Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy New Year!

Here's to a year of making great art! 
Hope your project drawer is full of great ideas and inspiration!
Here's to whittling some of this down, too!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Its Time to Sign Up for Classes

The metals and jewelry classes are up for the Mesa Arts Center. I'll be teaching 3 shorter enameling sessions, and a weekend workshop on hammer stone setting for cabochons. Check out my Classes page on my metals site for info or go directly to the MAC website here.

My approach to teaching is technique based and not project based so I'll teach you what you need to know and it's up to you to decide what to do with that information. Although I'll be covering the basics in the first class at least, if you are past that point, you can work at your own pace and you don't have to sit in on the lectures unless you want to.  To me, these kinds of classes should be tailored to the student body so I like to accommodate technical requests, etc.  Just let me know!

Also, if you are interested in glass, Ingrid Donaldson will be teaching at MAC this spring and she's got some pretty nifty classes lined up.  Check out her art here.

Registration is now and there are lots of great classes scheduled so sign up!

Weeeelll, not a lot going on in the studio at the moment....

It's the weekend before Christmas and I'm having to sacrifice studio time for wrapping time. I've got gifts to get out to Texas and I'm not quite done. I'm sure many of you can empathize!  I am making some felted clogs for the boys and I'm nearly done with clog set 2 and I've got a lace scarf for my mom I still have to block. I'll try to take photos of the process this week.

I find the holidays really stressful. So, in order to bypass the stress and deadline that everyone and their dog seems to be trying to meet, I've been thinking about implementing gift giving for the New Year rather than Christmas. The only people in my circle who are religious are my sister and brother in law and they learned long ago not to expect presents from me to ever arrive on time.  For example; my niece's birthday presents for October are going to end up going with the Christmas box (again) this year. (hangs head in shame)

So think about it.  Maybe we could start a new trend!
(Although considering how late I tend to be getting gifts out, maybe I should aim for Chinese New Year....)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Raku Enamel

I had a student request in my enameling class this semester to see what raku enamel was all about. So in the last couple of classes, we found out! I had done raku in ceramics as an undergrad but I wasn't sure how that translated to enamels. Well, I was surprised to find out the two processes are basically the same. I was lucky to find a section in one of my enameling books, The Art of Fine Enameling by Karen Cohen, on the subject. The article in the book was written by Jean Tudor and I followed her instructions loosely while experimenting/ demonstrating.  This was definitely a learning experience for me as well! Since then I also found an article written by Jean Tudor on Raku Enameling for Glass on Metal. You can also read about Jean's experimentation with raku enamel on her website. The text at each link is basically the same but Jean has some updates at the end of the article.

So here's what I did:
I made two samples- one had a coat of Hard Fusing Clear already on and the other I sifted the green enamel directly on. Jean wrote that the green transparent enamels yielded the strongest results so I just started with them to try and make sure I got some kind of result!

So here are the two examples. On the left is the sample with a clear coat down first and the 4 enamels shown above sifted in a mix. To the right is one coat of the Nile Green over bare copper. You can see how pale the color is. I applied a second heavier coat of these colors to each piece before doing the raku.

The trick to getting the iridescence to come out is to cool the enamel in a reduction atmosphere. So what is a reduction atmosphere? A reduction atmosphere is where the oxygen has been removed. How does one accomplish this? Usually by putting something like newspaper, leaves, sawdust, any organic material that can safely burn, into a container (with a lid), igniting the material then putting the lid on to allow the fire to burn up the oxygen until it burns out and smokes.

Wikipedia explains: "This reduced level of oxygen causes incomplete combustion of the fuel and raises the level of carbon. At high temperatures the carbon will bond with and remove the oxygen in the metal oxides used as colorants in the glazes (enamels in our case but they are both glass). This loss of oxygen results in a change in the color of the glazes because it allows the metals in the glaze to be seen in an unoxidized form."

The green transparents contain the most copper oxides and will do that cool raku thing the best. It is important to get the enamel piece (make sure it is good and hot- do not under fire it in the kiln) into the combustible material as quickly as possible in order that it is hot enough to ignite the material. In order to accomplish this, I have a pair of pliers handy at the kiln and everything set up and ready to go. As soon as I can get the fork out from under the rack when the piece comes out of the kiln, I pick up the pliers, grab the trivet and dump it with the piece face down into the pot with the combustibles.  If something goes wrong and you have to futz with getting it off the trivet,etc. it's usually too cold and the material won't ignite. If this happens, put the piece back in the kiln and try again.

So we are at the kiln ready to go

It's on fire!

Ready to see what we got

It's so incredibly hard to get a good shot of the results because the glass is so shiny, but here we are. On the left- 2 coats of Nile Green over bare copper, no raku. On the right, 2 coats of Nile Green that went through the raku process. You can see a little of the copper on the surface. The Nile Green gave a softer coppery shimmer to the surface.
On the left, 2 coats of the 4 green mix, un-raku'd (sp?). On the right, 2 coats of the 4 green mix after the raku process. This thing is just coppered to within an inch of its life.

 Why is the surface so bumpy, you ask? Because the glass went face down into the combustible material while it was still molten. You can't escape this and if you put the piece back in the kiln to try and smooth it out, you'll lose the iridescence. Think of it as a bonus textural element.

This last piece was pretty darn impressive in terms of the dramatic change in the glass but to my eye, it's just too much. Jean Tudor writes about the judicious use of this technique and I agree. I think this technique will be most effective when used in moderation. But I'm looking forward to adding it to my repertoire to teach and I know I'll continue to experiment- judiciously :-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fair etiquette and the raku post

It was a busy weekend and I didn't have a chance to get on the computer at all and I also I realized the enamel raku post isn't ready because I really want to do another set of samples and include shots of what the enamel color looks like naturally with an identically sifted sample of what the raku process does to the color. I will make those samples in class this Wednesday so I apologize to my class for not having this ready. I hope that you will still feed me for our last class!

But I did go to the Tempe Mill Avenue Art Fair on Sunday and I thought I would share some fair "etiquette"  for those of us (I include myself here) who frequently like to check out an artists' booth because we see something that catches our eye technically or creatively but we aren't intending to actually buy.

So here's here's my approach based on my years of being both a vendor and a visitor of more craft fairs than I can count: As much as these artists enjoy people who enjoy their work, first and foremost they are there to sell. They need to make as much money as humanly possible in a very small amount of time. When I approach an artist's booth, I look to see how crowded it is and how serious people look.  If the booth is crowded I stay to the side or wait a while. If someone comes in who looks like they are shopping while I'm in the booth, I move to the side and let the artist do their thing.  If the booth is slow, chatting and asking questions and such is great but I try to break it off as soon as potentially paying customers walk up.
If I am planning on being a paying customer- I throw all this out the window of course :-)

Of course one always have to assess the actual situation and do what feels appropriate then.  These are just my suggestions but I think they make sense.  Hope this was helpful!