Friday, October 7, 2011

Baffled, bemused and bewildered

Having launched the Savitrine Glassworks online gallery and shop I was reflecting on how far I have come in 18 months and the techniques I have developed and the experiments I have tried to produce different glass pieces. I figure that there are 8 techniques I use often and am (relatively) confident in employing. It got me thinking about what else I have seen and read about. I counted over 40 so that means I am about 20% there. Not bad really!!
So here they all are;

  1. Fire Polishing
  2. Tack Fusing
  3. Full Fusing
  4. Metal inclusions
  5. Mould making (definitely need more practice!!)
  6. Glass Paint & Mica
  7. Glass Chalk and Clay
  8. Cold Combing
  9. Hot Combing
  10. Freeze and Fuse
  11. Foam Glass
  12. Making my own Art Glass sheets
  13. Stack Firing
  14. Pattern Bars
  15. Deep Casting and Layering
  16. Kiln Carving
  17. Pate de Verre
  18. Kiln Casting
  19. Wafers & Cookies
  20. Sandblasting
  21. Acid Etching
  22. Murrini
  23. Pot Melts
  24. Woven Glass & Coral Bowls
  25. Raku Glass a la Lundstrom
  26. Laminating
  27. Glass and Print
  28. Multi Layering
  29. Deliberate Bubbles
  30. Paperweights
  31. Frit balls, Frit Gardens
  32. Photographic Decals
  33. Mosaic
  34. Stringer Bowls
  35. Enamels & Lustres
  36. Crackle Glass
  37. Pressed Glass
  38. Vitrigraph Stringers
  39. Vertical Pattern Bars
  40. Reactive Glass
  41. Stained Glass (using fused panels)
  42. Fossil Vitra (using organic material)
No wonder I am bemused and bewildered!! Over the next 12 months I want to try the next 32 techniques and push my work so that I develop a distinctive style and improve my design process.

The good news is that I am starting to sell pieces and putting money aside to get a sandblaster and bigger kiln. It's all a bit like the church steeple fund - one day I'll get there and can set up a permanent studio at Daramalan and I will have the confidence to enter competitions and contact galleries.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Savitrine Glassworks Gallery Shop on the Web

Please visit the site and check out the items for sale.

Quite an impressive body of work so far even if I say so myself!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Making Luto - Moulds part 2

Well I knew it was ambitious. The boat mould cracked even before it got to the kiln so now it is smashed up in a bag ready to be used as luto or grog (filler material). So undeterred I then made up seven moulds slightly smaller and measured the Hydrocal and Silica very carefully. Success I thought as they air dried perfectly! But they cracked when being cured in the kiln even though it was only fired to 400 deg C. They have been smashed into another luto bag. Don't you just love recycling?!

I have two more boat moulds made and am thinking of binding them with stainless steel wire and just firing them with glass in to see what happens. I suspect, inevitably, they will go into a third bag or the garbage can. Next step will be to actually make a boat with earthenware or porcelain clay, fire it and then use as a mould. Next update in about a month on my mouldy progress.

To cheer myself up I made the above platter which will be a raffle prize at my son's school in late October. Can't get a mould to work but my fusing and slumping is improving all the time.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Making Moulds

My first real mould making experience and why not make it ambitious? I wanted to make a boat shaped piece of fused glass and used a porcelain serving bowl as the 'blank'. After filling it with Kleen clay and laying upside down on a board I covered it with mould release (dishwashing liquid I think despite the price!) and then built a dam wall around it with flexible perspex.

The mould material was a mixture of 6 parts Hydrocal (Calcium sulphate gypsum), 2 parts Silica powder and 1 part Grog (fine particles of old broken clay moulds). First I put enough clean water in a bucket to cover the mould plus a bit more to allow for absorption. The plaster mix was then spread onto the water a handful at a time. The first handfuls absorb the water and about twenty handfuls later the powder stayed dry as the rest had absorbed most of the water. The mix can be left for about ten minutes before use like this.

I mixed by hand until it coated my hand like full cream and there were no more lumps. Left for about 10 minutes until it started to set and then poured over the mould while pounding the board to eliminate as much air as possible. Whilst the plaster was setting I cleaned up all the utensils - into the garden and never down the sink as the plaster hardens in the pipes.

