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.