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Posts Tagged ‘glass’

Perhaps I should have thought to mention in advance that I was feverishly preparing to list a few things in the Etsy shop, but I was so busy working on the update that I didn’t get around to it on Friday, when the process started. So here’s some fiber-y eye-candy, with apologies for the delay:

 

As I largely follow my own whims, and I’ve been all about the fiber lately, this has been a spinning-oriented update, but naturally there’s some yarn too:

Should I mention that some of the yarn is the most gorgeous, to-die-for soft sportweight sock yarn, in an obsession-inducing MCN blend (merino, with 10% nylon and 10% cashmere)? This stuff is like crack for knitters – I could not possibly comment on rumors that I may have earmarked quite a chunk of the current batch for myself. And I placed quite a small order, and some of the rest is already sold, or spoken-for. So, it was probably cruel to even bring the subject up: pretend I never mentioned it.

There’s still a fair bit more to come, however, including more yarn, more fiber, and for the first time, some jewelry: those spindle earrings, and some of my glass pendants with knitted wire –

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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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I only had a year to come up with this. Allowing for the intricacies of lunar year cycles, only about about 350 days in fact, but admittedly it should still have been plenty. And, yes, it did take me 350 days to do. More precisely, 348 days to get round to doing anything, and no room for errors. So of course there were errors, and I ended up needing 351 days (which I didn’t have). Which is why I have a seder plate with bubbles in it where there should be none. Now, luckily for me, this was a design with bubble-like elements in it anyway, so the effect was passable. But still. Once again, nul points for organization.

So the story begins 3000 years ago two years ago when due to a certain amount of family horse-trading my sister-in-law had my husband’s bachelor china, we had the great-grandmaternal pesach china, and my sister-in-law’s cast-off* discarded seder plate, which is hideous. Now to be completely frank about this, and very venal, I’m not a huge fan of a festival that forbids me to consume my favorite thing in the entire known universe for a week. Actually, eight days. Normally, I’d say, ‘let’s not quibble. What’s a day between friends?’ But a day – another day between me and my baguette crust is something I can’t just ignore. I have ludicrous bread dreams, pathetic bread torture nightmares and produce interesting Freudian slips like ‘sandwiches’ for ‘sandals’ (don’t let’s go there).

On the other hand, a chance to pull out some different china for a week? What’s not to like about that? Shipped from Stoke-on-Trent to a little general store in a sleepy town in Natal, and seventy-something years later whizzed back on an SAA flight into Heathrow, I love the fact that it’s been around for so long, experiencing the same ritual through so many years; that it’s never seen bread; that one dish has so clearly held a lifetime – or three’s- of chopped liver, and the bowls are almost visibly steaming with phantom chicken soup and kneidlach…

The seder plate was another matter. An item of unrivalled ugliness, using it was not an option, but it got me thinking about making one.

I knew I didn’t want a flat plate, but one with indentations, but I couldn’t find a suitable mold, until eventually I came across the rather fabulous sounding Kaiser Lee Board (KLB). After another while a UK supplier started to stock it. (Now I think of it, maybe my total procrastination time on this project is only the time since I bought the KLB, in December).

I used two 3mm discs of Bullseye glass, one Tekta, the other a very pale blue tint, and between them, six smaller overlapping discs of varying blue and gray hues. arrangement seder plateI fused this all together in one go to full fusing temperature. I should have known this was a recipe for disaster. However slowly I heated the kiln, and however much time I left for the air bubbles to escape (I can look it up if it helps anyone), it wasn’t enough. Had I had an extra day (yes, any one of the 347 previous days would have done nicely) I’d have fused the blue/gray discs to the clear layer on one day, and then re-fused with the tint the second day, and slumped on the third day. [I note that when God made the world, He is not said to have sat and thought about it for five days and played solitaire instead, thrown everything together on the sixth day and then gone to the pub. Although, that version of Genesis would explain a lot, now I come to think about it.] I do have to say that whatever the other failings, the overlap of the upper layer over the rest was perfect. I was happy with that, if not so happy about the big bubbles. The color was also superb. I’ve never really used tints before, although I’ve wanted to. The clear is cheaper, and that tends to be a significant factor, but this time I allowed myself to be swayed by hiddur mitzvah (beautifying the commandment) and went with the tint. Also, the design was incredibly simple, so the color was an important element of it.

