Thursday, August 23, 2012

Antique glass myth

One of the best, and most believable, glass myths is that because it is a supercooled liquid, with some solid and some liquid properties, that is why Medieval cathedral windows are thicker at the bottom than at the top. The 'logical' assumption is that the glass was once uniform in thickness, but has flowed to its new shape over the centuries.

However, this assumption is incorrect; once solidified, glass does not flow anymore. The reason for the observation is that in the past, when panes of glass were commonly made the technique used was to spin molten glass so as to create a round, mostly flat and even plate. This plate was then cut to fit a window. The pieces were not, however, absolutely flat; the edges of the disk became a different thickness as the glass spun. When installed in a window frame, the glass would be placed with the thicker side down both for the sake of stability and to prevent water accumulating in the lead cames at the bottom of the window. 

Mass production of glass window panes in the early twentieth century caused a similar effect. In glass factories, molten glass was poured onto a large cooling table and allowed to spread. The resulting glass is thicker at the location of the pour, located at the center of the large sheet. These sheets were cut into smaller window panes with nonuniform thickness, typically with the location of the pour centred in one of the panes (known as "bull's-eyes") for decorative effect. So now you also know how Bullseye Glass Company got its name.

Fuse, Cut, Paste, Fuse, Slump

It is a really simple idea, and not original, but a very effective technique nonetheless. Usually two or more layers are fused to a preconceived design and then slumped into the mould. This time though I fused a design using frits, powders and stringers and cut the slab up into squares and rearranged them and re-fused the piece before slumping. The same process steps I use when incorporating pattern bars into a plate.

With an extra firing it adds to the production costs but it also makes it more interesting a piece and more creative fun. I am quite pleased with the first two pieces and look forward to getting some feedback at the market stall. 

People are certainly not backward in coming forward with their thoughts! That actually is good because there is no point displaying pieces that no one will buy (see existential clock blog!!). It is often the simplest pieces that most people like. Unless someone commissions something that is exactly what they want for their house or office then I have to produce pieces that sell and pieces that are experimental and more fun to create. It was ever thus for artists and craftspeople!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reactive Glass

The latest 'hot new' thing in warm glass seems to be 'reactive glass'. I say 'new' though it has always been there in some respects because of the chemical composition of different coloured glass and the chemical reactions between them and metal (Silver, Gold and Copper) inclusions. Bullseye started producing special reactive glass about five years ago and Spectrum joined in a few years ago.

It is a simple development really. Glass (simplistically) is made up of sand (Silica) and potash (Potassium) or soda (Calcium Carbonate) plus metals (Copper, Lead, Iron, Sulphur, Boron) for colour. The addition of Iron Oxide gives clear soda lime glass a greenish tint, Iron and Chromium (and indeed Uranium) create green glass, Sulphur gives amber, yellows and vanilla, Copper creates blue, Lead oranges and reds and so on. the elements in the glass will also react with silver, gold and copper metal inclusions like leaf, wire and grid.

So if a Copper bearing Blue/Green frit is scattered on Sulphur bearing vanilla glass the result is a dark amber glass. If Silver (Ag) leaf is placed on the vanilla it reacts and 'fumes' beyond the leaf itself to create red. If the Copper frit covers the silver then the silver leaf 'remains' blue. All three reactions can be seen above and two of the three below.

The glass manufacturers also produce reactive glass that is either white or clear. They react with Copper or Silver to produce a reddish hue. Not all glass will react and there is a lot of experimentation to develop the correct colour intensity. Spectrum and Bullseye both have useful fact sheets on their websites to give the glass artist some degree of predictability. The best part is that you get to play around a lot and particularly with powders and frits.

I have seen an artist's 'colour card' which shows the results of combining frit colours - over 600 combinations - and it is a fantastic tool. One day I will have to get around to doing it for a permanent reference chart.

Pot Stands & Vases

I am always experimenting and looking for new things to make that are utilitarian and aesthetic. The vase below was a fused disc slumped over a stainless steel mould. It does hold water and it does stand up despite the 'over slumping'. It actually looks like a flower opening its petals when it is right way up. I have another disc ready to slump and am hoping it will be far less top heavy.

