Friday, August 27, 2010

Miscellaneous Work

Time for the awful truth:  My kiln is dead.  I put this bead in it and left it alone, figuring it would do its thing.  What it did was allow the bead to soak for an undetermined amount of time then essentially air cool, without even a fiber blanket to keep it warm.  Its performance has been so so for a while, I think, but this time I caught it.  I'm holding the bead together here.  It was merely cracked, but fell apart in my pocket, cutting my hand as I tried to retrieve it.  I am particularly angry with this bead, since it really was pretty before it cracked and then it went and bit me.

It was supposed to be the focal to go with some of these beads, all made with Effetre Caribbean blue.  The focal shown didn't come out as I hoped because I smeared the yellow badly while encasing and it went particularly ugly with the dark line reaction with the light sky blue of the Caribbean.

This happened a while ago.  It's just taken me a while to feel objective enough to write it down.  I've been making spacers and stuff I can do in annealing bubble, but it isn't the same and I've been doing other mediums, such as polymer clay and wire.  Above is a copper chainmaille bracelet I'm chewing up and the framework for my first effort at Viking knit.  I have to get a chunk of wood and drill some holes to draw it through.
This is the finished polymer clay tree.  I quit when I realized I would never be able to sand it past those gouges left by trying to press it out with my fingers without ruining the tree entirely.  I now own a nylon rolling pin (meant for fondant) and some toungue depressors.I'm at a bit of a loss to explain those white marks in the color.  Any answers, polymer clay folks?

I did pick up some new glass, hoping to lift my spirits while I'm whiling away the time waiting to save up for a new kiln.  The left 3 beads are DH Clio, looking as unlike any Clio beads I've seen as they could.  I don't know whether I messed up the strike or whether they would have finished striking during annealing (sniff) but the darkest I got was a root beer kind of color.  It could be the reducing HotHead, too, because even the plain bead on the left got reduced, and I wasn't even trying to.  2nd in from the left is Clio over clear and 2nd from the right is Clio reduced and encased with clear.  On the right is CiM African grey, which looks a lot like hippo.  I have to dig out my hippo beads and make a comparison.  I'll be honest, I'm really not as excited as I should be about getting the first new glass I've had in almost 6 months.  I'm over halfway there.  Another couple months and I'll be either crazy or back in business.

Monday, August 23, 2010

But Not a Bad Day

I've been working really long days and today is my first one off, so I needed to go shopping.  After a grueling session of grocery shopping followed by assembling the new trolley I bought without instructions and minus one cotter pin, during which it rained a bit, I felt too wiped out to torch so I headed back out for a walk downtown.  This is something I haven't done in the 2 1/2 years I've lived here, and I learned quite a bit.

Rome is not a large town and I was able to walk from the northwest corner to 1/3 of the way on the southern edge and then to the southeast corner and back in 2 1/2 hours.  There are some nice, old houses in town, some of them quite well maintained, and some pretty areas I wish I brought my camera along for. 

I was on a mission to find a "real" health food store that didn't just sell sports supplements (which wouldn't do me any good at all) and I found two.  Plus, I stopped in the shop that sells smoking paraphanalia to see if he carried lampwork and if so, if he had a local source (he doesn't sell beads or jewelry, just pipes and T-shirts, hmmmm.....) Then I was drawn by their window display to the local jeweler, who does carry lampwork beads, but they looked like mass-produced numbers and the salesperson was helping a couple look at rings and I felt I shouldn't wait for them to make up their minds if I wanted to be home in time to make dinner.  I then suffered a whim of nostalgia and stopped in at a game room stocking the latest in Dungeons and Dragons literature and offering Thursday night gaming for oldsters and other games for the young (Magic, the Gathering still seems to be popular.)  I was the only one in the shop other than the shopkeeper over 12.

All in all, a good walk.  I should have checked out the coming attractions at the theater (yes, it's a theater, not a cineplex) to see if any shows were coming I would want to see.  The weather was pleasantly cool and overcast but it didn't actually rain until I was almost home.  I'm already dry and the walk must have done my diet no end of good.  It's still early and I may yet fire up the torch, but I don't feel at all like I wasted a day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Polymer Clay Tryout

I've made Christmas ornaments and things out of polymer clay before, but never anything with any degree of complexity.  This is my first effort at anything more complicated than gingerbread cutouts and snowmen and stuff.  Naturally, I had to try more than one thing at a time, in this case blending colors to fade and inlaying a tree.  I'm pretty happy with how this turned out, all in all.  It still needs the benchwork, like sanding and drilling and whatnot, but it works in the heat and can be carried on late at night without annoying the neighbors.  All the scraps and trimmings got rolled into an egg shape and will become some sort of spring ornament.  I was surprised by how much darker the colors looked after baking.  Shows what happens when you've only done a few things before.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bus Trip

