Monday, 21 December 2009

Thank You!

Firstly before everyone goes away and settles down for the Xmas holidays, a bit thank you to everyone who has supported me over the past year. It’s not been an easy year, but it’s been lovely to have ‘met’ (albeit virtually) so many great people in the glass and crafting worlds. Thank you to all who’ve taken trouble to comment on my blog, given inspiration and advice, and of course special thanks to all of you who have been kind enough to buy some of my glass creations! It is very appreciated, not just because it means I can buy more glass, but it means I must be doing something right for you to want my glassy bits!

It’s not going to be all rest for me over the next few weeks, I want to get into the workshop and try out some new ideas and continue to strive to improve some techniques over the coming year. If the snow thaws I might even battle into the shed and try and make some things I’ve promised for myself (I still have a half finished walking stick in there somewhere!)

Thank you, and have a merry Xmas, and a great New Year!

Glenn :-)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Quick update and Spoonerisms

Thank you to everyone that replied to my blog, it has been very helpful, and if anyone else would like to add I am still very interested to hear what you have to say!

Been a little more than hectic this week, not helped by spending most of it on trains going nowhere. I posted some weeks ago my idea to give those of us who still have to commute (working on stopping doing that) a little something back. I sent it to the train company, who then two days later promptly decided they weren’t squeezing enough money out of their franchise so reverted it back to ‘public ownership’ which seems to mean no ones in charge. Having said that I quite like the new bizarre mix of 1970’s and 2006 carriages linked together, the old ones are way more comfortable too! However it's lucky dip as to if they are running on time or hugely late though.

Back on the creative front the other week I popped into the Folksy Xmas do-thingie to hear what Folksy had planned for the site and to meet a few fellow sellers. One of the lovely people I met there before I had to rush off was Claire McNeil who runs an Etsy and Folksy shop called Spoonerisms

Claire hunt out old unloved spoons and turns them into Jewellery, on the night she was wearing a lovely pendant made from the end of spoon which had stunning art-deco style pattern. I think it says a lot for craftsmen of old that these old spoons had such wonderful detail on them that can still be reworked and re-envisioned into something beautiful and desirable again.

One of the lovely things Claire has also done is create a series each with their own stories of past loves, broken friendships, and times past called ‘Broken Promises,’ each spoon having a personal memento embedded in resin in a spoon. The stories are very personal indeed, my favourite is an earring given to her by a chap she met in a bar, clicked with, exchanged numbers, but never saw again. It has the romantic title of ‘the one that got away.’ There are so many lovely ones it was tough to pick a picture, and some with such heartrending stories, even an old engagement ring that never turned in to marriage. Gulp! I do promise that not all the stories are quite so sad though!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

I’d love your shopping feedback!

Flower Disc
Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
I really would love to get some feedback from you all, especially all you lovely people who have supported me by buying at some of the sites I list on.

At the moment I seem to have bits of stuff all over the web, which is a bit messy and I suspect very inconvenient for you, the buyer. Some of you have been really lovely, stalking around the various sites and setting up accounts to be able to go in to buy my glasswares; thank you for going to the trouble!

I’d like to make thing easier and better, and maybe try and concentrate on fewer, and better, places to list my items. At the moment I have stuff on Etsy, which is a very good site but all in dollars. I have a lot of stuff in Folksy, plus a sprinkling of supplies in Misi and other bits at Coriandr!!! And then of course there is also Artfire which I hear good things about but am not listing in (yet!?)

On top of that I have an option to have a shopping cart on my website instead, which I turned off as I had so many other sites with listings in already.

Help! I am not sure which is better, so I’d really love to hear YOUR feedback as to which venue, as shoppers, you’d prefer to use, and also which you hate to help me decide what would be the best to concentrate on. I don’t mind if you want to leave a comment on my blog, on my Facebook page, on twitter or even email, I’d just really appreciate hearing what you think as shoppers.

Thank you in advance!!! Glenn :-)

Monday, 30 November 2009

Random SteamPunk Post - Doing it with Style!!!!

‘A brass unicorn has been catapulted across a London street and impaled an eminent surgeon. Words fail me, gentlemen.’

Indeed! I am sure the knowledgeable and film geeks amongst you will recognize these stunned word, spoke in such a way you know the words are spoken by an Edwardian Gentleman (in Capitals, of Course! Emphasizing he is a Proper Gentleman!)

No? Well ok, I’ve only managed to see the film once myself so far so I wouldn’t have know the quote either! I am talking about the incredibly bizarre, and slightly daft, Vincent Price ‘The Abominable Dr Phibes!’

For some reason I have seen the sequel ‘Dr Phibes Rises Again’ several times, but the original hardly seems to be shown, and I’ve only managed to see this 1970’s classic once (which will be handy for my Other Half to know if she’s thinking of xmas pressies, hint, hint!)

And the reason I mention this? This weekend I have watched a couple of big recent blockbusters, dripping with CGI, big names, cerebral plots, accurate research, quality acting….. yep, really disappointing. Whereas there was nothing wrong with them, they lacked a certain soul and fun that these old cheesy 1970’s horrors could get away with. Where all the lead men were busy giving brooding looks, I’d rather have a daft line like this to keep me awake and smiling!

As for the recent rash of films like Saw, don’t get me started! Please just stop at one! Besides, you want interesting ways of revenge? Vincent Price was having people eaten by locusts and popping them in giant gin bottles before some of these people were born!

I rather like the style and eras these old shlock horror films were set in, a sort of clean scrubbed Technicolor Victorian/Edwardian London; Such a shame men these days have rappers and football stars as fashion icons, whereas I had Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as well dressed respectable men to emulate – stopping short of course of tramping around graveyards in the dead of night digging up people and shoving a stake in their chest.

Or is it just me? Am I a secret Victorian trapped in an era of baseball caps, when you can’t wear a hat in a pub because the cctv can’t see your face (Yes, that really happened to me, I was told I couldn’t wear a hat in a London pub!) Certainly nice to see SteamPunk getting a bit more mainstream credibility; it’s almost becoming an reaction against ‘casual;’ putting on something nice and special to go out shouldn’t mean put on a different designer checked shirt and jeans surely? We are well overdue a return to style I say!
(Photo Credits:US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Ok, time for my Laudanum; I promise my blog will return to normal next posting and I’ll waffle about glass instead!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Bottle stoppers have stopped – but your flower colour suggestions are welcome!

Bottle Stoppers
Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
I am still having problems getting some of the really nice bottle stoppers that I top with my marbles. I’ve found other ones, but they aren’t as good quality so am holding out for new stocks to come in. I was quite pleased with the gold ones I got as alternatives (very Christmassy!) but now they’re out too! Argh!

