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Monday, May 25th, 2009

Time Event
Temperchi this weekend
Melinda and I spent about 12 hours at Temperchi this weekend. We'd have spent more had Madco not given Jon an empty O2 tank. Oh, well. I'm sort of saturated on lampworking for now and am just as happy to have had the afternoon out of the studio.

Saturday I made a few more penguins, an ornament, and a marble encasing a cube. I showed Melinda how to make penguins and she made a few of her own as well. They're all very cute. I spent more than an hour in the afternoon working on the marble. The idea was to encase a cube, edges outlined with cobalt, in a marble. I started out making a small cube with clear, maybe 3/8" on side. Making a cube is sort of hard, actually: it's easy to make a skewed quadrilateral, and to make a rectangular prism, but six square faces takes some doing. With about 20 minutes of marvering I had something I was pretty happy with. Next, I outlined two of the faces with a cobalt-over-sparkle stringer I had made earlier, and drew the other four edges with a cobalt stinger Melinda had pulled (I ran out of the cobalt encased sparkle). So, that was fun; I now had a sort of ugly cube with blue edges. I marvered it back into a cube-like shape, then began adding clear glass. Big dots on each face, and clear liberally applied along all edges. Then, just a lot of heating, condensing, and smoothing to get a round shape without internal seams. It took about forever, as seem to be the wont of large marbles. It also didn't help that I had to pause in the middle while Jon swapped out the nearly empty (but should have been full) tank with a spare oxygen tank. In the end it looks okay, somewhat better in person than by photos (it's the marble in the middle of this photo). One key aspect is that you can't see any seam between the face of the original cube and the glass for the rest of the marble, so I'm happy about that. This whole plan came about because I'm thinking how to encase other small artwork, say, a penguin, and wondered if it would be possible and reasonably straightforward. Seems like "yes" is the answer to both of those questions.

Oh, I had also pulled two stringers on Saturday. These are interesting (to me) because they were coiled encased stringers: warm a substrate of glass (to be the center), heat another rod of glass (to be the encasing material), then paint a coil of the rod around the substrate, starting at the point away from the end and working toward the end. When you arrive at the end, use the source rod as a punty, then condense the coil to be smooth and pull a stringer. This technique I saw in the Adventures of Corina Jones video (campy theme but good instruction, although not as apt for boro as for soft glass).

Sunday, it seemed that the glass just wasn't working for Melinda and me, so we cut back our ambitions and made a bunch of simple work. See the full gallery for what we made -- I was surprised to see it all after we pulled it from the kiln today. For me, I started Sunday trying to make some small vessels. I'd gotten the notion to try to put a punty on the end of a closed tube, in order to help shape the bubble as I blew it. Turns out putting one hand on the punty, the other on the tube, means I no longer have an easy way to hold, turn, and pull all at the same time. (Previously, I'd used two hands on the tube, which let me easily turn while blowing). I made some nice bubbles, did lots of fiddly work, and ended up with a little vase but it looks sort of, sad. The rim especially looks bad, in large part because I couldn't figure how to clean it up easily. What I really need to do, I believe, is just take a class in hollow sculpture and vessel making. I also tried to pull points, which are basically sections of the original tube (as purchased from your supplier), maybe 4-6" long, with tapers on either side of about 8" that you can use for handles and can blow through. The idea makes sense: a small handle lets you turn the glass easily, the long handle lets you blow from a safe distance, and a handle on either side lets you push and pull the bubble as you blow. This all makes sense, too, when your original tubing is, like, 2" in diameter. Most of mine is less than 1", so pulling a point draws down to a tiny tube, and those handles being only 3-4" long -- way too short to be a useful handle or to blow from. So, I made about three of these points, then decided I wasn't doing it right. I tried to improvise a point by joining some small-diameter tube on the large-diameter tube I had, but I didn't have much luck opening the end of the tube to begin with. It was about at this point that I gave up on ambitious projects for the day and switched to easy stuff. Melinda did the same about here, too.