About 40 minutes later the plaster had set and I removed the perspex dam and the original porcelain 'blank' piece so that it can be used again. The ceramic mould is very heavy so it will need 7 days to air dry before drilling (vent) holes in the base and firing it at 120 degrees Centigrade for 3 hours and 480 deg C for 1 hour then cool to room temperature. Then, so long as it does not crack or break, I will fill with frits, stringers and scrap glass and fire my first boat. The plan is then to suspend it from a frame like a lifeboat. Keep you posted when it's finished and will post the 'boat series' as and when they come out of the kiln.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Woollahra Small Sculpture Entry

Working with glass is constantly surprising and challenging. Opening the kiln is always a pleasure but I do not always get what I expected. I have been happy enough to concentrate on fusing and slumping glass into prepared moulds and have produced some really fabulous functional ‘homeware’ pieces.

Recently though I have begun to experiment again and attempted more sculptural pieces. The first involved slumping glass over a porcelain mould of a woman’s face. I made two panels, one in the colours of the Aboriginal flag and one in the Australian flag colours. “Sorry, I can’t hear you” is in some ways a political statement about (the lack of any true) reconciliation but also was a great way to feature the slumped faces. The two panels are mounted in a red wooden frame set at right angles to each other.

Encouraged by a friend I entered the piece in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize. This is a highly prestigious exhibition and only 41 pieces will be shown in 2011 from more than 540 entries! So, fair to say that I was not expecting to get in to the final forty on the first attempt. Even though the piece was not successful I will continue to explore glass sculpture. I have made moulds of shells and coral to experiment with pate de verre casting and have a few ideas around the theme of water and boats. My local Vinnies is a rich source of potential moulds and vessels.

My first boat experiment resulted in a rather solid and discoloured piece that resembled a thunder egg. Interesting but almost unusable. The Boron nitride I used to prime the steel mould melted into the glass and the frit collapsed. I probably overfired the piece so next time will try a tack fuse schedule and hope for better results.

I do keep technical notes and must get them all in one place, or rather on one page. My notebook is full of notes, ideas, suppliers, client numbers and lists of themes. I really should get a divided notebook and start again or sit at the Mac and type it all up. Maybe there is a book in there too!!

Pot Melt Result

Well the first pot melt experiment went better than expected. The piece is a touch too dark and was not entirely circular. It was also smaller than expected. A good learning experience though and I have fused the melt onto a blue transparent circle as above. It will need to be ground and polished before slumping or displaying in a stand. It looks a little like the earth in motion or a butterfly's wings.

The great thing is that having done one melt I now know what to change for number two – less colours, more transparents and clears, more glass (up to 3 kg even!) and longer hold time at 899°C to allow more melt and a wider spread.

There are several glass artists in the US who do nothing but pot melts to incorporate into their works. I’m not sure I am that hooked but it is a cool technique to add to the others I have learnt. Plenty of others to try so best get fusing!!

Pot melting

My latest experiment in the kiln is a pot melt. The idea is to fill an Italian (higher quality) terracotta flower pot with glass scraps and raise it off the kiln shelf using mullite (kiln shelf material) strips. Heat the kiln to 899°C and hold for 90 minutes. The (hopefully) molten glass flows through the holes in the base of the pot to fall and spread over the prepared kiln shelf. I did build a dam to form a 34 cm circle to hopefully avoid glass spilling over the kiln shelf edges.

I used 1.5 kg of scrap glass which should form a 30cm circle about 6mm thick. Two problems; too much black so what glass I could see flowing was very dark and too many strips of glass too long for the pot so as it melted it spilled over the pot edge. 

Pot melts can produce the most amazing patterns as the glass spreads out and reforms. I am hoping for a nice circle to mount in a stand as a sculptural table centrepiece or backlit on a sideboard. Worst case I will cut the result into strips like a pattern bar and refuse into other plates. 
One of the great things about working with glass is that every seeming disaster can be recycled and incorporated into another piece. I love the fact that there is very little waste as even the smallest scraps can be sprinkled over pieces or ground into powders to use later. The only problem is finding time to plan and make pieces as well as preparing moulds and recycling glass. No wonder all the best artists have assistants to do all that for them so they can concentrate on being creative.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Darling Point Installation

I am lucky to have a great network of friends and professional contacts who are willing to embrace glass art and recommend my pieces. At the ZimSSEF day an architect friend saw the range of pieces and thought that some glass panels would be perfect for an installation at a client’s apartment.