The other weekend I found a local clearance store had some bottle stoppers on sale, fitted with some terribly made glass ‘shapes’ (distorted blobs I’d call them) – and there was me thinking I’d been first with the idea! They were so cheap, and in a custom made display box, I was sorely tempted to go back and get some, take off the naff glass, and fit my own. I went back intending to get some to see me through and then decided not to. For one thing it goes against joining the SRA as it supports badly made imported glass from sweat shops (literally in the case of making glass!) However just before I walked away I took a closer look and was glad I hadn’t wasted my money. The stoppers had been thrown into the boxes with the glue still wet, so some were stuck to the lining of the boxes, glue was smeared down the sides, and even the chrome plating was so thin I could see the base metal beneath.

I think I’ll just keep making marbles and flowers and wait until I can get some new stoppers that I know are made well.

In the meantime I’ve been playing with pendants again, this time putting some of the flowers I’ve been making inside some small discs of glass, they’ll be about 1 1/2inch (about 40mm) a few bigger and a few smaller. They look pretty good, I’m being rubbish at getting photo’s taken but hope to make and list some more this weekend. I threaded up one last night on some nice sea-green ribbon, it’s white and dark turquoisy blue petals and if I get chance I’ll try and list it tonight!

In the meantime any requests or suggestions for flower colours you’d like to see? I can’t be sure I’ll be able to do all the colours but I’d really like to hear what everyone would like to see or wear!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

new crop of flower stopper marbles

Sorry for the rather thin on the ground post the past couple of weeks! I seem to be doing my headless chicken thing here lately. As promised here are some pictures of the alien blood flowers I was making the other week. I am hoping to get back into the workshop and work on some more of these.

I did manage a long session the other day where I tried some really quite advanced techniques, however despite all the separate ‘bits’ and techniques working a treat, when I tried putting them all together everything failed! Never mind; if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth learning after all!

Hopefully I will have more to blog soon, in the meantime I’ve snuck some more stoppers into my Etsy shop, here are some of the alien flowers in the meantime; some are test ones which later got rejected, and they haven’t yet been properly fixed into the stopped, but it’ll give you an idea of how they are going!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Alien Blood and Flowers

I have been struggling to make anymore razors at the moment, my failure rate has really gone up on these which made for a rather disheartening session on Saturday, especially when one really cool looking one cracked right in half then tore up all the bead release which mixed into it. Sigh. I was so expecting to get lots done too that day, but several hours and throwing four in a row into my dump pot (big jar of water for broken and unhappy glass) I decided to give up on those for a bit. I will battle on though; I will get some fresh bead release and try again!

Sunday was a much more fun day! I found some old cd’s I haven’t listened to for ages and went back to flowers for a bit. I made this flower marble the other week which came out really thin and translucent which I’ve popped onto a nice chrome bottle-stopper, ( now in my Etsy shop ) this single flower technique takes a bit more time, but is rather rewarding and so I thought I’d explore it more, and found there was a lot to learn about it.

The glass makers produce some colours that are ‘odds-lots’ or experimental, and a while back Emma at who is another Borosilicate addict (do take a look at her lovely beads!) swapped me a rod of ‘Alien Blood’ one of Northstar’s batch of one-off colours – and with a name like Alien Blood how could I resist a rod to play with! It puts me in mind of the X-files! It’s a very pale green-white colour, and it’s rather nice to work with! I do hope Northstar decide to add it to their range as it thins down to a quite realistic looking floral white, and stays more solid in colour – although I haven’t looked in the kiln yet, this is what I can tell from what they looked like before annealing. It’s been a while since I was so excited about what’s cooking in there as it ‘felt’ like a good session where I got to grips more with this technique. I am keeping my fingers crossed!

Monday, 2 November 2009

A simple Train idea

I know this is a blog about glass, crafting and the universe, but an idea occurred to me this weekend that isn’t about any of the above. Doubtless it will be ignored when I try sending it to National Express (humm, not sure about the express part after this mornings delays) but on the off chance some transport mogul is reading this I though I’d share in my general effort to do a little thing each week to improve the world.

I popped on the train this Saturday to go to pick up some crafting supplies. Now the train was quite packed with people taking advantage of cheap day returns etc, but as they weren’t ‘real’ commuters they clearly didn’t understand how it works so had made themselves comfortable with plenty of space defended with bags on seats etc – and who can blame them for wanting to enjoy their journey.

Now at the moment I can’t afford to ‘do glass’ fulltime so suffer the soul numbing, shoulder squashing misery and expense of a daily commute. So I wondered, ‘why can’t I have some perk or preferential treatment at the weekend?’ I pay a very scary amount of money each month for this discomfort – with the annual increase I expect it to be over £400 a month next year! – so how about doing something for me Mr Train People? And it won’t loose you any money, but you might make more!

This is the idea; At weekends let people with monthly or yearly travel cards go and use first class. There aren’t going to be many of us wanting to suffer the abuse of another train trip after 5 in one week, and I very much doubt many – or even any – first class tickets are sold at the weekend. This would give us a little ‘thank you’ from the train companies, with the added bonus of freeing up some standard seats for those buying fares on the day. And it won’t cost you a bean Mr Train-person.

Also you might start selling some first class fares too, if I wanted to travel to London for an event at the weekend with my other half I’d hardly want to sit in first class and leave her in standard, so I’d might want to splash out and get her a first class ticket – thus Mr Trainman you get to sell a more expensive seat, although I’d prefer you to give me a special discount to encourage that. Not forgetting all that extra revenue the coffee kiosks would make as I might want to travel at the weekends if I was going to enjoy it.

This wouldn’t cost the train companies anything. Those seats are unused at the weekends (bar the occasional chav with a can of pseudo-Australian lager whose probably not paid his fare anyway!) So the cost of a little ‘thank you’ and comfort is nil, and maybe a few people will even get to like it enough to upgrade their regular tickets.

So, does anyone else think this is a good idea, or even better is in charge of ther railways?!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Quick peek!

Here's a quick peak at some of the hearts I've been working on this week, I'm hoping to get some of these little ones listed plus some more now I've got the hang of them.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Have a Heart!

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
I’ve been practising with making some new glass hearts in my freshly revamped workshop. It’s strange how more relaxed I already feel there, I’ve given myself more room although at the expense of a rather useful table – but in hindsight the table was mostly piled high with junk and ‘dunno where else to put it’ items that we all seem to have. I still haven’t painted the walls either! That might be a job to do over xmas I think, even though I’ve been saying that for past 8 years since we moved in.

The only downsides are that my kiln is no longer in arms reach, so will have to move that, and I don’t have a space to photograph in now. I will have to return to a space in the kitchen I’ve used before. I also have two boxes of findings I need to find a new home for – so really I’m nowhere near finished!

