Sunday, December 28, 2008

Disco ball head

This is a quick follow-up to the mention that I made in November of the magical effect of the sun shining into the studio and turning my mirrored head sculpture into a crazy disco ball.  The sun is low enough in the sky by the late fall that it shines in the window at the right angle to hit the scupture.  What a great surprise it was to come upon this light show the first time.  This is the first fall that the sculpture has been out of storage in the crawlspace....

Oops!  If you look carefully you can see that I STILL need to put the trim around the windows in the studio.  Maybe this year.

Holiday gift creations

Holiday gift-giving has given me a great reason to spend a bunch of time in the studio recently.  (Hmm...Maybe next year I can work ahead a little, though)  But first, here is a picture of the bag that I showed in its incomplete form in my last post...

That bag is the brightest, most cheerful color combo I've done yet.

Here are two "before" pictures of parts for a windchime that I made for Eric's aunt and uncle.  The light blue glass is from a large Bombay Sapphire gin bottle that Eric's mom gave me knowing I could do something with it.  

Actually, the small pieces are earrings.  The earrings that I attempted to make from the gin bottle glass did not quite work out.  I spent way too much time bending matching curly copper wire shapes to fuse in between the layers of glass for the hanging loop part of the pieces only to find that the gin bottle glass acts diffently than the art glass that I have always used for fusing.  The gin bottle glass melts at a higher temperature, so it takes longer in the kiln.  And it just didn't melt down quit the same.  The wire didn't get completely encapsulated by the glass on the edges.  I'm going to try another batch of earrings, and I will make the pieces of glass a little wider so they actually fuse around/encapsulate the wire. 

 The little green earrings in that grouping turned out really well, though.  

Unfortunately I forgot to take an "after" picture of that windchime, but I hung the long gin bottle pieces from the corners of the white and dark blue square piece. 

My ultimate question/experiment with the gin bottle was to see if the little images of herbs/spices on the sides of the bottle would remain after the glass was fused in the kiln.  I tried to cut long rectangles out of each side of the bottle to get all of the little images on the side in one piece.  That worked on one side, but the other side broke, so I had to roll with it.  The thickness of the bottle varied quite a bit, and it tended to crack where I didn't want it to, of course.  Here's what I put into the kiln:

And here is the final piece:

You can see the images in the glass still, but they are a lot fainter.  I decided to hang the gin glass pieces from a panel of regular white fusing glass.  The whole thing is maybe 16-18" long.  What I realized is that maybe I should get a new blade for the lapidary saw that I have from the jewelry studio where I used to work and try cutting apart a bottle that way instead of scoring and breaking!!  Martinis, anyone?!

Here are a couple more windchime ideas that I came up with:

I love those clear glass hanging pieces with bits of color.  That is a great way to use up small funky bits of "waste" glass.  Those windchimes are probably about 7-8" long, including the wire.

I was cutting some little bits of black glass for one of those windchimes when I suddenly was hit with the idea to make this piece for my dad:  

I guess the little bits of black glass on my table reminded me of the dots and dashes of Morse code.  I LOVE it when a chain-of-thought inspiration hits like that.  It says "dale".  My dad is going to hang it on the wall by his ham radio.

Monday, December 15, 2008

If only I didn't need to sleep....I'd get so much more done!

At this time a couple of weeks ago I was super-busy fusing glass stars as fast as I could for a couple of selling opportunities.  Now I've been switching gears.  I needed to get a sewing job done super fast.  That's done.  Now I'm working on some Christmas gift projects.  

Here's a fused glass copper flame piece before it goes in the kiln...

.....and after.

The copper usually changes to a nice red after going through the heating/fusing process, but these larger pieces of copper obviously don't get hot enough in the center to oxidize or whatever.  I 've come to like that look, especially for a flame.

Here are a couple of recycled plastic bags that I have been working on for a friend - 

I stuck to cool colors for this one, and warm colors for the second, which, as you can see, I am still working on - 

It won't be much longer before it is done.

I am quite excited that I just recently sold three bags to a woman who won/bought the bag that I donated to my dad's Lion's Club auction last spring.  Pretty cool to get some follow-up business from that donation!  She loves her bag and wanted to get more to give as gifts.  Wahoo!  

