Wednesday, December 30, 2009


In the last post I said I'd found the story I wrote back in 2001 about my adventures to the glassblowing factories and studios in Sweden.  This area is called "Glasriket" and I had a very long day visiting them in the dead of winter.  I said the post was long and I think I found a way around it.  I didn't read all of it, but it does have some interesting points.  I mention looking something up on the internet using "Yahoo", I have only dim memories of life on the net before Google.  

If you want to read the entire story, click the "Read More" link.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again...

So I was reviewing the posts from this blog yesterday in an effort to see where I've come from since I started this thing in late July. Probably haven't done enough blogging. My hope was for two or three entries a week. This will be the thirty-seventh episode of Glass Musings. Twenty-three weeks have elapsed. That makes a little more than an entry and a half per week. Better than I thought but less than I'd hoped.

One thing I did notice is that the last post seemed familiar, even as I was writing it. It finally hit me that I'd written about that piece before, or at least one that was very similar. Not entirely sure how that happened. Sorry 'bout that.

I got a new version of Photoshop for a Christmas present. That is something that I've been wanting for a long time. In order to better make use of some if its features, I decided to clean up or at least better organize my digital photos. I stumbled across a bit of writing that I did in early 2001 about a trip I'd made to Sweden in January on business. I had a free weekend as I had to be in Paris the next week. Rather than come all the way home and go back to Europe the next day, I made a side adventure to visit the glass blowing factories of the country. I had a lot fun, but there wasn't much glass blowing to be seen. That is the basis for the story I wrote. I plan on posting it here, but it will probably be in several parts as it is twelve pages long! I haven't quite figured out the best way to do that yet, but will come up with something.

Anyway, for a gratuitous image for this post, I'm including the map of the region called "Glasriket", which means something akin to "glass making area". Without reading the whole story to refresh my aging memory, I seem to recall that I made it to all but one of the factories or studios shown here on the map. The northernmost one, Lindshammar" seems to be the one I missed.

Stay tuned for the intriguing story of "My Adventures in Glasriket".

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, Everyone

We are expecting a white Christmas!! I wish everyone a joyous Christmas and a wonderful new year.

Using Everything . . .

I've been cleaning up my hard drive and trying to organize some of my pictures, especially of glass. As I've previously written, I like to keep reference pictures of every piece I make. This makes a nice way to refer to what I've done, what color combinations work well together, and a hundred various other reasons. Having a good reference photo is not the same as what I'd use to submit to a gallery, juried exhibition, or whatever. Also, having good images of a piece is the only way to sell it on eBay and other sites. I decided to sell this piece earlier in the year. I just have too much glass and nowhere to display it all, nor do I have enough storage room to keep it all. I really liked this series of bowls and thought they would sell well. Unfortunately, the last two summers have been a bust at local art fairs - as they've been cancelled, changed, or I haven't been able to attend. So the pieces that I'd normally sell quickly were piling up. But to sell it online, I'd need better pictures than the one reference shot I had.

Now I don't pretend that these are the world's best photographs of glass. And they certainly could use a touch of Photoshop. Notice all the reflections and white highlights? I fact, I think you can see a reflection of one of my front windows in the upper part of this picture! I use a small table top light tent which provides a good background and keeps out most of the unwanted glare, but some is inevitable. But it already is a much better image. I took several pictures from all angles including the bottom to show my initials, year, and piece identification number. I won't post them all here, but they do show that this piece is unique from all angles.

Here is another view. The thing I like about these is that you can turn them every once in a while and get a whole new piece, without spending any money.

Which brings up the reason for the post. These pieces are made from leftover scraps of color. I gather up a bunch of little bits that aren't good for much else, gather them all together, twist and turn and cut and distort while hot on the pipe and then blow out the vessel. The only problem is that you never know what is going to happen. Which is why I like the process so much.

I noticed that I'm beginning to get a lot of leftovers gathering at the bottom of my tool box. Perhaps it is getting close to the time to make more of these.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cooliris Photo Wall

I've been looking around for a cool way to display the photographs on this blog in a quick and easy way. Why? Because I like to do things that are quick and easy - of course. The little "Favorites" over in the left side of this blog is kinda cool, but it's not easy to see, and I have to update it. This gadget is called CoolIris, and its from It took all of 30 seconds to create. As you can see, there aren't a lot of images here, yet, but there will be. This looks to be a really fun and interesting way to make your images available from public sites such as Flickr, Picasa, and others. I use Picasa as it integrates easily into this blog.

They make a downloadable version that has some REALLY COOL features for browsing lots and lots of images, and you can browse your local images as well. Haven't had much time to play with it, but I will.

Friday, December 4, 2009

10,000 Hours - Really?

I came across an interesting book that I want to read today. It's called Outliers, and the author is Malcolm Gladwell. Here is the Wikipedia link to the book description. Although it seems that the reviews haven't been too kind, calling it simplistic, it did spend time on the New York Times Bestsellers list early this year.

The main theme of
examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success and that some people, what he calls "outliers", are fundamentally different and unique which are factors in their fame, fortune, and capability. One of the things that I heard about this book and what makes it interesting to me is what Gladwell calls the "10,000 Hour" rule. He posits that it takes 10,000 of practice to become a master of a subject. This applies to sports, music, art, and even jobs.

I'm not sure I buy that 10,000 is a hard and fast rule, but it got me thinking. That number is five years at a normal 40 hour a week job. In vocational jobs such as plumbing, five years is probably a pretty good estimate of going from an apprentice, through journeyman, and finally achieving master status. So I'm a little dismayed - I started my interests in glass late. I've probably only have two or three thousand hours over the past seven-plus years. I got a long way to go to reach that mythical 10,000 hours!

My question is - is this realistic to become really good at something, especially in the arts? What do you think?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deep-Fried Turkey - mmmm Good!!!

OK, another entry that is not glass related. But it's close. I really love deep-fried turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know why, but it is much juicier and tasty than the traditional oven baked variety. I guess the dry heat of the oven dries it out. My family really devours it, and there isn't a lot of left overs.

I can't be sure, but the process of cooking it may be the most dangerous thing I've done in my life. Hey, maybe it is related to glass. Standing next to a vat of boiling oil, with a propane burner pumping out 100,000 BTU's of open flames, on a windy day, kinda reminds me of standing in front of a glass furnace. Both are hot. I can see how people burn their houses down with the process though. It isn't for the faint of heart if you value your life, limbs, and loved ones.