The glass hearts were really nice to make, I felt less rushed and so took more time over making them, and as they have a nice open area I felt I could really explore some of the tricks and colours that boro has to offer. It seemed really odd that I’ve been working with it for a while now but this was the first time I felt I was really getting the benefit of the colours and effects that boro can produce. Of course some were a bit wonky, the nicest one cracked, and what I thought would be a nice pink colour is a naff shade of puce, but that was more than offset by the wonderful metallic/pearlescent ‘unobtainium’ colours and lustre. Shame I haven’t been able to take pictures to show you yet!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Workshop Revamp

I’ve not posted much recently, but this weekend I’ve started a small revamp of the workshop to allow me more space to work. One of the critical things was installing new ventilation as the old system (opening window and dangling a hose out of it) wasn’t very good or efficient. ! One of the reasons for improving this is a safety issue as a lot of the boro I use has high levels of heavy metals in them, and I really don’t want to breathe them in.

After some hole cutting and loft clambering I managed to get the extractor running, so at the same time I made some new splash backs from some aluminium sheet I rescued some years ago from a printers clearout, and backed them with some ceramic insulating wool just in case it gets too hot. The only thing I didn’t do was paint the wall which still have the same paper and paint as when we moved in years ago. Maybe that’ll be my Christmas project!

Lots more to do yet, I am not sure where everything is going to go yet as I’ve had to sacrifice a useful table, but I hope I can get everything in!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Shaving the old fashioned way!

shaving brush
Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
The shaving saga continues! I’ve now finally listed in my Folksy shop some shaving brushes to go with the razors I’ve been making!

This created some interesting problems to resolve, I’d have got some underway sooner if it wasn’t for the sudden DOH! realisation when I made the first prototypes. I basically made a larger elongated marble with one flatted edge to secure to the brush, forgetting that the top of the brush has to be flat too to allow the brush to be stood up when wet! DOH! The alternative was making a stand to go with it, but then that’s a whole new headache for another day. The downside is that flattening distorts the design a little, so I’ve put lots of dichroic into these to give a real sparkle to the shaving experience! On the outside I’m getting the hang of the real value of using boro colours as I’m getting better and bringing out some of the metallic effects of this wonderful (and sometimes frustrating!) glass.

The only brush blanks I can find so far are Badger hair, I wanted to also offer a synthetic alternative but it seems wet shaving using a brush is a dying art and they aren’t made. In fact the badger ones are discontinued as well, and from the dust on the boxes looks like they were made a long time ago! I have to admit I do use an electric razor in the mornings - when I’ve not had enough coffee to be able to find my elbow the idea of putting a sharp blade to my face seems like asking for trouble! However when I have more time or am going out special I do drag out a manual razor and get a ‘proper’ shave; I figured there must be blokes like me who do this and would like something to make the whole experience a little more ‘special’ when I devised the idea. It certainly evokes a by-gone age of elegance when people took time and trouble to do things like this well, of old barber shops and men with handlebar moustaches – or is that just me? I certainly remember my Dad having an old brush that was worn nearly down to a stump before he got himself an electric razor – which I recall then always broke a few months later and he then spent most of his mornings trying to clean or get to work! Sometimes the old fashioned ways really are better!

Monday, 5 October 2009

One for the chaps!

This has provided me with some unexpected technical challenges, but I can reveal part of a new project I’ve been working on – stuff for blokes! Apparently we chaps are rather difficult to buy for, and so when I came across these razors it seemed worth having ago at making them ‘a bit more interesting.’

I could have made my life easier by making several different long beads and putting them together, but decided against it. I figured that having more joins would increase the risk of water and grot getting inside the handle. No one wants to shave with a razor with mould and algae growing in it! Also aesthetically I thought it would be nicer having the colours flowing together as much as possible.

The thickness of the core and length of these created surprising headaches! Keeping a single bead over 75mm long from cracking was interesting, often one end would crack whilst working at the other end! I lost a few from the bead release breaking- that always seems to happen when I get a really good colour going! Then cleaning out a bead that long was fun, using special bead cleaner, files, I even tried toilet cleaner at one point! Small bends in the mandrel added a new dimension of fun too…

Finally I managed to get a two listed on the Folksy, who were doing a ‘men’s gift’ special, and was selected for their ‘top picks!’ Within a hour someone had snapped up one of the razor too! Makes all my secret squirrel plotting and work feel worthwhile.

I will certainly make some more of these now I’ve figured out the techniques, I also have some more items to add to this range, one that is going to be very much a blokes item too! I am told that the razors may fit the Venus razor cartridges, so I might even manage some for the Ladies too. If you’re a regular on my Flickr stream or Facebook page you’ll see I’ve also been adding my marbles to wine bottle stoppers, I hope to be listing some soon, and making more. The past few months I’ve had so many interruptions and setbacks it’s nice to get so it’s so nice to be finally listing some new and exciting stuff, I hope this will be the first of many new ideas!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Experimental group

Experimental group
Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
I haven’t managed to post or list much new as been rather busy trying to tidy the workshop and sort out a few domestic things. Our cat Merlin, despite a second op, is much better and thank you to all of you who sent kind words and thoughts! He’s returned to mischief, being generally fussy about food, plus now he’s taken to following me constantly as I am now his best friend for retrieving him from the vets! Touch wood that we don’t have to go back for a long time.

I am quietly working on a new idea for some xmas gifts for us blokes for a change! I am told we are rather rubbish to buy gifts for (it’s easy for me, just send glass rods!) Here is a quick preview of some experimental shapes for some ideas I am playing with – I am not telling you what they are for yet though - I don’t want to spoil the surprise! ;-) There is a 5p coin for scale, the shortest of the long thin beads is 76mm long.

There is a quick listing of some clear glass leaves over now on my Folksy shop of a destash of leaves I made for another project that just didn’t quite work. Rather than gathering dust I am giving chance for some other creative soul who I am sure can have a bright idea of what to use them for, plus whoever buys them within the next week I shall add in some coloured ones too!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

New Toy

Well I finally have a new toy that I’ve been promising myself for ages! This is an infinite rim, multi-hole, graphite marble maker, straight from the US of A!

I should have actually had it last week, but the post office has been rather causing headaches, I seem to spend most of my time apologising to American customers for non-appearing orders. I am not sure how they can send me two parcels from the same post office 5 days apart? Never mind, I have it now!

I have yet to use it, but I can see it’s certainly best grade graphite. I don’t have too much problem from my current one, but have noticed on occasion the odd speck coming off and marking a marble. This one also has special conical holes which are meant to make shaping a little easier and smoother, and there is one big hole on the flip side too! With marble tools it's actually the edges of the rounds that are used, the marbles are rotated inside them to make them spherical, this special shape is supposed to make that easier.

I must admit I didn’t expect it to be so chunky though, feels like it’s made to last, even has a little spiral on the counterweight finial at the end!

