In a few weeks – Saturday, November 3rd – Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois will be hosting an Empty Bowls event to support the Crisis Food Center, also in Alton. Last year we attended and were treated to delicious soups and bread from local restaurants. Local artists contribute to a silent auction, as well as making the bowls to filled with soup. On arrival we purchased a bowl to later be filled with our lunch. It was a treat to see a table full of pottery wares made by hand by the artisans.

I like pottery and ceramics, and value those that have the skill and vision to create it. My cabinets hold treasured pieces from my old home near Jugtown pottery in North Carolina; I have bowls, mugs, and dishes made locally which I use daily. As much as I like pottery, I LOVE glass.

Seemed to me that table full of earthy glazed pottery bowls would be complimented by some shiny glass. No one invited me to participate; neither did they reject me when I said “I’m making bowls for you.” So the adventure began…

I sent up a call for artists to join me in the studio to ‘play in the glass’ and found a few takers. Brandace Cloud (a potter!) stepped up on a weekly basis and quickly picked up on the process. Bonnie and Christie also found a day to work. We used the project as an opportunity to experiment with various processes. Some worked – some didn’t. That’s the way of glass. 🙂

We started simple – with liquid paints we made of glass powder, distilled water and aloe vera gel. These were applied to a clear base of Tekta glass – the clear made it easy to see a hand-drawn pattern below the glass. It takes a long time for the aloe mixture to dry so they sat for a day and were then coated with a layer of clear glass powder.

Most of the glass powders on-hand are transparent which made the glass paint appear streaky and thin in areas. It was fun and easy, resulting in a light-weight functional piece. I would like to attempt this with opaque powders.

Brandace had a different vision. Her work took a bit longer using small bits of glass on the clear base. These were fired to a texture fuse, leaving them with more dimension; also a bit weightier in the hand.  The bowl on the right is a combination of bits plus aloe gel paint. It looks a design by a confectioner – delicate and tasty.

In addition to painting with aloe, Bonnie was attracted to the big bins of hand-pulled stringer (vitrigraphs). Her keen eye found a shaped bit appearing moose-like. We couldn’t figure out a way to overlay it and still keep the shape.

More to follow in part 2!

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Kathryn Nahorski was awarded with the Visionary Leadership in the Arts Award at this year’s Arts and Champagne gala held on September 2012 at the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois. She has served in many capacities at JAC including; eight years on the board of directors (formerly known as Madison County Arts Council); five years as the first executive director; then two more years as Assistant Director of Education for the Jacoby Art Center.

I was proud to be asked to create something unique and special to honor Ms. Nahorski.

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To support Jacoby Arts Center, local artists donate art to be auctioned off in a ‘silent auction’ during the Arts & Champagne event.

This year’s contribution was one of my favorite “nests”. An over-sized shallow form developed with vitrigraphs – varying shades of brown and ivory glass heated to molten,  then stretched and curled to become the nest’s twigs. The eggs are glowing dichroic glass.

Why Malench Glass – the Glass Niche is changing…

Two years ago I (we) decided to stop doing art shows, trade shows, trunks shows… basically any sales venue which required us to lift/shift/move equipment and heavy crates of glass; set up a tent and displays; and then reverse that three days later by schlepping it all home. We are not ancient but have started accepting the fact we have certain physical limitations. Two back surgeries come to mind. My husband goes some (alien) place every morning at 5am called “the gym” to stay healthy; yet takes an alarming number of aspirin, tylenol and Motrin just to push his knees and shoulders through his own workday. Shows don’t – can’t – happen without his presence and muscle. He is on-call every-other-weekend. We fit in my shows around those weekends… limiting to say the least. Knowing all that made it easy to begin to sell show equipment. The tent and fancy package of display Pro-Panels went to a good home. I accepted it was time to stop but..

This was really hard to do because we love being in the public during shows. Hate the set-up, love the people. The work is very well-received, sales are good and we even win prizes and extra money because we are just a wee bit different in our fused glass concepts. Over the winter the show invites trickled in via email and applications with glossy photos from prior shows. I forgot that Pete ended up working almost non-stop for 3 months to cover his own job and my shows last year. I forgot the shooting pain down my leg when I lift something too heavy. I forgot how hot/cold/wet/miserable/windy Fall and Spring shows can be. I overlooked the fact of having relinquished all my equipment.

So yeah. I did. Applied and accepted. Was over-the-moon happy about being juried into one show in particular. So we began rebuilding our displays. I could have asked the person who bought the Pro-Panels, if I could rent them back. She’s a lovely sort and would likely just loaned them for a few days had I asked… but Noooo. I’m not back-tracking. We had a quickie pop-up canopy tent and mad improv display-building skills… we were going to be OK.

Three weeks before prime-time show season the heat-index remained in triple digits. The air quality was simply non-breathable. I cried a lil bit when I had to withdraw from my dream show. Losing the exhibit fee alone was enough to make anyone cry but I really wanted to be there. I wanted to breathe a lot more. Of 6 shows paid for and accepted into, we did only 2 last season. The income from those two reflected the economy and almost paid for themselves. The other four were almost a complete loss – we received partial refunds. All too ugly.

And depressing.

In the next post I’ll illustrate what happens when I finally give in and give up.. sorta

The project is/was intended as a mixed media woven glass wall-hanging. The weave-y noodles are BE Aventurine Blue and Salmon Pink. They are shaped over a high quality 316SS custom mold, designed not to spall or flake up to 1600 degrees. This particular  mold has been used about 10 times and has a lovely oxidation but otherwise perfect condition.