The apartment is in Darling Point with unobstructed views to Bellevue Hill. The rear balcony is huge and framed by a large grey wall. S & A commissioned me to produce 6 panels a tad larger than A4 size to be fixed outside and provide colour, texture and a feature for the wall.

All six panels are three or four layers thick (8-12 mm) with flat ground edges. The designs were selected by the client and were quite a challenge. Two are of cityscapes, two representative of water, one abstract curves and one Mondrian-esque abstract straight edged shapes.

A great number of hours went into the glass cutting and positioning and each panel spent 14 plus hours in the kiln. They will be affixed to the wall with a yet to be selected glue/cement and hopefully will give their owners and guests many hours of pleasure.

I really enjoyed the challenge and the working relationship with the architect and his clients. I am hoping that it will result in a few more commissions and make it to the practice’s website.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Supporting ZimSSEF

On June 5th Cranbrook School hosted a Zimbabwe Street Soccer Tournament and Savitrine Glassworks was happy to donate a $300 slab plate for the raffle prize and set up a market stall for the day. The day was very successful and we sold 9 pieces for a total of $800, 10% of which was donated to ZimSSEF. A huge thank you to all the buyers, fellow stall holder and everyone who dropped by to have a look at my work. Oh and Marcus' team came third, losing to the eventual Zimbabwean winners. Good day all round.

You can check out Street Soccer at and donate at A documentary by James Maiden was screened on SBS in 2010.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pattern Bars

Another technique is creating a glass colour/pattern bar which can then be sliced with a diamond saw and either incorporated into a slumped vessel or framed alone as I did for the TAP Gallery group Spirit exhibition.

The pattern bar is made up of strips of glass plus stringers, noodles rods, frits and powders. The results are not always predictable but always a joy to see complete after over 22 hours in the kiln. In designing pattern bars it helps if you can think upside down and in a mirror because what you will use is a cross section or slice of the bar and hopefully side-by-side they are symmetrical.

First, again, are the design and the colours then cutting strips of glass the right length but of varying widths. The strips are laid flat and vertically in the colour combinations you want. The key is that as the glass strips melt to form a slab or bar the glass flows and slides. This means that you can create curves and more interesting effects as wider strips melt and reform around narrower strips and rods. The strips are laid direct onto the primed kiln shelf and a dam wall is built around them to ensure the result is a slab and not a puddle.

After firing the slab is sliced and the bars polished with diamond boards or paper. They are a lot of work but well worth the effort and spectacular to see in a final piece. Below is "Wheels of Life" from the Spirit show.

Savitrine Glassworks begins....

So let’s just go back a little and start the story. I am lucky enough to have a printing press, a kiln, a workable studio area in the roof space and time to indulge in exploring my creative side. I have always painted or made prints and have enjoyed it immensely. I was given an opportunity to do a glass fusing course two years ago though it took a year to get onto a suitable course. I attended a one-day session with Dagmar Ackerman in May 2010 and became hooked. After some experimentation I have developed an affinity with glass and it is now my medium of choice. If confirmation were needed it came at a three day intensive master class with American glass legend Patty Gray in March 2011. Patty is knowledgeable, patient, inspirational but above all generous with her time and feedback. She has given me the confidence to experiment further and to just get on with it!

Appropriately for kiln fired glass work Savitrine means "of the sun" in Sanskrit and is also a (terrible) play on words. Sa vitrine is "his shop window" in French. Kiln fired glass started as a hobby, became a passion and now a business.

I entered two pieces at the RAS Easter Show and two more at the Sydney Family Show. No sales but my pieces held their own and it was a great opportunity to hear some feedback and confirm that my pricing was right. Out of the blue the Spirit exhibition at TAP Gallery in Darlinghurst came up as an opportunity to show four pieces. Again no sales but fantastic feedback from other artists and the gallery manager who suggested holding a solo show later in the year. Add to that two commissions from a very special friend and muse and I am off on an exciting journey.