Today I am going to work on an idea for a fused-glass wind chime to give to Eric's aunt and uncle back east, so I'll take pictures as I go.  I started attempting to cut up a Bombay Sapphire gin bottle yesterday to try to use some strips of it's beautiful light blue glass in a fusing project.  It wasn't as easy as I thought, but I did manage to get four sides....and a couple little cuts on my hand.  Oops!  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Little Show-and-Tell

Today was a beautiful, sunny day.  I walked into my studio at just the right time this afternoon to see a crazy disco-ball lighting effect going on, thanks to this funky sculpture from my college days that I re-worked with a mirrored mosaic surface several years ago.  The sun was shining through a window at just the right angle to hit "the head".  By the time I got the camera it wasn't as spectacular, but you can still see the flecks of light on the walls in this picture:

Tomorrow if it is sunny I'll try to get a more spectacular shot of the light show.

December 3rd last year our crawlspace flooded from the amazing amount of rain that fell overnight and throughout the day.  A lot of my old artwork and art supplies were stored down there, and I found myself quickly clearing out everything on the floor as the water started coming up through the floor drains.  Thus my old artwork like college paintings and drawings and this sculpture came out of hiding!  Unfortunately one of the plastic bins that had all sorts of collected paper stuff in it had a crack in the bottom and leaked.  The up-side to that was I had to spread everything out to dry and came upon the following newspaper article that included a picture and write-up about this very sculpture:

That was published in May of 1986 on the front page of the Nevada Herald of Nevada, Mo.  Nevada is where Cottey College is located, where I went for my first two years of college.  How exciting it was to see that picture on the front of the paper, even if it was in a town of only 10,000!

Earlier that school year I had discovered the top half of a mannequin behind a building in downtown Nevada and had to keep it, of course.  I ended up working it into this sculpture for the scupture course that I was taking at the time.  The coolest thing about this sculpture was that I learned to weld in order to make the pyramid-shaped frame for suspending the mannequin head.  I originally glued shards of glass into slots I cut into the surface of the head.  Then several years ago I took those off and covered the surface of the head with 1/4-inch squares of mirror, set into thin-set cement.  I LOVE mosaics.  And I think this project gave me the confidence to tile the floor in the studio, believe it or not.

It's funny how adding the mirror mosaic made the sculpture more tolerable/less freaky.  I think it used to literally freak-out my kids when they would see it in the attic of our old garage.  At the time that I made it my mom claimed that it was my interpretation of how I felt about her.  I think she was at least half teasing!  It is definitely one of my favorite projects, so I'm happy to have been inspired to show it here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Encaustic Painting Workshop

I really like to make my own stuff.  I think it's in my genes.  

Back in college I made seriously heavy-duty canvases to paint on with scrap lumber and quarter-round from my dad's basement shop (thanks, Dad!).  When I learned that I could make my own egg tempera paint by mixing diluted egg yolk and powdered pigments I was in heaven. Encaustic painting sounded like another DIY painting media that I really wanted to try, but I wasn't getting to it on my own.  Encaustic painting is basically mixing powdered pigment into melted beeswax and applying that to a rigid surface.  It is an ancient painting technique, actually.  
Back in September I finally had a chance to try encaustic painting.  I was so excited to see the class offered at Pratt Art Center.  Taking that class was an amazing experience.  And doing art full-time four days in a row was awesome!  The following are pictures of what I did.  I'm happy to finally get the pictures taken and on here.

About encaustic painting - The wax is beeswax and damar varnish crystals.  The damar raises the melting point of the wax and makes it harder.  For the most part I applied the melted wax with brushes.  The great set-up at our class for keeping the wax melted but not smoking hot was a sheet of 1/4"+ steel with long bolts at each corner placed over tw0-burner hot plates.  Different colors of wax were in different tins on the metal plate, and adjusting the height of that steel plate would fine-tune the temperature of the wax.  At home I've put my wax in tuna cans in an electric frying pan.  After painting a layer of wax on your surface you have to "fuse" the wax by heating it up with a torch or a heat gun.  I love an excuse to use a torch.  We worked on tables with drywall placed on top - great fire-resistant surface.  The other way to apply color is to use wood-burning tools, but you need a regulator to adjust the temperature down.  I am now the proud owner of a Weller soldering station so I can do just that.  Wahoo - I love tools!

Black sand beach, encaustic/pebbles, 1.5x4"

This is a little tiny piece.  Unfortunately the color on the top is washed out, but it looks like foam at the water's edge or cloudy sky.  This is a handful of pebbles from my favorite beach in the world, which is north of Kalaloch on the Washington coast (see my first blog post for a painting of the beach).

encaustic with knitted copper wire, 4x5"

I just had to try putting copper knitting into wax.  (see my fused glass/knitted wire pieces in an earlier post...)  There is a layer of white wax underneath and enough layers of un-pigmented beeswax on top to bury the wire.

encaustic, 5.5x4"

This was actually my first go at encaustic.  I was experimenting with an image transfer technique, so there is actually tissue paper under the wax - you can see air bubbles trapped under the tissue paper...