 On this one, the bead turned out exactly as it should have, if not how I imagined it.  I wrapped a core of Effetre light pumpkin with copper leaf, added a few odd twisties that I had lying around the workbench, probably involving silver glass, swirled them up, encased the whole thing in clear and swirled that, then melted and reshaped the whole thing.  It would have looked cooler if the texture I started out with had been preserved, but I seem incapable of heating just one spot without blowing the shape of the whole bead.
What I really like is the way the silver glass fumed into the clear.  That I wasn't expecting.  I should have remembered how much lighter the corals get under encasement, but oh well, the pumpkin is doing what it should do and I don't mind the school bus yellow.  Kinda cheerful.

As far as the personal stuff that's been keeping me up at night, I'm feeling a bit better and will continue to pick a household chore at random to ignore.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beads and Bull

 The blue bead in these pictures is a core of clear with CiM lapis, then bordello around one end and silvered ivory around the other, with squiggles of psyche and a twistie of copper green, terra2, and aura.  I have so much trouble striking the terra2 I don't know why I keep using it.
Hope springs eternal and while I don't get the real color this glass is capable of, I am getting some strike and a neat mother of pearl effect rom all the reduction.

I think the base glass is a large influence upon what I wind up with because the ivory bead is  the same stringer and technique but a lot more drama.

Speaking of drama, a few weeks ago I asked what is most inspiring and I got a couple answers, and they amounted to being around other creative people.  I can say for a fact what kills creativity, at least for me, and that is negativity.  I'm trying to keep upbeat and see the good in every bad and having a rough time of it.  Hopefully I'll get some sleep tonight and wake up in the morning and see things in a different light.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inspiration in Red

OK, I wasn't exactly inspired when I made these beads, but rather was trying to make a similar bead to the one in my last beady post that turned out even and with red ends.  As is frequently the case, at least with me, the inspiration comes afterward.
I partially achieved my objective, and even more, since I believe that some copper green stringer worked its way into the project and I like the result.  I also am going to attribute the inspiration of these beads to another artist working around the turn of the century.  The way the reactive stringer and twistie fumes and reacts with the apple blush and the lines formed within and around the silvered ivory remind me of some really cool book illustrations I have.

Arthur Rackham was a British illustrator whose best known work was done from 1900 or so through the First World War.  This is what Wikipedia has to say about him.
I have The Romance of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table written around 1917 (I do not have the first edition but the one I have still has the cool art work), a framed print of Tatiana Sleeping from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and a couple of smaller prints from Das Rheingold.  The picture above is from Wagner's Ring and the one below is from A Midsummer Night's Dream.  These sort of show what I'm talking about.
Hopefully the paintings and illustrations I'm showing give a bit of insight into some of my creative process.  If nothing else, have a couple pieces of eye candy.  It's totally non-fattening.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Going back to work has left me a bit tired in the area of finding inspiration.  Last night, after arriving home too late to get any torching done, I decided to cruise the web and see where I wound up.  I actually wound up studying the complexities of the styles and titles of nobility, but I stopped at some neat places along the way. 

One of the places I visited was the Wikipedia entry for Gustav Klimt, an Austrian artist who worked from the 1890s through 1918, though his most popular work dates from the time around 1907.  He got into some trouble for painting what was regarded as pornography at the time, and I suppose if he was working today he still would be censored.  As a society Americans are still shocked fairly easily.  What I like about his work is that while he does deal with adult themes, they are rendered without the smut factor.  Artists are always getting censored for mature content, but life can be pretty mature at times.  It can be pretty infantile at times too, but that is for a different post.
He was influenced from many sources, notably the classical art that influenced so many in the late 19th century, the Byzantine use of embellishment and flattened aspect of the figure, Medieval European art with regard to detail upon detail (I'm thinking of the Unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters in New York,) and his heavy use of gold leaf is similar to the Japanese art that was enjoying a revival in the late Victorian era.

The disparity of the two paintings I chose is notable.  They were only painted four years apart but seem like they were painted by different people.  I think this was because Klimt was interested in different things.  He was trained as an architectural artist in a traditional school and retained a love of the landscape and buildings around him, but he also lived in a world populated by people and represented that aspect of his life as well.  So, to sum it all up, sometimes it is a good thing to let the mind wander and watch where it takes you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Favorite Oops

