Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Harry Pickup method of craft design

Who? I hear you ask, maybe followed by ‘what?’ and then maybe ‘have you really lost your marbles?’ (The answer to the last is yes, there are probably some rolling around under my bench somewhere.)

Do you ever have one of those craft problems where you are missing something to make the ‘thing’ you make? Or it’s gone wrong? Or there is an eyesore on it? Well then it’s time for the Harry Pickup method!

There is a lot of hype around this chap, and maybe it’s more myth than reality, but just after WWII Harry was (supposedly) trying to find a way of getting rid of some nasty caustic waste ash. In desperation he even tried flushing some down the loo, when he noticed it caused an interesting reaction. All the limescale was removed!!! He then took this waste product and turned into something every housewife wanted! Unsure what to call this new product he just took the first three letters from his first and last name…….. Ah! See, you probably have heard of him!!!

So basically I’m talking about taking what you think are negatives and turning them into practical positives, and when things aren’t going to plan I think to myself ‘What would Harry do?’

I’ve been looking into holders to mount marbles in to make walking sticks, and I’ve had a lot of ‘Harry’ moments doing it. I’m still miles away from getting them made, but each stumbling block has helped improve the design. For example I was looking at some nice brass lampholders, and converting them to use as a cup for the marble. However they had an earth terminal fixed to the side; removing it would have left a hole. So instead of thinking how I could remove it, I wondered how I could use it? I could use it to secure a hand-strap! Ideal so it could be put around the wrist to save dropping it, (useful when the top is solid glass!) or even just to hang it up. In the end the holder was too small, but I’ve kept the idea for the hand-strap which I wouldn’t have had if I’d just cursed the useless holder and moved straight on.

On a Steampunk forum a while ago I came across a thread where someone was trying to get rid of some writing enamelled into some old lab glassware (which of course caught my eye!) There were lots of complicated answers, attempts to burn it off then re-annealing it, super-dangerous chemical treatments. My solution was to turn it into a feature of the sculpture he was thinking of making by putting a decorative brass collar around it. Simples!

I see so many links to motivational websites telling us to be positive, all are very good at talking up how to think positive, but I really don’t find many telling you how to turn that into reality. I hope this will give you some ideas to get around that stumbling block by using the stumbling block itself as your leverage. So next time you are stuck, try thinking of Harry, and turn the unwanted into an advantage.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Wake up, it’s Friday! Oh no! It’s Monday!

I’ve always struggled with sleeping, mostly I’m quite a light sleeper, but there are times I have some insomnia. A few months ago I started taking some ‘safe’ herbal pills, which really seemed to help. However in the past few weeks they have started building up in my system, leaving me lethargic and dull headed, but it’s been so gradual I’d not really noticed, or just wasn’t bothered!

Then last week I was working on a glass sculpture when an hour and half of work shattered on the final assembly thanks to my tongs slipping. Now I’ve learnt to be quite ‘Zen’ about glass, going with the flow, try to accept when things don’t work and start again, and viewing mistakes as steps to learn what I need to make the next and future ones better. However I wasn’t bothered – which I realised was wrong in itself. Reading up on the ‘safe’ valerian I realised my rather stupid mistake, that it should be for occasional use and I’d slipped into the bad habit of taking it every night!

Well a few days for it to clear out of my system and I realise how little I’ve managed to achieve in the past month, which is quite frustrating, but on the good side various odd things including my mysterious limp vanished. A close call! I’ve been taking good use of the extra energy and tore down to the local propane man for a new canister and was back in record time. I spend one day on experimental stuff, not all successful, and then the next day dived into some of the new glass to make some floral pendants; I’m loving one of the new colours, some great green-blues that remind me of Monet’s water-lily lake paintings with metallic hints!

Now however the insomnia has returned! I’ve tried cutting down on coffee and tea to help, but Mondays are the worse, especially after such a great day before at the torch!
Maybe I’ll have a ‘coffee Monday’ where I allow myself the injection of scary strong coffee! I stumbled across this on the net, which is a wonderful mad scientist way of making coffee. Not tried it yet, I am sure I saw a tabletop version that uses the same principle once, and I am lacking some of the flasks to make this.


Thanks also to the Graphics Fairy for the vintage image, well worth a look at this site for some great project source material for crafting! http://graphicsfairy.blogspot.com/

And as for valerian; just say no!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Ingenious Gadgets and the glass/work imbalance

Originally uploaded by steampunkglass
Were do I start? It seems ages since I’ve blogged, and even longer since I’ve listed much new. I’ve been suffering from that ‘life getting in the way of art’ thing the past month, everything from birthdays to attend, illness, lack of propane, to new glass to play with and new techniques to try out. Oh, and I appear to be turning into ‘House!’