Anyway, I saw a TV cooking show called "Good Eats" where the host, Alton Brown, rigged up a
contraption to assist the process. It is hard to see in this picture but there is a metal cable and pulley system hanging off the bar clamp on the ladder. The turkey is brined in salt and brown sugar for 16 hours or so. No matter how well you drain it, it still has a lot of moisture in it. The oil, which I keep at or under 325 degrees, is just sitting there all nice and quiet. It looks innocent enough. But when you put the turkey in it, it turns into a roiling, spitting, bubbling monster.

Deep frying something as large as a turkey is a delicate operation and you need to GO SLOW. They don't tell you that in the directions that come with the turkey fryer. Although I'm not sure I understood a single word on the photocopied page that came with the bloody thing. Dropping the turkey in fast is a recipe for disaster. Lowering it slowly keeps the boiling over to a minimum. After a few nerve-wracking minutes, the whole bird is immersed and cooking away to a golden brown moist deliciousness.

The pictures are from last year's setup. Note the leaves - they fell early and then it was wet and cold from early October through April and the yard didn't get cleared. This year, at least, has been a nice fall and all the leaves are done - nothing to clean up in the spring. I had to clear a spot last year to set up the rig in case of fire. Note the fire extinguisher. Better safe than sorry.
This year, for whatever reason, I added a little too much oil to the pot for the size of the bird. The picture from last year is what should be the level of the oil. There is enough room to contain the boiling oil. This year, it was much, much closer to the top!

My pot holds a 12 or 13 pound bird perfectly. Any bigger and its rubbing on the sides. I measure using the "displacement" method. Oh, that's another reference to glass. That is how I measure glass for casting. Only this time, after carefully measuring, I got a little too much oil in the pot. When I lowered the bird, I immediately knew I was in danger land. It was bubbling over the top quite a bit more than usual. Luckily enough spit out and went far enough away from the flames that it didn't cause any problems.

Waiting the 30 minutes was very stressful. That's right, it only takes 30 minutes to cook the 12 pound bird. Then 30 minutes tightly wrapped in foil to rest, continue cooking, and drain any excess oil. I think the bird was tastier this year because of the excitement. I had to cook another bird for my daughter and her family. This time I took about 5 cups of oil out of the pot and it was much less stressful!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


No glass news this past week or so due to duties of my "day job". I was in Athens, Greece for eight days. I attended a conference and presented a case study for one of the projects I led. One of the by-products of the economic downturn is the reduced number of flights available. This is especially true flying from Detroit, where I live. I have a bunch of upgrade certificates and I wanted to be able to fly business class due to the lengths of the flights. Using these certificates turns out to a lot more difficult in practice than it should. I finally found some flights with long layovers that left on a Thursday and got back the next Saturday.

That meant almost eight full days in Athens. I got there around 11 am local time on Friday, after a long layover in New York's wonderful JFK airport. I had part of Friday and all day Saturday for sightseeing. I did a ton of it, all walking. I'm not in shape and my calves certainly ached after probably eight miles of walking up and down hills, and climbing the Acropolis. Sunday mid-day thru Thursday were taken up by the conference itself - more on that some other time. Thursday night and Friday were taken up with more sightseeing. I had to get up at O'Dark Early (3:30am local time) to get to the airport for the flight to Amsterdam. I'm writing this post from the airline club lounge as I have about five hours of layover here as well. Seems like the number of flights is limited to one or two per day from almost anywhere making connections easier as you aren't OJ'ing it through the airport. If you don't know what OJ'ing it means, you are too young - Google it.

I took a bunch of pictures with my little Nikon camera - they turned out pretty well. I am quite pleased with how they turned out, although each and every one of them will need some Photoshopping touch ups. I did a quick tweak on the attached image of the Parthenon from the base of the Acropolis. I tweaked the contrast, saturation, and removed a crane that was partially visible which was distracting. This was a 5 minute job in Photoshop just to see how things look. I like it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Exciting Workshop at Corning this Winter

I'm pleased to be attending this week long workshop at The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. I'm really excited as this course combines both the warm glass aspects of fusing with the hot glass blowing world. The only challenge is that the last time I drove from Michigan to Corning in the dead of winter there was a major blizzard. The way conditions were, I wasn't really sure if I'd get there at all - visions of being stranded on the highway with over a foot of snow really were dancing in my head.

Looking at Patterns and Murrine

Giles Bettison | Glassblowing

The class will focus on building patterns using sheet glass to make into murrine canes that can then be used to make vessels, panels, and other objects. Students will observe objects in nature, urban and rural landscapes, and other media, such as textiles and graphics, as sources for color and as composition elements. They will explore the relationship among form, pattern, and color, and will use these elements to arrive at a finished piece. At least one year of glassblowing experience is required.

Giles Bettison is a glassblower living in Maylands, Australia. He earned his B.A. in visual arts from Canberra School of Art in Australia. He has taught and demonstrated his glassblowing and murrine techniques in Europe and the United States, and his work is in galleries and collections around the world, including the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA; the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, Australia; Sabbia Gallery in Sydney, Australia; and Bullseye Connection Gallery in Portland, OR.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Picassa vs. ACD See vs. Adobe Bridge vs. ???

No pictures today. I'm struggling with what image cataloging tool to use. I've been around computers for a long time, so managing files and folders isn't difficult. When I got my first digital camera several years ago it came with a stripped down version of ACD See. I really liked what it provided. It was easy to use and didn't have a lot of extra stuff I would never use. I've changed computers about three times since then. I always installed that version when I upgraded my computer. Recently, I got a new laptop and wanted to install the catalog viewer. I couldn't find the disk. I know I have it somewhere, packed in a blue storage tub somewhere (that's a different story).

I went on-line to see if I could download that version of ACD See. No dice. There was a trial version that had a lot more features. I installed it and immediately got the nag message that I had 29 days left. After the month the trial expired, but then I got a free chance for an extra 30 days. That just prolonged the inevitable. I'd have to shell out $40-$70 to buy a real version. Didn't really feel that I needed to do that. I own the software and the version is just fine, but I have to find the original CD.

I'd heard about the free version of Picassa. I was surprised, but I guess that I shouldn't have been, that it is another Google offering. I did download and install the free service. After a brief learning curve, I feel it give me most of what ACD See did. However, I still wonder what Google is collecting about me and my pictures. There are some quirks, and interfaces to editors such as PhotoShop aren't easy to configure - at least I couldn't figure it out. But it works and at the right price.

