Sunday, January 31, 2010

New / Bigger Kiln - first thoughts

I think I've maxed out my little 13" heptagon (7 sided) kiln.  It runs on 120 volts and is in perfect working order.  It is from Evenheat and has a great controller.  It just is limiting on the size / shape of work I want to do.  The seven sides, not sure why not 6 or 8, are a little weird.  I can get a 12" round kiln shelf in there.  Not too bad, but I'm limited to a square about 9" on a side.  That is OK for a small plate, but really not for the art I want to make.  

I'm thinking of a square-ish kiln that is 24" x 24" or even 24" x 36" and reasonably deep enough to do some castings that are melted through a flower pot.  That requires some depth for the mold, some space above the mold surface, and then the flower pot filled with glass.  That is probably in the 14"-16" depth.  That is a pretty big kiln.  

I've been pricing them out and they are from $1900 to almost $3000.  That is a high price for the convenience of being able to unpack it and just plug it in.  One the other building it myself gives significant cost savings, probably well under $1000.  But I need to find a way to work with the metal structure.  I don't have welding equipment.  Perhaps I can beg/borrow/rent some.  I haven't welded in 25 years, but should be able to re-learn enough as all I'm really building is a big box.  The controller is the highest cost item with is a couple hundred bucks for what I want.

I'm about to start pricing out the components - metal, firebrick, wire elements, controller, miscellaneous hardware, and other various and sundry items.  I'll document what I find and ask for help / opinions.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Shameless Self-Marketing

I get asked all the time for photos of my work, my email, etc.  I usually point them to my web site, which is awful, out of date, doesn't have good pictures, etc.  Now I point them here to my blog, but it's harder to see a wide range of stuff.  So I put this together as a "one pager" I can hand out to people.  For obvious reasons, I've blurred my contact info.  You can contact me via this blog.  

I am going to keep updating this picture as time permits as some of my best work still didn't make it into this picture as I only had an hour or so to put it together.  What do you think?


Online Glass Resources

I thought I'd take a minute and post links to the three online glass forums that I check regularly.  For the non-glassies out there, these won't mean a thing, but they are wonderful places to find out information quickly and from fellow glass workers (artists and wannabes).

First, for blown glass work, I check out Craftweb Hot Glass Talk.  This is the place to be if you want to know anything and everything about the hot shop, glass properties and chemistry, or life in general.

Next, for warm glass (fusing, slumping, kiln casting, etc) I recommend the Warm Glass bulletin board.  There are many about five thousand members - probably twenty-five who post very frequently.  Got a question - there is the place for answers.

Finally, for sand blasting and carving questions, I go to the Sand Carving forum.  If you want to know anything about sand blasting, sand carving, stenciling, photo etching, or related topics - this is the place to be. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I can't believe it's been almost five days since I left Corning for the long drive back to the Ann Arbor, Michigan area.  It was pretty uneventful - thankfully.  I found myself dozing off, especially on the long slog through New York.  No traffic and dead tired.  I had to stop several times for five minute cat-naps.  That is something I never do.  Must be getting old.

I don't have any updated pictures since I had to unpack and immediately turn around the next morning and prepare for a business trip to Houston.  I hope to update the pictures this weekend so stay tuned.

I titled this post "Retrospective" as that is what I did a lot of during the drive - at least when I was awake.  Some workshops I've attended, I come home with finished projects, others I come home with nothing.  Here I came away with a new found understanding of processes that can be used to combine warm glass work (fusing), hot glass work (pulling cane, glass blowing), and finally cold work (grinding, polishing) into one finished piece.  I can hear my inner self saying "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey".  How true in this case.  

The other thing I learned is a new way to break down glass objects that involve patterns into their component parts and combine in new and interesting ways.  I'm not sure where my work will take me - that is part of the inner retrospection that I need to do.  I like the things I've learned but now it's time to put them into action.  

That last part became clear to me.  One of the most exciting things that happened during the week at Corning didn't have anything to do with the workshop.  I actually sold three pieces to the Glass Market at the Museum which they will be offering for sale.  I took a bunch of pieces, as it was unclear what they were looking for based on the initial meeting last summer.  I was a little surprised at the pieces they chose.  Glad I had a selection.  I'm waiting to see what happens and if they want additional pieces if these sell.  It became clear that being good at something isn't enough.  You have to develop your own personal style.  The "Rothko" pieces I sold to the Glass Market are unique.  I combined a lot of techniques that I've seen or learned into a simple, yet complex piece of glass that others are not making. 

My goal is to figure out how to incorporate the newly learned processes into unique pieces that people want to own.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's Over - What a Week!

Day 6 has come and gone, and the workshop at Corning with Giles Bettison has been completed.  Day 6 (or day 7 if you count the introductory dinner on Sunday evening) is usually the most hectic.  The day starts early and the students are busy making as much stuff as they can, trying out different techniques we've learned this past week.  Instead of working until 11pm, the day ends at 4pm with a full shop cleanup after that.  It took us about an hour and a half to completely disassemble and clean the hot shop, the cold shop, the glass cutting workroom, and anything else we might have made a mess of.  This is a really hard thing, but it is wonderful to walk in the shop Monday morning and have everything clean and shiny and ready to go.