More successful is the tea pot stand (trivet) above which is picked up and commented on by lots of people every week. However, at $40 it is something someone will have to absolutely love for it to be bought. That price is about break even given the brass border cost almost that. Even if it is not bought until nearer Christmas that's okay as it gets people to stop and look at all the other pieces.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Small sculptures or paperweights?

Despite their small size (8 cm tall, 6 cm wide and 4 cm deep) these pieces contain a large amount of glass. They are the result of this year's classes with world renowned glass artist Emma Varga. They look simple and clean which is deliberate but there is a lot of spatial planning involved. 

Not big enough to be sculptures they are a perfect size for paperweights and more artistic than the glass heads that I have been selling at the markets. Still a long way to go before I can create anything as beautiful as Emma though.

Sushi, Sushi, Sushi

Everyone loves sushi, right? So a range of sushi plates should stand a reasonable chance of being regular sellers. Unfortunately this is only partly true. It is amazing the number of people who ask whether the plates can be used for other things......Hmmmm, hard to know how to reply!

Maybe part of the problem lies with my range of plastic/resin sushi that I display on the plates. There is hardly a person walking past who does not stop to touch them or take a photograph. Strange isn't it that a piece of $2 resin can elicit so many responses? If only a tenth of those who stop also bought a beautiful glass 'sushi' plate too.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Time for a Clock Range!

These are the first two in what will be a range of designs to suit all tastes and budgets. The quartz clock movements are imported and work well. The hardest part is drilling the 10 centimetre hole in the glass so that the mechanism can be installed.

Glass does not like intense heat concentrated in one spot so the drilling has to be done underwater with a diamond tipped drill bit. It is a knack to have the water shallow enough for safety from electrocution and to allow some water into the partially drilled hole to keep the glass cool.

The second clock is more for amusement than telling the time. The numbers represent 
33.89 S151.23 E which is the latitude and longitude of Paddington. Not really expecting anyone to buy it but it does get a lot of people stopping and asking how it tells time. Along with the plastic sushi pieces being a major fascination it is important to get people engaged with the stall.

Sydney Harbour Scenes

After successfully exhibiting at the Waverley Woollahra Art Show I have begun a new series of 'glass etchings' featuring views of Sydney Harbour. I expect there to be about twelve in total all showing off the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

They are really time consuming as the fusible glass paint has to be applied using a modified (cake) icing bag onto a piece of Spectrum 96 clear. This is then place on top of a solid coloured opal piece and fused overnight. Once fused the piece is framed though there is no need for a cover glass of course but still the mat has to be cut and the frame squared off.

Again these are more for the out of Sydney visitors and are less easy to pack than a small plate. They would fit into a suitcase though and wrapped well in between clothes they will withstand the worst that airport baggage handlers can throw at them.

As they are executed I'll post pictures later so watch this space.

New work - Gum Trees

I want to produce pieces that are functional and aesthetic avoiding anything too kitsch or 'Australiana'. However, clearly 60% of the visitors to Paddington Markets are tourists and they are looking for something not only unique but also to remind them of their time in Sydney and Australia. With that in mind I have started a new series based on the bark of the gum tree; the scribbly gum to be more precise.

The technique is somewhat time consuming in that the various shades of brown, ochre, gray and ivory Glassline fusible glass paint is painted onto a piece of clear Spectrum 96. The colours are then mixed and merged using a cockatoo feather - how Aussie is that??!

The single sheet is then fused overnight. The 'gum tree' sheet is then recut and a new design is created with more S96 clear. This double layered piece is again fused overnight and then slumped overnight into the mould. They look great and I hope my overseas visitors think so too.

So far so good...

A big thank you to E and G for dropping by last week and buying some glass. Really appreciate the long drive to Paddington. This photo has also made me realise that I seem to have adopted a markets uniform of brown leather jacket and Swans beanie....The jacket has been with me all over the world since 1978 and is beginning to show its age...physically and style-wise. Maybe I need some advice from MZ at Shine by Three ( Mind you it is bitterly cold at the markets and seemingly there is always a brisk breeze blowing down Newcombe Street mall. I can't display anything taller than 20 centimetres in case a gust blows it over onto other pieces.

E & G received a 10% discount....and so can you if you come to Paddington and mention this blog!!
Bring something warm to wear!!