But I've been thinking about finally updating my very outdated version of PhotoShop. I use and like PhotoShop 7. That must be ten years old. I've been watching some online PhotoShop tutorials and CS4 looks like it gives enough reasons to upgrade. Now I have another beef - Adobe just this year instituted a policy of only allowing people to upgrade for three versions. That means that 7 to CS3 was OK, but 7 to CS4 is no longer allowed. Now I have to pay a lot more. It may be worth it, but that brings up another question. Should I get one of the "editions" which include a lot of things, or just get PhotoShop itself? There is a several hundred dollar difference. The editions come with Adobe Bridge which is an image catalog/management tool which has lots of features. I probably wouldn't use most of the other tools in the edition. But Bridge does look interesting. Does it give me more than either ACD See or Picassa in terms of image management that I'd find useful for what I do?

Are there other packages that I should consider? Comments?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Now What?

I guess I've been lucky in that I've never really seen much devitrification in my glass work. I think this piece has it - in spades. That is the problem, but first the background. I took Marty Kremer's workshop at Corning this summer. That was a great time and I learned a great deal. We did a lot of strip cutting to use in our work during the week. One of the other participants had some leftovers and gave me a dozen or so strips that were made with stringer and confetti. They were quite nice, but I never really knew what I was going to make with them.

I'd been playing with them in various configurations since early August. I was never quite happy. I had them laying around on the workbench and was complaining to my wife that I knew there was a great piece in the strips, but I was having a hard time finding it. As I laid several of the strips side by side, she remarked that it reminded her of the Native American fabric weavings. I knew what to do.

Rather than stack the strips vertically, laying them horizontally was the key. I put a strip of black iridized glass face down, then a strip of a color - in this case white, black, yellow, and orange were used, a strip of clear, and finally the magic stringer/confetti strip on top. This made 4 layers or about a half an inch thick blank. I was using a 12" diameter ring mold. This is where problem #1 starts. The first picture shows the set up in the kiln.

I have a small kiln at home. It is about 13.5" across, and its a weird 7 sided shape. I thought the
round kiln shelves were 13" in diameter. I set the ring down on the kiln shelf and it fit perfectly. However "perfect" in this case meant dropping down around the sides of the shelf and not sitting on it. Crap... I had a piece of fiber or vermiculite board that I'd intended as a kiln shelf but never used. This was gifted from a friend and I wasn't sure of the composition but decided to chop down the corners into a roughly septagonal shape (7 sides-ish). So far, so good. Note that the ring just fits on the shelf - the picture could lead you to believe that the piece is hanging off the left edge.

I laid up the strip construction staring across the diameter of the piece. This turned out to be a good idea. Soon I realized that I actually didn't have enough of the stringer/confetti strips to do the entire piece. In comes problem #2. I was about 4 long strips short. I decided to fill in with a solid color and used a turquoise color that matched some of the stringer color. Nice southwest feel. Finally I had the piece constructed and felt good about the blank.

Into the kiln and all went well. The next morning I opened the kiln and saw a couple of issues. First, the turquoise areas were distracting. The lines between the strips in the pattern area disappeared, but they were there in the turquoise. I
knew better. I could have used flat sheets in this area. But that wasn't the worst problem. The surface seemed to be covered with scum. I've never seen anything like it. I was stumped. I guess it is devitrification. But why. My current thinking is that there is something from the new kiln shelf/board that came out when it was fired. I later found out that the board was "new" and had never been fired. Are there some kind of binders that gassed off? Who knows.

The back is quite interesting - in fact, it may be more interesting than the front. These strips all came from the same sheet of Bullseye. I really haven't done much with iridized glass so wasn't expecting the "coats of many colors" look.

Anyway, my dilemma now is what to do with it. Getting rid of devit will require sandblasting and then fire-polishing - which I can do. Are there other things that could/should be considered. Should I cut off the turquoise and create an interesting shape when it is slumped? Or just turn it over and use the iridized surface?

Now what?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Photographing Clear Glass is . . . Hard!

I love the way that clear glass catches the light and plays all sorts tricks with it. Depending on the direction of the light, its color, strength, and the environment the object is in - the piece will look different and unique with each combination. However what you see is not what you get. This piece is just one example. This is a blown vessel that has a leaf motif cut around the "equator" and a highly polished lip/rim.

Now this isn't the best photograph in the world, but it does show some of the problems I've encountered on the way trying to photograph these things. I don't have a "pro" level photo setup with a frosted table, darkened studio, and lights. I do have a photo tent and some decent lights though. This set up is good enough for most of the work I want to photograph. I do have a really high-quality 35mm camera and lenses, but I don't use it much anymore - its just too hard and time consuming, especially if I want to end up with digital images.

So I set about to photograph this piece digitally. This isn't even the hardest clear piece I have to shoot. Note that I have a Nikon Coolpix which doesn't have a couple of manual controls that I would like, but it does every thing else quite well. I take most of the reference pictures of my glass work with it. So it should have been a no-brainer for this piece. But it wasn't.

First, on the plain background I normally use, the camera wouldn't focus. It kept focusing on the background and then the foreground...and on and on. So I got an old table cloth with some texture, and at least the camera could find a focus. I finally fooled the camera into getting a mostly focused shot at this point, but not perfect. And then the color is really off - the table cloth goes from tan to a cool blue - when it should be white.

I like this piece, but I just couldn't get a good enough picture to make it worth the effort in Photoshop to clean up the light reflections, the poor color casts, etc.

Photographing glass can be...hard, really hard.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I find myself with lots of little bits of glass rod left over from a project. Glass color usually comes in the form of a glass rod, typically about a kilo of color. For a blown piece, the amount of colored glass is very small in comparison to the overall piece. The majority is just clear glass. You take a hammer and chisel or something similar to break up the glass rod into smaller chunks to be used in the blown piece. But breaking rods in this way, no matter how careful you are, results in broken pieces that aren't big enough for a single piece. And using multiple chunks of one color results in a piece that has veiling and shadows where the chunks overlap causing density differences in the color.

I don't like to throw things away. See the previous post on that topic here.
So in the bottom of my glass color box I end up with a lot of odds and ends. They are still perfectly good. Glass is expensive. Throwing it away seems foolish.

So I decide to make things with these leftovers. This bowl is just one example of using the leftovers.

When I sold it, I had named it "Great Red Spot" because of the red swirling colors that reminded me of pictures of Jupiter and its surface storms.

But now, on further thought, perhaps I should have called it "Ragu" - as in "its all in there".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cool Shadows

This photo demonstrates one of the reasons I like glass. No other material can change so much depending on the conditions you view it.

