Monday, 27 April 2009

Trying to hard to be perfect

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
Well, as promised, first release of MARBLES! Now in my Folksy shop, Just a few mind you, still expecting and hoping to make some even better ones!

I seemed to have got stuck for the past few weeks, and my failure rates has gone up too – the one that was most frustrating I’d been working on for about 1 ½ hrs, it was looking good too – one of the nebula type which I’ve found really hard to recreate. It was past that point when good sense says’ ‘stop fiddling and leave it alone!’ Just saw one little dent that I KNEW I should have just accepted, but wanted it perfect – you know what comes next…….. clink! BIG crack, followed by a few more. Welding the bit together really didn’t work, still left a big fatal flaw in the middle.

Nevermind! Glasswork I find can be a bit of a ‘Zen lesson’ that you cannot control everything, and to accept some things will not be as perfect as we’d like – just accept them and move onto the next and try again. It’s still surprisingly difficult for me to let them go if they are not perfect though, I spend more time pointing out the flaws rather than the good bits!

It seems to go to that ‘bubble or no bubbles’ argument; I spend ages trying to pluck out every bubble or imperfection, yet it’s those that show the handmade marks people seem to like more! People tell me they like the very things I am trying not to leave in them saying it gives more ‘character’ and ‘shows it’s really handmade.’

Of course, me picking faults with them is probably really just an excuse not to sell them so I get to stare into them for a bit longer!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Alas, another Dark Dreamer lost.

I was saddened today to hear of the death of J.G. Ballard. Although I hadn’t liked his most recent works, most of his books inspired me and a generation, showing it was acceptable to leave the safe path of the ‘average’ world, and forge out into the wild undergrowth of the subconcious.

I still find his work a refreshing antidote in our increasingly ‘safe’ culture filled with people famous for nothing but being famous, where originality has stopped to be replaced by reworks and rehashes. Doubtless the little media coverage will be limited to references to ‘Crash’ and ‘Empire Of The Sun,’ (basically the ones made into films.) However for me it was his early novels and short stories that I found most intriguing; almost always dark with violence and deviancy menacing under the surface. In my teenage years I took away the feeling that it was acceptable, in fact desirable, to allow my imagination to take flight in whatever area I ended up in, and to do the most daring thing of all – try to be original!

Although often uncomfortable, from the deviancy of ‘Unlimited Dream Company’ to the stark desperation of ‘The Drought’ I would still urge anyone to take a read of his other early works. I hope that we will get to see many of his early short story collections reprinted now, as these I remember most fondly for their breath of imagination. Let’s also hope that some new dark dreamers take up the gauntlet left to help us peer into the undergrowth.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Autonomous Artisans

I was quite surprised this morning as I read down though some of the blogs I subscribe to, to suddenly see myself! is one of my preferred reading blogs, they gather together lots of exciting handmade crafty stuff from independent makers. Well worth adding your reading/follow list, it’s a great fund of fresh craft gifts and ‘must haves,’ and you know you are helping to support independent artisans quality products instead of mass produced tat! So I must say I am rather chuffed to be added to their number J

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

They’re Coming….. From Another Galaxy!!!

group of marbles
Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
Well the news seems to be out, my next project is being unveiled….. Galaxy Marbles! Yes, for all those who think I’ve lost them, here is a sneak preview of some that I have been squirreling away at over past few weeks. I still have a few kinks to iron out, but I think I’m just about there now! I am hoping to start listing some for sale soon, please keep an eye on the blog here or even twitter when I will announce their release.

I have got the formula just about there now, and I got onto a great roll over this long weekend, with clearer definition and a lot less bubbles, more going on inside – I’ve been really getting excited about the results – until Easter Monday afternoon when my gas ran out! ARGH!!!!! Isn’t that always the way!

For me this has been a long process of evolution, I’ve surprised myself at the techniques I’ve learnt and developed whilst doing this project. From basic implosion flowers this led on to twists and spirals, then the whole new complexities of boro glass colours. There is a huge amount of chemistry involved, not my strongest point either! Boro colours have a lot of heavy metals, often it seems in greater/more dangerous quantities than soft glass. I’ve had to rethink and improve my ventilation as well to work these. Some have high levels of chrome which when heated become gas, some of which can then re-form with the molten glass producing new glass within the glass. Doesn’t sound like a problem, until finding out the new glass has different expansion properties – which is why I have one marble with a great big split in it!

I think it’s a testament to soft glassmakers that we have such a range of colours which we can use without too much thought about compatibility. I know there are a few that aren’t compatible and cause cracking issues, and we always moan when they do as it’s so frustrating when something toiled over breaks. Boro colours have only been around to artists since the early 1980’s, and clear Borosilicate is just over 100 years young, whereas soft glass has been around for thousands of years, so it’s hardly surprising it’s got the edge on reliability!

Anyway, enough glass-geek talk, I need to go and take the long walk to the gas shop!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Holey Shirts Batman!

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
I was going to post a picture here of my workshop, but bottled out as I don’t want to ruin the image people seem to have of me! Contrary to what everyone seems to think I am not tidy or organised in the way I do glass; the making process involves a lot more randomness and accidents – although the later is making things a little dangerous!

