Sunday, 14 December 2014

Blog Hop

I have been invited to take part in a Blog Hop by the lovely and creative Becky Moore who makes the most beautiful embroidered velvet bags (see her work HERE

Becky Moore Hand Bags
The Hop requires me to answer four questions about my work and then nominate another designer maker to carry the Hop on. 

What am I working on?
This time of the year I am busy making replacements of stock sold, mostly Christmas decorations and Scandi birds, but I have also been invited to make a piece of glass for an exhibition at Bradford College. The exhibition, Pick and Mix, will showcase work by designer-makers in response to the textile archive at the College. This is a great opportunity for me to move away from my current style of work as I am constrained by the fabric samples I have chosen.  

1952, ready to be fired
I have chosen two pieces from the Americas Collection, 1952 and 1956, which are both prints on cotton in limited colours and I have been working through two ideas. ! have been playing with repeat patterns and geometric structures for one piece and trying to create more organic shapes with negative space for the second.  Both finished pieces will be slumped into dish forms  - because I like my glass to have a practical application.  
Working with colour is a vital part of my work and the structured piece will be in opal glass, the colours are reminiscent of the 1950s and will imitate the flat, dense orange and black of the fabric sample.  The second piece will be made from amber, clear and charcoal glass - all transparent - to give that piece the organic feel that I am after. 
No pressure but these pieces have to be finished before the end of the month! 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I originally studied textile design and worked as an illustrator, therefore my designs for glass are influenced by surface pattern and colour.  There is more to designing for glass than just cutting a square of opal glass and slumping it in the kiln. I cut each piece meticulously and grind all the edges before the glass goes into the kiln and I pay great attention to detail. Over the years I have experimented and practised the craft of kiln fired glass until I now know exactly what to expect when I open the kiln up at the end of firing (apart from the odd slippage - very annoying).

Spun Sugar Fruit Dish 
Many designs simply won't work in glass - they become too "clunky" or "amateurish" -  so what looks good on paper doesn't necessarily translate to the finished product.  I used to make jewellery using dichroic glass but I gave this up because my designs looked too much like everyone else's.  However, I have recently had a rethink about dichroic glass (metal oxides coated onto glass that reflect and refract light to give a jewel-like quality) and, in 2015, I will be designing and experimenting to produce a limited edition range of earrings, brooches and pendants. 

Why do I do what I do?
My Dad was a potter and he  encouraged my sisters and I to be creative.  I always said that textiles was my life but, when I was bought a fused glass decoration, I thought "I wonder if I can do that"? Glass is just another surface for me to decorate with pattern and colour yet, as a medium, it is also quite limiting. Glass is also a slow process which is surprising that I love it because I am not a patient person.  However, like textiles, glass is very tactile and attractive to touch.  This is the appeal for me. 

I have a mass of influences that translate into glass - I love retro design, Scandinavian folk design, patchwork quilts and Indian embroidery. All have appeared in some form in my work over the past 15 years and I'm certain I will discover new influences in the future.  

How does my process work? 
It's very simple - I take sheets of glass and fuse them to make - glass :) 
Kiln formed glass is stacked onto the kiln shelf, starting from the bottom and adding more pieces, and then fused at high temperatures (up to 840c) until it turns from a super-cooled liquid into nearer its natural state (liquid).  I add more glass during a second firing if necessary and can fuse some pieces up to three times before I slump them into moulds.   
My spun sugar bowls give the appearance of glass that has been dribbled in liquid form across a bowl shape but, in reality, they are made from strips of glass that are laid in a grid across the kiln shelf.  Each firing gives the negative space a more rounded edge until they look like holes in the structure.  

Honeycomb Fruit dish
Glass loves heat but only when heated and cooled slowly as it expands at a rate of 0.00090 mm per second. Any faster and it will crack with thermal shock. It needs time to rest at a holding temperature both whilst being heated and cooled therefore accurate kiln temperature timings are vital to the process. Badly annealed glass will fracture - either immediately once exposed to room temperature or anything up to six months after.  Thank goodness for the digital timer!

So here is my nominee for the Blog Hop, talented textile designer Anne Crowther from Daisy Florence Design.  Please visit her blog because her work is super.