Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Almost there ...

I just have to show you what I have been up to today ...

On Sunday I casted my long awaiting teapot. My goodness, how long has it been now? Weeks? Nah, rather months! After lots of quibbles and discussions about the shape that I created on the wheel, Leo capitulated, and casted my teapot. But before he did that, we had to determine whether the size globe that I created was indeed gonna give me 1,2 liters of tea ...

That is another story on it's own. I have a mental block against maths, and luckily Leo had some graphs that could help us calculate the shrinkage and eventual size of he vessel. We were spot on! After a final tweak to the shape by Leo the casting process started. In the meantime I was still perfecting the spout. And the piepie that will house the one end of the beaded handle. Oh, and we nearly forgot about the lid! 11 pieces or plaster later, and I am casting teapot after teapot, carefully wrapping pieces in plastic till I have all the parts of my puzzle together. Then the assembly starts. Wow! Do you know how difficult it is to assemble a teapot?

I insisted on having a pot with a strainer in the spout. So that difficulty became my baby. But then - I always go for the just outside my knowledge stuff. I need to learn while playing, have sleepless nights about the wild horses I choose to ride.
I cannot wait for the beginning of next week when I can assemble the first teapot with my lampworked beads. There is lots and lots of beads laying around in my studio just waiting for the opportunity - but before that happens I will need to learn yet something new ... Later more about that, lol.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Perfect round bead again and again ...

I had posted this tutorial some time last year on Lampwork Etc, and decided that it was time that it was moved to my Blog! This is just a small tutorial how I am able to achieve the same sized round beads again and again ... If you use the standard information to make a round bead, you really need to melt the dinges out of the glass for it to spread on the mandrel enough to make a round bead vs. a doughnut shaped bead. This is where frustration lead me. I normally never use any tools while making a bead, no marver, etc. except for my mashers when I want a round or tube shape.

My tools that I use is just a parallel masher, my trusty surgical scalpel and my torch. AND the bottom part of a brass press!

Step 1:Make a small disk on your mandrel. I normally do about 3 - 4 windings of fairly thin glass.

Step 2:Melt the disk into a small doughnut, allow the glass to melt well onto the mandrel to set a nice footprint.

Step 3:Take your mashers and press lightly, turn the mandrel 180 degrees, and press the same amount, so you end up with a square/rectangular bead. By pressing the same weight, you will spread your glass evenly on the mandrel, to secure an even footprint. Then I normally turn the mandrel about 90 degrees and press again, turn 180 degrees and turn. if the glass is still soft enough, I will continue to press and turn, take the mandrel back into the flame to heat up the gather a bit, and press, turn, press, you get the idea ...

Step 4:Now to make sure that your footprint is wide enough, I place the mandrel over the base plate of a press and measure one of the hollows that I would like my round bead to be. If I need to get the footprint a bit wider, I repeat the press process for a bit, measuring it every now and then. After a few beads, I can eyeball the width quite easily so that I do not really need to measure and press the whole time.

Step 5:Now I need to load more glass onto the footprint bead. Again, rather start with to little, rather than too much glass. (it's much easier to add than remove glass!)

Step 6:Melt it in. You will notice that your footprint is now slightly narrower than it was when you had placed the original footprint down. I loose about 2 mm in width doing this. Eyeball the top and bottom curve of your bead. If it is too narrow, you will have sharp edges on you bead holes. If you have too much of a curve, you will end up with a not round bead, but lovely dimples. I aim to get somewhere between these 2 extremes.

Step 7:Now you have a neat round bead that you will be able to reproduce time and again. Remember that when you add glass for decoration, you might loose your neat roundness, so start with a bit of a not 100% round bead before adding decorations, should you aim for round!

Step 8: Pop bead into the kiln!

Problem solving:Should you have difficulty to obtain neat edges in step 3 and 4, use a sharp knife/blade and cut about 1,5 mm from the edge of the undercut to push the glass to the edge and level to the rest of the footprint. If you do this closer to the edge of the glass footprint, you will end up with an uneven edge again!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting those damn dots to behave ...

Dragged Dots

When in chat on Lampwork Etc this morning, I was asked how I get my dots to behave and evenly spaced around the bead. This is just a quickie tutorial that I did on how I get evenly spaced dots. For fun I also show you how to drag dots ...

1. Make your bead - I made a 20 mm hole to hole round bead, but you can choose any shape you like.

2. I start off with getting the correct distance between my dots by normally adding a raised dot the same colour as the base bead. The black would have been difficult to see in the pictures, so I did them in white. Please excuse the reflection of me and my overhead light in a lot of these pictures!

Here is the first raised dot. Do not squash the dot into the bead, and make sure that your bead is not glowing hot when placing the said dot. I will tell you in a minute or so why you need to leave the dot raised ...

