Artist Residency in Nations Capital

Glass casting in DCRobyn Townsend and I have ferried our way back to the States for round two in Washington DC. This time we will be spending two weeks working as artists in residence at the Washington Glass Studio. So far we’ve met many of the artists in neighboring studios, Flux, and Red Dirt, and seen some really inspiring works. We’ve spent that last two days making lots of waxes and moulds, so watch this space to see how things turn out!

Waxes ready to be cast DC

 

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One to One Stained Glass Tutorials

Private stained glass session

Looking at the design and choosing colors

In November I did a private teaching session with Amy Wang an international business student from Shanghai. She is working towards an arts award in the hopes that she will be able to develop ways of thinking creatively and apply that to her business practice. As part of her arts award she spent two days with me creating a stained glass mandala. She used the copper foil technique, and black tracing paint to create the design she wanted. You can visit her blog for a step by description of the process.

If you are an individual or and organization and you would like private lessons in stained glass please get in touch with me for a quote. Also if you are interested in attending one of my evening classes visit my classes page for dates, times, and costs.

 

 

Glass cutting learning

 

 

 

 

 


 

Don't fear you can still make some glass!

My workshops at the American Market went well, I was inundated with people wanting to have a go, and they made some pretty awesome things, we had people making ducks, suns and even cornish pasties! It was really exciting seeing what people came up with. Now I just need to get them cast, I can’t wait to see how they all look when they come out of the kiln.

If you missed my workshops at the American Market don’t fear you have another opportunity to have a go at making something to cast in glass this Saturday July 9th. I’ll be demonstrating how to make super cute animals! We’ll have dogs, cats, frogs, fish, pigs, butterflies- you name it we’ll have a go at it.

Creative Cohesion is holding a FREE art day, so you can come and have a go at a whole variety of things:

Art Classes and Workshops in Sunderland

Glassblowing with Roger Tye

Glass Casting with Criss Chaney

Japanese Flag Making with Theresa Easton

Pastel Drawing with Joe Robinson

Ceramics with Pip Whiteside

Throw a Clay Pot on a Wheel with Liz Shaw

Spray Painting with Frank Styles from Studio Q

FREE raffle where you can win some seriously lovely prizes.

The fun starts at 10am be there or be square!

Creative Cohesion
20/21 Nile Street
Sunniside
Sunderland
SR1 1EY

How to clean wax…

 

If you’re anything like me then you might find that when you are making your work, and pouring your waxes sometimes there are leaks or spills or you wax somehow gets contaminated with stuff. Here’s how to clean it in three simple steps.

What you will need:

Dirty Wax
Two containers for your wax- I will use a pot on a hob to melt my dirty wax, and a crock pot (slow cooker) to hold the clean wax and keep it warm for using
Something to melt the wax- hob, or slow cooker
Steel Wool
A metal Seive – Flat or curved

Step 1: Melt your dirty wax in a pot on the hob or a slow cooker, while it is melting prepare the steel wool by unrolling it and laying it into the sieve- try to flatten it down and compact it as much as you can.

 

Step 2: Hold or rest the sieve over the other pot where you want to have your clean wax and pour the dirty wax through the sieve.

 

 

Step 3: Have a cuppa and congratulate yourself on a job well done- don’t forget to trash the steel wool and all that dirty gunk!

Gaffer Glass for Cenote

I’ve just received my order of Gaffer Glass billets, they are a lovely Copper Blue. When it comes to color I am terrible. I used to work in a stained glass studio, and I loved doing the designs, playing with lines, layering, creating texture and negative space with the lead, but when it came to the colour I was not to be trusted.

The way I work I’m very materials based, I think about a material like bronze or glass, and there are so many possibilities for different colours and painterly effects that I find it overwhelming and try to stay as basic as possible. For this piece I was initially going to go with grey, I was thinking about caves and their darkness. I was thinking about shadowy murky water, and what lurks just beneath the surface of our own consciousness. It might be good to mention here that I have a totally irrational fear of fresh water, last week I watched a programme called Wild Swimming presented by Alice Roberts, the idea of it looked lovely, it seemed so peaceful and I thought I might like to try it. But then, she went caving. It gave me goosebumps all over, and flashbacks of The Descent, perhaps it is because of my fear of caves, and fresh water that I am driven to create pieces about them.

The idea for the piece is that shapes coming up from the depths would only reveal the very tip, and disappear into the darkness. However, when I got the bronzes back I had to rethink the colour. Grey on brown, hrmm.

Grand Cenote Dive

One thing I have learned about selling my work in galleries is that it has to make an impact in some way, whether it is size, colour, detail, texture. I has to have something about it. Color is very important particularly when it comes to glass, people love bright shiny colorful pieces of glass, and it has to be an appropriate size for them to have in their home as well, British homes are notoriously small. So I took inspiration from the cenotes, and decided on a deep blue glass that will still give the same effect of the shapes rising from the deep, but it is almost a pleasant piece now, the blue is inviting and reminiscent of tropical beaches and I almost want to jump in and see what is in that watery underworld.

