Friday, July 30, 2010

What a "Fair"

I've been attending the "Ann Arbor Art Fair" for 35 years now.  I put it in quotes as there isn't one fair, but a whole bunch - four official fairs, and a bunch of offshoots, street and parking lot vendors, etc.  I've always gone on Friday afternoons of the four day, Wednesday to Saturday, event.  In fact, I met my wife on a rainy Friday evening during the fair a long time ago.   But that is another story.

The whole month of July here in southeast Michigan can be classified with one word - "HOT".  The fourth week of July is usually pretty warm, but this year it was significantly hotter than usual.  The heat index Friday afternoon was at about 105 degrees (F).  That is pretty hot.  It was high 90's plus very high humidity.  Not really looking forward to walking around outside on the asphalt streets and amongst the throngs of people.  But we went.  

We knew we wouldn't see everything.  In the old days we could spend five or six hours walking around and seeing almost everything.  These days as walking gets harder and the stamina falters, we have to pick and choose.  Given the heat, we changed up our usual route.  After 35 years, you have a game plan and routes that let you see the most without backtracking.  We saw some interesting stuff and spend about two and a half hours slowly moving through the streets.  

One thing that has me puzzled though is how little new there was.  Back in the "good old days" - 80's and 90's - it seemed like there was always something new, or at least something that you saw a lot of people buying.  I really am tired of seeing the same photographs, paintings, ceramic pots, jewelry, and even glass.  We haven't bought any art in probably the last five years.  Some years we'd come back with half a dozen items, some years it would be that one piece that really grabbed us.  But we don't seem to find that any more.

I had rained earlier in the day on Friday, and there was a strong wind storm on Thursday night.  One of the streets is known as "tornado alley" as the winds really play havoc with the tents.  I heard a lot of people lot work who hadn't prepared properly for that condition.  I remember one year we were on tornado alley when the winds and rain came.  I remember the sounds of glass breaking and the sight of tents flying down the street.  It was really bad.  I don't have exact statistics, but we know in our hearts that it will rain during the fair on Friday.  It may be a small shower or heavy downpour but it WILL RAIN.  

We were tired and sweaty around five o'clock so we decided just to go to dinner.  We have a favorite Greek place that we always go to.  Since we were on the other side of the town due to changing up our route, we got in the car and tried to drive over.  Parking on that side of town wasn't looking good and we just decided to go to the Red Lobster out by where we live.  The air conditioning in the car sure felt good.  Then about five minutes later the heavens opened up.  There was the "art fair downpour" we'd been expecting.  It was fun watching the people scurry like cockroaches when you turn the lights on!  I know that feeling - we've been there too many times to count.  It only lasted 10 minutes but really did help cool down.

Get into the restaurant and then the lights go out.  It was only about 10 seconds and they were back on, but then another storm came.  This one was much bigger and the winds were very strong.  That one lasted about 30 minutes and since we were inside weren't paying much attention.  Driving home the six miles you could tell that the closer we got to home, the worse it was.  There were trees and leaves and branches and trash cans everywhere.  Pulling into the driveway it looked like a war zone.  Of course, there was no power.  It was still very hot, and now really humid.  I didn't see much damage until I went to the far side of the house and saw this.
There was a nice 12 foot high ornamental flowering cherry tree in this area, now it is tangled up with some branches that fell from the 70 foot oak trees that are nearby. The clean up task will begin.  There are leaves and branches everywhere.  I suspect it'll be a couple of weeks before things look normal again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday - Glass Musings!

I was planning on posting this a little bit closer to the actual day when I celebrated one year of writing this blog.  Like everything else this summer, I haven't done much blogging.  This is one of the strangest summers in a long time.  The heat and humidity, along with the raft of thunderstorms and tornadoes have left me in a mood to not do very much.  Thus, I'm two weeks past due in celebrating.  

July 5, 2009 was the first post.  My intent was to post a few times per week.  I posted 66 entries in 52 weeks - actually 54 weeks given the delay.  That works out to 1.2 posts per week.  Far short of the 2 or 3 I planned.  Looking back, I started off pretty good, got some good spurts in, and now have lost steam.  I don't see that coming as a result of not wanting to continue to write about my adventures in glass land, just a reality that I have a lot of things to do.  Glass has taken a back seat since early this spring and thus everything related has fallen by the wayside.  

I plan on writing more in the coming days and weeks.  I know I've said that before, but I have a few unfinished projects that I need to complete.  I have some new blown glass work that I'm pretty happy with as well.  Stay tuned.  

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Happened - A Frustrating Result

Well, here is a really strange result.  I created a strip-cut blank and a incorporated some of the murrine tiles I made a while ago.  It is all made from Bullseye glass so I'm pretty sure it is all compatible.  I spent several hours cutting the strips, alternating clear and opaque ones which looked really nice when setting up the layout.  I used murrine that had clear glass centers surrounded by an amber brown color.  These made little windows or stepping stones across the piece.  

I fused the blank in a 12" ring.  It came out perfectly - just as I expected.  I got some new slumping molds for Father's Day.  One was the deep sided bowl.  This is a 12" diameter mold across the top but only a few inches deep.  This should have worked perfectly in my small kiln.  In a nutshell - IT DIDN'T.  

The picture above is what I saw when I opened the kiln.  I peeked when the piece was heating up to make sure everything was OK.  At a little over 1000 degrees (F) it was perfectly fine.  It was late so I went to bed, around midnight, knowing that it would take most of the night and the next morning to slump, anneal, and cool.  

A couple of notes, I had a good kiln wash on the mold.  I was happy and it was uniform.  Note that the glass came out perfectly fine from the mold and only had a slight dusting of kiln wash residue which wiped right off.  The blank was perfectly centered in the opening and was very level.  The mold has an indented bottom on the outside so I didn't think it needed to be up off the kiln floor.  The only other thing which is a little unusual is the placement of the thermocouple.  It is about 3/8" from the side of the mold.  It isn't touching the mold but its placement meant I had to keep the entire set up slightly off center in the kiln.

Here is a more close up picture of the break.  Note that the piece seems to have slid down the sides of the mold unevenly as one side is higher in the mold than the other.
I used the following schedule which I felt was conservative.  I peeked in the morning when the temperature was about 750 and the piece was cracked.

Step   Rate    Temp (F)   Hold
  1      100      1000         60
  2      240      1240         30
  3      9999     900          180
  4      50        700           0

The picture below is a close up of the crack from the underside.  Note that it is very smooth and fire polished.

 So I'm really at a loss to explain why this happened.  It isn't a compatibility issue that I can see.  All the white, red, and clear strips where full length strips so there was no piecing together.  Seems to me that since the edges of the crack are smooth that the piece cracked sometime after the 1000F mark but before the full fuse.  

Help?  Thoughts?  Ideas?