Today I pulled one cane and made a small vase utilizing the "rollup" technique we learned this week.  The finished canes from yesterday are shown in the picture below.

Here are three photos of the vessel I made yesterday.  One thing to note, I put in a signature murrine (a "J" in case you couldn't guess), but it has one problem.  I got the top/bottom thing correct, but I hadn't counted on the instructor wanting to flip the piece front to back.  Hence the "J" is backwards in the finished piece.

Note that these pictures were done by a professional photographer that the Studio brings in for students to utilize her services.  You can sign up for one hour time slots and it is great.  I brought a bunch of stuff to have photographed in addition to the pieces made during the session.  I post on those pieces in the next post.


Day 5 is in the Books

Well, the fifth day is now in the books.  Today was a lot of work.  First, we got to see the canes we made yesterday.  Here is a pictures of the "Ants" cane that I took four lengths of, bundled, and repulled into a new cane.  The four bars were tack fused in the glory hole, and then cased in clear before pulling down.  I think the final is somewhere about 3/4" in diameter.

The cane on the left is the stack I made yesterday. This slice isn't all that straight.  I have quite a bit of this particular cane that is much straighter.  I've bundled four sections and have it ready to pull tomorrow (the last day).  Here is a picture.  Sorry for the poor quality but I was having trouble with the close up function on the camera tonight and it was low on battery life so I wanted to get a quick shot before the battery power ran out.  I will cover this in clear and keep it a square cane, I think.

Here are the other two canes from yesterday.  I really like the "window" cane on the left, even though the picture here isn't that good.  The stacked cane on the right is very colorful - again I apologize for the photo quality.

Maybe this close up will help.

We concentrated on rollups today - I made a small vase from the layout I posted about yesterday.  I changed it slightly from the picture.  It should be out of the kiln tomorrow morning, just in time for my scheduled photo shoot.  More on that tomorrow.

Finally, I created a simple rollout which I will create into a vessel tomorrow.  More to come.



Friday, January 15, 2010

I've Got Blisters on my Fingers

While only one finger, and it's a small blister - but I have it.  Burned myself very slightly tonight and it was all just a stupid mistake of touching a hot pipe at the wrong end with my index finger.  Stupid.  Now for the real story of today.  

The point of today was to pull more, stack more, cut some, restack some of the cut cane, repull it if necessary, and get stuff ready for tomorrow.  In the midst of all that we watched some demos, got a tour of the contemporary glass collection at the museum, and worked out butts off. 

The first picture is of the five canes and one slice off of them that are out of the kiln.  The "ants" one (as my family had dubbed it) was restacked and pulled today.  It'll be out of the annealer tomorrow morning.  

The next picture is of a set up for a rollup which will be rolled onto a core of clear and then blown out into a vase shaped vessel (or a close approximation thereof).  Check out that triangle cane.  That was a last minute decision as we'd been doing squares for the most part, and a few people did a round one (I did one today), but no one did any other shapes.  I think this clear cane will really be cool with the white (french vanilla, actually) border.

I put two more stacks in tonight for pulling in the morning.  The two pictures are below.  Sorry for the poor picture of the second one.  I didn't realize the camera didn't focus correctly until after they were in the kiln.  

Stay tuned - we have two days to go!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 3 - Pull, Cut, Pull

Day 3 is in the books.  We are now officially halfway through with the course.  Today we got to see what came out of the annealer from the pulls we did yesterday.  The are pretty good.  My whole goal for pulling cane was to master pulling square cane.  I've done a lot of round cane, but these are much harder to use in rollups, in fused blanks for slumping, or other general uses.  Square cross-sections are much nicer in this respect.  Here is a picture of me starting to heat one of the blanks to get it ready for pulling.

The next picture is of a 5" length of the cane and one 3/8" thick murrine off that cane.  The next picture after that is a close up of the two canes I pulled yesterday.

Today, we took four lengths of the square cane, wired four of them together with stainless steel wire to hold their shape during heating and the initial pick up.   I'll pull this into smaller canes tomorrow.  This is how it looks in the kiln ready to heat up for pick up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Full Pull

I've just completed Day 2 at the workshop (Giles Bettison at the Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass).  A very long day indeed.  Today was pulling the canes from the stacks we created and loaded into the kiln last night.  We learned a ton about pulling cane, especially square cane.  I pulled both canes that I put in the kiln last night.  From the looks of it, they are pretty cool and everything worked as planned.

No pictures yet - too tired to download from camera!  I'll try to get a chance to take pics tomorrow.  I've got two more stacks ready and in the kiln before I left tonight.  We learned how to make "stuffed color cups" which will create some really interesting murrine with clear centers.  I got a stack of color ready for that as well.

Tomorrow looks to be another long day.  First, we'll cut up the large canes we pulled today and bundle them into new patterns for re-pulling.  We'll pull the stacks that are in the kilns right now.  Finally, we'll create more stacks.  Then we'll get down to business of slicing the bars into murinne for creating vessels from.