I was selling at an outdoor art fair a couple of years ago. One of the pieces I had on display is nice, but I never realized quite how nice until this happened.

It was getting late in the afternoon and the sun was getting lower in the sky. I happened to look at the table that this piece was sitting on. The thing that immediately struck me was the shadow of the piece on the tablecloth. I quickly grabbed my camera and got this one picture. Of course, ten minutes later the sun had gone behind the tree near my booth and the shadow was gone.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grinding a Pillow

This piece combines optical crystal glass, the clear part, and a slab of a Bullseye casting billet glass. I made this during the same time as the "Bird" sculpture. This piece is quite interesting. It's about 6" high, 4" wide, and ranges from about 1" to 1.5" thick. The two glasses were glued together with a glue called "Hxtal" which is an epoxy that is able to be ground and polished much like the glass. In this piece the amber glass started out as slab about 1" wide.

The optical crystal slab represented the rest of the piece, about 5" wide. The two slabs were glued together and then ground and polished. The blank was a rectangular slab but I ground it with a reverse twist. This means that the top twists one way and the bottom twists the opposite direction. This isn't easy and you need to develop a rhythm when grinding to keep the twist uniform and, probably more importantly, not lose control over the piece. I also sloped the front top face to provide even more visual interest. The end result looks like a pillow that has been fluffed and placed on a bed.

The pictures are even more interesting in some respects as the capture some of what you see, and some things you don't notice when looking at the sculpture directly.
For instance, the picture above looks like the piece comes to a point on the bottom, and yet the bottom is actually flat and the piece stands up perfectly fine. The picture below it looks as if the bottom is rounded.

Finally, note the amber color and how its looks like it is all throughout the piece. In fact, the amber is just along the left edge and the highly polished crystal is reflecting and refracting throughout the piece giving it a different look depending and where you view it from.

I owe a lot to the instructor, Martin Rosol, who taught the coldworking course at Corning that I attended. He showed me the possibilities of introducing complexity in a piece by utilizing the optical nature of the glass itself.

Sometimes simpler is more complex and interesting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


My wife claims I'm a hoarder. I don't think I am. Especially not after seeing the crazy TV shows about clean houses, hoarders living in/with cat feces, and the like. But I do tend to keep a lot of stuff around that I might, however little that chance might be, use sometime in the future.

This piece shows how I used two of those carefully packed away "treasures". I'd been glass blowing for a while, but wanted something I could work with at home. Blowing glass at home isn't for the faint of heart nor the weak of wallet. So I got a little 13" octagon kiln and started playing with fused glass.

One of the very first pieces we made was a slumped plate using a lot of scrap strips on a transparent green base. I say we - as in "my wife and I", she was all gung ho at first, but she lost interest pretty quick. Once it was fused and slumped the plate wasn't all that wonderful. It was dog-boned in as we'd heated too long, too high temperature, and all the other myriad mistakes one makes when starting out. It was an OK plate, but it fell into one of my "I have a use for this someday" tubs.

On a side note, I keep everything in those blue plastic tubs you get at any of the big box stores these days. I watch for sales and bought them by the dozen. I have about 20 of these filled with Christmas decorations, and another half a dozen or so filled with the outdoor holiday decorations. These are not part of the "Jeff hoards everything" collection. There are about 30 or so tubs stacked in the pole barn - they do stack quite well - filled with "stuff".

Another item in one of the "cool glass things I may use one day" tubs, is the small pyramid shown in the picture above. I cast this in a mold I have out of glass powders. I should have known better but it shrank quite a bit as the powders melted. I knew that. But it didn't turn out quite as big as I wanted - can't even remember the project it was going to be used for anyway - so I put it away for future contemplation.

I found the two items one day and had this crazy thought - could I fuse the pyramid to the plate. So I sawed off the dog-boned edges of the plate, turning a 12" square into about a 10.5" square but was able to save the pattern. I loaded the plate in the kiln on the slumping mold and contemplated the firing schedule. I was worried about the pyramid deforming and that would just be ugly. I set the thing to ramp up very slowly and go to a very low tack fuse point. I then watched it carefully to make sure it didn't deform. The piece had to have a very long anneal cycle. So I waited patiently until the next day and it did survive. There is some slight rounding on the edges of the pyramid, but not too bad. The pyramid is solidly fused to the plate. I can't tell if there is significant stress, but its been through about 9 months of sitting out on the shelf, including two periods of no heat (don't ask), and seems to be surviving OK.

It will probably end up back in the "what the heck I'm I going to do with this thing" tub pretty soon as it still isn't one of my favorite pieces, but it did show the way for some sculptures I've been pondering.
Anyway, I found it

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wondering What to do...Revisited

In the last
post I explained a bowl I was pondering. I was thinking of sandblasting parts of the bowl and rim to give a matte effect. I finally quit procrastinating this past weekend and polished the rim of the piece. I haven't taken any pictures yet to post, but I really like the look. It isn't a high-gloss polish like optical crystal glass can impart, but it does give a more finished look.

I never intended this piece to take so long to get to a finished state. I'm still not sure if it's there. I'm calling it "complete", at least for now. I know I'll revisit it sometime later. I need to move on to other projects.

I'll post a "finished" picture next time I get the camera, tripod, light box, photo tent, extension cords, and most importantly, the time to take some better quality images.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wondering What to Do...

This bowl is driving me a little crazy. I made the basic bowl during Marty Kremer's workshop at Corning this year. See my previous post about that workshop here. This is a quick and dirty photo to show what I'm talking about. The left half of the bowl is clear and the right half is glossy white.

I made the pattern bars that run down the center at home before I went to Corning. There I created a round blank by laying up strips of white and clear, along with the pattern bar, in a 12" round shape. Once this was fired, I realized how nice the piece was turning out. The blank was then slumped into a mold with fairly steep sides.

That was the easy part.

I really like the wide mouth/lip/whatever you call it look and proceeded to saw off and grind the lip. That is where I stopped and the consternation started. You see, I really had intentions of sandblasting the front and back, giving the whole piece a frosted look, except for the pattern bar area down the middle. The photo doesn't quite show it, but the piece is very shiny except for the lip where it was ground. I'd then use the goop mentioned in my post to make it have a nice satin finish.