It wont be easy and I will have to balance the necessity to sell functional plates and bowls with more creative art glass. The Savitrine Glassworks business plan is almost done and there are many challenges ahead but I am confident that I can supplement my income from the farm and earn a living.

The making of "Mudra (Girl in a Blue Dress)"

So much for the history of glass. How do I create a fused glass platter? Here is the process for “Mudra (Girl in a Blue Dress) that I made for the Spirit exhibition at the TAP Gallery in April 2011.
First comes the design – the aesthetic proposal if you will. I try to incorporate the guidelines of repetition, variety, rhythm, balance, emphasis, economy and proportion (the design principles as set out in “Shaping Space” by Zelanski and Fisher).

The final panel or plate is made up of two fused layers of glass, the bottom layer a single sheet of clear (Spectrum) System 96 glass and the top layer made up of pieces cut from sheets of both transparent and opaque glass. The girl’s dress is cut from a pattern called blackberries and cream. The glass in both layers must have the same coefficient of expansion. System 96 has a COE of, not surprisingly, 96 while Bullseye glass has a COE of 90. Mixing COEs just means a cracked and often irreversibly damaged piece.

The cut pieces of glass must fit closely together so some may have been ground or shaped after cutting. The glass is held in place with Glastac glue or (cheap) hair styling spray. Trust me, it works really well.
The glass must be really clean to avoid imperfections after firing.

The two assembled layers are placed on ceramic fibre paper on a kiln washed shelf. I am over cautious and could do one or the other but prefer to take no chances, as there are enough things that can go wrong! Glass tack or partially fuses at 730 - 760°C and fully fuses creating one uniform glass layer at 790 - 835°C. This piece is full fused with the following schedule; 60 minutes to 540°C then 30 minutes to 620°C and hold for 60 minutes. Thirty minutes to 810°C, hold for 30 minutes then rapid cool as fast as possible to 560°C and hold for 105 minutes, down to 440°C over three hours and then end programme. That’s an 8 ½ hour fusing schedule and then about another 8 hours of nervous waiting before the kiln can be opened.

The firing programme is in several parts – initial and gradual heating through the strain point then more rapid heating through the softening point to the working temperature followed by rapid cooling down through the devitrification range and finally slow maintenance cooling to ensure the glass anneals correctly.

Once fused the glass piece in this case is framed for gallery display. More often than not the fused piece will be slumped into a mould for a further 8 – 10 hours of kiln time and the final piece will be a functional platter for everyday use and a beautiful work of art to be displayed.

The History of Glass

Kiln fired or warm glass includes glass fusing, glass slumping into moulds, glass paste (pate de verre) and glass casting. It is not glass blowing (hot glass), lamp or flame working or bead making. It can include cold working like etching, sandblasting and carving.

Glass is an incredible medium to work with – versatile, challenging, unique, surprising and always beautiful. The very history of glass is the stuff of myth and legend. Glass has been used by man for about 5,000 years and the legend recounted by Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) in Natural History is that merchants used nitrum blocks in a fire on a beach at the mouth of the Belo River in the Eastern Mediterranean. The nitrum fused with the sand a liquid glass flowed forth. Nice story but the fire would not have been hot enough and archaeologists have dated glass beads to 3,000 BC, the Bronze Age, in Mesopotamia. The Phoenicians used the glass created in ceramic glazing to decorate pots or as jewellery.

Glass was popular and an item as precious as gemstones. It even gets a mention, as ‘crystal’, in a passage from The Bible, Job 28 12-19.

12 But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? 
13 No mortal comprehends its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. 
14 The deep says, “It is not in me”; the sea says, “It is not with me.” 
15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed out in silver. 
16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or lapis lazuli. 
17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold. 
18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. 
19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it; it cannot be bought with pure gold.

Small glass vessels were produced about 1650 BC, glass mosaic bowls about 1500 BC and glass blowing about 1000 BC. The centres for artisan glass making were Persia, Phoenicia, Syria, Etruria and of course Egypt. As the Roman Empire expanded in the first century BC so did the transfer of glass making knowledge and techniques. As Rome declined the centre for glass shifted to Syria and Palestine where glass blowing reached extraordinary heights. The Mongol invasions destroyed the glass production centres and Venice became the glass capital of the world for over 200 years.