3. Place a dot on the exact opposite side of the first dot. I normally eyeball the bead from the one bead hole side while I place the blob of glass on it, praying like mad that I placed it in the centre of the bead. NOW, if I placed that dot skew or in the wrong place, it is easy to flick it off the bead using a blade or other tool, because it is raised ... Once your are happy that it is in the correct place, you can give it some more heat, to prevent it from shocking off while you work on the other placements. Easy, huh?

4. Here I have added all my dots, and made sure that they are all equally spaced. Normally I melt these dots in till there is only a slight bump visible. To prevent dots from migrating and forming little groups of annoying dots, I have found that if I twirl my bead in both directions (i.e. forwards and backwards spin) I have less migration taking place. Some say to heat each dot individually, other schools say heat them all. I found the forward/backward motion really make them little buggers stay in place ...

5. (If I wanted to start adding decoration the the centre of the bead, I will use the empty space between the base coloured dots as my placement area. Just add your dots exactly in the centre of each space ...)
Now it is time to place my other dots. I will come back to these centre dots later on ... I start with the centre petal dot for each dragged flower/Fleur De Lis pattern. Add a drop of glass to dots that is not the same size ...

6. Now it is time for the rest of the dots/leaves. With the Fleur De Lis pattern I have found that you really need to add the dots in a perfect triangle pattern. If the side petals is to far away from the centre dots, you will really battle to catch them when you drag the glass. For most of these dots I have placed only groups of 3, but when you want to add another row, place them exactly below the first group of 2 dots.

7. Melt them all in, and regain a round shape of your bead. Again – use the forward/backward turning of your mandrel to make sure the dots does not migrate around the bead ...

8. Take a thin stringer of your base colour, spot heat the entire area of dots and the area where you want to drag your dots, touch the cool stringer to the black space between the 3 dots, as close as possible to the centre dot’s edge, and lightly drag the glass. Try not to push the stringer into the bead. (That takes a bit of practice to get right.) I do not always get all 3 dots to move, and when this happens, I just heat the area again, and drag it. No glass is gonna put ears on me!

9. Once I have finished decorating the one side, I move to the other side and drag them buggers! We will correct the wonkiness of the bead soon ...

10. Both sides done, so I added more white to the centre dots, to make them a bit bigger, and added dots of a transparent colour.

11. And some more white dots ... OK, I love dots, lol

12. So here is the bead, I am done with my decorations, but oh boy, it is seriously wonky. You can just twill it in the flame until your pattern distorts, or use my approach ...

13. First I just heat up the one side. Remember to turn the mandrel to both sides, otherwise you glass will start to float on the mandrel, and your pattern will become distorted. Once you are happy with the one side, let the bead cool down, and focus heat on the other side.

14. Normally the heat from the sides is enough to shift the glass a bit to create a nice neat round bead, but if you added a lot of decorations to the centre, you might want to focus some heat to the centre too. Admire bead while you continue twirling it around, and when it is stiff enough, pop it into the kiln!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Design and inspirations

This past week I volunteered (OK, I was actually paid to do it, ...) to work at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. And the carrot? One of the biggest and best Design Expo's in the world!

With my staff card (which I got late last year, and consider one of my prized possessions!) I have almost unlimited access to venues in the building. So some days I will just walk around looking at all the exhibitions, sometimes spend money on interesting stuff, and just absorb. But last week, oh last week!

Top trendsetters, designers, even a top chef, all gathered in the big auditorium for lectures. All the trendiest who's who from South Africa and abroad were walking around, just looking and taking the atmosphere in. So was I. I bought a few books on pattern and design. And of course I sat in on the talks, hehehe! The delegates paid almost $400 for the opportunity, I got for free while sitting open mouthed just absorbing!

On Thursday night the Expo opened, and moi was there. I was gobsmacked, to say the least. Fabric, wall paper, jewellery, ceramics, clothing, furnishings, you name it. The top names in new and innovative design in South Africa was well represented, and they were all busy with the lots and lots of foreign buyers who were clamoring to place orders.

What did this do to me as an artist and crafter? Major rub-off ... Inspiration seemed to drown me as I jostled with the crowds of people flocking to see beauty. On Saturday night I rushed home, said hallo to Leo and disappeared into my studio. An hour later I had made a couple of rings and started to prepare some 130 beads and stuff for ceramics. At about 02 Sunday morning both me and Leo crashed in our bed, fatigued, but me with a happy and content smile while I drifted off to unconsciousness. Sunday Leo and a neighbor joined me as I once again did the rounds in the Expo. We saw lots of friends, and knew quite a lot of the ceramic exhibitors. I wore my new cluster ring, and got stopped a few times by people who wanted to know who sold it at the Expo!

Not a lot of drama happened from a nursing viewpoint - one broken wrist, a laceration that needed sutures, another wound that needed daily dressings from me at the clinic, and a fainting lady. All in all a week worth working ...