Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Studio Time: The Value of Production Work - Learning about Striking Reds

One of the things I'm learning with doing the same bead over and over and over is that I get to know the nuances of everything... the glass, my tools, my environment. In the first four mandrels I pulled from the kiln, I saw the clear evidence of the value of making the same beads over and over again to learn how to work the glass to gain consistent results.

A little background about the glass I use

I use glass from Effetre, and Italian glass company based in Murano, Italy. The other glass manufacturer I enjoy working with is Creation is Messy, an American based company working with a chemist in China that manufacturers the glass. Their colors fill in gaps on the Effetre palette. I also use Vetrofond (Italian) and Lauscha (German) in small amounts.

Learning about Striking Reds

As you can see, I did different things to the glass and obtained a variety of results from the same glass. That's because most reds in glass are what is called "striking" red... you get different results based on heating, cooling, re-heating, shaping, etc. Some of my earliest experiences with striking reds back in 2009 were extremely disappointing. I couldn't get any consistent results. But, I also didn't do a lot of experimentation. I worked in small batches and kept moving on to new things. By making large quantities and doing very basic beads as I build up a stash for the Bead & Button show, it's forcing me to slow down and learn.

For the color family I created that I'm calling "Santa Fe" with Reds and Turquoises, I like the variety of results that are produced. But, when I get to a point where I want to create very consistent results (for example, if I wanted to create a set of transparent beads for a necklace), I need to pay attention to when and how I work the glass in the flame and how to work it so it produces the specific effect that I want.

I started using Lauscha Red but it wasn't quite the red I wanted and I found my stash of Creation is Messy Sangre. Creation is Messy has a range of red colors, but this is their base color and it is much more consistent and easy to strike and get pleasing results than the other reds I was working with (well, for me, as a newer glass artist).

The top mandrel is the closest to the original rod. The second mandrel shows the three different results you can get from the dark burgundy red, the transparent red, and the basic opaque red.

Research on how to create colored glass

Here was an interesting article on the basic formulas to achieve different colored glass. In the lamp work world, we rely on manufacturers to come up with the formula for the glass colors and we buy rods of glass in those varieties.

This last mandrel with the tiny spacers shows how light the glass can get... I have some beads that are so light they are almost clear with a slight orange/yellow tint. Some are yellow. These show orangey-red. If you're trying to show a more dynamic color way, this is a way to get those high lights and low lights and a range of colors around a base color. 

More information from highly experienced artists

Creation is Messing - testing page 
Laura Sparling
Kandice Seeber - Color Addiction

Working with striking reds has been a huge learning experience.  and I look forward to another long play session as I get to know this valuable tool of working with striking glass to achieve the results I want.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Studio Time: Going to Bead College (aka the 10,000 Bead Project)

I was talking about my 10,000 Bead project with a fellow artist (Brenda) and what I was learning as I went along. By making the same beads over and over again and not doing any complex designs yet, I'm learning the nuances of my tools and supplies. Her comment, "Oh! You're sending yourself to Bead College!" I guess I am! Right now I'm working on my Associates Degree, in other words learning the basics and setting a foundation. 

For example, I'm learning how to use my torch effectively, getting less scared of lighting it, learning the value of adjusting the PSI on both the propane tank and the oxygen concentrator. I'm learning the difference between neutral, oxidizing, and reducing flames. I learned about reducing flames through a painful 37 Bead mistake. 

I'm also learning how to pay attention to safety issues and correcting them immediately if something seems off.

Another side effect of this project is that I'm learning the nuances of the glass. I'm making the same beads over and over again. I'm learning which glass tends to shock easier and how to manage shocking. I'm learning to extend my glass stash by fusing rod ends onto new rods to use up as much as possible.  I'm learning which types of glass work quickly or slowly and how to adjust my torch accordingly. For example I find ivory to be some of the softest glass and need to work it in a cooler flame to retain more control over it. These are the beads that go the most "organic" on me. Also I was trying to work faster by working with a hotter flame. I actually found I could work faster with a cooler flame since it didn't make the glass as molten and I could control the shape through gravity better. 

Another example is through making the same bead up to 100 times. Here is an example of the progression of making disk beads from early tries to middle improvements to final solid designs. I have to confess I love the shapes and texture of the beginner beads. I hope to be able to retain the ability to keep the texture even when I'm more skilled. 

Beginner beads. These are being held back.

 Better.... far.... the more I make, the more I learn, and the more I enjoy it.