It does seem though as soon as I treat myself to something I suddenly get unexpected bills. One of our cats, Merlin (the psychotic black & white) has reoccurring ulcers around his chin and mouth. Last night we found one was bleeding rather nastily so it was down to the vets with him. Apparently it was a simple case to cauterize it, but one was in a sensitive part of his mouth so needed a general anaesthetic for a 2 minute op! (I feel like he needs that to give him pills!) All went well, I pick up the little devil tomorrow, and sure he will be back to his mad psychotic ways very soon. What really worries me is the vet says we will have to open his mouth every week to check to see if they ever reoccur; so now as well as burns on my fingers it’ll be puncture wounds too!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Birth of a Marble; Picture show

I’ve not a lot to report at the moment, but I did try to take a few one-handed pictures of a 'galaxy' spiral marble; although some steps aren't shown clearly as I needed both hands for those!

It’s not tidy, but ready to work! The black ‘thing’ is a graphite marble mould, the marble is rounded out partly in the flame and partly by rotating in a mould that is too small to fit it – only the rim is used. Weird, yes, but it seems to work!

2nd step, getting rod hot ready to add the spiral

Spiral is made! I couldn't show this step very well as I needed both hands!

Added some glass to make a nice, and hopefully interesting, base!

I've melted more glass off the fat 10mm rod to make the front and attached a thin 4-5mm rod to the back to hold it - very much a two handed job that! The thin rod is a 'cold seal' so can easily be removed, although sometimes it can remove itself thus the pie tin in case it falls!

This now takes a lot of time to melt and get the shape right, also getting rid of as many imperfections in the front to make a nice crystal clear lens. At the moment it's more of a 'bulge' shape.

Getting there! Front now rounding out nicely, the back rod will be switched to front and back again as I try to get all parts even and smooth, using the rim of the marble mould to try and tame it into shape where needed.

Still rounding! This one I've popped a Gilson Opal inside, which would be done before adding the lens glass.

As round as I can get it, the supporting thin punty rod will now be removed, any scar left given a quick work over to remove, then it's into the kiln for a very long soak to anneal.

Hope you enjoyed that, obviously there are alot more stages between that I couldn't show, but hopefully this give you a bit more idea about how it all comes together from a few sticks of glass to a little ball!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Ready for Halloween?

I can't believe I'm sitting in a mini-heatwave trying to make pumpkins! Sadly my pumpkins are rather too evil to show, (now living in the reject jar with other frightneing reject beads for company!) I did however start making these very silly ghosts with clear borosilicate for a few Halloween swaps, although they are probably more 'trick' than 'treat!'

Having said that I've had some great suggestions for using them, better than 'melting them back down' which was my idea, such as making them into a mobile or dangling them from fishing line in front of candles etc.

For those of you who wonder what all this lampworking thing is about I've made my first video; I don't thing Spielberg has much to worry about! The odd pink tint is due to filter I put over the lens to cut down the flare you get from putting glass into the flame. Not the best video tutorial every, but certainly a horror one as it has me doing the soundtrack!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Building a Glass Carousel in front of the Telly

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, thanks to the dreaded credit crunch I seem to be doing more ‘dayjob’ work, more hours and less money! Grrr! Along with the dose of railway strikes I’ve had hardly anytime or energy to get onto forums or keep up to date with blogging etc, so apologies to all!

I’ve also spent way too much time playing around with new ideas and techniques, sadly most of them not going anywhere. I took a whole day to try and use soft glass, wow! I am so out of practise now. Although I didn’t really make anything worthwhile it did at least confirm to me that the place I am at the moment ‘in my head’ is making marbles and hard glass work such as implosion pendants, bead, etc. I have more ideas than time in the day at the moment for these, so soft glass and ‘normal’ beads are going to have to take a back seat for a little longer.

One thing I did manage to do this weekend, whilst slumped in front of Sunday all day re-runs of ‘Deep Space Nine’ was make a little glass carousel that I’ve been promising myself. Basically it’s two old wooden cable drums, one larger one was broken down into the discs and an old VCR motor glued between them to make a ‘lazy susan.’ I could have bought one, but this was free! Plus it re-uses old rubbish! I glued onto the second smalled drum on Friday night ready for the Sunday make!

The hidden base, two old cable drums and a nice motor from an old VCR as the bearing

The finished article loaded with glass ready to melt!

What took quite some time was making the template for the metal troughs that were to hang from the sides; I cut up some scrap card I had to try to get the shapes first, took a couple of tries and still didn’t quite get them right, but it was near enough. I had some very old printers metal sheet that I rescued from a clearout of an old print shop, excellent for the job too! So I marked and cut this out to the background of various Cardassian plots, took to the shed for a quick five minute hammer and fix, and job done!

In the eight sections I’ve put six inch rods I had from a Northstar sample pack – I use them as an artists colour palette so it’s really useful to have these at hand, some I only need a tiny dash of colour so they can go a long way, other workhorse colours I buy in packs of full rods instead. Even with over 100 6inch Northstar rods there was some spare space for other odd rods I have, and on the top goes some of my frit jars. Frit, for those that don’t know, if crushed glass chips graded by size. It used to be made by throwing hot glass into water where it crackled and fizzed, sounding like it was frying – thus frit which means fry in Italian apparently!

Thursday, 6 August 2009


Just a quick note to tell everyone about an usual treasury at Esty

It's called 'Artists On Fire' and features many of the FHF regulars in their natural habitat - at their torches playing with hot glass! Please take a minute to take a quick look, there is such a wealth of tallented glass artists to see, and the rare chance to put faces to beads! Oh, and one bloke seems to have got in their by accident! ;-)

Monday, 3 August 2009

Opals !!!!

(New 30mm marble with opal, now on Etsy!)

Unlike ‘soft’ glass, working with borosilicate has some limitations of colours, ways of working, and what can be put inside. For a start buying it can be fraught with difficulties, I only know a few people using it in this county, and getting supplies is tricky. In the USA there are lots more people using it, which means more trade and it’s easier to get the more difficult items. Last week I had to launch a desperate plea on the Frit Happens website for one special effects rod rather than trying to put together an expensive import from the USA!

The USA have been using boro much longer than here, one of the amazing things discovered by some USA lampworkers that although many items can’t be used easily in borosilicate (gold and silver evaporate before the glass thinks of melting!) that one strange opal has the right properties for being encased in borosilicate (pyrex)

In France in 1974 Pierre Gilson was able to create the first synthetic opals. These weren’t bad imitations made with plastic and glass; they are physically and chemically opals, made by copying the extreme pressures and temperatures over very long periods (some can take 12-18months to form) that naturally make opals. It’s only under a microscope that they can be seen as different as they have no flaws like normal opals, so makes them stronger!

The best bit (for me!) is unlike natural formed opals they have no water content! Coupled with having same expansion rate as borosilicate it means they can be encased without cracking or exploding!

I bought a few some months ago, but as they still aren’t cheap it’s taken me a while to get the nerve up to try them out. I posted a picture on last weeks blog showing one; they make such amazing ethereal planets. I managed to get some tiny dot bubbled orbiting one which was a wonderful effect. I started on a second one I was just about to tidy the marble up and get rid of some of the extra bubbles & knocks when the gas ran out! Argh! I’m still debating whether to break it up for the opal, or sell it as a second as I can’t re-melt this one because the red glass in it might go a nasty colour if I do.
(My first Marble with a Gilson Opal!)