The easy stuff I made was three mice (including one made of a UV-reactive glass), three tiny heart pendants, and cleaned up a twisty ornament I'd made weeks ago (needed a bale and some polish on the end). I then got some ambition back and switched gears to mushroom making. Mushrooms look really ornate in glass but are actually pretty easy to make due to the properties of hot glass. Heat a gather of glass; say, a 14mm gather of 10mm rod. Heat the glass to a bright orange or pink, and warm to a dull glow a stringer or latticino. Let the glow disappear entirely, then, press the stringer into the end of the hot gather. Keep pressing: you'll see the stringer through the gather, with the gather transferring heat to it as it is pressed. When the stringer hits the unheated end of the gather, it will then mushroom out, reversing direction and increasing in radius and heading back toward the end. It's pretty amazing to watch. I had an old latticino (black and white over a clear base) that I used and the mushroom turned out pretty well. I heated it up and made a pendant out of it. Jon noticed that you can see directly into the top of the mushroom, "like a vortex." I expect it's because the latticino was based on a clear center, and that clear perfectly fused with the base glass to hide the boundary. It's a trick I should remember to make.

I wrapped up the day with another mushroom project. The idea was to make a cube and make two mushrooms, side by each. The base started out from 15mm stock, 18" of it, so it was sort of heavy to hold and spin. The mushrooms were going to be from the same latticino, but this was the start of my problems. The twisties were pretty short by now, and it proved too hot to hold them to make a suitable mushroom. That didn't stop me from trying: I heated the glass, jammed it into the base but the mushroom caps didn't form either because the gather wasn't hot enough or the latticino were too cold or that I just couldn't hold them long enough due to the heat. I burned the ends off (I couldn't even hold them by this time) but still finished off the piece. I was making a cube, not a marble, so it was a little easier to shape it, but still took a long time to get the faces square. I added some clover frit to the base (mushrooms in grass?) and finally had what I wanted. But, here's when the next disaster struck. I puntied up the piece, burned off the end, and only needed to polish out the print from the cold seal. The trouble was this: I have no tools that will hold a cube comfortably in the flame. I fussed around trying to get the hot fingers tool (it looks like an egg beater that's open on the end, with a means of tightening up the fingers) to close tightly on the cube, that didn't work. I put it in the marble mold (vying for marble mold time with Melinda, too), put it back in the flame to polish, and *crack* the end broke off. Ugh. I had put it back in the hot part of the flame too quickly after having been out for too long, and some stress line cracked the top off. Sigh. I polished the top, figuring I'd just make a puzzle out of it or something, I polished the bottom, and then it cracked in half, too. Ugh. In both cases it was my fault: too hot of heat too quickly. I should have been more careful, because I think it would have been a nice piece. The three pieces now are sort of interesting to look at nonetheless. So I'll try again. I should devise some tool that lets me hold a cube in the flame, though, because I've done this sort of work a few times now. Jon has lots of pieces of graphite to make tools with, maybe he'll have some ideas to make something.

Melinda's Sunday was very productive, producing 13 pendants. Wow.

Today, we spent only about 2 hours at Temperchi, and at that maybe only 3 hours of torch time between the two of us. We knew that the oxygen was low, and around noon I checked on the tanks -- the needle was at 0. Still enough oxygen for another 40 torch-minutes but not enough for a whole day. We knew it would be a short day so we didn't set our sights too high. Melinda made some pendants, and I practice some technique. I made several fins on a length of rod, just practicing that technique. The one that works best seems to be the one where you paint the fin material back and forth four times: back to front, to back, to front, to back. At the end, you heat the entire fin then pull backward a bit to give the fin a swept look. Also, each stroke of glass goes a little further back than the previous one did. The book I read suggested heating the glass enough for just one stroke at a time, rather than treating this as a long application of a stringer or something. I didn't practice that counterpoint but it'd have been worth trying. I also tried using some of Jon's Chinex glass (a green color), mostly because I ran out of glass within my reach otherwise. Seemed to work okay.

I also made a murrini. Just a little flower shaped thing: rasta gold center, three pedals of cobalt, then three tips of peacock, and finally three thin lines of yellow crayon. The design itself isn't that inspired but this is the first murrini I've tried to make. I thought it turn out well. I made about 2" of the design, which ended up about 15mm - 20mm in diameter. In between the color I'd drawn down clear glass, and I encased the entire design in clear. I then condensed everything together, and used my big parallel mashers to help round everything together. I heated pretty thoroughly, even before adding the second punty, in part to avoid the possibility of pulling or twisting too early. Punty up, more heat, then pull pull pull pull pull. I ended up with about 14" of murrini that's about 3/16" in diameter. A pretty good size, some of it smaller than others. Looking edge on it looks all dark, but nipped into millimeter-think pieces you can see the design. I made a small medallion with four pieces of this murrini, I'll see soon what it'll look like. I think the technique worked okay even if the design could have been more interesting. I'd like to try a more interesting murrini next.

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