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Strips, Strips Strips - Day 1 with Giles Bettison at Corning

Made it through the first day in the workshop with Giles.  Day one is all about cutting strips.  And more cutting.  And more cutting.  The goal was to make about a 3" x 3" x 5" stack of strips that had simple patterns in them.  We will tack fuse them tonight while they are heating up overnight and be ready to pull into long canes tomorrow morning.  We use Bullseye glass with has a 90 COE.  Bullseye has some great colors.  I tried to use a variety of both transparent and opaque glass to be able to see the effects.  The goal will be to pull this into cane about 1" square or maybe a little less.

Here are some pictures of some the stacks I made today.  The first picture shows some of the strips ready to be stacked.  The next two pictures are two are of the same stack, just different views to get some sense of the size.  The last two are of two other stacks.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

I Made It

OK, I moaned and complained in my last post about the drive from my home in Milan, Michigan to Corning, New York.  It took just over seven hours, only stopped for gas once and a couple of bio breaks.  It was sunny most of the way, but way way cold.  Think the top temp I saw on the outdoor thermometer reading on the dash was about 19 degrees (F).  Of course, true to the nature of lake effect snow and weather in the southwestern tip of New York, it was miserable.  Today was no exception.

I stopped at the Chataqua rest stop on I-86, which has to be the most beautiful rest stop on American highways I've ever seen.  It is nice in the summer, overlooking Lake Chataqua, but in the winter its pretty much snowed in.  This is what the main building looks like.  Its better than a lot of houses I've seen.  

The snow drifts on the roof and on the ground were almost touching each other.  Another big wind and they would be.  I grabbed a couple of quick snaps with the trusty camera and was back on my way.

Stay tuned for more updates on the workshop with Giles Bettison throughout the week.  My plan is to post every night.  We'll see how long that plan works out.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road...

It's off to see the wizard!  I'm busy packing for the upcoming trip to Corning, NY for the workshop with Giles Bettison, which I previously wrote about here.  I'm really looking forward to it, once I get there.  That is the problem.  Driving from Michigan, around Lake Erie, and then across the southern tier of New York can be interesting this time of year.  I almost wrote "fun" instead of "interesting" but I remember what it was like two years ago, with probably two feet of snow, blinding white out blizzard conditions, and 47-car pile ups along the way.  I swore I wouldn't return in the winter, but I'm going back for the third time.  The weather forecast is promising sunny weather, albeit chilly.  

Google Maps says its 442 miles and 6 hours 53 minutes - or some such numbers.  Of course, I never can figure out how exactly they calculate it.  I drive the exact route they suggest, even putting in exact door to door locations and still my odometer says I went 10+ miles longer than Google indicates.  Now I've driven this most of the way, and the speed limit is 65 MPH almost the entire way except for the 31 miles in Michigan which is 70 MPH.  That is a 64.2 MPH average across the entire distance!  Google doesn't have to stop for bio-breaks, food, or even gas, but I do.  So in reality this will be closer to at least seven and a half hours, or even eight.  I have to watch my speed though, I like to go fast.  And Sunday mornings are a great time for getting tickets - as I found out on the Ohio Turnpike this time last year when I got a $100+ ticket.  He said I was doing 85+, when I know I was only doing 80.  65 is just too damn slow.

I live on the eastern side of the state for a reason.  It's called "Lake Effect Snow" and I've seen what it can do.  Western Michigan is bad enough, but western New York is just plain crazy with the amount of snow they get, sometimes without much warning.  I'll be driving through it, as you can see on my route map.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mad Genius at Work...Grinding and Polishing Away

I have a lot of glass to grind and polish.  I've let the number of pieces build up over the fall as I just couldn't bring myself to slog through it.  I finally had to face the daunting task.  I've blogged about the type of pieces I'm doing in a previous entry, and I've also talked about the "joy" of coldworking.  I don't mind doing it, I just should have done a few pieces at a time and not built up such a backlog. 

Above is a picture of the mad genius busily grinding away.  Actually, this is the final polishing step.  I've already taken the piece to the wet saw to cut the top flat, through loose grits of 80, 220, and 400, and a pre-polish on that green wheel.  The green pre-polish wheel is similar to using pumice, but not as messy.  The white hard felt wheel is for cerium, which gives the final high gloss polish.  It's pretty messy.  I really like these Polpur wheels, but I don't think I'll be using them on these particular pieces.  The lips of the glass vessels tend to eat away the surface pretty quickly.  I don't have that problem on larger surfaces.  I've probably lost an inch in diameter on that green wheel.

This polishing machine is hand built from parts.  The main piece is a dual arbor I got from HIS Glassworks.  The rest I either built by hand or through various trips to Grainger's.   It works quite well, all things considered.  

Here is a closer look at the polishing step.  One thing I learned, don't let the cerium dry on the surface of these pieces.  The surfaces are highly textured and once the cerium dries, its pretty hard to get off.  I have three pieces sitting in the sink right now trying to dissolve some of it, or at least loosen it up enough to scrub it off with a stiff brush!