I have now made a very large 30mm marble (about 1 1/8 inch) with a lovely galaxy swirl, originally I was going to put the opal in the centre but it wanted to orbit on the arm which I think looks better as it breaks up the symmetry. Underneath I’ve done some lava-lamp effects with whispy yellow, green-yellow and blue glass, and a simple cobalt blue backing. It’s now in my Etsy shop, a little more expensive than some of my previous marbles, but it is rather special! I’ve really enjoyed working with these little treasures, and hope to include a few more as I really like the ethereal feel they give to my little landscapes, or should that be galaxy-scapes?

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

FHF Team Starts Rolling!!!!

I am a regular over on the Frit Happens Forum, probably the nicest forum I’ve been on! Lots of glassy chat, help information, swaps and inspiration.

Now in addition they have launched a very active new Esty group, of which I have joined, and you may notice a new gadget on my blog, which shows some of the amazing glass and jewellery the members make. I have already been featured in a couple of the treasuries too! You can keep up with all that is happening on the dedicated FHF blog at

It’s also spurring me on to get my Etsy shop in order asap, I have not listed or sold much as I’ve been concentrating on the UK shops like Folksy and Coriandr, but I will be trying to list a lot more in there in the next few weeks. It’s such a difficult balancing act trying to find time to take pictures, crop them down and upload them, oh and make stuff to start with! I’ve been trying out a few new designs and ideas too – yes, more marbles I’m afraid! I did try the novelty of ‘beads’ but after making about 9 of them I got bored and thought I’d take a break and make a quick couple of marbles – that then took about 1 ½ hour each! When I can get some decent light I will list one of those in my Etsy shop and one in my Folksy shop

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Lost and Found

Thanks to Silvermoss for putting me up for a ‘Lovely Blog award’ I shall put more details when I stop chasing my tail!

In the meantime it seems that I haven’t stopped and haven’t got anything done! Just before heading off to Cornwall (thanks for all the kind messages and wishes) it went well, and due to the poor weather we chose a lovely spot on a secluded beach that I know Chris loved and visited often.

Before heading off I managed to repair my ailing PC! Hurrah! I’d previously tried fitting a PSU a friend had lent me, which also turned out to either be faulty as well or incompatible! Still, it gave us an excuse to catch up and have a couple of beers.

The return from Cornwall was almost a disaster as we left a bag on the bus to the train station containing my other’arfs laptop! Argh! She’s previously been a victim of having a bag snatched from a London train, so neither of us expected to see that again. So imagine our delight and surprise at hearing it had been handed in by some honest Cornish folk – didn’t even leave their details for us to thank or reward them! So I am going to have to reward the young lady who ran around Cornwall picking it up & posting it all back to us (but she doesn’t know if yet ;-) )

I have been working on a very exciting range of new marbles, more of which I shall bore you all at a later date! In the meantime I have also listed a few of the earplugs on Folksy and Coriandr shops to see if they generate any interest, although I doubt I will carry on with these as I want to concentrate more on marbles at the moment.
If you fancy some beads though then check out Veebee beads who is doing some charity auctions for Macmillan Cancer support charity, a lot of people have been donating their spare green glass, while Vicki has been donating her time and skill to making the beads, so please support this worthwhile cause and get some lovely handmade glass beads in return!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Oriental Magpie & Cornwall Punk Pirates

I am still a little pc-less, but now have a semi-functioning laptop so hopefully will be able to start listing some new bits and bobs in the next few weeks. Being able to sit on sofa I can see why people prefer laptops, although it does have a tendency to ‘get stuck’ on some web pages, so I see why some people call them ‘slaptops!’

The big news this week is the opening of a new website for Crafty shoppers, called !!!!!!! This is a little different to other sites as all the listing, photographing and publicity is handled very amiably by it’s founder Emma. There will be quite a lot of very new bits from me, all of them are exclusive to The Oriental Magpie only, including the largest marbles I have yet made! The website launches on 16th July, there is a few sneaky previews on there and on the Facebook page, do take a look!

I am away for a few days this weekend, back to Cornwall for ashes scattering (ceremony? Event? Not quite sure what the term should be.) It’ll great to see some old faces, although rather sad for the reason why. I will be back at the start of next week so if you order anything from my Folksy, Misi or Etsy stores it might be a day or two late to you. However there is talk about hijacking a fishing boat to scatter the ashes from, and considering the motley crew of old punks, rockers, and assorted weirdoes, (plus some local Cornish chaps) that’s going along then anything might happen! I suspect some grog will be drunk, and we’ll give Johnny Depp a run for ‘most interesting pirates!’

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Have a look!

I seem to spend more time trying to photograph things than sometimes they took to originally make! I have been amassing a range of earplugs as they are quite nice to make, quite a challenge to get some interesting detail in a canvas that’s even smaller than many beads. The major advantage is also I can bulk anneal them rather than having to ‘bake as I go’ as I have to do with large marbles to reduce the strain inside them. With small pyrex items they can handle going cold, but I find the larger marbles need to stay hot to reduce cracking issues. In the hot weather sitting with an inch ball of orange glowing glass is one thing, but being sat by a kiln at the same time is a little too much! Until I get my pc back up an running and the earplugs annealed it might be another week before I have new things to show though.

In the meantime, with no new photo’s of my own, I thought I’d share a couple of talented photographers with you for your viewing pleasure! Firstly, from the US I’d like to recommend photographer, and Steampunk enthusiast (putting punk back into it rather than gluing some old cogs on things!) Libby Bulloff whose Etsy shop is well worth viewing here or her blog over at which has loads more photo’s to oogle! Based in Seattle her photographs cover a diverse range, from wonderful fantasy subjects of Steampunk heroines pointing ray guns towards dark brooding skies, belly dancers, food ‘porn,’ to people with amazing hair! Well worth a look, she has a range of photos on offer as well as photo’s made into fridge magnets. After a few days of reflasking (which means being covered in Detol and bleach) I decided I should reward myself with some of her art – keeping fingers crossed the post office don’t decide to fold them (ek!)

From the UK if you fancy your photography a little more serene then check out Travelling the country in her role as archaeological photographer allows Tracey to find some wonderful images. From sweeping scenery to very atmospheric still life ‘found’ object, most taken in lush black and white to show maximum detail. If you are a colour fiend with a sense of humour than you’ll also love some of her little monster still life’s where pentop monsters spill ink everywhere, fight from going down plug holes between eating polo mints! Great fun!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

More Random Silliness, Ramblings and Shed Pictures

Well we’re at the halfway stage in the year and it’s been a very odd and hard so far. Like most people I am suffering the credit crunch and am down to own brand baked beans and whatever bread I can wrestle off the ducks at the local pond. You have to be pretty quick to grab it before it falls into the water as people throw it; I’ve found a bush to jump out of near the pond, although people seem to have the wrong idea what I’m doing there, and the magistrate really didn’t seem to understand either. Ah well, guess you’re not a proper Essex resident until you’ve got an ASBO!

