Monday, November 21, 2011

Experimenting with Molded Glass Frit

A year ago I met Linda Steider, a glass artist who has come up with her own medium to use when molding glass frit. She graciously gave me a couple of samples to try.

I decided to use it a month later to create leaves for a fountain I was building. It worked very well, but I didn't spend a whole lot of time playing with it. At the next show where the fountain was displayed, a couple of guild members suggested I do a demonstration on this medium, so I agreed. That demo happened this last Sunday and this is to document the things I discovered while playing with the medium.

Linda uses glass powder when making her molded pieces. When I had done my leaves, I used fine frit and free formed the leaves. One leaf I let dry on a barrette mold for the curve, and I also fired it on that mold to keep the curve. For the demonstration I decided to use powder in the molds and free form a piece as well. Linda's blog lists her instructions for general use of her medium and more detailed instructions for using candy molds to shape the medium:

It suggests starting with a 50/50 mix of medium to frit, but when I talked to Linda she uses a higher ratio of frit. During the demo I used a 2:1 ratio of frit to medium. When it comes to getting the pieces out of the molds, Linda advises freezing the medium for about an hour. Then either letting the pieces slowly dry on their own or putting them in a dehydrator to speed up the process a little bit. For some reason, once I unmolded the pieces, there was added moisture, the pieces did not hold their shape, and they started actually melting! I checked with Linda, and she had never had this problem. My freezer is fairly new, whether it is that or the difference in elevation, I'm not sure. I found it wasn't my mixture ratio, because I compared a piece I was able to unmold before freezing and one after freezing from the same batch of mixed frit. The one that dried naturally before freezing was fine, while the ones from the freezer started to melt. So, I got around this problem by using my hair dryer on them as soon as I unmolded them. This helped dry them quickly and helped them keep their shape.  There were one or two that broke as I was moving them, so I tried to put them on a piece of glass glued together to see if they would be ok after firing. For my first batch, I used the following firing schedule:

375F to 1280F 20 min hold
Full to 900F 40 min hold
200F to 700F off

The results were ok, but I felt needed to be a little more shiny. Linda suggests holding them at the top temperature for more shine. The free form piece was not frozen, just allowed to dry naturally because I didn't used a mold.

The second group got slightly over fired. The second firing was as follows:

375F to 1300F hold 15 min
FULL to 900F hold 40 min
200F to 700F off

Some of the pieces lost their definition. Also, the piece I tried to glue together on a piece of glass didn't work quite so well. It came apart along the crack lines obviously. Not such a great piece, but maybe a good self portrait! :) And, I did like the shine, but the next pieces will not be fired to as high a temperature.

This is definitely a method you should try! To purchase Steider Medium go to Linda's website:

Would you rather make your own from scratch? Then go to Barry Kaiser's website, get a pass word and then read his tutorial on making your own glass clay:

There is also a commercial glass clay available, but of course, this limits your colors to what they choose:

If anyone is interested, I own my own glass forum on Yahoo:

Glass Fusion Group

Click on the link, tell me you read this blog or you're a member of GAGU and you'll be approved to join. Linda and Barry are both members and available to answer questions, and newbies and experienced glass fusers are welcome to join and ask questions or offer advice.

In summary, I'd recommend Linda's method to begin with. It's easy and fairly inexpensive but like any new glass technique needs a little tweaking with your own kiln and experience. I will try and add to this blog later this week with new pieces and let you know how I tweak my kiln schedule. Also, anyone who tries this method is welcome to add your comments and experience below. Thanks, Linda for allowing me to try this and share it with others!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Trek to Delicate Arch

My husband's niece and her family decided they were coming to visit Utah and thought it would be great for us to meet them in southern Utah and we could see some sites together. Moab is beautiful, there are at least three national parks within 35 miles. It's a great place to visit, so many things to do! But in July... it's HOT!!!

We mostly drove around Arches and Dead Horse Point the first day. Getting out of our wonderful air conditioned cars to look at the sites next to the road and take a few pictures. One of the wee ones was sick, so not everyone was along on that trip. But it was a nice drive, incredible scenery was everywhere you looked.

But if you go to Arches National Park, you want to see Delicate Arch. It's the symbol of Utah, in a way: There was the incredible picture of the torch at sunrise for the 2002 Winter Olympics; (Olympics) Delicate Arch is on one of Utah's license plates (license plate) . Well, Delicate Arch you just don't see from the road. So the next day we all set out to see this beautiful scene. It involves a 1.5 mile hike that starts out on a nice graveled trail that lures you in... "this isn't so bad", you think and you look ahead of you and wonder what all those people are doing on that rock face up ahead...

