Thursday, May 23, 2013

Glass Clay Challenges

Waiting for biscuits and gravy to arrive and coffee to kick-in at Radial Cafe listening to "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge with Dave. Had two late nights in the studio in a row working on book project redos and an order whose due date I screwed up, and I am pooped! It doesn't help that it's finally gotten hot here and I am too cheap to run the air conditioning in the studio at night when it's just me. Even with the fans on it was 80 degrees the night night before last in the studio (how did that happen? Lots of incandescent work lights I guess...) and humid.

Yesterday was day one of the outside studio clean-up, and Becky H. came over to help clean out the second hot-shop which is now officially the ceramic and casting studio. Bella--the deep, shiny new dual media kiln--and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee--the two big, round Jen-Kens I got from Sara and David--are set-up and waiting for Brian the electrician to wire them up this week. We'll be up and running by summer. Well, Becky and Danny will be running--J and I will be in Montana and doing our ceramics there. All that's left to do is install water. I'm thinking a big plastic laundry tub with a garden hose attached to it (we won't use it in the winter and can drain the hose out).

 But it's not time to talk about (or even think about) ceramics yet--this is still Glass Incarnate. On the glass front, yesterday I solved what had been previously an insurmountable problem with the colors in glass clay being dulled by the CMC. Of course it requires a tiny rewrite of the ceramic section of the book, but nothing that should put anyone out. And on the subject of the glass clay, I did a cool piece that's a solid cast face with a clay and fused glass shard mask on it.  The face has several areas of flashing on it from the old plaster mold cracking during firing which--in conjunction with the mask--evokes the image of a scarred super-hero.

I also slumped my first coiled glass clay piece last night. I fuse-fired that piece a few times with undesirable results up until Monday night when I put it in with one of my normal full-fuse loads. Originally you could see all the details in the individual coils, but they shrank and pulled apart leaving holes on the first firing, and the colors were dull even after the second firing (done to patch the holes with more clay). I knew if I did a higher-temp fuse-fire on it I would lose all the detail of the coils so I brushed some black powder into the crevices between the coils to preserve the design, and then I covered the whole thing with clear powder to prevent devitrification. Both techniques worked, and I got bright, shiny color in the final piece! Now we'll see how it slumps.

Now it's time to head off to the studio to change the thermocouple in the glass furnace and to measure space for a new (replacement) medium-sized kiln.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's Been a Year or Please Universe, Don't Splat Me

I'll be honest, the last year has been pretty rough. And the previous sentence probably should have had a colon instead of a comma.. or maybe a spleen. This time last year I had just missed my first book deadline, we were getting ready to make the annual foray to Montana, and everyone was stressed. And while there absolutely have been some high moments and downtime in the year, they were subsumed by the overwhelming difficulty of the year for all of us. Now, though, it looks like we've all turned a corner and are looking up and forward to what lies ahead.

Dave took a new job yesterday and starts on June 10. He'll still be headquartered in Austin, and he'll have to spend a couple of months there initially, but then it will be back to working from home. I am done with the book (mostly) and I am unable to convey the enormity of the weight of the load that its passing takes off my mind and soul. Jessie is leaving elementary school and the Waldorf school behind for an adventure in homeschooled middle school--complete with archery, fencing, digital photography, weekly museum trips, sewing, French, programming, yoga (and of course language arts, history, geography, art, music--cello and piano--and math). Mom is over the worst of her hip replacement and broken leg recovery--though it's still not easy for her. In all, it's going to be a better year for everyone if the universe will just leave me alone for daring to say everything's getting better...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Kiln-Forming Destination? Priceless.

I have just over an hour before my kiln-forming 3 starts and I am still in what passes for my jammies sipping the first coffee of the day from the Chicago skyline mug. I can either read a bit more Discount Armageddon, or I can post. Much as I am loving the book posting wins.

I spent last summer in Montana on Flathead Lake. My mom--who has lived with us since my dad died--still has her house there, and we are all comfortably settling into a routine of nine months here in Atlanta and three months there. Last summer I was mostly working on the book, and in support of that effort I set-up a small studio in the garage at the house.

My long-term plans are to set-up a a larger studio on the family lake property. Right now there is a small cabin built by my grandfather and a large metal building erected by my father on the land, and some day we hope to build a larger summer home there. Even though the house is not built, because a metal building the size of a two-car garage equipped with two big roll-up doors and one regular door is already in place, there is nothing stopping me from setting up the studio now. And if I have a studio, I can teach. Teaching is on my mind right now as I am enjoying it so much here, and the opportunity of sharing what I love to do AND my favorite place on earth is too compelling to pass up!

Imagine a week of studying kiln-forming techniques interspersed with afternoons swimming in the lake, shopping at the galleries in Big Fork, dining at the Smokehouse surrounded by cavorting bunnies, a drive through the National Bison Range, and a day trip to Glacier National Park. I think I may be onto something!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Out the Door

It's been a good couple of days in the studio. I guess I had more work than I realized that had to be fired as I managed to fill my three biggest kilns and still had enough left over to send home with Dee to fire in her two bigger kilns! I was lucky she worked yesterday and today and offered to fire for me as otherwise I wouldn't have been able to ship everything that needs to go out. I'm even a bit ahead on firing right now as I have done most of the order that is scheduled to ship next Wednesday.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's final class in the kiln-forming 1-2-3 series. I taught it a bit differently this time as I had six very focused, enthusiastic students who were there for all three sessions and enabled me to up my game. I plan to continue the format for the next session and hope it goes as well. Basically the first week is about the different forms glass comes in (sheet, frit, rod, stringer, powder), how these forms can affect your perception of the color (transparent frit looks lighter in color as the size of the pieces gets smaller due to the way the light reflects and refracts off of them), bubbles, and viscosity and flow with the addition of heat and gravity. I meant to teach cutting glass in the second week along with color, but color is such a big topic--how combining results in individual points as opposed to a blended color, strikers, reactive glass, opal vs. transparent and their respective effects on depth perception, etc.--that I never got to it. We're going to start with cutting this week, and then move into more discussion of the direction of flow and how to affect the movement of the glass in the kiln by how the glass is placed in the piece (layering and stacking). We'll finish with an introduction to the kiln and the segments in various firing schedules.