( I am joking by the way!!!! Excuse my warped sense of humour!)

Back in the real world I’ve not really been able to do much glasswork thanks to a combination of weather and lack of mojo, so have been continuing to work on making the shed a fit place to work again. I got these snaps last week, but my current computer dilemma has made it tricky to download them till now.

This is the furthest end of the 'shed' I have another bay before this which was meant to be a woodcutting and dusty storage area, then before that is greenhouse space

I was quite pleasantly surprised when I uncovered the old 1980's Taiwan made lathe that has been lurking under cover for past few years. It’s barely been used, I retrieved it from my Dad’s shed where it had been sitting rusting for at least 10-15 years, so I took the time to strip it down.

Mind you, I soon found there wasn’t a great deal to strip down! Even the gear change is just a block that pushes the motor down! Apart from a little rust on some non-critical parts, I discovered the reason it wasn’t running properly were some missing bolts that held the motor in place. Replacements found, wiring checked, and it was up and running a treat!

I popped some scrap pine in as a practise, and before I knew it was turning into a cane! I even began the long black Japan lacquering process! However I am kicking myself for doing too much as the first layer brought up the grain and looked lovely, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind! Now instead I’m only on the 7th coat of shellac! I am in two minds whether to continue or strip it right back. I might just carry on for now and turn up some better bits of Ash I have stashed and do a lighter finish on that instead. I will keep you up to date as this continues!

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Technology fail!

Excuse brief post, just to let everyone know my main PC has died, which means I am struggling with wonky laptops that make dial up look fast, and stolen minutes on PC's where I can grab them! I can still get to emails, and any orders will be dispatched as quickly as normal, but this will cause a little delay in me getting new listings on until next week. Bah! Technology!

Having said that, I will be hidding in my shed which I have been tidying up to make it useable. Also it's a little cooler in there, my efforts glasswise were an hour on a wonky marble before having a kiln running at 540deg C on one side and a torch with two oxycons in front of me (not sure how hot that gets, but it melts pyrex, evaporates silver and cuts though stainless steel no problem!) finally all that heat got to me and had to give in! I shall have to return to noctural glass making for a while!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

For people with extra ear holes, feedback needed please

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
I have never been too sure about making ear-plugs in the past. Now when I say ‘ear plugs’ I don’t mean the sort of thing I used to wear at night when I lived beneath a flat of late night parting Spanish waiters (how can anyone listen to ‘I will survive’ over and over for hour & half is beyond me!) What I mean are those plugs for people who have stretch their ear piercing so it’s a big hole you can stick biros through.

Often they are called ‘flesh tunnels’ which sounds a horrible description to me, often you see various interesting steel or acrylic ones, tunnels are popular I seems as people want to show off the fact it’s a hole and not just a big stud. I have spend a good few hours waiting in tattoo and piercing parlours waiting for friends and ‘the other ‘arf’ to have more ink or holes added to their bodies. During this time there isn’t much for me to do but look at all the steel spikes and bars; or as comedian Dylan Moran put it ‘Stair-rods and nails!’ The few things not made of steel are either carved horn, hardwood, or plastic.

Until recently I thought that glass wasn’t popular, but it turns out Pyrex (borosilicate) is thought to be one of the best materials. I have seen some great dichroic Pyrex plugs made in the USA, and there seems to be a great range of cheap plastic ones in every ‘alternative’ and new age shop, so I assumed people with ‘big-holes-in-their-ears-who-stick-biros-through-them-in-the-pub’ were well catered for with glass too. So I was puzzled why all these people kept asking me if I ‘do plugs.’

I had a play this weekend at making a few, my previous attempts last year I didn’t think much of, but thanks to all the experience I’ve got from marble making I found them much easier to do. In fact the simple shape and challenge of getting an interesting design on such a small canvas was quite addictive! It was also a nice way of testing a few new colours too, but for the time and effort involved didn’t really think I could justify the price I’d need to charge for such little bits of glass.

It was then up to ‘er in doors’ (who has a 10mm hole in her right earlobe, and ensures me she doesn’t poke biros though it after a couple of beers) to point me to some websites that sold Pyrex plugs after telling her no-one would be interested in my experiments.

Woa! How much! Apart from some of these plugs selling for more than my marbles, the thing that really surprised me was how disappointingly BORING some of the glass plugs are! If you want a nice curvy loop the choice was good, but the plugs were mostly just plain colours, with a few dichroics and the odd red brown swirly coloured one.

So, here is a few of mine! I would be very interested to hear from you people with big holes in your ears if these look ‘right’ to you? Which shapes do you like/hate, colours or plain etc? I am really not sure if I have the shapes right, I made one with an extra ‘groove’ to fit a rubber ring on, but I don’t know if that’s good or bad, also is flat or rounded at back/front good for you? Would love to hear what you think, as I really don’t think I’m up for the pain of making big holes in my ears at the moment to try them all out! There are a few more pictures over on my flickr page at;

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The dark shed of shame

I have a guilty shed secrets. The first secret is that I have a shed, and the second is that it is packed full of sadly neglected lovely materials.

A few years ago I spent a great deal of time and energy moving my workshop from a cramped room to my shed (well, lean to between houses) which is about 8-10 METRES long, and 1.74m wide (yes, I know the exact width, I will explain why!) Now the reason I was in a cramped room rather than this epic sized shed was the old leaking roof, made from wonderful bright but holey twin-wall plastic. Also the front was also falling apart.

As part of an epic garden makeover I sneaked into the budget a lean to greenhouse to replace the crumbling wood, and the vital new roof. However, as happens with these things, the money vanished on bills, and I had to cut back on the roof so instead of all nice and new and double glazed, I went with single glazed at one end, and re-use and bodge the bit in the middle!

Not surprisingly it still leaked, but now in new places!

So much patching later, I ended up with a cold and partly dry bit, and a very leaky bit where I had initially stored wood to work on, and now have various moulds and mushrooms instead!

This weekend I endeavoured to do some much needed household DIY which left me up a ladder stretching in ways my couch potato body hasn’t tried to do in years. First the quick repairs to an upstairs window frame – thanks to that ‘bunch of merchant bankers’ (make what rhyming slang you will of that!) and the credit crunch all hopes of replacing the old wooden frames has been dashed for a few years now, so drastic repairs were in order for it to survive another winter.

The next day, rather stiff and sore from stretching on a ladder just a few rungs too short, I decided to have a go and the shed roof again. I had a pond liner librated from the disastrous pond fiasco (soon to refilled with dirt and the whole saga never to be discussed again) which I decided to ‘quickly pop on the roof to help keep the water out.’

I should know that in DIY ‘quick’ means slow/frustrating/dangerous/painful.