Well, that rock face is part of the, ahem, "trail". I say "trail" because there are actually times no discernible trail is visible. No, you're not left to wander finding your own way, little cairns mark the way to guide you when the terrain is too rocky to have a normal trail.
In other words, this is not a stroll.

14 of us, ranging in age from 52 (that would be me) to 10 months, started out on that trail. Our niece Jodie, and her kids turned back first. The altitude and heat combined were really affecting them; we're down to 10. Our daughter Nikki was carrying the 10 mo old in a carrier that had a metal frame. Every time the poor baby relaxed her legs, the hot metal would burn her little legs. Nikki saw the rock face up ahead and was pretty sure she wouldn't make it over that. She, my husband and her 5 yo son turned back then. Then there were 6. Near the top of that rock face, our daughter in law, who was spending most of her time carrying her 22 mo old son, decided he was done with the trip. She has made the trek before, so she said she'd go back and my son could go on and make it to the top. The almost 8 yo DJ decided to go back with her. This left my son J.T., 3 yo Emma and myself to hike to the finish. We passed a lady dressed in what I believe to be representative of the Hindu religion. Quite an older woman, she was quite excited at the site of the red hair of my granddaughter. She held out her hand, which Emma immediately "high fived". She then brought her hand to her mouth and kissed it, evidently happy to have touched some form of good luck.

Emma was the one who was sick the day before, and no amount of urging convinced her to go back. She wanted to stay with Nana. So on we went. We made it to within about 8 minutes of seeing this beautiful work of nature when little Emma hit her wall. She was done. I sent J.T. up ahead to see how much further it was and stayed in the shade with Emma. He went up, took some pictures and then came back, waited in the shade with Emma while I climbed the final leg. There was more shade after the rock face area, there had been very little up to that point. The "trail" led to what was becoming a ledge, I paused in a shady spot to take this picture.
Beautiful, but not what I had come all this way for. Climbed further, onto another ledge. A few people resting in the shade here. The ledge gets higher and higher and you finally see the end of the ledge...

You climb up, round that corner, and there it is. It's like you hear all the Native American tribes chanting in respect for it's beauty as you round that corner. It's an amazing sight. Yep, I've seen it on TV, seen tons of pictures, driven a car with one of those license plates. But nothing compares to struggling up that trail and being rewarded with that sight.

Now, we just had to make that trek back. We had very little water at that point. We thought we had planned, there were water bottles for everyone, a couple of small water jugs and at least one hydration pack. Nope. Not enough. We really watched Emma on the way down, making sure she would drink at regular intervals. We ran out of water about half way down. J.T. took Emma on his shoulders at that point and started going down as fast as he could, being dehydrated and carrying 25 pounds on his back. I walked slow, my legs were shaky and when I looked down at my hands at one point, they looked blue. Hehehe. There was a large rock with a few small rocks underneath it that provided some shade, just about the only place on the lower trail that did. After a short rest I took Emma by the hand while J.T. power walked up ahead to try and get water and bring it back to us. We ended up not being that far behind him, but the site of him coming back with a bottle of ice water was beautiful. VERY appreciative of the gift of water at that point. Emma was such a trouper!!!

Today is Pioneer Day in Utah. We celebrate the journey of the pioneers on their trek to Utah for religious freedom. I have ancestors who made that trek, not in the original company, but in several of the ones that followed. Conversation turned to that trek more than once this weekend. Amazed that people walked day after day, covered from head to toe in several layers of fabric, some women giving birth, some children being buried on the way. People left everything they knew to go to some unknown place and start over. In the burning heat; the driving rain. Crossing rivers, desert and mountains to "make the desert blossom as a rose". I hope we make them proud, because I'm not sure I would have been strong enough to make it. I am very grateful, especially after this short hike, that they did what they did for me. Thanks.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

There Are No 99 Cent Coupons in Glasswork

A week or so ago, an online friend of mine who is a torch worker re-posted a link to a very thoughtfully worded blog post he wrote about a year ago on the eternal struggle of American glass artists. It started with a woman asking a friend of his to list his beads for 99 cents on Ebay, as that is where she gets all of her jewelry making supplies. His blog is here: . I highly suggest reading it!! (sorry I couldn't get the hot link to work...)