But I really liked the shiny look for this piece. I really didn't want to "ruin" the piece by sandblasting. So the dilemma continues. I think I'm going to polish the rim to a high polish and see what the optics do. If that doesn't seem right, then I can always sandblast.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Marbles, Marbles, Everywhere

I got bit by the marble bug last year. I really am intrigued by these little, and not so little, spheres. I didn't really like playing with marbles as a kid - never saw the fun it it. I know that will cause issues with some serious marble collectors though. I find the very small "play" marbles to be throw-away stuff. Most are made overseas now anyway. But some people seriously collect them. There is another faction that collects larger, hand-made marbles. These are considered art. Most are in the 2" to 3" diameter size range. This is what I learned to make. I make these in the furnace rather than in torch flame. This is the basic difference in "off-hand" glassblowing versus flameworking.
I've made about 250 now. Here is a picture of one I made that I quite like. It's a little over 2" in diameter. I haven't weighed it, but I think it would be around one pound. Photographing marbles is hard. You need to get a good close up and the lighting tends to cause reflections everywhere. This could be touched up in Photoshop but I haven't bothered on these type of reference pictures.

This piece is a black core with the swirls of color in white, yellow, red, and a sparkly special glass called dichroic.

Not shown in the picture is the north pole of the marble. This one has all the colors swirling together to a single point - similar to a vortex. The south pole doesn't swirl, the colors do meet at the pole but without the vortex. All in all a very nice marble.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New Work - Rothko-inspired Glass Vessels

A certain individual (OK, it's my wife) has been pestering me for several months now to post pictures of my newest work. I've been delaying for lots of reasons which I don't care to elaborate on right now. This is work I've been thinking about for a while, but has evolved to where I think the pieces are good enough to share.

I wish pictures could impart the textu
re of the pieces. Glass is normally pretty smooth and glossy. These aren't. They are actually pretty rough. The surface feels a lot like about 120-grit sandpaper. This is in stark contrast to the lips, or tops, of the pieces, which are ground to a very high polish. In this grouping, the silvery blue color on the top half of the piece is very reflective, but still exhibits the texture. When you look down the top you can see the yellow interior reflected and the look changes as you change your viewing angle. Neat.

This work doesn't yet have a title - one of the things I'm still searching for - but the working title is called "Rothko", after Mark Rothko, the abstract expressionist painter. I love Rothko's work - one example shown here. The texture and color and interplay really are wonderful. You really should check out the "Rothko Room" at the Tate Modern gallery in London.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Favorite Art Haunts

The Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France is perhaps my favorite art haunt that I've had the pleasure to visit. I go back there every time I get the chance. I've spent several afternoons enjoying the Impressionist art - both the paintings and the sculptures found within. The Orsay is built in the old train station which was first erected in 1900. It underwent significant transformations in the past century or so. I emerged as a wonderful place to display works of art as the building and the art within are from the same general period.

I often look for pieces that I can get inspiration from and embody the concepts into my glass art. The painting shown here is one such example. I'm not a good painter - I really can't draw at all, but that's another story. I really like the feel of color and the interplay of the patterns of the clouds. The piece is titled
"Crépuscule", which means "Evening" in English, painted by Charles Guilloux in 1892. The photo is © ADAGP, Paris - Photo RMN, Hervé Lewandowski.

The picture at the left is my current favorite from the Orsay collection. This picture cannot do it justice. The dot pattern of the painting is meant to be seen from several feet away, at least in my opinion. I bought a reproduction of this picture in about an 11" by 14" size to study. I plan on using this style in my glass using glass powders and frits to attempt to get a similar effect. I need a lot of practice but this is one of the journeys I'm on right now.

The painting is called "Plage à Heist" which in English is "Beach at Heist", painted by Georges Lemmen in 1891. The photo is © photo RMN, Gérard Blot.

Selling my Glass on eBay

With the decline in the number of art shows and fairs that we have in my local area, the number of pieces I've made started accumulating around the house. With the boss starting to make noises about how much stuff was on tables, shelves, and in boxes everywhere, I decided I needed to try some alternative selling techniques.

The first thought was that monster - eBay. I been registered for a long time but really didn't buy much. A lot of reading and research went into what I wanted to do. I decided to put a few pieces up for auction. I started with a nice piece to see what would happen. That is when I learned even more.

Shipping turns out to be the real issue. I know how to pack pieces for shipping and I've sent items all around the U.S., including Hawaii, and never had an issue. Of course I double box everything. That means that the piece is packed full of bubble wrap and/or newspaper if it is a hollow vessel. Then its wrapped heavily in bubble wrap and put in a tight fitting cardboard box. This box is then in turn put inside a larger box and "suspended" in two inches of styrofoam - either sheets or peanuts, or bubble wrap. This means the piece is pretty well protected. I think most pieces break from movement within the packaging. They are bound to be dropped or rough handled but if they are packed correctly they can't move and all the packaging absorbs the impact. I guess it's kinda like an airbag for the glass. It can take 20-30 minutes to properly package a piece and ready it for shipment.

The real surprise is that UPS turns out to be pretty expensive to ship packages. My father worked at UPS for 30+ years so I used them by default. In the first case, the shipping was more than what the final price of the piece was sold for!! I then went to the US Post Office, and with their priority mail one-price packaging, I can get a good deal on the shipping and you even get tracking numbers. PayPal makes it easy to print shipping labels and process payments as well.

Many people complain about adding a few bucks ($3 - $5) for packaging. I try to save every bit of bubble wrap, cardboard, and packing peanuts for reuse but I still end up buying stuff for packaging. When people see the piece arrive safe and sound, the remarks usually are "great packaging" or similar, but they balked at paying a packaging fee. I watch with interest people who have no issue with buying the latest infomercial product and then paying $7.95 for "S&H" when it clearly didn't cost that much for sending a small product or DVD, as compared to shipping a piece of glass.

I really didn't get a lot of bids on some of the pieces. I sold a couple for $10-$15 that would have been listed at $100 or so at an art fair.

So I have a few questions - What do you think of buying glass on eBay? What is a fair way to cover the packaging costs? I welcome your comments.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Photos on Glass - Something Old, Something New

When the first photographs were made in the 1840's and for quite some time thereafter, they were "printed" on pieces of glass. The first type, called daguerreotypes were actually done on a mirrored glass surface treated with a light sensitive chemical solution. Of course with the invention of printing on paper, photos on glass died out. Paper was cheaper, much more portable, and not as easily broken as the glass. Well, things old become new again in slightly different forms.

The image of a glass plate shown to the left here is one example of the old but new again idea of printing photos on glass. However here the photo is actually "in the glass". Gaffer Glass makes a photosensitive glass rod that can be blown into any shape and then exposed to a negative, developed, and set in a most unique way. For those interested in the deeper technical aspects of using this glass, refer to the link above to read the details on Gaffer's site.