So, the shed roof still leaks, and I now have less light thanks to a great black pond liner on the clear roof. I also have a nasty gouge in my thumb from a very dirty nail which was covered in smelly pond mud, and of late with a lot of antiseptic just in case!

On a positive note I am hoping it will become less porous as I plug the remaining leaks. Also it’s re-acquainted me with some of the lovely lacquers and shellacs I have out there, ideal for the impending walking stick project. I did also manage to glue up a picture frame I was making, for which I mixed up some garnet shellac.

I so like making my own varnishes and waxes; shellac varnish is one of the easiest. You buy flakes of shellac (old beetle cases!) which can be found in different shades, then dilute them in meths. And that’s it! Some people strain it through old tights, but I prefer a ‘hot’ mixture with more meths so don’t overload it with shellac. It makes a thinner layer that dries faster, and needs many layers to get a good effect. However I find it’s easier to control than the shop bought varnishes, and doesn’t have that plastic shine you get even with matt varnishes. Any coating on wood should be to protect and enhance the wood, not smother it.

There is also something quite satisfying about using these old time finishes, one of my recipe books is a re-print from 1647 in olde English. All of the recipes are straight forward and work a treat. As I stand in my cold damp shed it even makes me feel like I have a little connection to these craftsmen of olde. Even the working conditions are the same!

Right, off to put my thumb into another bucket of savlon! TTFN

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Steampunk power walking? A Sterling idea!

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
With most of London taking a stroll into work this morning, I thought I’d mention something that has been percolating in my mind for a while.

I have been thinking about making something entirely for myself for a change. For ages I’ve fancied getting a really nice walking stick. This is not because I am infirm and need one - although when I’ve done the odd twisted ankle or sprain I’ve certainly wanted one - it’s entirely for vanity!

Many years ago when I seemed to spend more time ‘dressed up’ in various historical (or should that be hysterical?) costume, normally Victorian or Edwardian. The one part of my outfit that was always missing was a nice walking cane. Friends had charming silver skull or Faux ivory dragons topped ones, where I went without - even when I severely damaged the back of my right leg and ended up limping for months.

For one thing I didn’t fancy carrying it, preferring to keep my hands free, also some of the ‘Ladies’ who went to these events tended to be a little ‘aggressive’ when they ‘borrowed’ any canes/swords/artificial limbs etc that were left laying around. Seemed best not to increase the available weaponry!

Of course the other problem was finding one I liked, something with that personal touch. I’ve seen pictures of various Steampunk themed contraptions built into canes, normally fantasy weapons – not for me thank you! I certainly want to build in some nice glass elements though, I have been wondering for ages what to have as a handle before I started making marbles; now it’s obviously got to be a BIG galaxy marble!!!

One thing I originally wanted to add was a sterling engine. This is a strange Victorian heat pump engine that is like a steam engine but uses low pressure air expanding from a heat source one side, then cooled on the other. I have seen a great design that is powered by heat of a hand or surplus heat from a VCR, however they are quite large, and very expensive kits to buy! I am not sure if my engineering talents are up to it either, but I did like the idea of harvesting waste heat from my hand to cool the handle by conducting it down to the cold tip of the can, whilst helping cool my hand!

I certainly will include some high tech energy harvesting green technology, some devices that convert small amounts of energy such as the strike of the cane tip on the ground, small amounts of sunlight, the general movement etc, to do interesting & useful things like power built in torches, lights, spinning zoetropes etc. Maybe even a fake sterling engine too! Alternately I might just try something simple with elegance rather than eccentricity in mind. Now that I’ve told everyone I shall have to make it happen rather than just thinking about it!!

In the meantime if you have a tin can, coat hangers, and time on your hands there are some great ‘build it yourself’ plans for sterling engines on these links; Basic info, plus a little movie of an engine powered by a hot cup of tea!!!! Nice site, in English of Japanese, with many types of DIY engines from tin can ones to more elaborate ones, plus descriptions of the ‘Sterling cycle.’ A great site with amazing kits and ready to go models too, lots of videos and pictures of their ‘hot tea’ and hand warmth ones running.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Colour my Blog

I seem to have had a ‘what was I thinking?’ day last week. Apart from a rather nasty increase in the amount of stuff cracking in the kiln (which needs some investigation in case something is seriously wrong, or it could be I just left the door open too long!) I seem to have made a very odd collection of bits. Normally I’d hope to find one of these experiments has produced something interesting to explore, this time I think they shall just be exploring my reject pile instead! I blame it on tidying the workshop, once it's back in a mess I hope normal service will be resumed!

However on a good note some of my blue little world earrings have made it onto a blog by Fiona at where she has had the inspired idea of showcasing some Folksy sellers items by grouping them together by colour! I seem to have made ‘dark blue/ indigo’ colour theme! Well worth checking out her blog, I think she has made a better display of Folksy wares than we see normally on the Folksy front page! It also really shows the wealth and diversity of talent of makers we have in the UK.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Why I think too many craft sites is a good thing

There is a great deal of choice of online stores for people who sell their crafts at the moment. I am concentrating on Folksy and Etsy at the moment, but I also have a small store at MISI as well. Ontop of that there is also Artfire, Corindr, Dawanda, Zibbet, and probably more that I don’t know about. The one thing they have in common is they are all trying to be the next big ONE coping the success of another well know auction site….. You know the one…….

I so hope this doesn’t happen!

If you are trying to sell you’re old slippers or box of onions, or whatever else that is cluttering up your house, it seems there is only one internet auction site worth using. It’s a shame no other competitors from the early dotcom days survived, it could do with competition to keep it on it’s toes, and to give sellers and buyers more choice. I hear from so many sellers bemoaning the sudden rule changes, increases in fees, delisting of auctions for the strangest of reasons. I was speaking to one crafter a few months ago who said she was working from the moment she got up till midnight on her shop, and daren’t take a holiday else she would loose her powerseller status. To me it seems she had stopped working for herself, and was now working for them! Surely this should be working as a partnership between them and us, not a dictatorship telling us how we should run our affairs for their benefit.

I have been selling a few spare plants on ‘a well know auction site,’ and I’d thought they’d got it all sorted until this weekend when I ran into their craziness! Despite already having done half a dozen sales without any queries I was blocked by their automated system because they didn’t like one of my email addresses! It took over an hour to sort out, not helped by constantly having to re-log in on virtually every page change, and in the meantime has ‘frozen’ a sale that’s gone into my paypal account!!! GRRRR!!!!!!!

So please continue to support these smaller sites, even though some will always be small, some will be glitchy, some won’t do enough PR, at least they are helping to keep big sites like Etsy on their toes. Yes, it would be easier if we all sold in one place, but if we loose this healthy competition then I think we will all be poorer for it.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Pimping on a friday! Sale time & bye wordpress!

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
I've decided to have a clearout, so I have reduced quite a few bits in my FOLKSY store so if there is something you've had your eye you might be in for a bargin!