Tom starts out his post about educating the consumer with this statement:

"I most certainly see the value in educating the consumer about why a 2″x2″ glass pendant costs $25.00 and up, and more importantly why it should.

First off, go grab a pickle jar from the fridge. Have a good look at it, now envision it as a pendant.

Yeah, that’s not the way we do it either."

That statement says loads about the typical consumer who is so used to getting beads for 10 cents apiece. There are so many people out there who have no clue of the time, expense, and constant learning involved with most fine arts, and glass specifically. It's worse when you feel they just don't care because they don't see how it effects their life personally. I know I have about $4000 invested in different tools and equipment. I don't even want to know how much over that I've invested in glass. Then mention different canopies, display items and tables for shows and since I teach, tools for students to use in class. In two weeks, I'll be paying $100-200 for gas to drive to a glass expo, pay another $150 for my share of the hotel room, and almost another $300 to take a class, because I care about furthering my craft. (BTW, this comes out of MY pocket, my husband's salary barely keeps us afloat, and I have to help out with three of the household bills and pay my own car payment... I'm just sayin...)

So, you don't think I'll be mad when I travel 2000 mile round trip and pay $1100 for a 10x10 booth for a supposed "Artisan" show, and then find myself surrounded by Chinese imports??? You don't think I feel a sting when someone tries to "bargain" their way into buying a set of my beads? You don't think I roll my eyes when I see the Italian bracelets promoted at fine jewelry stores and know that they charge an inflated price for average looking beads just because they come from Italy? Sometimes I feel like I'm the invisible man... or Mr. Cellophane! Can't you see me, jumping up and down and waving my arms saying "I'm here!!!"?

Am I saying EVERYTHING you buy has to be made in the US? Not hardly. For example, I absolutely love Austrian crystal and find it a good compliment to the beads that I make when I actually turn it into jewelry. But DO consider the working conditions (see Tom's quote below) and consider your support of American artists and American owned small business. We need the money here now. There is a movement called the 3/50 Challenge. Their idea is to pick 3 American owned small businesses and spend $50 at those businesses a month. Kind of a cool idea. Do you know how thrilled I'd be to have someone pick ME for that challenge? Just ONE person?? (While we can't afford the $150 a month, hubby and I have been trying to pick smaller, family owned restaurants when we go out to eat instead of the big chains. We are trying to do our part.)

As artists, we certainly understand when someone can't afford to buy a piece. We lust after other artist's pieces ourselves. It's ok to take a business card in the hope that you can buy something later... in fact we're tickled when you do! (Put it someplace safe, ok? It's another cost we incur in the hopes of making a few dollars to buy more glass...) We love talking about what we do, and if we also teach what we do, oh, we'd LOVE to tell you about the classes!

If you are at a Farmer's Market, a craft fair or gallery stroll... please attend with a different frame of mind. Don't go "looking for a deal". Don't insult an artist by saying something like "Is this the best price you can give me?" Look for something that speaks to your heart, something that just jumps out at you, and if you can afford the asking price, pay it with a smile on your face and let that artist know how you feel about the piece. Then tell your friends.

Finally, I'd like to quote Tom's ending to his blog post:
"I assure you, there are extraordinarily few people getting rich off of their glass. Most who do it full time eek out a living and a little extra, but they do it because they love the craft. They love working for themselves. They’d like to be rich, but that’s not the driving force.

So when you pick up a pendant at Michaels or Wal-mart, ask yourself how it is that that piece of glass, made by someone’s hands in a factory, can be made by another human being, be shipped all the way across the world, and still only cost you $1.98. Imagine the quality of life you’re creating by supporting that low price.

And finally, if you see one of us out at a street festival peddling our wares, please be courteous and don’t pick up the piece, sniff and say “I can get these for $2.00″.

Remember that the person in front of you made that. Take the time to ask questions, the type of glass, how long it took, inspirations, reasons for color choices, favorite torch, anything. We’re people too, we love to talk about our work. Don’t forget that behind that small bit of beauty, that one of a kind sculpture in your hand, is a long process of discovery and learning, all culminating in what you’re holding in your hand.

It’s a little piece of the artist, value it appropriately."

Yeah. What He Said. Thanks, Tom for letting me share your blog, and thanks to everyone who has ever bought one of my pieces from me. It means so much more than just whatever you had to pay for it at that time. My art is a piece of me in a way that few people can understand. It's not the money that makes me elated when you take that piece home with you, but that you parted with your hard earned cash because something of mine spoke to you. Bless you.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Real Life (or what's known as possibly sharing too much).