Take last night, I was working ‘off-mandrel’ which is where the glass is melted and shaped straight from the raw rods. I really like this way of working at the moment, it feels so much more organic, the glass dictates the way it’s shaped which, although sometimes doesn’t do what I want, can give me shapes and designs I would not have dared otherwise. Also there is no horrid bead release to clean, I still have beads from two months ago that need cleaning!

Now I think you can see the slight hazard with this, large lump of hot glass with nothing to hold onto except not-so-hot-glass. So yes, occasionally a hot bead takes a tumble, missing anything I have to catch it, and I quickly scrabble on the floor to retrieve it before it gathers too much dust or burns too much into the floor. The normal place it seems to fall lately is in my lap. It’s amazing how quickly I can move if provoked! I was at that point last night I knew I should have stopped and gone to bed, when one dropped in my lap, and I decided not to leap up but find a pair of tongs instead. A second later as a little flare, puff of smoke, and nasty smell, I realised I ought to get up quick! Fortunately I wear old cotton shirts and canvas trousers when I am working, although I really could do without the extra holes in both. No extra holes in me, thank goodness, but I do think I will invest in a nice leather apron now!

Of course if I worked at a glass blowers I probably would have to under health & safety; last week I managed a very quick peak into London glass workshops’ open day where Becky of Chameleon Designs was demonstrating lampworking to an eager public! I really only managed a 5minute pop in to say hi, before having to rush off again. She makes some lovely stuff, including silver and even gold cored beads! Well worth a look! I did have a quick peak into their glass blowing room whilst there, men with long sticks loaded with red hot glass – now that’s my idea of fun!

I am currently awaiting new supplies of glass and silver, hoping it might turn up before the long weekend so I can play. One of my latest projects is doing cabochons with flower & spirals inside, but not sure if anyone would be interested in those? (Char marks from clothing will be optional!)

I also want to have a go at marbles; unfortunately the tool I wanted is out of stock, so that might have to wait now. Since I started doing the little worlds I’ve had a few people asking for marble versions, or even Galaxies, such as in ‘Men in Black’ – my other half asks each time I finish a new batch of worlds (or should that be demand?). They had it easy, a whole CGI department! I’ve only got a holey shirt and burnt trousers to work with!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Good Vs Bad

It does seem things this year swing between good or bad, and sometimes between really good and really bad. This week has been no different.

On the good note I’ve been interviewed by Sue at Blue-Box Studio, which you can read here; although why anyone wants to hear me waffling is still a mystery to me! Sue does lovely things with Sea-Glass, making it into wonderful jewellery, as well as working with textiles – I don’t know where she finds the time! I will have a feature on her here in the next few weeks.

On the bad note I am going to have to hold back on a new range of little worlds I’ve been working on. The glass is looking amazing, I’ve got new colours and ‘textures’ inside the glass, but the resin I was using to attach them to the silver hasn’t been curing to full strength on the smallest stud cups when the large ones are ok.

It’s so frustrating as it’s the only thing I make that uses any type of glue or resin. In the next few weeks I will be ‘field-testing’ an alternative ‘sticky stuff’ with lots of tugging to destruction, I may even ask for volunteers!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Accidental Glass

Sometime it’s the accidents that help me do things better, these are the ‘happy’ accidents, although they don’t always seem happy at the time!
I have spend days working on a new type of necklace with leaves made of glass, and I’m not talking about those little mould stamped green leaves you see in the bead shops, these are monsters! Most are about 2-3inches long, twisted, with colours layered into them using borosilicate glass. After I made the first batch I found the choker I put them on was too thick for the holes I made. Drat! So next glass session I make some more, and since they are organically made but going with the flow of the glass, not all of them were useable on the necklace I had in mind (although I am sure I will find a use for them eventually, even if it’s selling them in a de-stash sometime!). I threaded some on, and realised it needed so spacer beads, but once again the wire was too thick for my stash. This is where being a lampworker comes in handy, I was back to the torch for third time to make some customer green spacer beads!

So after a lot of to and fro-ing, I finally got the necklace done. Something bothered me about it, maybe it was because it didn’t just ‘happen’ as my best stuff does when some magic brings it all together. Regardless I went to take some snaps of it, and was trying to set up some pictures when the whole thing slid off onto the floor, meeting up with various objects that were rather ‘too solid’ for such a delicate crop of leaves. I think you can guess the result!

I don’t know if I’ve become more ‘Zen’ since I’ve started lampworking, or just because I was so tired, but I wasn’t as upset as I probably should have been about this, but when I looked at the ‘remain’ an hour later, it suddenly clicked. Only three of the leaves had survived, and it looked so much better like this! Less is more, I reminded myself! I made some slight adjustments, and it looks good, although I think I can still make some much better leaves for the next and final version.

I’ve been quite busy lately, and I’ve recently opened another shop outlet on MISI, where I’ve been transferring some of my stock from the old Etsy Shop. I am still in two minds about Etsy, but until things pick up or I have time to make 200 things to list there to make it worthwhile I will be putting stuff onto Folksy and MISI for the time being. They are all priced in £££’s rather than suffering exchange rate yo-yoing, and are just really nice places to be at the moment with a lot of friendly folk there. or my new MISI shop Hope to see you there!