Saturday, August 25, 2012

Explaining Myself

Some of you may know I am a computer geek, but I also work part time on making jewelry.  In addition to the stringed bead stuff, I also make fused dichroic glass pendants, earrings, & brooches.  

I thought I would share this process as well as some of my creations.  I'm going to explain things along the way too.

When getting the glass ready for fusing in the kiln, there are a lot of things that have to be done first.  Let me just say right now that I really hate doing dishes.  This fact will become important later....

As you can see below, I have a 'waffle' work surface.  This allows me to cut the glass and have the tiny slivers and shards drop down below my work surface and not get stuck in my fingers.  On this surface you see tiny squares of colored glass.  This is dichroic glass.  

To the right of my work surface I have a glass cutter, and some pliers.  These are special pliers made for breaking glass.  When I score a piece of glass with the glass cutters I then take the pliers and break it.  The pliers have a silicone sleeve on the jaws so that I only break the glass at the score and not where the pliers are holding it.
The coffee cup you see in this picture is where I put my glass cutter.  It actually has a cotton puff at the bottom of it and some glass oil.  That way my cutter is always smooth when I cut the glass.  The lighter fluid I use to get the label glue off the glass.

Here's a closer look for you

After I cut & break the glass, each piece has to be washed because of the glass oil that is transferred to the glass in the cutting process.  So that means that each teeny, tiny piece of glass has to be washed, rinsed, & dried.  Remember I told you I hate to wash dishes.  That's karma for you! lol

Another close-up, this time it is of some dichroic glass I have cut.  You can see the pattern on the glass here.

This picture below shows how and where I store my uncut glass.  The bigger pieces are in two glass racks and the smaller (dichroic) pieces are in the other containers you see in the lower left corner.

I took out a piece of some of the clear glass I use.  I have various patterns that go well with different color of glass.  For instance the red glass you see above goes well with the clear with black speckles & strips you see below.

Another close-up

This picture shows some of the dichroic glass I have yet to cut.  The orange looking glass on the right is called "Pixie Sticks" and you can clearly see the pattern.

Here's yet another container of my dichroic glass.  These are small pieces.  They are either 2X2 or 1X2 inches.  You can also see they are labeled.  This is how I buy them and it is important to keep track of the colors.  I can't always tell what the color is and I rely on those labels to get the effect I want.  And yes, that 1X2 inch "CBS Dichroic Purple" piece of glass cost me $2.75.

Another close-up of some larger pieces.  These look to be 3X6 inch pieces of glass.

OK, so after all the cutting, washing an sorting of the glass, I then have to decide how I am going to stack it before fusing.  When stacking the colors and designs on the glass I have to do it in a specific order.  It's actually the order of the rainbow, starting with red and ending with purple.

You see, if I put a piece of red dichroic glass over any other color, you will only see the red color after I fuse the glass, I won't see any other color.  

Here is a before picture of the glass before it is fused.  It doesn't look like much does it?

Here's what the above glass looks like after it has been fired and cooled in the kiln.  The shape of the glass before it's fired influences the final shape.  In case you were wondering, the kiln reached temperatures of 1700f.

More pictures below

After all the pieces have been fired and cooled, I wash (again!), dry, weigh, & glue them.  I then add them to my inventory list, print & put price tags on them.  After that, they are ready for the shows I attend.

Let me answer some question I know you have.
  1. Do you ever get glass cuts? - Surprisingly no, when you cut the glass the edges don't seem to be as sharp.  That's not to say I NEVER cut myself, but it's not very often that I do.
  2. How long does it take to fuse the glass? - The actual fusing takes about a half hour to 45 minutes.  It takes an additional 12 hours or so for it to cool (or anneal) properly.  I usually fire the glass one day and wash the pieces the next day.
  3. It appears the fused pieces are on paper but it didn't burn away.  What is  going on here? - I use fusing paper.  You have to be careful with it since it is toxic to breath in.  Before I fire the glass I put the paper down on the shelf.  After the glass is fired, the paper turns to powder and that's when it's the most dangerous.  I use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clean the shelf.
  4. How do the edges of the glass get round? - I heat the glass to a high enough temperature (remember the 1700f?) that it becomes liquid.  At that temperature, glass will bead just like water does.  If I left the pieces in the kiln long enough, they would all become perfectly round.

Well, that really explains almost everything.  I could go into more detail but I don't want to lose what little audience I have!