You're young. You dream. Life is all full of possibilities, anything can happen, you can become anyone. So one day you turn around and you are over 50, and you are wondering how did I end up here?

I've read a few autobiographies. I just finished Jeff Dunham's autobiography. Support for what most parents could look at as a very weird interest has helped him not only have a successful career, but to NEVER have another job besides ventriloquist. Wow. Advice. Support. Unconditional love. It can change your life.

Now, I certainly don't claim to be anywhere near a perfect parent. In fact, I feel like I'm at the age where some of my parenting "skills" are coming back to haunt me. My oldest, a son, just turned 32. My daughter is 29. My husband and I now have 5 grandchildren. Neither of my children have committed a serious crime, they are self supporting and seem to be doing a great job with their children, and they have pretty durned good spouses. I've apparently installed a few issues with them here and there, but over all, maybe we are ok at working it all out.

My home life as I was growing up? Hmmm. Well, it wasn't all bad. But as an adult, looking back, there was some very messed up stuff. My parents had to get married and the result was me. They didn't stay married long. My mom told me they got divorced because I would cry that I didn't want him to come home. The foundation for therapy session #1. (Ok, I'm just kidding, that hasn't been any therapy... yet.)

Growing up in a Mormon community, things are very centered around a traditional family. I really wanted a father. Mom brought home a man she met at work. Later on, family members told me they told her not to marry this guy, he was 11 years older than her, and he may have left his wife for her. I don't know this for sure, I only have his family's reaction to go by. Of course, my mother would never have admitted to this, and she later ranted that she wished someone would have told her not to marry him... so I honestly have no clue. Any way, I figured I would have a dad, and so I insisted on using his last name even though there was no formal adoption. What followed was two sisters and about 20 years of fighting. I lay in bed at night listening and knowing from a very young age how ridiculous it was. Their words made no sense, nothing was ever resolved. I remember one night she decided to leave in the car after an argument and he went after her and jumped on the hood of the car. One of my sisters came out of her bedroom screaming that he was going to kill her. I was so angry at their idiocy.

When I left home for college I knew there was no going back. I never wanted to be around that again. I met a man after I had been in college a year. While I really considered him a friend, a crisis one night made me realize how much I depended on him for support. Soon it was evident we would be getting married. He was listening in on the extension when I broke the news to my mother. Her "advice"... "Marry someone good looking, think of your kids!" She didn't like red hair and freckles.

I am so lucky to have never taken that "advice". I have been with this wonderful man for almost 32 years and my assessment of him thankfully was based on so much more than "looks" (He makes me laugh, and I find THAT sexy!) I feel like my kids turned out pretty good looking and what's very funny about that statement is that they take after my husband's side of the family. You could put our kids along side his sisters' kids and they look more like siblings than cousins. Their kids are turning out beautiful as well. My little red headed 2.5 yo granddaughter particularly turns heads. I love my kids, their spouses and my grandkids. All of them.

I wasn't really physically abused during childhood, but there was a definite psychological abuse. My sisters and I still struggle with a lot of things. Thankfully, they made a measure of peace with their father before he died. Our mother must have brought out the worst in him. She did divorce him and married and divorced a third man. What's sad, is that she has absolutely no self confidence (for which she blames her Victorian age parents) and so she attacks everyone else because she expects that they are thinking the same way she does. My mother would get in horrible fights with her parents and while I know my grandparents didn't discuss certain topics, I never doubted their love for either her or me. Looking back I have to think my core values came more from my grandmother than my mother.

Forgive me if this post is dark. I'm really ok, thanks in large part to my husband and his mother. For sure I'm more normal than I have any right to be. There's a line in the movie "Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" where Sidda says "If I would have had a normal childhood I would have had nothing to write about". Well, I'm not a writer. But I have always needed to create. I think I escaped into the theatre early on because there I could be someone else. I could lose myself in music playing one of three or four instruments. I've learned to crochet, x-stitch, do bead work. For the past ten years it's really been all about the glass. I have a feeling it's because of how I grew up... to a certain extent I can control glass. But, maybe I'm just an hypersensitive boob who over thinks things. Either way, I'm happy to be where I am now. I'm still a work in progress, and I'm doing everything I can to make sure the progress is positive. If you've read this far... thanks. I hope the blessings you need in life are yours, and that you feel their effect every, single, day.

Design by Duane Miles, beaded by Kerry