Friday, February 27, 2009

Logan's Run

It's my birthday today. I'm 30!!! This is how I'm dealing with it:

(Also Andrea is spoiling me rotten! ;) )

New Nerodita pendant on Etsy

I've just posted a new pendant in our Etsy store. It's a lovely, substantial organic disc with 5 ornate dangles.I really like the look of the silvered ivory twisty cane meandering over the surface, with lots of richness and reactions.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ghost Towns and Las Vegas

We're back, and now I can reveal where we were for the past week - taking a geological road trip through the Mojave and Grand Canyon region, and then winding up with two days in Vegas!

We went along with some friends and two youngsters, exploring lava, caves, dunes, canyons, craters, ghost towns, a distant nebula and Andromeda galaxy (through a telescope at Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered) and Vegas' overwhelming neon overconsumption dreamscapes. I knew it would be an adventure, but I didn't realize how inspiring it would be for our glass work. Now I'm more excited than ever to get back into the "creating" part of the year!
We saw so many things, so I'll just stick to the glass-related stuff here. We explored two ghost towns, Two Guns (stone ruins, late 1800s to 1960s) and Chloride (wooden mining town, abandoned and then repopulated by an eccentric community). Andrea and I were fascinated by the shards of purple glass scattered everywhere in Two Guns. I collected a small handful, along with some cobalt blue and milk white glass. In Chloride I saw lots of purple bottle-necks but couldn't find anyone who could tell me what they were from. Now that I'm home I've googled it and have learned that the purple comes from a reaction between manganese in some pre-1915 glass and UV radiation from the sun. Which makes sense and is pretty cool. I'm slightly disappointed because it sounds like the purple colour will disappear if I melt it - which of course was my goal! I'm going to try it anyway and see what happens.
In Vegas proper we saw lots of bizarre and amazing design, which will be a source of inspiration of a different kind than the natural wonders we experienced. We all went to Ka, which was worth every penny, even from the back row. There was a Dale Chihuly ceiling and gift shop at the Bellagio, so I finally got to see the controversial and influential designer's work up-close. Amazing colours. We also saw a Warhol, Lichtenstein and Friends pop-art/minimalist art exhibition (rather dark, actually - I got to apply my Cultural Studies courses and teach Andrea the term "anomie"). The visual theme of Vegas seems to be "vibration" - colours and patterns humming together. It became hard for me to process after a while, and will take me weeks to decompress...

So much I want to do, but for now I think a good rest is in order. Let me end by suggesting that if you can, book a trip to camp at Hole-In-The-Wall at the Mojave National Preserve in April-May, when the cacti and wildflowers flowers put on their show. We saw it when things were just barely waking up and it was gorgeous then, so I can only imagine how beautiful if would be in full living colour.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Indulging Ourselves

Andrea and I have been working very hard this week and I'm pleased to say we'll be doing something fun next week and neglecting other tasks, including posting for the next seven days. :) I've been enjoying posting in the blog, so I look forward to sharing an update in a week or so, hopefully with a few great pictures of our exploits!

New HoG Earrings on Etsy

Here are some earrings that I made and photographed in December and have finally listed on Etsy. I'm so glad I did, because I really like these ones!
Carnelian Drops is lush and fun. I really love working with that colour of glass! Your eyes are not deceiving you; they ARE ever-so-slightly different shades of deep coral-rose. Carnelian is a very unpredictable flame-striking colour and it turns out slightly different every time, even though I made these two together on one mandrel. I think the harmonious tones add depth and personality to the earrings.River rocks is a similar chain-dangle style with a completely different mood. This one is earthy and serene. I love how silvered ivory looks under drops of clear. The tiny fritted ivory accent beads are threaded onto the delicate silver chain, so they can move freely while the main beads dangle below. The best part is that these earrings will go with almost any outfit!
Finally, I just finished listing Bubblegum Gelato, which I describe as "sweet and geometric, like cupcakes made by a math prof grandma." Maybe I am overdoing it with the similes... Or maybe I am overdoing it just enough? You tell me. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exciting Colours

Andrea and I have come a long way since we started melting glass in 2003, as two mid-20s women who had recently arrived in Winnipeg. Resources were scarce and we were very frugal with our emerging passion for glass. Black, ivory, amber and turquoise were my favorite colours at that time (heck, I still love them!). It was a year or so before I would even splurge for a single rod of ruby-gold... But since then we've expanded and improved our glass collection and tools every year. We bought a house, built a studio and grew our glass hobby into a flourishing part-time art micro-business. But I think I've held on to my hesitance to spoil myself with "fancy" glass colours.

Until now!