klb moldMeanwhile, I cut the KLB, which was as easy as it’s made out to be (I used a craft knife, which was a little too short to go all the way through the full 1″ of board, and a boning knife from the kitchen to complete the job), and less dusty than I expected. Maybe I was particularly slow and cautious abut raising more dust than necessary because – you guessed it – I don’t have a dust mask (or more accurately, I’m sure I do – somewhere). It’s possible I could have carved/scooped the mold out of the board and not gone through the full thickness, but this way I get to make funky things out of the carved-out discs some other time. The not fun part of this exercise came when I realized that I did need to kiln wash it. If you read the literature, the first thing likely to spring to the forefront of your brain is the “no need to kilnwash it” part. Well, yes – if you cover the mold with shelf paper before using it. Duh. So, basically, if paper won’t conform nicely to the cute shape that you cut out (and you are probably only going to use this for the cute shape you can’t do any other way) you won’t get away without the kilnwash. And yes, you’re right: of course it takes kilnwash like an alcoholic takes the first drink of the day. And it takes the second drink the same way it took the first drink… I only gave it one-and-a-bit coats because I didn’t have a spare week to sit and wait for it to absorb the half gallon of expensive kilnwash I was so pissed off about using because I’d been gleefully thinking “no need to kilnwash it”. Then I popped it in the oven to dry for a bit (the sloven’s approach, I know. Forgive me.)

Day two. Which should have been at least Day Three, or possibly even Day Four. Slump firing. I assembled the following in my kiln:

  • the bubbly glass blank resting on
  • a large drop ring with
  • a  smaller KLB insert inside the drop ring standing on
  • a bisque plate mold standing on
  • the kiln shelf in the bottom of the kiln

The drop ring was because the KLB sheet was much smaller than the plate I wanted to make, so I needed to Heath Robinson a rim. I remember to position the blank so that the centers of my overlapping colored discs were nicely over my KLB holes and realized at that point that I would need to watch the firing carefully because it occured to me only belatedly that one inch of KLB was way, way deeper than I wanted my indentations to be.

OK, enough already**. What did it look like? This.

seder plate aseder plate bseder plate undersideseder plate side

It looked really nice once it had all the seder items on it, and went well but non-overwhelmingly – as I’d thought – with the blue dominant color of the family china. I almost (almost) forgot about the bubbles. Maybe I can live with them, maybe I’ll try to get round to attempting a rescue in the next year. That would involve re-flattening and re-fusing the whole thing and I’ve no idea if it could even work. I suppose I’d learn something either way, but perhaps I should try on a piece I know I actively dislike.

Now I only have to get through another twenty-six or so hours of matzo and that’ll be it for another 350-odd days. Tomorrow night, pizza is calling me, and I can hear it faintly already. Can’t you?

*I’m getting sensitive about ‘cast-off’ as an insult. As my husband is touchy about ‘gone south’ as the route to perdition.

**Disaster number two, completely unaccounted for was the bisque plate mold cracked. I have absolutely no idea why this happened and it’s scared the life out of me. I loved the KLB to bits, but I can’t have it do that to a kiln shelf. Or maybe… hang on – maybe, if the heat went straight through the KLB, I should have put the bisque mold on props…?

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So what happened to the experiment with knitted swatches included in glass?

Actually, it didn’t work out great. But there were a few reasons for that, and a few hopeful signs, so I’ll have to give it another go. Firstly I think I used yarn that was too thick for best results. And then I compounded the problem by laying them on the glass two at a time because I wanted to use the scrap glass I had around of very nearly the right size, and was also too lazy to cut it up. I think it would have been better with more space around the edges of the yarn, so a higher yarn: glass ratio. It would have maybe helped if the yarn weer thinner, or possibly ironed first – anything to get the glass to soften around it and seal it in earlier.