The process is pretty straightforward. The hardest part is blowing the blank. The rod is picked up and then encased the usual way. Here I used an opaque amber color. The base photosensitive glass is transparent and has an interesting tonal range. You are never going to get "Kodachrome" quality, but the effects are interesting. Picking the right backing color is important. I also created on in a deep blue thinking the hues would be complimentary. In fact, you have to look very close to see anything in that piece.

I'm not great at blowing rondels, a large round flattish glass blank. This is the same process as very old window glass was made. This piece is actually quite round, a first I think for me, and about 16" in diameter. The only unfortunate part is there is a slight dip in the center making this more like a large plate than a nice flat rondel. While annealing the blank needs to be kept in the dark and well covered until ready for exposure. It is actually UV light that exposes the image so some light is OK, but not for very long.

I created a bunch of negatives in Photoshop and printed them out on transparency film. That is me on a camel in front of the great pyramid in Egypt (but that's another story). I cut these into pieces as it was hard to get perfectly flat due to the shape of the blank. This is done in a dark room with photographic safe light. I then put the blank in direct sunlight for 30 minutes. Then the exposed blank was put into a cold annealer and brought up to about 1000 degrees and held for about 4 hours. This develops the image. Of course then the piece has to be cooled and annealed so it doesn't break.

One cool thing is that the process is reversible. I don't think I'm going to do that with this piece. Better exposure control could be done with UV lights, but sun works, it just isn't as predictable.

This is a process that needs a lot of practice - both in the blowing and in the image exposure/development process.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grinding Marbles into Submission

I make hand-blown glass marbles, which I've blogged a little bit about previously. I'm pretty good at it, but in order to be GREAT, you have to make quite a few. Unfortunately, I don't have the energy or time to practice enough to be great, so I'll settle for good enough. Sometimes I make a marble that is great in it's color, pattern, or something that says this one could have been great, but it isn't quite round or has some "skudge" on the surface. That's where cold working the marble comes into play.

A marble, to be great in my mind, not only has to have a great interior, but also be perfectly spherical. A marble is just a fancy name for glass sphere! I priced out sphere polishing machines that are normally used in lapidary (stone and gem) working. $2000 and up just isn't in my price range. Therefore I do what I usually do, figure that I can make one myself. How hard could it be? A few hours on the net and I saw that others had done similar things. I took the best of what I found, thought about it, and then proceeded to design my own. The video below shows the results.

I was absolutely astonished that it works. I really was a disbeliever in myself. This is less than $50 in parts. The only thing I bought were surplus gear motors at $7 each. The rest of the stuff I had around the workshop. I had the hinges, some extra T-Track, and the on/off switch. I've purchased a collection of pipe fittings and couplers from the big box hardware aisle. There is a whole story that can (and will) be written about what I've learned. The grit feed is absolutely genius. I didn't invent it, but think I've taken a couple of things I saw and incorporated it into a better approach. The grit is suspended in anti-freeze rather than water. This does two things, first it makes the solution more viscous and the grit doesn't come out of solution and sink to the bottom of the cup. Second, water would make parts rust, not good.

I've done a lot of testing, and the results are spectacular. The first marble I did was an early clear sphere that clearly wasn't a sphere. It was pretty squished. Ten minutes at 80 grit and the thing was perfectly round. Un-freaking-believable. It's pretty messy, but cold working glass usually is.

Someday I'll take a series of before, during, after pictures to post. If I could only remember to do it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cool Tools - Wet Saw

This post is about one of my favorite glass tools. Most glass blowers would talk about their hand tools from Jim Moore or Carlo Dona and argue over which is best. Warm glass artists talk about their cutters and their kilns. But for me, right now, my favorite tool is my DeWalt wet saw. Here is a link to it on Amazon. DeWalt Wet Saw . This thing rocks. I spent a lot of time researching wet saws and using ones I could beg or borrow.

The biggest fault with a wet saw, in my opinion, is that I GET WET. I hate it. I don't want to be wet and sloppy and have to drag out my apron just to make a cut. I don't want to have to build an enclosure just to use the bloody thing and keep the water in the frigging saw and not on me, everything around me, on the floor, and so forth.

After a lot of research I saw this. Now I must admit for woodworking I love my DeWalt tools, including my table saw. It is perfect for me. There are better more expensive options but I'm more than satisified. So when DeWalt announced a contractor-friendly wet saw I was excited. I read all the reviews - not just the fluff articles but ones from real contractors doing real work day in and day out. This one seemed like it would make the grade.

It went on my Christmas wish list. I got it and was really impressed as I opened the box. One of the things that DeWalt did is make it portable. Now at 70 pounds, the think isn't light, but they did an interesting thing. It comes apart without tools into five smaller pieces. The saw itself sits in a tray that holds the water. There are two wings that just snap in to catch the water. The picture doesn't show it, but these are angled up to catch the spray and direct it back into the main water tray. The sliding table even lifts off. There is a reviewer on Amazon who built some carrying cases which are pretty cool. Note the rubber flap at the back that catches the spray as well.

I don't want to sound like a DeWalt shill, but there are just so many features like the adjustable depth stops, the tilting saw head, the rubber covered sliding table that glides like its on butter, and on and on.

I cut a lot of pattern bars and this thing is solid. The 1.5HP motor doesn't even slow down for 2" thick stuff. The water is fed by adjustable tubes on either side of the blade so the water coolant is directed right at the cut, not flying off and getting me wet.

This thing is obviously designed for professionals by people who actually use tools.
This is certainly my current "COOL TOOL" for the moment.

Most Popular Piece That Never Sold

This year has been bad in Michigan for the economy - unemployment is over 17% and people just don't have a lot of spending money these days. For me this downward spiral started last summer about twelve or even fourteen months ago. I usually do a few art fairs a year where I do some pretty strong sales. I stay away from the big one here in the area - the collection of independent fairs collectively called the Ann Arbor art fair. I blogged on this previously. However the fairs that I've had the most success have been cancelled, at least for the time being.

So I'm left with a lot of pieces that I've made and they haven't yet been sold. I've had to pack, and repack them, several times as I look for a specific piece for someone. It's good that I have pictures of everything, but my anal-compulsiveness hasn't gotten so far as to actually track which pieces are in which blue tub. I love blue tubs. I have more than fifty of them. But that's another topic for another day.

