Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Going to MOO!

Many years ago I was stopped in the street and asked if I’d like to help product test some cakes and biscuits. Cake! I understand cake, and I like cake (although not ones with those crunchy sugar crystals on the top, cake should be soft and gooey and is sweet enough already without adding crunchy bits!) So I spend a couple of hours scoffing cake – cool!

So last week I answered a request from Moo, who make the lovely little mini-cards I send out with orders, give to people, hide in restaurant menus, use as a portable slide show and my other half uses to show people what I do when they say ‘uh, marbles? Why?’ followed (hopefully) by ‘oooo, I see!’ They wanted people to come and test a new product. I was a little surprised to be picked as I couldn’t bring a laptop, however they arranged a loan one, all I needed was to bring a usb with images.

I really didn’t know what I was going to be seeing when I got there, I guess I expected it to be a new printed product, but I was told I was going to be one of the first people in the world to see it! Despite having to use a mac-book for the first time, it all seemed to go quite smoothly. I’m not sure of the best way to describe what I was testing, it’s sort of a mini-display for images, like the sort of thing you see on windows vista where all the pictures flip through like a pack of cards standing up (very Alice in Wonderland!) Like their products it was quite slick, I’ve seen and used web-based services like this that have been less clear and thought out – not bad considering this was the testing phase. I’m not breaking any confidentiality clauses, they said it was ok to blog about it, and they are looking to launch it initially for business card makers first. My verdict, it was ok.

Oh dear, not ‘cool’ or ‘wow’ but ‘ok.’ It generates a like to a nice little animated gallery, which can be viewed from the Moo site only, but personally I can’t see it’s something that’s going to rock my world. I have a Flickr gallery already, which viewers can interact with and comment on, plus galleries on my website and even Facebook page. Maybe it will be the next big thing, time will tell. I was going to post the link here for you to see, but it seems not to work, so you’ll have to wait until it comes live! In the meantime here’s a non-moving picture of one of the new stoppers which I’ve popped into my Misi shop which I am going to try and list more in this year.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

How Low Can I Go?

Occasionally I get asked if I can do something special or different in glass. Many are to revisit and remake old favourites, but some are for new twists on things I’ve already made. It’s always interesting to hear new ideas, and they often take me down paths I wouldn’t have expected to explore.

The ones that seem easy often turn out to be the most problematic! Recently I was asked if I could make a red flower in a marble. Now I don’t normally try to do specific flower, mine are more ‘impressions’ of a flower, but this seemed such a simple construction, I thought ‘No problem!’ How wrong I was!

After about the 9th marble, I finally got the shape to start working, about the 12th I think I pretty much nailed it. It just goes to show how Mother Nature is rather more clever than we think, and how complex simplicity is! I won’t tell you what the flower is, as this is for someone else’s special project. My next problem is trying to get the colour right, which again turns out harder than expected. I bought a sample pack of Northstar’s boro colours which I use as a palette of colours. There are about 110 or more colours, then added to that I have most of the TAG colours, some Northstar experimental colours, plus the odd bit of Borostik, Glass Alchemy and Momka colours! Basically anything I can get my hands on! Out off all these different makers and different reds I was surprised how so many of them turned the same dull colour in use. Further investigation found that I wasn’t the only one finding this, when thinned down all these opaque reds returned to a rather bland dull brick red. There are some rather sexy reds in transparent, but as yet I haven’t got them to work with an opaque base to make a good red. I shall persevere!

Then the other day I had a less promising question. Could I make vortex marbles smaller? About 9-14mm? I thought not, but tried anyway. Unsurprisingly the first attempts were blobs of glass that fell onto the pie tin I keep under my torch to catch wandering bits of hot glass. However I tried again the next day, running the torch at lower pressures, using the same techniques I’d use on a full sized one but with tiny 4mm glass rods. I was so surprised when it worked! I even managed to put some aventurine sparkles inside them, although they work quite well plain a this size too. The first one was about 15mm, but it didn’t take long to start getting them down to 10mm!

Having achieved what I set out to do, the obvious question popped into my head; how low could I go? I thought 9mm was as small as it could go before I started loosing the design. However I got one to 8.65mm (according to my digital callipers!) Then a touch under 8mm, then an insane one which should have been 6mm! I really hit the edge of what was possible with this one, I couldn’t get the bottom to polish off properly so it’s the only one with a ‘dented bottom!’ Also when I measured it I found it has squashed slightly where I’d held it in tweezers as I’d tried to finish it, so one side is 5.76mm the other is 6.06mm! The results are shown here, the 10.5mm green one is my favourite, although the photos don’t really do justice to them as my camera wasn’t happy with focusing this small either!
And yes, that is a 5p coin!!!