One of the big worries was the formation of bubbles, and at least that didn’t happen. What did happen was this:

fused wool

fused acrylicfused acrylic/metallic

Left to right: wool, acrylic, and acrylic with metallic thread.

The wool just turned to ash. That was a waste of a swatch, but worth remembering if I were ever to want to produce a fused ashtray with integral fake ash. The acrylic retained a lot of stitch deinition, even if I have taken a terrible picture of it. I think thinner yarn could really help here. The acrylic with metallic thread quite excites me. I don’t understand why the acrylic part has burned away while it hasn’t in the adjacent sample, but it has definite potential. I’m also considering using some very fine metal wire, but I believe it’s dire to knit with, so this might be an interesting, finger-friendly alternative. I’m still going to order some metal wire, mind you, and give that a go. I’d like to think it’ll give me more control of the swatch. Beause one thing I really do need to make clear: my knitting might be bad, but it’s not that bad.

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I decided it’s time to make something in glass again. I know I don’t have enough places to sell it, I know sales are down in the bad economic times, I know it’s silly, but –

I found me an excuse.

I thought I’d at least tidy up my glass room. And as I tidied I found the hammer, which was hiding amongst the clear offcuts, ready for the transformation of same into coarse frit. Meanwhile, my husband, poor dear, keeps thinking he’s lost the hammer and has several times had occasion to enquire whether I might have happened upon it anywhere. We have, on each of these occasions, gone through the stages of a) me admitting I do indeed know where it is, b) me admitting where it in fact is, c) him asking – job being done – if I need it back and d) myself concurring that I do, “but only for a little while”.

I can’t face going through this process again.

image019And the clear scrap was very overflowing, so this project is quite obviously part of the tidying process. And I have a large cake ring that I bought with exactly this project in mind, so I took hammer in hand and wrapped the scrap in a big thick wad of paper and hammered till the demons were all squashed for the day. It being a relatively demon-free day, I tired quickly and therefore stopped while the scrap was probably still a bit too lumpy, but we shall see. The balance is difficult: the finer the frit, the less clear the resulting glass sheet will be; the coarser, the harder it is to work out the right firing schedule (high enough, slow enough – all guesswork at the best of times), or more honestly – the more obvious it is if you’ve done a bad job; and the more you hammer your glass, the more very fine bits you get, while reducing the outrageously huge bits to gigantic bits, and the gigantic to huge, and the huge to merely very large indeed and so on. But the grit/lump ratio definitely goes up, which is detrimental.

Yes, I know you could filter the stuff through some kind of sieve, but that would be another stage to complete under “timed conditions” (this used to mean mock exams, now it’s toddler naps). And it would mean more opportunity to release dangerous fine particles of glass into the atmosphere and breathe it in in the absence (I know: I’m an idiot) of the appropriate face mask. I suppose I feel that the dangers of pouring a bit of pounded glass from a sheet of packing paper onto a kiln shelf isn’t like – I don’t know – playing with asbestos playing cards, but I still don’t want to take more than minimal risk. Also I’m lazy, and I’m not too sure the results will be worth even the amount of effort I am making.

image021So it all went onto the shelf, with the steel cake ring around it (lined with Thinfire shelf paper, but not kiln washed: we dice with death and sneer at disaster) to try and contain it in a circle while allowing it to build up a little thickness. If I have added enough glass I will be able to go deeper than the 6mm basic thickness, but I’m not sure, because I didn’t employ any of the scientific tricks for working it out. Silly me. It’s too late to go back and do it now, and I don’t think it matters much in this case. I did something similar before, and I ws surprised at how much it melted down. So this time, I refuse to be surprised. It WILL have shrunk, by the Law of Frit, more than I think. And. I. Will. Not. Be. Surprised.

I also threw a bit of official Bullseye colored frit on top – like cherries and pistachio nuts –  to spice it up. If it comes out as I hope, I might put it to jump through a drop-ring mold for my next trick.

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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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– 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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