The other big thing I started with this class is beginning each class with an analysis of the pieces the students made in the previous class (they do an 8" square based on the subjects discussed for each class) and how they fit or diverged from the students' expectations based on what they had learned. This analysis takes about 20 minutes, but they all seem to get a lot out of talking about what they did and looking at what others did. It also helps me with what I need to emphasize in the class. FOr example, it's been so long since I started fusing glass that it never even occurred to me that I needed to point out in the first class that the glass isn't going to flow a lot from side to side if you put it down so that you have a uniform piece about 1/4" thick. The students thought the pieces would flow a lot more on the inside of their work than they did.

Now it's time to head to jewelry class so I guess I had better finish. Tomorrow's post: Destination Glass in Montana! Come spend a week on the lake in Montana doing an intensive glass seminar with a visit to Glacier National Park, and art shopping in Big Fork thrown in!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Quick Post and On With the Day

I am tired to my bones this morning. Last night I was in the studio until after 11:30 getting two big loads into Bertha and Bettina. Then this morning up and running to get J to school while Dan the carpenter finishes the installation of wood flooring in the upstairs of the house. The cleaning people are due to arrive within the hour, and everything is a mess. Anyone who has cleaning people knows that you have to clean before they clean (actually straighten in order for them to clean) and I am behind. Thank you Baxter (Psycho Spaniel) for pulling all the used Kleenex and toilet paper out of all the wastebaskets and shredding it all over the house during the night.

On the plus side, the chicken sheep and goat are out, the rabbits are in, and all the animals (including the baby chicks in the guest bedroom) are fed and watered. It's also shaping up to be a beautiful day in Atlanta--looks like it won't rain today. Three more kiln loads in today, and I'll even be caught up on production--just in time to go into a full weekend teaching. I have kiln-forming 3 on Saturday and a new kiln-forming 1 class Sunday, and both are full. I hope this new batch of students is as enthused as the last group and signs up for the rest of the series (taught over the next two weekends). These are my last two intro series before heading to Montana.

Yep, it's time again to escape what will be the heat in Atlanta for the cooler summer temps of the Montana mountains (and lake). We look to go the first of June, and I haven't even begun to set a final date and make the last arrangements with the house sitter. In retrospect, I think it's the cooler-than-usual spring temps that have delayed preparations this year. Usually it's so hot by now that we are in a hurry to flee. But this year with all the late rain and cold temps, it's just now getting into nice weather--and mostly pollen-free nice weather.

Okay, time to get my butt in gear. More on classes tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Beat Goes On

I am sore, I am tired, and it's only 10:03 am. Today the carpet in the upstairs is coming up and over the next three days it will be replaced by hardwood floors. This is a difficult project as all our bedrooms are up there, but it is somewhat simplified by Mom still living in the office post surgery. This weekend, if all goes well, she'll move back upstairs. J is not down with the new floors even though her room was the most peed in first by the cat (may she rest in peace) and now by the two dogs (who, if they continue their bad habits once the carpet is gone, will also rest in peace... no I wouldn't, but it's awfully tempting!).

The real work of the day for me is to figure out what happened to my manuscript after it left my hands and before it arrived in my editor's. When the copy-editor compiled it, it looks like an entire section was dropped. Now I need to see what else might have changed. I am also going to have to redo some of the projects to get more aesthetically pleasing finished pieces to photograph for the beauty shots. One of the major issues my publisher has is that the glass clay projects look more like clay than like glass--unsurprising as they are made with glass powder and (like pate de verre) will never have the shiny, transparent perfection of, say, cast glass. To make this technique more appealing I need to make it look more glass-like. Maybe the solution is to combine glass clay elements with sheet glass either as windows through the clay or as the support for twining clay pieces. Whatever I do, I need to do it quickly.

It's been a really great spring in the studio with a lot of people interested in the beginning kiln-forming series of classes (kiln-forming 1-2-3). I taught part one last Saturday, and this Saturday I teach part two and next weekend part three. Part one was full, and I only have one spot left in each of two and three. Open studio has also been hopping with students from previous classes coming in and working on their own projects. Everyone is doing something different, and they are all interested in what others are working on and in sharing their own knowledge. This is why I opened my studio in the first place. Now we just need to keep the momentum going.

We're also just about done with our show orders from the Buyer's Market. Once I have them behind me it'll be time to get the new Siyeh Studio website done. That's my big project for this summer in Montana--that and creating glass tiles based on Gaudi's floor tiles and sidewalk tiles from Barcelona. I brought back two different samples of the tile--one in plaster and a larger one in concrete--ten years ago and I am finally in a place where I can start to think about where I want to go with them.

The concrete one has a more subtle, finer detail than the plaster one--for one thing it is not just in two heights of relief as the nautilus shell section undulates in waves--and the motif is also a reverse of the concrete one with the concrete being rendered primarily in the negative. The plaster one has a positive (raised) motif. Both can be found as sidewalks and floor tiles in Barcelona. I love the concrete one, but it is a bit big for glass floor tiles for a bathroom.