The Venetians transformed glass in the Renaissance and as early as 1271 the glass guild produced strict laws regulating the business protecting secret formulas and techniques and forbidding any glassmaker to work outside of the Republic. In 1291 the glass furnaces were relocated to the island of Murano after frequent fires in the glass district and to prevent foreigners from learning the glassmaker’s skills. In 1457 Angelo Barovier (1405 – 1460) created a perfectly clear, crystalline glass and other makers revived millefiori and mosaic techniques.

By the 16th century Venice had competition from France, Germany and Moravia (Czechoslovakia) and it was not until the late 1950s that Murano again came to the fore. The Germans are credited with the revival of stained glass, specifically a 12th century monk named Theophilus, though coloured ‘glazed windows’ in churches date to the 7th century. Just try to imagine Chartres, Notre Dame or La Sainte Chapelle without their amazing stained glass windows.

An Englishman, George Ravenscroft (1632 – 1683) invented lead crystal glass in 1676 by adding lead oxide to Venetian glass. The practice and art of cutting crystal glass developed from there and England, Ireland and Bohemia became the centres of production.

With industrialisation glass became a utilitarian medium with factories churning out pressed glass pieces for the masses. The English Arts and Crafts and European Art Nouveau movements restored glass to an art form. Emile Galle, the Freres Daum, Henri Cros and Rene Lalique in France and Louis Comfort Tiffany in America created beautiful and functional glass works.

The studio art glass revival began as recently as the 1960s starting a new and exciting era. Glass can be produced in small studios away from industrialisation and is an amazing medium for creative expression. As art and as practical pieces the market is readier than ever for quality products.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Savitrine Glassworks at TAP Gallery April 2011

My journey as an artist has been long, somewhat meandering and often postponed. Inspired by Japanese contemporary printmaking I have been carving woodblocks and producing drypoint etchings. Recently I discovered glass and am now a passionate glass addict! Glass is a medium that exists in dichotomies – ancient and contemporary, ethereal and solid, transparent and opaque, mysterious and revealing yet above all timeless. I love to experiment with colours, patterns and layers to reveal hidden images – truly through the looking glass and into a wonderland of functional and beautiful pieces.
Glass fusing is technically challenging and there is not a kiln opening without holding my breath before seeing what has developed. There is a fine line between success and failure but that is part of the addiction - to keep pushing not only the boundaries of the medium but also my creative vision.
I am inspired by a broad range of influences, in particular the natural world around me and my recent body of work has focused on exploring my own self and spirituality.

My first gallery show is as part of the Spirit exhibition at TAP Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Sydney, from April 5 - 10 2011. Four pieces - Ganesh, Mudra, Wheels of Life and The Watcher of the Skies. Photographs above.

Kiln fired (Spectrum 96) glass
36 x 36 cm, Framed 54 x 54 cm
The Lord of Obstacles and The Lord of Beginnings. A balance between power and beauty.
Price: $420.00

Mudra (Girl in a Blue Dress)
Kiln fired (Spectrum 96) glass
36 x 36 cm, Framed 54 x 54 cm
In Chin Mudra the connection of thumb and
index finger allows the flow of energy back into
the body, opening up the chest and heart.
The Girl in the Blue Dress is meditating for the world.
Price: $420.00

The Watcher of the Skies
Kiln fired (Spectrum 96) glass, 8 sliced pattern bars
8 bars 10 x 1 cm, Framed 805 x 135 cm
Price: $310.00

“At that hour when all things have repose,
O lonely watcher of the skies,
Do you hear the night wind and the sighs
Of harps playing unto Love to unclose
The pale gates of sunrise?

When all things repose, do you alone
Awake to hear the sweet harps play
To Love before him on his way,
And the night wind answering in antiphon
Till night is overgone?

Play on, invisible harps, unto Love,
Whose way in heaven is aglow?
At that hour when soft lights come and go,
Soft sweet music in the air above
And in the earth below.”

James Joyce, Chamber Music III, 1906

Wheels of Life
Kiln fired (Spectrum 96) glass, 8 sliced pattern bars
8 bars 10 x 1 cm, Framed 255 x 180 cm
Price: $310.00

The Chakras spin releasing the kundalini within,
aspiring to a higher self and consciousness.