First there are a couple of charity auctions that my bottle stoppers are appearing in; I do get a lot of requests to donate things, and since my turnout isn’t prolific it’s very hard to donate to many, so it can be quite eclectic where I donate to. Firstly there is a ‘blind auction’ for craft students at Derby University http://www.derbycrafts.co.uk/lot4.html it’s such a shame they need to raise money, but there are some fantastic donations and well worth a look, and one of my galaxy stoppers is there. The other one, which there might be pictures for soon, is for Air ambulance, (it’s criminal that such a life saving service needs to rely on people being sponsored to sit in baths of baked beans and the like!) There is an auction at this years ‘Flame-off’ – this is an annual gathering of pyromaniac lampworkers like myself, where we get together to swap ideas, see new techniques, and do a lot of damage to our credit cards! Sadly I’m not going to make it this year, but there is one of my flower stoppers making an appearance.

I certainly need to get making some bigger marbles so I can get some walking sticks made, I’ve managed to mangle my foot and have been limping around. I am starting to suspect the daily crush onto trains isn’t helping since as soon as I get a few days rest it’s fine, then by midweek it’s back again which doesn’t help my ‘cheery’ disposition at the dayjob (“whatdaya mean, we can’t introduce random beatings for the staff? It would improve productivity- it worked for the Romans, their empire was bigger than ours!”) Yes, I have to suffer a dayjob for a little longer until I can afford to stop, which will be a great relief to me and those that have to work with me! I am at a stage where I cannot get enough time because of it to do the important glass stuff, and various ‘work’ projects have really painful curtailed that recently. That will have to change!!! Although the shower finally died last week, along with the propane becoming empty, so looks like I have some serious DIY to tackle instead rather than some new stuff I’ve been working on. Fear not, I really will have some stuff worth waiting for to see soon!

A very pleasant surprise was being featured in a Flickr gallery recently. It wasn’t just getting one of my razors featured that overwhelmed me than the company I was put with; stunning exhibits from the Corning, and several artists who are renown glass artists and teachers, it’s certainly made me think more seriously about where I am going with the art side of my glass, and how much more I want to re-address the balance between make creating stuff rather than just surviving the day to day. That’s probably something I’ll touch on more in another blog soon; in the meantime you can see the gallery here; http://www.flickr.com/photos/brfun/galleries/72157623522757982/

Another thing that has brightened my week is finding this book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ingenious-Gadgets-Obscure-Eccentric-Contraptions/dp/0715321897 in the bargain bin at the local bookshop. It’s like a Steampunk wish list! I’m certainly inspired by some of the designs, many are much stranger and dafter than anything I’ve seen Steam-folk carrying! A whistle stuck to a wrist strap as an early personal attack alarm? I am tempted to recreate the top hat holder though, better than leaving them stacked in a corner! So far the only glass object is a fire-extinguisher grenade or an ink cleaner; neither appeal to me to re-create, but I’m sure with all this inspiration and warm evenings I shall be off to the shed with evil mutterings and cackling!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Heart Keys

Here is a sneak look at a new idea I’ve been working on. I’m calling them ‘heart keys’ as it seems rather appropriate! I’m thinking they’ll look really nice on some silk or organza as a simple choker or necklace, but my design skills are falling down on this one, so I might just sell them as loose focals for those with more fair for putting them together with nice fabric and silver!

I’m hoping to refine the idea a bit more if I can, and play around with this theme, I also am expecting 10lbs (yes! 10lbs! That’s about 4.5kg in new money!) of new borosilicate glass tomorrow which has finally got from the USA through customs and the post office, so it’ll be a wonderful excuse to play with it all!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Sunshine Award

A big thanks to NoodleBubble http://noodlebubble.blogspot.com/2010/01/award-goes-to.html and Tracy at Cinnamon Jewellery http://www.blogger.com/profile/02436484670257361377 who’ve both given me a Sunshine blog award. I think I am meant to now find another 12 great blogs, which is very hard as there are so many good ones out there! You probably can’t go too far wrong by checking out all the Frit Happen Forum blogs http://fhfteam.blogspot.com/ which has way too many lovely glass from fantastic lampworkers to look at! I will try and find some time though soon to list my 12!

This week I have been struggling (and failing) to be able to keep up with blogging, twittering, facebooking, foruming (that not a real word!) and all the other bits in the on-line world., and have been conspicuous by my absence. I’ve been way-laid by a rather heavy work load (non-glass sadly.) Even Saturday was a near write-off as I then suffered a stomach bug. Typical! However I did manage to get a few hours lampworking in, and tried out a new idea. I am not quite sure what is bubbling in my brain these days as I seem to have come up with possibly the cutest and most romantic – maybe even kitsch you may say – idea to date. More to come in a few days when I get them out of the kiln and photographed, I might even dare to tell you about the genesis of the idea which is anything but romantic!