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?