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!

Friday, 22 May 2009

I'm still here!

You may (or may not!) have been wondering where I am? Fear not, for I have been hard at work on some new offerings (coming soon, to my Folksy, or even my Etsy shop soon!)

Despite Parcelforce's best efforts to keep it away from me, I finally managed to get hold of some borosilicate compatable dichroic, and some amazing manmade opals (which are made in such a way they can be put inside glass!) Along with the new improved power I can get from my torch, it's giving me a lot more control to try these choice glassy goodies. A little sneak preview here, my next job it to try and take some decent pictures!

Thursday, 14 May 2009


I was about to reply to a comment left by Ephemera to last weeks blog, but it started me thinking about the different ways creative people need to ‘fill the well’ of creativity.

For writers, although they claim to need a log cabin in the mountains to complete their work, when what they really thrive on is life. That constant being out there, milling with people, having new experiences, and the discipline of routine to keep their lives and mind in order (and I live with one, so I know how disorganised they can be without a routine!) It is all this experiences and people they meet that both keep their feet on the ground whilst providing the back of their heads with new ideas and characters; it is what fills their wells.

For people like me visual language is more important, which I think is why we suffer the daily grind rather than revelling in it; unless luckily already employed in a creative career, which then we would unlikely be compelled to branch out into our own workshops and studios. For us the routine of seeing the same faces on the same trains, in the same offices, sat at the same screens, becomes the slow death of the artist. We turn inwards and more often than not it’s self-esteem that suffers first ‘if I was a better artist, I wouldn’t be here,’ and so the slow rot begins…

So last weekend we went off for a day at the seaside, Walton-on-the-Naze, which is a lovely bit of crumbling coastline just beyond the bucket & spade hell (for me) of Clacton. The railways bus-replacement service turned it instead into a surprisingly enjoyable adventure as we got the slow route drive around country lanes and villages we’d normally speed though on the trains. A big plate of fish & chips, walk along beach to the Naze tower, and then back home. I didn’t feel like it had blown the cobwebs entirely away, but certainly felt like I’d been away for a week, not a day.

However to combat the daily grind, which has been rather more oppressive than usual, I have taken the rare step of taking an entire week off rather than just an odd day here and there. I also raided the piggy bank and finally invested in a much needed 2nd oxycon unit. These are a great alternative to oxygen tanks, which although they produce a better flame they are very expensive and dangerous to have around. Oxycons take oxygen from the air and condense it, not as pure but it means when they are turned off there is hardly any compressed oxygen in them so they are safe! Here is a picture of my current one, I shall take some time to also tidy the workshop and find a new home for the second one. This will allow me more control over the colours in boro, when there is not enough oxygen in the flame, the flame ‘steals’ oxygen from the hot glass making some colours turn muddy and even change colour! I have one lovely metallic black that each time I’ve tried using it, it’s gone cream instead! I am looking forward to making some marbles with that one in it’s true colour soon, plus a few other very special new bits of glass I am still awaiting from USA; more in another post about those soon ;-)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Full ahead...Stop!

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
Speaking to other crafters, (including you lovely non-glassy people!) I have noticed many of us have the same woe, but not one that seems discussed on many of the forums. There are lots of practical threads about improving photos, promotions, best blogs, etc, but few about one thing that seems to bug many of us (except for whispered conversations and mutterings!)

It’s the what-I-love-and-want-to-do versus the what-I-have-to-do-to-pay-the-rent. I can already hear the sighs and see eyes rolling at that one!

We all love reading the inspirational ‘gave up the day job’ stories in magazines and on places like Etsy, but for most it can be an uphill struggle to juggle work, home, family without adding in all the hours the business of crafting can take – and somewhere there needs to be a few hours of actually making too!

These ‘difficult’ economic times seem to be affecting many crafters I speak to in an odd way though. Many are finding they have more time to think about crafting and where they want to take their real career - rather than the one they might be stuck in. As the economic slow-down continues we seem to be eking out work, and have more ‘day-dream’ time at our desks thinking of what to tackle next; this then leads to a frustration of being tied to a desk not achieving anything when a hundred projects sit waiting for our attention at home/studio/kitchen table/shed/workshop. Crafters are do’ers after all! We prefer to be getting on with things!

Of course the flip side is there are those of us in day-jobs trying to do the job of 3 or 4 people because businesses have trimmed their workforces to the bone, and get home in the evening too shattered to do all the things buzzing in tour heads.

Personally I have been bouncing between both, plus all the plans I had made at end of last year of where/what I wanted to achieve have hit some unexpected pot-holes in life’s road. And now I suspect I have been running on damaged wheels and a bent axel for a while and need to stop before I make it worse. Stopping. Not something I’m very good at.

While I am trying to figure out which way is ‘up’ on my personal map, I think the amount of stuff I can list will be someone reduced, along with my blogging output and input on some of the forums. Hopefully this will be just a temporary blip; a few health tonics, some early night, eating my greens, and trying to remember I am a mere human with aging swishy bits that don’t always work so well, then I can get back on course again. In the meantime a little of my dodgy artwork for you to look at, I should probably run a competition to see if you can figure out what it symbolises – but that’s just making work for myself again! See, I really am no good at stopping!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


Well I’ve not really managed to get much done this week, but have been trying to have a clearout. I am naturally a hoarder, so unsurprisingly I have bought equipment that I’ve tried a few times, not used, then left to gather dust. In my head I say ‘well, I’m sure to want to use that again sometime…’ and the dust gets thicker!