 This is my favorite bead yet that didn't come out the way it was supposed to.  I got the shape wrong, so I can't sell it.  The ends are a bit off and the taper on the long bicone is irregular.  What a shame.  I'm just going to hate making this into a nice piece of jewelry for myself.
 The body of the bead is apple blush, covered with a twistie made from opal yellow, psyche and Terra2, CiM adamantium ends and silvered ivory and psyche stringer decoration.  The Terra2 didn't strike very well but I got a really cool mother of pearl effect and the opal yellow struck to a pinkish blush, which goes swimmingly with the small bits of apple blush visible under the stringer.  The psyche reduced better in some places than others, but I was at the end of the cylinder. 
 I can't quite put my finger on what this bead reminds me of.  Something Japanese and/or Mucha.  I have a set of Mucha prints that depicts the four hours of the day, morning, midday, evening and night that this reminds me very strongly of, but others have said that it reminds them of Japanese art or desert branches.
With any luck the couple beads I made to match will turn out ok and I can make this into a bracelet or necklace.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Off Mandrel Pendant

 Sometimes you get eggs, sometimes you get nothing but a bunch of shells and a mess.  The leaf bead I posted last is no more.  I had it strung on some wire for a pendant and dropped it.  The leaf stayed intact but the loop broke off.  Nuts.  I made another one and strung it with the Effetre light pumpkin one and one I made with opal yellow, and have a nice pendant I am slowly turning into a necklace.
Opal yellow is a tricky color to work with for an off mandrel leaf.  It is very soft and wants to flop around all over the place.  I committed the extra sin of wanting a notched, oak leaf appearance and chopping at it with my glass shears.  This was done with the glass very nearly cool, then I reheated the piece to fire polish it.  The resulting leaf was a bit strangely shaped, but, hey, it looks like a leaf.  The spots are Terra2, which apparently likes to reduce as well.  I didn't mean to, but it isn't ugly so I'll take it.  I also got some reducing frit in with the bordello, as evident on the orange leaf. 

The way I'm making the leaves is to make a gather on the end of the rod, rolling it in frit or decorating it with stringer,  pressing it in the leaf masher, heating the end and attaching an only slightly heated steel chopstick and cutting off the rod and forming the loop.  Then I hold the loop in a pair of pliers while I remove the punty and polish the end.  I'm sure infinite shapes are possible this way, but right now I'm stuck on leaves.  If anyone knows a better way please let me know. 

As far as my color diet, I'm retiring olive for the time being.  It is a great shade of green and truly appropriate for fall but I'm playing with apple blush until I can figure out how to get a predictable orange blush or get sick of it and give up.  I am also going to play with some CiM pheonix shortly, probably in place of the Effetre light pumpkin.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My First Off-mandrel Piece

 I am absolutely thrilled how this turned out.  I made it last night with Effetre apple blush, one of their more recent colors that I tested out back in April but never made any beads with.  There are a few technical flaws, notably the chill marks on the space between the veins on the front and the fold marks on the back, to say nothing of the blob of glass that stuck to the leaf as I was attempting to free it from the rod, but I am 100% unapologetic for these.  They add character.  I did give the bead a few sharp whacks on the steel dish I photographed it on and applied pressure trying to snap it just in case, but it seems solid as a rock.
 I would have been happier if the orange shading that occurs sometimes when this color is struck was a little more pronounced.  It really only shows up on the point of the leaf and the stem.  Hey, one of the things I like about working with glass is that it isn't entirely predictable.  Leaves turn all kinds of colors in fall and if this one gave up on the tree before it fully changed color, that's the way it wanted to do it.
 This is also the first bead I made with a leaf press I got at about the same time as the glass but haven't used at all, because it is curved and won't accept a mandrel, and I was afraid to try just heating up the end of the rod and pressing that, since how could I hang it without a hole?  Found a way.  I made another one similar out of light pumpkin with bordello frit I'm now dying to see.  The only bad thing about glass (other than the expense):  Delayed gratification.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Different Kind of Glass

Warning:  The following paragraph consists of nothing but whining.  Skip it and I'll write about glass in the next one.

I'm back at work.  It is soul-killing and destroying any patchy creativity I ever had.  I have been putting in 12 hours at a time and come home too tired and in too much pain to do more than throw together something vaguely nourishing and fall asleep on the couch until it's time to go to bed so I can toss and turn in the more traditional setting. 

I haven't been at the torch in about a week.  But I did find some neat glass in the parking lot.  I'm pretty sure this is a chunk of obsidian, or naturally occurring volcanic glass.  And no, I'm not even going to try torching it (Joe asked if I was going to.)  It has quite a few bubbles in it and I doubt it wouldn't explode.  It has chips like glass would and a strange gunmetal irridescence in the places that are not covered by the matrix or freshly chipped off.  Not sure what the matrix is.  Parts of it look like it contains metal but a geologist I am not.  This is what Wikipedia has to say about obsidian.

Sounds good to me.  I'm off tomorrow.  I ought to be able to make a bead or two, and will try to make one or two tonight.