I will play with this some more soon, apart from my other half wanting a pair as ear studs, I want to see if I can do some of my other designs small to make a range of real glass micro-paperweights for Dolls houses. I need to clean up and simplify some of the designs first, but they are such fun to do I really can’t resist trying them out! I am hoping to get more workshop time soon, if I can do them without having to charge too much (it's quite labour intensive) then I will probably list them on Esty in the next few weeks.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Whats in a name?

One of the first things I tried making in glass where heart beads. However my first efforts were rather ‘unfortunate’ so I was delighted to come across a new way of forming them freehand a little while ago. What I particularly like is the little hanger which adds an almost Victorian flourish to them, plus (when I get them right) the space between makes another heart shape! I still can’t get them quite even, but I’m probably being fussy! In fact I’ve just made one deliberately uneven, which I like it more than the even ones as I think it has more character!

Borosilicate colours can be really odd; because of the weird way they react with light they look different depending on the light source, the direction of the light, what’s behind the glass and so on. I’ve had to start taking photos with them on both white and black backgrounds to give a true impression of how these look. Under daylight the purple lustres come out (I guess it’s something to do with UV) but put them in front of a white card and they vanish again!

One of the colours I’ve been using to get really rich purple lustres is called ‘Silver Creek,’ which I had to order in direct from USA as no one stocks it over here. Before that I was using double purple and triple purple passion and still not getting the zing I wanted. I think it’s called ‘Silver Creek’ because it’s got a lot of silver in the formulation, but doesn’t really help tell you what colour it will be!

Boro colour makers have gone wild with their naming, I guess because all the ‘normal’ glass has got all the sensible names already! I’ve got rods with names like ‘Alien Blood’ (green-white) ‘Unobtainium’ (an amazing pearlised blue) ‘Steel Wool’ (glittery grey) even ‘Red Elvis’ a transparent red which sounds like it should be a Cold War Communist version of the King of Rock & Roll!

These odd names are rather handy as it helps me to remember what the colours do as unlike normal soft glass they don’t look the same as when they are melted in. Many of the rods are so dark they look dark blue or even black, but when used do strange things instead, even turning cream coloured! The older colours tried to have helpful names, but Green Amber Purple isn’t a great name – and this glass starts out Bristol Blue coloured plus I’ve not yet got any purple out of it either, although wonderful creams, yellows, ambers, blues and greens!. I try to label every boro rod, but I do end up scrabbling around for a certain colour with one hand while holding a hot marble in the other, so there can an element of serendipity as I end up using another colour instead.
At least these colours live up to, and often exceed, their wonderful mad names. Many years ago I was helping stack paints, all had been given glamorous emotive names like ‘harvest barley’ (a sort of yellow off-white) and ‘seagulls wing’ which turned out to be a very boring grey!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Hello to a more interesting year!

(Photo Credits:NASA)

Sorry it’s been a while between blogs, but now I have battled though the crazy time of the year to the other side. Typically my ‘to do’ list got sidelined slightly; painting the workshop, making some hearts well in advance for valentines day, and finally finishing a mad walking stick I promised myself months ago. Instead I learnt a rather fabulous new way of adding colour and shapes into flower marbles, and started making a new frockcoat for an evening out in March! Yes, three months away but I sow slowly plus I use an antique singer machine as I find electric ones are too fast for me. The dependable 1922 machine hardly ever jams and even though the treadle is a bit low (not being a short Edwardian Lady!) it’s so much more controllable for a ham fisted amateur sower like me, plus is quiet enough to be able to hear too!

So, imagine my amazement when in the New Year I hear non-crafty people proclaiming ‘I’m glad I’m back to work, got so bored sitting at home after a while.’ I can barely contain my annoyance when I hear such things! Other Crafter folk have said to me that they have had chance to catch up on projects too – none have complained about boredom!

I don’t normally go in for New Years resolution, but this year I really want to do more ‘interesting stuff;’ last year was an incredibly grim year for me, and if nothing else was a reminder that time really does speed by all too quickly if we let it. This year I want to strive toward a positive year, be interesting and interested in the world, improve my glass art, make some other projects I never get around to, plus venture out into the big world more too!

Finding time still remains a big problem, but I am certainly going to do my best to find as much of it as I can! However I’ve been so busy with projects the past few weeks I’ve not had a chance to photograph some of the new glass I’ve been working on, so in the meantime to kick off the new year as I mean to go on here is an interesting photograph from NASA’s archives (thank you NASA!). I’ve no idea what’s going on here, but it looks far from boring!