Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Experience Glass" workshop at Chicago Hot Glass.

Last weekend I attended Chicago Hot Glass's "Experience Glass" class with my son as a Mother's Day gift. (Gotta love that!) The brief glass and safety demonstration led us each to an approx 30-minute crash course on glass making. No glass blowing in this option; that is a much too advanced a topic, and requires a longer 8-week course. After being there a few minutes, I can totally understand the caution in allowing newbies to handle molten glass - we're talking potential skin grafts if a careless, even small accident occurred! (Nothing like a flaming marshmallow at a campfire!) Chicago Hot Glass is a cooperative of glass artists. The experience is monitored by one of the resident artists for only a few participants at a time, and you end up with a glass paperweight. So step one is getting a bit of clear molten glass onto your rod from the crucible. There was approx 280 pounds of molten glass ready to go. Our instructor did this part, as you have to then carry a rod with a big glob of this stuff back across a portion of the workshop. The rod also gets very hot, so she first cooled it a bit in a trough of water then took it back to our work station.

The next step is to press the molten clear glass into the colored glass frit that you have chosen (crushed bits of colored glass), then melt it all together in the furnace.

Once the frit is melted onto the clear base, you use various tools to twist, cut, and manipulate the glasses that will make up the center of your glass paperweight. If the glass starts to cool and get stiff, back into the furnace it goes.

Note that none of this glass was orange colored, it's just THAT HOT. When you are finished manipulating the glass core, it gets dipped into the crucible again to get a coating of clear glass, then is melted a bit, and shaped with a rounded, soaking wet, wooden bowl type tool (below). You have to slowly turn the glass till it sets, or it will still drip off, or get very misshapen  - you wouldn't believe how much heat this little ball of glass gives off while you are sitting next to it for this brief time!

The glass is scored with a sharp tool and water which seeps into the crevices and allows the glass to break nicely from the rod. A simple tap on the rod breaks it off once it has hardened some.
A small torch is used to melt the base, and smooth it (below, right). It's still EXTREMELY hot at this point, and is kept in a kiln for 18 hours or so to cool down very slowly, otherwise the glass would explode when it begins to cool.
Glass beginning to cool a bit.


This is my finished product, below. Imperfect, I know, (and not so easy to photograph) but it was a fun introduction to glass art, and what a cool reminder of a great day with my son! (By the way, the air bubbles are created when you use the snips to cut the colored glass core, so were intentional in this case)


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Monoprinting play!

At a recent artist's 'play day' (as we call them...) 6 of us got to explore the process of monoprinting using plexiglas plates, a variety of papers and water-based printing inks from Graphic Chemical and Speedball. The images below show a variety of approaches and a great learning curve for us all, but we had a lot of fun. Luce Zolna has an etching press in her studio, which was great for printing on the heavier papers, which need to be slightly damp first. The thinner Asian papers did not require a press, and nice prints were achieved by simply using a brayer or baren over the back of the paper to transfer the ink from the plate to our paper.

Some prints were made with found objects, like wheat grass, some tried rolling the ink on and using various pointed or wide, flat tools to scrape the ink away in a variety of lines and shapes. Then there were those of us who wanted to draw and/or paint a design onto the plate and print that, which took some tweaking to get to work. We ultimately found that brushing Golden's Retarding Medium onto the plate before brushing on the ink helped release the print more successfully onto the paper. (If anyone out there has a different or better method, please pass it along!) These initial prints can be incorporated into collage, layered with further drawing, painting, lettering or even another layer of printing. Luce is incorporating a series of her small prints into an accordion book (below). Yes, it was a lot of fun. Play is good! I hope to be able to post some of the finished products from these prints. (Note: some of these prints may not be in their proper orientation. Since they are still unfinished and unsigned, I was not certain.)

Above, 3 variations of printing with wheat grass. first, Janice Kiska, second and third, Rita Foltz
Above, free-form print by Janice Kiska
Above, by Rita Foltz
A combination of brayer, brush and writing with a rubber tool, Julie Wildman
Above, ink brayered on, and written into with rubber tools, Julie Wildman
Above, my first somewhat successful attempts (and 'landscape' above) with a brush and ink. These two narrow strips were actually printed over with a second layer of color.
These 5 strips were taken from some of Luce Zolna's prints for the day and are laid out here for an accordion book design, which she is very good at! (I apologize for the blurry photo!)


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Courageous Secret Belgian Binding

Recently my friend Luce Zolna showed me a book binding project that she called 'Secret Belgian Binding' and gave me a link to directions. It intrigued me since it was similar to a Coptic binding, (stitched on the spine and lays open flat - great for sketchbook journals see You Tube instructions here) but had a decorative, covered spine. Earlier this year I was experimenting with some different techniques for the word 'Courage' for a small works exhibit. I had a few versions that I liked parts of but not enough to complete and submit for an exhibit. I needed a new journal for a book called 'Dream Culture' that a friend and I are working through (the author suggested having a journal  just for this book) and realized that the word and the size of the paper were perfect for this journal. I like making handmade journals to use everyday and don't necessarily want them to be too thick, so I can use them up and make a new one every so often! This is was a great way to salvage those experiments that had meaning for me and put them to a practical use. 

At the same time my (22 yr old) son was taking on an incredibly ambitious Christmas gift project for the love of his life (an illustrated children's story type book, hand bound with leather, no less!) He had never done any kind of bookbinding before, whatsoever, but had a journal I made for him a few years ago that he liked. He liked the look of this Secret Belgian Binding too so we figured we'd try it together. - That was a very interesting Mom-son project, I have to say. - So below are pics of the covers and spines. It took me a bit to figure out the instructions, as I am more a visual person; (a YouTube video would have been quicker for me) but in the end, the process was not too difficult. I also had a book with some instructions in it, so combined I was able to figure it out. I may need to refine my technique (there are always lots of tricks that make things work smoother,) so will ask my friend Luce about her books. Basically, the front and back cover are sort of 'woven' together with the spine and then the sections of folded pages are sewn to it.

My son was using some leather (old samples from a leather furniture store) that was a bit thick, which made the corners a little difficult. He also decided to de-boss a raised image on the cover (R & M), which was an added step, but I think it came out beautifully (especially for the first time!). His girl was super impressed and I am proud of the labor of love that he threw himself into (I don't think I have his permission to show any of the illustrated pages, but they were great.) 

I am really happy with mine as well and will try it again. I used a combination of gesso for texture, with walnut ink and acrylic paints on Arches Text Wove; great paper to work with.