I came across this piece packed away. It has a long history. I made it several years ago, and I really liked what happened with the colors. There is an interesting reaction with the "veins" that wrap the piece. They are a gold based color, but reflect several different shades of gold, silver, and blue, depending on the light. At outdoor shows, I made sure to put this piece in a sunny spot, which usually meant it moved throughout the day. I can't even begin to count the number of people that have ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the piece. Everyone loves it. Or at least, that is what they've said. But nobody ever bought it. It wasn't expensive - in fact I had it listed for about $95. Maybe it was too little. Other pieces, that didn't get as much attention went flying off the shelves.

At this point, the piece is occupying one of the coveted prime display locations in my house where the best glass pieces get some time on display. I'll create something else that is new, and therefore "better", and this piece will get packed away for a while. Maybe the next art fair will change things and it will find a home.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cracked Ice

I promised to write about each of my favorite pieces. I've already written about the "Bird" earlier. Here is another one. I call this one "Cracked Ice". Old paintings have a nice texture that is not done on purpose, rather it results from the cracking of the paint over a long period of time. We see the results after sometimes centuries and feel that look is what was intended. We also see this same effect on old houses and furniture where the paint is cracking and peeling. Crafts people go to great lengths to reproduce this effect in their "antique replicas".

In glass, this effect can be created, but the results are not always predictable. This piece is a good example of crackled glass. The base color is a deep cobalt blue, which certainly is reminiscent of cold, snowy climates. Before the piece is fully blown, it is covered in several layers of white powdered glass. This is similar to a nice snowfall building up depth on the ground. Once a sufficient quantity of "snow" is collected on the piece, it is reheated to a very hot temperature and the plunged in a bucket of cold water for several seconds.

That is when the magic happens. If there is the right heat, and the right length of time in the water, and then the piece is blown out just right, you'll get the crackle effect pictured here. The picture doesn't show it, but the cracks are quite deep, and there is a very tactile sensation when you touch the surface. You only get a short period to form the vessel as the white tends to melt into the blue and lose the nice crackled texture on the surface.

The way that the white fades out on the rim is quite interesting. Again, it is all chance in how the final piece will turn out given all the variables of depth of powdered glass, heat, cooling, and shaping that go into making the piece.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I am always thinking about my favorite pieces that I've made. That list changes on a frequent basis. Everyone asks to see some examples of my work. I need to update my website, which is really, really old. I think I last updated it in about 2004! I've been thinking that the blog is an easier way to display my work, my thoughts about it, and have an ever-changing view into my glass work.

As a way to get started I've added a gadget on the left side of this blog which shows some of my favorite pieces. I intend to write a little about each piece in an entry here over the coming weeks and months, and if all goes well, years.

I've uploaded about 20 images to Google Picassa. What would we do without Google? It's "free". I wonder what they are doing with this information, but I can't beat the price. If you click on one of the small thumbnail pictures, you'll be taken to Picassa to view the pictures full size.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Making it Clean and Nice

One of the qualities of glass is that it is nice and shiny. Somethings this isn't what you want. You want a nice uniform matte surface. To me this is best achieved by sandblasting. However when you sandblast you get a nice surface, but one that is prone to showing fingerprints and other kinds of dirt quite easily. Cleaning is hard and tends to leave a lot of lint stuck in/on the glass regardless of the type of cloth you use to wash and/or dry it with. People have been trying all sorts of surface protectants for years with varying results. Some are pretty cheap and easy to find around the house. ArmorAll, Pledge, Rain-X, and other products have been used. None of these suited my tastes, but at least protected against some of the fingerprint oils. Liquid Lustre is another specialized one but is very, very expensive so I've only seen it used by others. I wasn't impressed.

At my recent workshop at Corning one of the participants in another session brought a product that we all were impressed with. Its called " Clean Shield® GEL - Shower, Tub & Tile Protectant" and is made by the Unelko Corporation. I couldn't find it in stores locally but is available for order on their website at $6.95 per tube, which should cover quite a few pieces. The shipping and handling for two tubes was over $9.00 so I wish I could find it locally.

Here is a picture of one of the pieces I made during the glass. It has been fused, cut and ground, and then sandblasted. Note the nice surface it leaves. You squeeze out a small pea-sized amount of the gel and work it in with the reusable lint-free cloth provided with the product. I suspect it will last for quite a while and a quick wipe with a cloth removes any dust without really disturbing the surface.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Glowing in the Dark

I just returned from the workshop at The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass. Refer to the post on "the class" below. I'll post more on that topic later. One of the side benefits of taking workshops at Corning is their wonderful photo studio. You can sign up for a one hour photo session with a very experienced glass photographer. If you've ever tried to photograph glass objects, you know its pretty hard. Glass is typically so shiny that there are reflections galore, hot spots, and other problems.

The photographer, Amy, is wonderful and can make your work beautiful. I threw her a real problem. I made some marbles that glow in the dark. Marbles are hard enough to photograph to begin with. They are smallish, round, shiny, and reflect distortions of everything. Then adding the "glow in the dark" part on top of it makes it more than I can do in my tabletop photo tent.

Here is a composite that we made - a "day and night" view. This really shows what can be done by a talented photographer.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is it Art..and is it Fair?

I've lived in or nearby Ann Arbor, Michigan since 1974. One of the biggest attractions, besides the University of Michigan Wolverines football games in the fall, is the annual "Ann Arbor Art Fair". There isn't one fair, as I'll explain in a moment. However, most people see it as one thing and that's how I think of it as well. The art fair covers most of the streets downtown and around the main campus of the U of M. There are literally thousands of exhibitors showing all types of art and craft. Some areas are very upscale, and some are pretty mundane. There is something for everybody. And, this being Ann Arbor, there is a collection of a hundred or so "political" booths as well. This takes place the third week of July from Wednesday through Saturday. All in all, quite a nice way to spend a day.

I've been attending the event since the summer of 1974. In fact, I met my wife at the art fair on a Friday evening. We've been attending together on Friday every year since.

Now, for those who just drop in for the day, trying to figure out the scheme and where to go can be daunting. We see hundreds of people with their fold-out, color-coded, maps looking lost. There is a scheme. We've developed, over the years, sort of a walking tour that lets us take in all of the four main fairs, and the few off-shoot display areas that show up for a year or two, and then disappear. We try to find something unique each year to purchase during our annual trek through the fairs.

There are four main fairs. The "Ann Arbor Street Art Fair" is the original, so they claim, and held the first fair on one street in 1960. This year was the 50th fair. This part of the overall spectacle has, what I consider, the most "art". Along with art comes high prices, and in general this part seems to have the highest prices. I find the most inspiration in this section of the fairs, but haven't bought much here over the years.

