Monday, August 30, 2010

Giving the workspace a facelift

It's really hard to work when your workspace perpetually looks as though a tornado just ripped through the room. At least, that's how I feel. This past weekend turned into an impromptu adventure in re-designing my entire office! Did I know it when the weekend began? Nope! But hey, sometimes you just can't fight the urge to organize.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, I turned into a neat-freak. I have no idea where it came from, because as a child, I was forever being sent to my room to clean it. Oh, how I hated cleaning. I think the turning point came the winter (in Pennsylvania) that we had a leak in our roof, and my closet literally overflowed. I recall my father tossing things out of my closet to reach the attic crawlspace that would allow him access to the area with the leak. The task of putting that closet back together forever changed how I decided what to keep and what to toss.

Anyways, I still have a tendency to pull things out and forget to put them away, foolishly believing that I'll be using them again in the very near future. That is almost always not true. Saturday morning, my husband was in the office surfing the web on his computer. I wandered in to look at the state of disarray on my work desk. I cringed. After looking around the room a few times and feeling somewhat helpless, I realized that something was going to have to change. My part of the office (which is about 3/4 of it) looked like my childhood bedroom! Supplies everywhere, tools everywhere, and because of the mess, very little room to work. No wonder I've been using my dining room table!

Here's what my work bench looked like a couple of weeks ago:

So, I started thinking about how to fix the problem. After a lot of thinking, some planning, and a trip to the local Ikea, the room began to come into focus. As you can gather from the few photos near the beginning of this post, my office is much more organized now. And here's a few more shots, just for fun:

Needless to say, I hope that I will be spending much more time using my now far more extended workspace!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Experiments with warm glass

Well, even though I've been fusing and slumping glass for 3+ years (thanks to a great teacher at a local class), I'm still experimenting with new ways to accomplish my sometimes rather lofty goals. One of my former accomplishments was finally finding success in making a pair of glass chopsticks, something I had long wanted to do.

Creating a pair of glass chopsticks presented an interesting issue for someone whose sole experience with warm glass was limited to fusing and slumping, as neither technique was terribly useful. Fusing required some sort of mold, which I didn't have. But, what I do have is some experience and knowledge in ceramics and pottery so, I thought I could create a ceramic mold of my own. Well, that would also require me to fire said mold, and I'm still waiting on my husband (an electrical engineer) to finally install a 20-amp breaker for my larger ceramics-capable kiln. My glass kiln requires much less power, so can run with a 15-amp breaker.

Anyways, after realizing that making a mold still wouldn't get me to quite where I wanted to be, I went back to the drawing board and while trolling my favorite glass supplier's web site, an idea struck me. What if I took the same glass rods that bead makers use and heat them in the center while gently pulling them apart? Could it work? I didn't know, but it was worth a shot. So, I ordered some glass rods (along with requesting MSDS sheets for them) and set to work. Well, the technique actually does work. I'm in dire need of some graphite shaping tools, and my general inexperience with torches and glass showed on my first few tries, but I slowly developed the method into one that works consistently.

I suppose if I wanted to create longer chopsticks, I could simple heat and shape the ends of a single glass rod, cut to the size I want. Maybe one day I'll make chinese-style chopsticks this way :-). Below, you'll see a photo of one of my more creative ventures in chopsticks-making. This was a normal pair of pulled glass chopsticks that I allowed to become wavy during a short polishing/slumping cycle in the kiln while resting on a fiber blanket.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pearl-dipped fans: A wedding-style necklace

It's been awhile, hasn't it? Well, even though it's been awhile, I've certainly been busy enough creating new pieces for my shop. This next piece is one I'm calling Pearl-dipped fans. How does one "dip" something into pearls? Well, let's not get technical about it ^_~. Anyways, this particular necklace started out with the idea of creating a chain that would hold its shape, but still have the look of individual fans connected together. The chain portion of Pearl-dipped fans is the result of that experiment.

Pearl-dipped fans chain is a simple variation of a typical European 4-in-1 chain. It is created with rows of small and large rings and then gathered with a larger ring so that one side is cinched. Putting the fans together into one piece of chain involves continuing the European weave at the tips of the fans with small rings.

Since I've connected the fans in a way that makes them alternate in direction, each fan has cultured freshwater pearl drops in different sizes and styles. Fans with the large gathering ring facing "down" (as seen above) have a larger capped pearl hanging from that large gathering ring, while fans with the gathering ring facing "up" have smaller pearls dangling from each of the small border rings.

The center of the necklace has an open flowery design. I wanted to create a very simple looking celtic-inspired flower design. The result is actually a variant of an existing chainmaille weave (I wasn't aware of this a the time, but found some similar designs on the web afterwards). I connected 3 of these 'flowers' together with some rose-like links and then hung them in a V-style from the 3 fans at the center of the chain. From these flowers, I dangled more pearls and from the very center of the V, I dangled a gorgeous piece of color-changing Swarovski crystal.

In the end, we have Pearl-dipped fans as you see it now in the photo below:

More details:  The chain is made with silver and gold-plated rings and bead caps, cultured freshwater pearls, and a Swarovski crystal rivoli bead. Look for it in my Etsy shop soon!