Peace (at what cost?), 4x5.5"

This is an image idea that has been stuck in my head for a while...

Salmon, encaustic, 6x12"

This is still not done.  This was my first serious attempt at painting an image in encaustic, and I have worked it and worked it.  I want to lighten up the background.  Right now it has a scraped texture that is driving me nuts. 

Jemima (RIP) , encaustic, 3.5x5"

This was my most satisfying painting.  I became totally mesmerized/entranced/in my zone when doing this piece.  That is the best feeling, and one that I've missed.  I used the woodburning tool for this piece.  You dip the hot tip into blocks of pigmented wax (it's room-temperature, not melted yet) and "paint" that small amout of wax/color onto your surface.

Bones, encaustic/collage, 5x6.75"
This is my favorite piece.  There are a couple of layers of color underneath the black.  I placed the bones on top and covered them with clear wax.  I had to switch to a heat gun to fuse the wax on the bones rather than use a torch because the bones started to burn from the torch flame.  The piece of copper is tacked on top.
 I collect bones on our camping trips down in the Canyonlands/Colorado Plateau area, and I love these tiny rodent bones that I found at the base of a rock wall that was a nesting area for something.  Luckily Ben came upon my stash in an Altoids tin in the glove box of the truck right before my class.  

A New Pancreas for Nick, encaustic/collage, 8.5x11"

Since Nick was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes almost 2 years ago, I have wanted to do some sort of art involving a pancreas.  Especially since the pancreas went from something we had no reason to think about at all to something that dominated our lives.  Here's my first pancreatic art.  I  think it was strangely theraputic for me to become so familiar with what a pancreas looks like.  The painted pancreas in this piece has a 3-D texture that was fun to build up.  There is a copper "bad" pancreas at the bottom left and a shiny new copper leaf one on the bottom right.  

Type-1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that causes the body to kill the beta-cells of the islets of Langerhans in its pancreas.  These beta cells normally produce insulin, and insulin allows sugars to enter cells and be used as energy.  Type 1 diabetics are "insulin dependant", meaning they have to give themselves insulin shots or be on an insulin pump.  

New Teacher, encaustic/collage, 8.5"x7
This was an experiment using a photo transfer technique.  I made a xerox copy of an old picture that is my grandpa's first class after he became a teacher.  I transfered that image onto tissue paper using acetone.  I fused that tissue paper onto a board with wax under and over it, rubbed india ink on the surface and put some copper foil on the top.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Glass star fundraiser

Here is an ornament/sun catcher that I came up with as a little fundraiser for my P.E.O. chapter.  P.E.O. is a women's organization that promotes/supports educating women.  Our chapter raises money every year to give away as scholarships to women for their post-high school education.  P.E.O. owns Cottey College, the two-year liberal arts college in Nevada, MO that I attended before I came back to the UW.  The gold star is a symbol of P.E.O., so that's the inspiration for this little project...

This is part of the display board that we took to the P.E.O. State Convention to drum up some orders.  We did get a few!  

Hope to sell more at a particular Seattle-area P.E.O. meeting in December.  Maybe on etsy, too.....

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Friday, October 24, 2008

The Evolution of Fusing Copper in Glass, Staci Style

Because I love to knit as much as anything, I guess it was natural that I would end up knitting with copper wire and fusing that in glass.  I actually took a "Knitting with Wire" class a few years ago, so the knitting with wire idea wasn't something I just came up with out of the blue.  Here are my first experiments:

The piece on the left is a knitted swatch.  It's about 2.5"x4" and has white glass for the bottom layer.   The one on the right is a crocheted "granny square" and is all clear glass.  I discovered right away that using an opaque glass for the bottom layer really makes the wire show when  compared to using all clear glass.   

Here is a pendant that I made with a little swatch of knitting inside:

I love it!  I thought that the little knitted swatch bendant was great for knitters, but I decided that a crocheted flower would have wider appeal, so here are some examples of that:

I'm hoping to sell some of these on my etsy "store" when I get it up and running.

Around the time of this experimenting (early spring of 2007, I guess) I heard about a juried art show in Edmonds that would take submissions only from mothers called "Art of our Mothers".  It would take place around Mother's Day.  I decided that a fused class piece with different samples of knitting and crocheting would be the perfect thing to submit.  So I made up a bunch of copper wire swatches....

