the coarser grades. Powder I flick off the end of a teaspoon with a cocktail stick or the end of a small paintbrush which I then use to move it around on the glass, while the medium and coarse frit can be applied with tweezers or thumb and finger and a certain amount of caution.

Fine frit just seems to spill off the teaspoon and then bounce around on the glass rather too much. But it gave the cat wonderful eyes. The goldfish was one of those “striker” colors Bullseye are so fond of. I think it’s quite awkward to work with colors that are completely different in the pre- and post-fired states, especially when you’re working with a bunch of reds that are all varying random shades of yellow. Or there’s a purple that starts out as a pale, pale blue. I can’t be the only person to have been thrown by that one to interesting effect. The yellow was pale and wispy, and came out of a mixed trimmings bag (at the risk of making it sound like smoked salmon!), but I had a vague idea that it turned much darker, and it did indeed go a perfect yolky goldfish orange. Whew.

I’m going to put this dish in my Etsy shop, and see if it attracts any interest.

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