My second most favorite part of the overall event is the "State Street Area Art Fair". This fair possibly covers the biggest physical area, at least that's what my feet say. Overall, we've probably bought more art from artists exhibiting in this fair than any other part of the overall event.

The Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans hosts the "Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair". This fair is for Michigan Guild member artists only. This is where I see a lot of people I know. I was a member of the Guild, and had hopes of exhibiting one day at the "art fair". However, after doing many one and two day shows, I think a four day event is just too much work.

The fourth official fair, is "Ann Arbor's South University Art Fair". This is where things get confusing for me. This fair is the newest, and it occupies the streets where the "original" art fair was held. Several years ago, the local merchants and the fair organizers had a falling out, over what else - money, and that's when the original fair moved onto the grounds of the U of M. We didn't see this fair this year. It is quite a distance away from everything else, and I never found anything I wanted to buy here, so we've stopped going over there.

Finally, there are a few nameless areas that sell very crafty items, or stuff that has been imported from China. Usually these are tucked away in parking lots, alleys, etc. We stroll through, but usually don't find anything we want to take home.

So after thirty five years - I've come away feeling kind of sad about the whole thing. We didn't buy anything last year, and nothing again this year. Everything is the same. Even the artists we like bring the same old things. I don't even see people carrying stuff away from booths anymore. It's more of an event to get out in the sun, take a stroll in a nice city, have some food and drink, and talk with friends. Not much art buying going on - from what I see. Another thing I miss is what used to be ubiquitous at the art fair - "Shit on a Stick". That's what I called the $20 items that people would sell for people to stick in their gardens. It really didn't matter what you made, you had a bucket of shit on a stick in your booth. And one of the best spectator sports was trying to avoid getting hit in the face with people wielding their shit sticks while talking, walking, and trying to chew gum at the same time.

My favorite thing from the art fairs, and I only saw them one year, was the guy who made $20 "chia pets" from old panty hose, potting soil, and some grass seed. He'd cut the panty hose off near the ankle, filled it full of potting soil, and put some grass seed in it. Finally, he painted simple faces on them. he must have watered them for a couple of months as the hair (the grass) was several inches long. A wonderful, clever, innnovative idea, and I saw them everywhere. Probably a college student who is now some doctor somewhere!

Also gone are the bird houses with the old license plate roofs. Some of these were quite clever. Maybe the license plates aren't available anymore, or everyone who would buy one has one. I don't know but these were usful shit on sticks.

So I'm left wondering, where are the new things?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sandblasting - it's a BLAST!

One of the things that I learned in my glass travels is that there are many things that can be done to glass after it is blown. There are all sorts of surface embellishments that are done "cold" that significantly enhance the piece. One of those techniques is sandblasting. The picture here shows a fairly complex sandblast process. I did this piece at The Studio at Corning Museum of Glass during a workshop on Photographic Processes in Glass.

This is a several step process. First, an image is prepared in Photoshop or some similar program. A half-tone screen is applied in Photoshop to break the image up into little dots, much like how a newspaper is printed. The image is inverted - blacks become whites and vice versa. This is printed on transparency film with as dense black ink as your ink jet printer can produce. This "negative" is then exposed on a photographic resist and washed out. Washing out the areas that were exposed to the light.
Once dry, this resist mask is glued to the glass to be sandblasted. On this piece, this was harder than it seemed as there were subtle compound curves in the glass that I blew. The "blank" was a base glass of black with an overlay of white. The overlay was pretty thin. The sandblasting cut through the white layer and exposed the black. I really went deep
into the black to give texture. Note that there is one of the fish where the resist lifted and the sandblasting took out a portion of the white fish.

Sometimes "luck" happens. Once I got back from the workshop I started pricing out a good sandblast set up for use as home. This looked like it was going to be quite expensive. I then stumbled on an auction on eBay for a complete set up including the compressor (the most expensive part) that was fairly local. The seller was about 60 miles away and we could go pick it up - way too heavy to ship. I won the auction but had to go a little higher than I wanted - aren't auctions always that way? I now have a complete set up at home and have been learning to sandblast a little better.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Glowing in the Dark

Objects that glow in the dark have always fascinated me. There are some mysterious and magical qualities in the chemical and physical properties going on. For those of us who live in the 21st century where everything plugs in or runs on batteries, we expect to have to turn on a switch to have something light up.

During one of my courses at Corning, the instructor, James Nowak, made an off-hand comment about glow in the dark glass. We pressed for details and were treated to a wonderful demo. Sure enough, once the demo piece was complete and annealed, we took it out in the sunlight for a minute or two. Upon moving back inside, even though it was lighted and not really dark, it was clear that the piece was glowing a deep green color! Fantastic! Cool! And whatever other adjectives apply to this amazing idea.

This is actually a little harder than it sounds. First, you need some special "glow in the dark" power. This can be obtained from Glow, Inc. I got the
Ultra Green v10 Glow in the Dark Powder and the Ultra Blue Glow in the Dark Powder. Based on the rating system on the website, the "Ultra Green V10" is the brightest and longest lasting. The "Ultra Blue Glow" is the next brightest. The rest seemed pretty weak in comparison.

Most people would expect to just roll the hot glass in the powder to coat the glass. That doesn't work. The glow powder doesn't melt, even at the hot glass temperatures of over 2000 degrees Farenheit. It just rolls right off. Pretty tough stuff. The solution we used is to create a little cup, put a teaspoon or two of the powder in the cup, and seal the cup with hot glass.
This takes two people to do effectively. In order to spread the glow uniformly throughout a blown glass object, you need to gather over the cup a few times to get the mass of glass you want to use. Then repeated stretching, folding, twisting, and bending are needed to distribute the powder. Since the powder is melted, you are attempting to encapsulate a few grains of powder into little pockets all through the piece.

The picture above was taken indoors in a completely dark room and a photoflood spotlight used to "charge" the vase for about 10 minutes. The piece can be charged in sunlight, even an overcast day, in a few seconds, but a bright light takes a lot longer. My windows get bright sunlight but the glass panes must block out a lot of the UV spectrum as that is what is required to excite the glow powder. I need to create a simple base with a small UV black light as that works well to charge the glow particles.

Here is a picture of the vase in normal light. The glow glass is the base color and then coated in black. The black was sandblasted away to expose the glow layer.

I've made some great marbles with this technique, however I haven't got any pictures to post. See the "1000 Objects - More or Less" post for the reasons behind that sorry tale.