Friday, March 27, 2009

Working on Glass Wind Chimes

I was asked recently if I would be willing to donate items to a couple of fund raising auctions.  I am a sucker for making stuff for a good cause.  Plus, having a concrete reason to create something (and having a deadline!) gets me working in the studio.  For each auction I decided to make a fused-glass wind chime and a knitted bag of some sort.  I'm posting pictures of my work so far on these two wind chimes to show-and-tell how I make them...

This is my beloved kiln, by the way.  I bought it from the man who owned the jewelry studio where I worked before Nick was born.  I spent HOURS making beads in it for the jewelry studio.  I just realized this week that it might be 30 years old, but I'll have to check with my buddy Carolyn, who was the studio manager and worked there way before me.  Nowadays you can buy kilns to use to fuse glass that are totally programmable.  Luckily I'm an old school kind of gal.  

For these two pieces I decided to make flower shapes out of copper wire and fuse them between clear glass for the body of the pieces.  For the hanging/chiming parts I planned on scavenging spring-ish colors from the miscellaneous glass that I have.  

My layout plan:

This is a shelf full of finished hanging parts for two wind chimes.  I fused a strip of clear glass on top of the strips of colored glass and included copper-wire rings at the top for hanging.  This picture shows you the size limitation that I have to work with in the kiln... the kiln shelf that I use is about 8"x9" - 

I divided up the parts  for the two pieces - 

While the hanging parts were in the kiln I figured out the layout of the flowers and the ring placement for the main part...


Ready to go in the kiln...

And the body of the piece after fusing in the kiln -  

I had to take a picture when I saw the late afternoon sun shining on it.  This is a good shot of the kiln paper that I use to keep the glass from sticking to the shelf.  The paper basically turns to powder after being in the kiln.  Nasty-for-your-lungs powder.  Maybe someday I'll try kiln wash on the shelf instead, but for now I'm careful not to breath this stuff.

This final shot shows the clear glass better than the first picture.  I decided that I wanted to hang an additional something from the bottom of one of the hanging parts , so I used a heart pendant that I already had.  For the second wind chime I will fuse a little copper wire flower in clear glass to use instead....

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Playing around with glass stars

  I have quite of few of these glass stars left over from the holidays.  I made them to raise money for my PEO chapter's scholarship fund, and we made about $500 in December, which was a fabulous surprise for everyone, most of all me.  

I've been very curious what it would look like to fuse a star onto a piece of flat glass in order to end up with a coaster/trivet kind of thing, and I finally got around to trying it out.  I used a smaller and a larger star, each on 4" squares of glass. 

I used two layers of flat glass in order for the pieces to have a decent thickness - 

I kept the pieces in the kiln until the stars melted down enough to be quite flat.  The shape of the star kind of ballooned out as it flattened.  I was sorry to realize that the transparent yellow gets a bit lost in the clear glass, visually.  And the square needs to be larger than 4" in order for the star to melt in without pushing out the edges near the points - 


I made a second attempt, this time using white glass and making the square slightly larger.  The star obviously is more visible in this one.  And the star fits within the square better - 

Here are the four pieces from this experiment - 

I only had enough white glass for one square, so for a second one I used a thick strip of white glass with thin strips of clear at the top and the bottom to make a full square.  I like that one better, I do believe.  But I'm biased - I like anything with clear glass. 

I'm not sure whether we will want to pursue this idea much or not.  The stars take such a small amount of glass, so they have a small materials cost.  The double layer of flat glass increases that quite a bit, relatively speaking.  But it was a good way to use up some stars that were a little funky.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Encaustic Painting Workshop continued - Day 2 = Sa-weet success!

The second day of this Encaustic Miniatures class rocked.  Everyone got down to business and created some amazing work.  

First, I finished my anemone - 

It is about 2.25"x2.25" on a thin piece of steel.

Next was a salmon, specifically a coho in its spawning colors - 

The painting is on a thin piece of steel, too, and it's about 3.5"x3".  The background/water is actually the watercolor underpainting on the surface of the steel and then coated with clear wax.  I didn't want to mess with it.  The salmon was over-painted on the clear wax coat by applying pigmented wax with a wood-burning tool.  This piece is in a box that is a signature thing for our instructor Larry Calkins.  He has a bunch of little, whimsical miniature encaustics that are glued into shallow boxes with lids.  He finishes the surfaces of his boxes by slathering them with a thick coat of Tite-bond wood glue and burning it with a torch!  It makes the coolest, kind of gross,  surface.  The process is like burning a marshmallow, the way the surface of the glue bubbles up and scorches.  So Larry had us all make boxes for our work, too, if we wanted.  I'd like to find some tiny hinges and attach the lid on this box to open to the side.


the cool boxes got me thinking in a new direction.  Anyone who knows about my goofing around with slumping insulin bottles in the kiln is not going to be surprised that I took a couple slumped bottles along with me to the class, just in case...  And I really loved the look of the shiny, smooth bottle in this slightly wicked looking, texture-covered box.  I just happened to paint a tiny little pancreas on the front of the insulin bottle in this one -  

This little beauty is about 3.5"x3.75".