...and I fused them with different colors of glass as backgrounds.  I was partially inspired by the quilts made by women in my ancestry.  As I was working I was also feeling very grateful to my mom and paternal grandma for teaching my how to knit and crochet and wondering what they would think of me knitting and crocheting with copper wire!  I named the piece "Legacy".  Here is a picture of it: 

This piece is about 17" wide by 15" long.  A ton of trial and error went into making it, believe me!  I have rejects of several of the components hanging out in the garden.  I still haven't found a satisfactory way to hang it without having the method of hanging show.  It's not like a painting where the picture wire is hidden on the back.  I think I'll just have to get over worrying about that.
I owe a ton of thanks to my dad who helped me in the "eleventh hour" when my kiln went wacko and I still had pieces to fuse for this piece and the submission deadline was looming.  I was/am soooo lucky that: #1 - my dad is an electronics whiz, and #2 - we were able to find a replacement solenoid at the local Radio Shack.  This piece did hang in that 2007 Art of our Mothers show, and in the Arts of Kenmore show this summer.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fused-Glass-with-Copper-Shapes Class Auction Project

Here are pictures of the three fused glass & copper projects that my son's class made and donated to the school auction a couple of years ago.  There were 27 shapes/pieces, so I shuffled the individual pieces around (once they were all done with the fusing process) until we had 3 nice configurations -

Added together I think the pieces raised several hundred dollars, actually!

I have created some pieces of my own with the copper to give away as gifts.  Some of my favorites have been kanji symbols that I have cut out of the copper and fused into glass.  
This one says (roughly) "friendship" - 

I've also done the kanji symbols for "peace" and "love"....

Here is a Seattle-themed piece that I made for my dad's Lion's Club auction -

And finally, here is an example of an image that I've done a few different times to give to firefighter-types.  This one is a reject - I used too much glue to try to hold the copper flames flatter between the pieces of glass - 

The Beginning of My Fused Glass & Copper Experiments

Our elementary school was getting ready to hold it's PTA fundraising auction, and my son's class needed a unique auction item to create as a group to donate to the cause.  I had been wanting to try using the little kiln that I have to try some glass fusing, but I hadn't taken the plunge.  I knew a glass project for the auction would be cool and unique, but I didn't relish the thought of being in charge of a bunch of 5th and 6th graders messing around with glass shards.  I had been intrigued when I learned that copper could be fused into glass without any compatability problems.  So my idea was hatched - I needed to find some copper sheeting that the kids could cut symbols or shapes out of that I could then fuse into squares of glass.  At first I was thinking along the lines of making sets of coasters with the glass and copper, but then I ultimately decided that creating a few hanging pieces would be the ticket.

I bought some copper foil at a craft store, figuring it would be easy for kids to cut with scissors.  Actually, that copper foil is really hard to cut with scissors, just so you know.  I also tried making a shape out of fine copper wire, just for kicks.  Here's a picture of the foil piece before fusing.  You can barely see the wire-shape piece next to it:

Unfortunately the copper foil isn't pure copper, so it burned up a bit and looks gnarly:

But the wire one looks pretty good:

It reminds me of wire drawings that were part of the Vik Muniz exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum a couple of years ago.
Luckily the very helpful man at Seattle Stained Glass suggested that I visit in Fremont/Ballard and see if they had some appropriate copper sheeting.  Fortunately they had a roll of the perfect stuff.  So the project with the class was a go!
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Knitting Plastic Bags

I guess it all started with the fact that I like to see materials used in unusual ways. Using a particular material in a new or unusual way, or making a familiar object out of a different media than would be considered "normal". That is so intriguing. I am also interested in the possibility of cutting down throw-away waste to the very smallest amount possible. I believe in reusing and recycling as much as is feasible.  

So one day I saw a project in a knitting book that started me thinking in a new direction. The instructions were for a bath mitt of some sort knitted out of strips of plastic bags tied together. I was inspired to try replicating a plastic grocery bag by knitting a bag out of "yarn" made from strips of used plastic bags. And voila, a new obsession was born!

This is one of the first plastic bags I ever made. I knitted twine along with my plastic "yarn" for extra strength, but I haven't done that again. The plastic is strong enough on its own. This bag went to a school auction.  It found a great home and is well used!

These three were donated to different local auctions:

I submitted a photo of this bag to a Bumbershoot Craft contest but never heard anything back….

These are my two latest bags:

This one is the Blues Bag. Because of the colors, not my mood! I'm just now starting it's opposite- a bag with yellows, orange, pinks, etc.

This bag is made from only bread/bagel/bun bags. 

 I'm so lucky to have lots of buddies giving me their colorful plastic shopping bags to cut up! I hope to someday sell some of these bag creations on the etsy online "store" that I have started to set up….but more on that later.