The next step is to get the piece cast, I’m just waiting on the rest of my moulds to dry out before I can put them in the kiln. So I will have pictures to show you later of loading and firing the kiln.

Plaster/Quartz Mould

Well I’ve finished my latest mould I don’t have too many pictures of this process as I was elbow deep in plaster most of the time, but I’ll describe it here as best I can. I started out with the wax, with the negative stalactite shapes in it, now, as discussed in my previous post, the plaster that fills these shapes needs to be slightly softer than the rest of mould, so that when the the piece has been cast as the glass cools down and contracts, the plaster needs to be soft enough to flex and give way to the glass, otherwise the piece will crack. But of course this softer plaster needs to be strong enough to hold up to all the processes that happen to it before it gets fired, so in order to reinforce it I have taken the advise of far more experienced casters Heike Brachelow and Katya Filmus and used cuts of copper wire embedded into the mould as it was set.

I hand built the mouldĀ  in one part, so the first step was to prepare the copper wires to fit into the stalactite shapes, I’ve never used this method before myself, I’ve only heard it described to me, and I was a bit concerned about the wire being smooth and having no tooth, so I used one piece of slightly thicker wire about 1mm and wrapped a fine copper wire around it, about .02mm thick to give it a sort of thread. I cut them down to a length that meant they stuck out of the stalactite a bit and would be sticking into the main part of the mould. I prepared a small mixture of the weaker plaster and quartz (normally I use a 50/50 ratio of plaster to quartz, just taking alternating handfuls of each, for the softer mixture I just added an extra little bit of quartz) I poured (well dribbled really it was such a small quantity) that into the stalactite shapes and as the plaster set I wanted to ensure that the wires were in their correct positioning. I didn’t want the wires to be all the way at the tip of the stalactite because when the glass is cast, if any of the copper touches it, the copper oxide can cause the glass to turn blue, so I had to keep adjusting the wires to the correct and centered position as the plaster was setting.

Then I proceeded with the usual 50/50 mixture hand building the mould, I did a couple layers and then put a chicken wire cage around it and put on another couple layers. Once it had set, it was time to steam out the mould. I’ve spoken to a few people about how long one should wait for a plaster/quartz mould to set before they steam out the wax, I was initially taught that it takes 24 hours for the chemical reaction to be 100% finished and if you steam out before then you could lose surface detail. But in my own experience I’ve never had much problem steaming out once the mould has cooled off. For this particular mould I decided to wait a week, when I have attempted this shape in the past, what I found was that in the steaming process the stalactites in the mould fell off, because they got so soft from all the moisture. So this time I wanted the mould to be well set and also to dry out a little. While it was steaming out I checked and rotated it often to ensure that one area wasn’t getting over saturated. And Voila! So far so good, the mould has come out just fine, and its now drying out, getting ready to go in the kiln. All I’ve got left to do is order the glass!

Latex Moulds

Now that my bronzes have arrived safely I’ve started on making the glass section of the sculpture, its in wax at the moment, and I’ve decided to make a latex mould of it in case anything happens to it in the casting process. Once the latex mould is finished I can use it to make wax copies of that shape.

Here is the first layer of latex freshly painted

 

The first step in the process, is to paint two layers of latex directly onto the wax, letting them dry thoroughly between each layer. Then mix the latex with latex gel thickener- follow the instructions on the packaging. I get my latex from Tirant.co.uk. They recommend mixing their latex in a proportion of 10 parts latex to 1 part thickener. Do a few more layers of that until if feels good.

Here, I have filled the shapes the stick into the mould with cotton wadding.

Now here’s where I went a bit rogue, and other ‘proper’ artists might find this a bit distasteful. I needed the little shapes that recede into the wax to hold their shape firm enough so they could stand on their own and if I needed to pour another wax in the wouldn’t cave, or bend with the pressure of the wax pouring in. But I also needed them to be flexible enough to squish when I pulled them out because there are some undercuts in the shape. I looked into a soft foam mixture that I could pour into it, but it seemed quite expensive for the little bit that I needed and I didn’t know if it would work. So I just decided to stuff the shapes with cotton wool and tape them in with packing tape, I did a couple layers of this with more cotton wadding and tape and made the shape as much of a smooth hemisphere as I could. Then painted a couple more layers of the latex and gel thickener, to get the overall mould to a good thickness. Then I just put tape over the latex to reinforce it and also it’s kind of ‘grippy’ and I wanted the outside to be able to slip in and out of the plaster mould easily.

Then I carefully pulled the latex off the mould and it worked a charm.

Finished latex mould with wax

 

With the wax safely removed from the latex mould I will then make a plaster/quartz mould around it, melt the wax out, and put it in the kiln to melt the glass in. And this is where its a bit tricky, as you can see from the pictures, there are negative stalactite shapes poking in to the wax, and where the mould fills these shapes it will be quite fragile. Not only that but the mould in that area needs to be made quite soft, as the piece cools down in the kiln the glass will shrink around that shape and if it’s stiffer than the glass it will cause the glass to crack. Thus the mould in this area will be even more fragile, and in the past when I have attempted this, the tips of the stalactites have broken off.

 

I will keep you posted on my progress. Wish me luck!