If you are reading this blog through the wordpress blog site then please re-tune your blogger dial as I am going to stop updating two different blog sites, and keep to just one now! Info where to find me over on my website

cheers! Glenn

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The corner of my workshop is lit by fluorescent tubes keeping alive a collection of orchid in sterile jars. Behind me is a large home-built sterile air cabinet that I use to work on them. Now, doubtless you think I have some strange ‘Frankenstein’ thing going on, and are hurriedly moving onto another web page to read so I think I’d better explain in more depth! (And this is going to take some explaining!)

Many years ago I was involved in importing and selling orchid plants, which I eventually gave up because I was fed up of not earning any money and I was unhappy how a lot of the plants were obtained and policed. That’s a whole post on it’s own, and not a pretty one! Nuff to say it left a very sour taint to the whole idea of even growing them for myself for very many years afterwards.

I had to ‘let go’ of some very amazing plants (I still kick myself over a couple) for the basic need to pay bills at the time, and it was my other ‘arf who encouraged me to get a couple of plants again. Although I did, the one thing I never cracked when I was growing to sell was raising them for seed, and had/have a huge amount of lab equipment for the job. It was something I still wanted to achieve, plus it means as I know where the seed comes from then nothing needs to be destroyed or taken from the wild, plus I can then put some ethically grown plants back into the orchid growing community.

Now you won’t find much orchid seed in the garden centre for good reason; it doesn’t work like normal seeds – i.e. you sprinkle it and plants grow! Firstly the seeds are like dust, and have no food reserves. Instead they have to fall in just the right place and meet up with just the right fungus. The fungal spores then infect the seed, using the microscopic case as protection. As the fungus grows it gives out nutrients that the seed can use to grow. If the fungus grows too quickly it kills the plant and it’s home and dies, and visa versa!

So instead of chucking it into a pot and hoping one in a few million seeds survive to adulthood (which is how orchids get round the problem, by having millions of seeds) in 1950’s a technique was developed to get around the problem. By making a nutrient broth of all the goodies that come out of the fungus and popping the seed on top of that a lot of the element of chance was reduced. Seedlings could be produced in thousands rather than dozens, very good news for rare and endangered plants.

BUT (of course there has to be a but!) BUT the nutrient jelly contains a lot of sugar, which many fungus and bacteria like too! And they grow in hours not years! So all of the seed, the jars, the nutrients even the AIR has to be sterile as even one spore getting in will ruin the contents.

For this I built a 6ft long by 3x3ft sterile air cabinet that uses an huge HEPA air filter that blows 99.6% clean air at me whilst opening jars that I’ve sterilized in a pressure cooker (on the kitchen hob for 18mins!) This is really not fun, as ontop of this everything is wiped down with virtually neat detol, and after an hours work that’s all I can smell for the next few days, not to mention the industrial bleach used! It wasn’t too bad when you started doing it, but now it’s turned into one of those chores to be avoided.

Last week I had a binge and transferred a lot of plants that needed moving into bigger jars (or flasks as they are called), on average most seed takes 6-8 weeks before they germinate and change to tiny dots of green (and I do mean dots!!!!) Then many monts later the dots turn into tiny plants which need separating out into large jars with more space, and so one for about 2 years on average. A lot of time, and a lot of washing up! I spend more time washing jars than re-plating them! I have some bottles made for the job, but these days I tend to recycle all sorts of old small jam jars.

Doing all this suddenly increased the amount of jars in use, so to make some room I popped a couple on Ebay. I was amazed at the interest, it’s not many people who have the time & inclination to spend another 3 or so years getting them to flowering size! I was really stunned as my past Ebay sales were all flops from lack of interest! I shall have to pull my finger out and do some more now, as I realise it’s an untapped potential source of money that I can use to buy more glass and tools!
In the meantime here’s a picture of Aerathes grandiflora, one of my few bought plants rather than a seed-swap. It’s got amazing sculptural flowers, it’s from Madagascar where it’s normally pollinated by moths. In this case it was pollinated by me about a year ago and I did my first transplant last week. However I didn’t get much seed out of this one, and the biggest ones are only 1-2cm tall (the flower here is 6-8inchs!) so it’ll be a good few years before I get to flower my own home-sown ones!

Monday, 25 May 2009

8 Things

I’ve been tagged by Helen at with a ‘8 things’ challenge, which I shall attempt to do here now before anyone else tags me and I run out of cool bloggers to tag back!

So, first up is mentioning the blogger; Humm…., I think I just did that one, so not too hard so far! Helen makes some lovely fused glass, and shows real talent with on mandrel work too!

Next a list of ‘8 things;
First, 8 things I am looking forward to;
1/ Moving house (a long way off!)
2/ Another cup of tea
3/ Next big glass session
4/ (I shall be cryptic here!) Trying out some new ‘things’ to add to my glass ;-)
5/ My other half finishing for summer and being home for a few months.
6/ Being able to fix the house windows
7/ Thinking of something for 7 & 8 before I post the blog!

8 Things I did yesterday
1/ Took photo’s of new glass
2/ Re-vamped ETSY shop
3/ Finished a few bits of jewellery
4/ Fetched Ice-cream for other half!
5/ Cleaned workshop
6/ Tried some new glass designs
7/ First time signing my marbles!
8/ Replated some orchid seedlings (more on that another time!)

8 Things I wish I could do
1/ Learn Japanese (3 years of tapes & still stuck at ‘hello’!)
2/ Make glass full time (I see this one was on many lists!) which really is a way of saying ‘not loose 12-14 hours of my day on a ‘day-job’ !
3/ Be better at controlling small lines and dots in glass
4/ Be less tired so much (see no2 and the 12-14 hour working days!)
5/ Move to Yorkshire coast
6/ Ride a unicycle
7/ Save the planet (one step at a time I guess!)
8/ Be more patient

Shows I watch – actually this I find even harder than the rest as I don’t really watch much TV; rather be doing something. So, in no order;
1/ NCIS (it’s fun!)
2/ Supernatural
3/ Big Bang Theory (we all need comedy, and as a bonus it’s got geeks!)
4/ Top Gear (Same reasons as above!)

And now 8 people whose Blogs I follow. Some of these are not craft blogs, so I am going to cheat here and not contact everyone as I am sure a lot of these people and groups are way to busy, so I shall give you this as a list of interesting peoples to go and find out more about!
1/ Coilhouse – blog for alternative fashion/fiction/ideas
2/ Lovely jewellery!
3/ Cool & quirky photo’s!
4/ Lovely fellow lampworker who produces fab stuff
5/ Seattle based photographer doing interesting & alternative stuff
6/ Journal of Amelia Arsenic, alternative fashion & makeup; quite extreme look so be warned! I like her very inspirational & upbeat way of looking at the creative process.
7/ Dressmaker
8/ Musing from a London-a-holic!

I am really not sure what you’ll all make of that lot, I’m now worried you’ll all realise I really am a nut and stop following my blog!