NOTE: Fired in Denver CS60 with mold sitting directly on Dyson shelf. My standard schedule is ramping up at 350 dph to 1380, hold 5 and allow to cool to RT. No scheduled anneal is necessary on this first step because the Denver cools so slowly.

Each time I used SLIDE HI-TEMP 1800 mold release, and as the name states can be used up to 1800. Between runs, the molds are vacuumed and then wiped clean with a cloth and fresh SLIDE applied. The  aerosol can states that materials can be cleaned up post-firing with isopropyl alcohol.Over the ten identical runs (other than different colors of glass) there have been mixed results; slightly worsening each time. The first few times the glass slumped properly and the slight hazy on the back of the glass did indeed wipe away with a swipe of alcohol. Those runs used a mix of black/clear, assorted greens and blues.  

The next few runs used a lot of transparent dark colors like cobalt and garnet. The white haze left on the back of each noodle would NOT wipe or scrub away with alcohol. Soaks in hot soapy water did not remove all the haze. I treated these noodles the same as if I had stuck-on kiln wash, rather than Boron Nitride. An overnight soak in a bath of vinegar worked. Finally I resorted to just sandblasting the backs of the noodles for speed.

THEN it happened… same mold, same can of SLIDE freshly applied, same schedule… different glass….

Cracked the kiln lid 1/2 inch at 300 – my standard procedure – walked out of the room for 5 minutes and returned to the sound of Jiffy Pop coming from the kiln. A quick peek shows the Salmon Pink is breaking up and spitting glass bits all over.

 After cooling I found the Aventurine Blue had also stuck slightly, and when lifting away found glass pits on the backside where the glass had been pulled away – even from the ones that were NOT stuck.

Surprisingly there is no aventurine glass stuck to the mold. The bits just swept away easily. The Salmon is stuck in areas and underneath each Salmon strip the mold is pitted and damaged.

Now I’m stuck with a LOT of questions….

  • Is there a slow degradation of the SS mold that’s not visibly apparent?
  • With all factors being the same, why is the BN progressively harder to remove with each run?
  • Why did the Salmon stick so badly?
  • Does whatever makes “aventurine” have a protective effect as mica would?
  • Why didn’t I just use the darn kiln wash to begin with?

On a 9×12 blank I placed four of the commercial brass stencils representing different types of leaves and ferns. Those were blasted and then placed irid side UP and capped with opaque turquoise 0116. It looked oh! so pretty! in the kiln with only the turquoise showing – then I flipped it over to find the entire surface had reacted, except one small corner. The edge of a fern was peeking out a bit from a swamp of deep russet brown. [edit in photo when found]

Not one to give up a good sheet of glass, I embellished the turquoise surface with hand-pulled stringers and finally got a predictable reaction on the surface. The odd backside is now a “feature” of this interesting piece – hah!

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By making small trinkets and functional dishes utilizing different methods and colors of copper-bearing glass; most of the sheet was used up. I’m certain the backing to the platter was from the very edge of the sheet.

Firing schedules for inital fuses (Denver CS-60 or Paragon Pearl 22):

  1. 300 – 1050 – 15
  2. 75 – 1275 – 15
  3. 350 – 1460 – 10
  4. 9999 – 900 – 60
  5. 160 – 700 – 0
  6. 200 – 200 – 0

BE suggests cutting the top layer (reactive ice) slightly larger than base. Strictly guesswork on my part but maybe it aids in stretching and breaking up the irid surface so the crackle can develop. I did not stick to this guideline due to the thin rim of irid peeking out on the bottom after firing. The top and base were cut flush. This could be a good design element by removing the thin layer of irid at the border before putting the piece together. The result would be a decorative border around the piece.

The next pieces are kiln-carved using 1/8th fiber paper under the entire piece. I thought that it would disrupt the irid enough to leave a distinct pattern but it did not. A nice little kiln-carving but certainly no different than using regular irid.

It matters ( a LOT) what part of the sheet the reactive ice irid is cut from. The irid is thinner or a different color. I think the sheet I was working from was a rainbow irid which would have silver irid on the other edges; or the iridizing was thinner.IceEdgeIrid

This is again turquoise 1116 or light turquoise 1416. The spiral shape on the left tray (at top) appears to have a darker design but is a trick of the light. There is light transmission through the darker areas but lying flat it appears a very dark russet brown.

An Attempt was made to kiln-carve using fiber paper cut into leaves with emerald green 1417. There was no reaction at all in spite of multiple firings. The refires were to try and correct signifcant trapped bubbles between base and irid, around the leaf shape. I surrendered after 3 tries.

Descriptions of outcomes while working with Reactive Ice Irid:

 In the cold sheet Reactive Ice appears clear. On my last order I jokingly told the BE sales rep I didn’t trust myself to have more than one deceptive glass on-hand at a time. There’s some truth in that so I ordered just the one sheet, with a plan to use it up in a short period of experimenting with the copper-bearing glasses. A list of those are on the BE website – all in the blue family of colors.

Use of the irid facing down toward the base sheet should give a crackled effect. I sand-blasted designs on the irid side to reveal more of the reactive surface with the intent to have a darker design within a field of crackle. I was pleased with the way it worked out. The interior irid flashes copper and bronze which complements the turquoise.

turqcrackleIceturqdetail

 

 

 

 

The above design was hand-cut on the fly from an aboriginal sun design using sand-blast resist. For the two trinket dishes (below) I used a brass commercial stencil and blasted away the irid in a fern leaf design. The glass is light aquamarine 1408.

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