For the first time ever we're venturing outside the familiar world of Effetre (and to a lesser degree, Vetrofond) and plunging into the heady waters of Creation is Messy glass. Many thanks to Kandice Seeber of Colouraddiction for the detailed reviews that helped me make my picks! I'm very excited about Leaky Pen, a saturated dark teal.We're imagining dramatic possibilities for Charcoal, a deep transparent grey. Cirrus will add a misty, milky effect to encasing and sculptural work.
And two versions of improved true blacks will make me happy since I love using it as a canvas for silver reactions. Finally, a denser white called Peace will help keep my floral petals from going transparent in my tiniest flowers. And I did totally splurge on one rod of Bordello, a fancy deep garnet red, to feed my red red floral addiction. Even though I have a lot of transparent red already. :) I'm so excited! Stay tuned down the road for the results of my new colour experimentations.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Perfect Clear

As a creator of clear-encased glass floral beads, I am vulnerable to the whims of clear glass cane. A nice, unscratched clear cane allows me to produce tiny glass blossoms frozen in time on complex backgrounds, like the one here that is up on Etsy. (Though I did catch a few little bubbles in the final wrap - I musn't have been holding my tongue right! ;) )

Sadly, I am all out of good clear right now! I went through about 6 pounds of clear last year and picked out all my best rods. What remains all have serious scratches and surface flaws - and in the flame, that means scum. Nothing ruins a nice encased floral like a big smear of scummy white froth over a lovely blossom. It only seems to happen on the final wrap, an hour or two into the process, and right over your favorite flower! :)

So all this means that I'm ordering a huge amount of clear right now, and hoping that it turns out to be nice clean smooth rods.

I've tried Vetrofond in the past and found it to be no better than regular Effetre. My other options were Rocio's Diamond clear, but it's about 5 times the price of regular Effetre. Since I use almost a full rod of clear in my florals, that would force my floral prices way up. The most expensive option is TAG Clarity Clear, which is about 9 times the price of regular Effetre. I'm sure it's amazing, but at the rate I use clear it just doesn't make sense. I've chosen Effetre Ultra-Clear, which is about 30% more expensive than regular Effetre clear. It has gotten a good reputation as clean rod, but it can boil if mistreated in the flame, just like regular Effetre clear. I've had good luck with Effetre clear in the past, though, working far back in a cool, slightly oxidizing flame. So I'm not worried about the formulation, just crossing my fingers that I get a nice, clean, unscratchy batch of cane! :) I'm unable to make my beloved florals until it arrives, so wish me luck... *twitch, twitch*


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stocking Up!

I've been working on year-end inventory figures over the past several weeks, and the results are interesting. Especially since I'm getting to the fun part, which is determining what I'm going to put in our big glass order of the year... :)

As of year end 2008, we have nearly 80 pounds of raw glass cane in our studio!
Now, why would we ever need MORE than 80 pounds of glass, you might ask? (Other than the fact that it's... so pretty...)

Well, around 30 pounds of that glass is a fabulous stash of clear borosilicate rods, passed from garage to garage for around 15 years, that we recently received from friends. Sweet! But, that doesn't help us with our soft glass colour needs - and in fact it's encouraging us to buy more delicious, delicious boro colour rods! (I'm taking a stand against exploring even more cool glass COE ranges, like Bullseye or Satake. It's gorgeous, but where would we store it???)

Another factor influencing us to stock up is that according to my calculations we melted over 25 pounds in 2008! And we burn through our staple colours like black, white, ivory and especially clear very quickly.

And our final motivation is that we expect to create on an even greater scale in 2009!

It's like having a well-stocked kitchen: we need all the spices and flavours on hand, though we absolutely can't manage without the basics.

Plus, glass is... so... pretty. :)

More on what I'm craving in my next post!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Our Flameworking Studio

Heather melting a glass gather on the torch. (It's from last year with our old workbench)

Andrea putting a finished bead into our AIM 84-BD digitally-controlled firebrick kiln.

Augh! Oh, no, wait... It's just our studio. It's okay. We know it's creepy-looking! Look past the spooky walls and you'll see our 350CFM exhaust fan, natural gas connection, tiled and sheet-metaled workbench, active glass rod organizer, and lots of tool storage. The corner bench was made by Andrea as part of a theatre set, and assembled by her using extra 2 x 4s and countertop offcuts from our home renovation projects.

Here's a close-up of our beloved Bethlehem Piranha bench burner. The green line brings us oxygen from our two oxygen concentrators.

Here's the good stuff! Part of our glass rod storage - our opaques and half our transparents. Each rod of glass has its own properties and behaviours in the flame. Some are regular price, others are super-expensive. We just reorganized our storage and it's so inspiring to see all those colours together. Isn't it lovely?

These are some of our graphite shaping tools. We use the plain one most, of course, followed by the Osibin Shaper on the far left. The others are newer toys. I've had good success with the lentil shaper, second from the right.