I was thinking about painting an ominous skull on the back side of that bottle to loom through behind the pancreas, but I decided it probably wouldn't be visible/obvious enough.  So I decided to do the skull on my second slumped bottle instead. 

For the skull bottle I was going to prepare another box with the funky burned-glue texture, but then I watched another woman in the class darkening her box by scorching it a bit with the torch before doing the glue slathering and burning.  I just decided to take that a little farther and thoroughly burned my third box.  Yep, art aided by fire.  I worked outside, don't worry!  Then I coated the burned box with clear beeswax and melted it in with a heat gun.  I was SO excited, and here it is - 

This guy is about 3.25"x4.25"

And the most exciting part is that instructor and the studio manager want these two bottle pieces in an upcoming show!!  WAHOO!

And finally, a piece to finish at home, since the class ended before I could finish it - 

I've always loved this blue sky with a fluffy cloud image.  

I saw a show once where a whole wall was covered with dozens of paintings that the artist did recording the sky conditions once a day for many days.  I think it was his warm-up exercise before painting every day.  They were probably all less that 12" square.  It was the coolest thing.  

Miniature Encaustic Painting Workshop - day 1

This weekend I completely recharged my painting batteries by attending a class at Northwest Encaustic taught by Larry Calkin.  He is an amazing encaustic painter and all-around artistic explorer who shows locally and in New York.  And he's a wonderful person who believes in freely sharing all of his knowledge and the how-to of all of his creative discoveries, which I hugely admire and strive to do also.  His website is, in case you are curious...

This class was specifically "Miniature" encaustic painting, so we were learning how to use woodburning tools to apply pigmented beeswax onto small pieces of plexiglass or sand-blasted steel.  And glass, as it turns out - hee hee hee - but that will be in my next post.

So for lack of a better idea, for my first experiment with this technique I decided to work on the image stuck in my head of the huge, red crane that looms up through the trees at the massive construction site a couple of blocks from our house.  This site is a major component of the expansion of our regional sewer conveyance system.  The bright red crane is a surreal image to me and crazy looking both night and day, since work is happening 24/7 there.  Unfortunately, as it turns out, in my mind's eye the crane wasn't quite the right dimensions, so it looks like a cross in my pictures, which is interesting but not what I was going for.
Here are my crane pieces at the very beginning.  I had drawn the trees on with a sharpie pen and painted the crane with watercolor.  Plexiglass on right, steel on left.  Then I coated both with a thin layer of clear beeswax.  These are about 2.5"x3.5" -

Then I could add the encaustic paint to the trees with the woodburning tool.  I also painted the back side of the plexi with green acrylic paint which gives it a really cool depth and glow if you see it in person - 

I was going to do something with all of the negative spaces around the trees and crane, but I was ready to leave them and move on.  I will pursue this image again, with a crane of proper dimensions and more realistic trees, because I'm not done with that idea yet. 

This shot was just to show the depth -

I whipped through my sketchbook and found the watercolor of an anemone that I did back in '01 when I was determined to do something in my sketchbood every day.  That lasted 3 days.  But this was handy.  So here is the beginning of a little anemone painting - 

It is about 2.25"x2.25", on steel.  I painted red watercolor on the steel before putting a clear coat of wax on top and then adding the flower using the woodburning tool.  You'll see the finished piece in my next post.

Here was my work area during class - 

 There are little blocks of the pigmented beeswax, and the woodburning tool with a spade-shaped tip.  You can see the bottom of a soldering station on the upper right, which you have to run the woodburning tool through in order to be able to regulate (lower) the temperature of the tool.

 This shot shows what the set-up looks like when you do larger encaustic work using brushes to apply the wax that stays melted on a hot plate/griddle -  

When you apply the wax that way you have to fuse it with a heat gun or torch.  With the woodburning tool, you are fusing the new wax in as you apply it.