Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pink and purple lampwork memory bottles

I recently had a request from my daughter for a friend of hers for a 'memory bottle' in pink and purple. I love making things in this color combo, so I jumped right in. Made three before it was all over (and I could have kept going with this for a while)! This is why, when someone asks me to do something in a particular color combo, I ask them to look through the beads I have to see if something looks about right. Or send me pictures of something in the right color, or something fas a reference point.

Because there are a lot of colors out there and many of them are swirling about in my brain all the time~ whether I have them in the form of glass rods or not...

Hope one of these is just right.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Making a Felted Bowl

Well, there are not photos of many of the steps taken to make this felted bowl, but let's see if I can explain how it all happened.

A few things gathered for use
*  Lay down a piece of plastic (like a bit of drop cloth) that is large enough to wrap completely around the finished piece.

*  Cut a piece of flexible plastic stuff to act as a resist between the two sides and to build the pieces on. This was built flat and shaped into a bowl later.

* Add wool layers to the first side.
       Begin with two layers of white for the background. This helps colors that will be added onto the final surface to pop.
       A couple of wide lines of color that would contrast nicely with the final surface were added.  (A piece of thin foam will be placed over those areas to keep them from felting to the outer surface~ a cut will be made through one layer to the next later.)
       This was all wet down, soaped and prefelted and then flipped to the other side before the final surface colors were added so that the under colors and finished design could be carried from one side to the other more effectively.

The first layer and bit of the other side
* Flip over, wrap the edges of the wool around the resist and then repeat the same process on the other side of the resist- 2 layers of white, some contrasting color and prefelt. Finish this side out by covering the contrasting color bits with a flexible resist, then add the final layer of color.

* Back to the first side to add the final layer, covering the inside colors with flexible foam and then adding the final layer of colors, trying to somewhat match up the colors from one side to the next. The decision about which side would be the top of the bowl would be made later.
         These layers were then soaped, wet down and lightly prefelted (covered in plastic and rolled flat with a pool noodle) before the final layer of colors was added. I found in a subsequent bowl that four layers of wool on each side creates a nice, thick, sturdy bowl.
         Add the final layer of colors and a little 'confetti'- random bits of stuff!

The second side

* Wet down everything by spraying with soapy   water and lightly felt by wrapping in plastic and rolling flat with the pool noodle about 50 times, covering the entire surface.

* Once all the colors are added, it's time to felt! Wrap everything carefully in plastic, keeping out wrinkles, and roll around a pool noodle, then roll a towel around the whole thing (you can also roll the towel up with the bowl for more felting friction; just be sure it will wrap all around the outside at the end).

Ready to felt!

* Felt by wrapping completely in plastic and a towel and then wrapping the whole mess around a pool noodle and rolling about 100 times in each direction. i.e. roll 100 times, unwrap, turn, wrap and roll, repeat until it has been rolled in every direction- NSEW, and then flipped and rolled all four directions again.

* Check the felting progress as you go. When the felt is pulling on the resist, it's time to remove it. Cut a small hole (about 1 inch in diameter) out of the top center. Rub around the hole to expand and strengthen it, then carefully pull (manhandle) the resist out.

* Continue felting until everything is getting nice and firm. This can be done by wrapping and rolling for a bit longer. A piece of thin plastic (like a bag) can be placed inside just to ensure that things don't stick together where they should not. Cut carefully through the upper layer and remove the mini resists before finishing and fulling.

* Begin shaping into a bowl shape by felting with one hand on the inside. Finish the felting process in your usual manner. This was rinsed in cold water, then really hot water, then thrown down in the sink about 100 times, then rinsed in cold water with vinegar to remove all the soap, then really hot water, then cold again until it felt really well felted.

A different bowl
* Put a plastic bag inside and stuff hard with newspaper, shaping the bowl as you go. Make a few ridges and clamp with clothespins or binder clips. Take this whole conglomeration and steam over boiling water for an hour or so.

* Leave the newspaper inside and clothespins on while the bowl begins to dry. Once it is mostly dry (overnight or longer), remove everything and let it finish the drying process.

Whew! That's a lot of instructions! Hope I didn't miss anything essential.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Lampwork Glass Agates From Murrini Ends

Here's the cut murrini rod on a clear background

So, time for more experiments in glass! I am beginning to learn to make murrini. Who know what fun that would be? As my studio space slowly fills up with little plastic ziplocks full of glass slices, my mind is slowly working on new ideas. Two things can happen with my murrini pulls- they can be too thin and they can be wonky (or possibly just plain ugly). What to do with all those rod bits that you don't want to cut up into murrini?

Rather than pitch them, I thought I'd try using them with a technique I figured out a number of years ago. Simply? Lay them across the hot bead, stick them on in the flame, cut them, push them on to the bead surface and melt flush.
Some surprising results ensue. Mostly they seem to end up looking a bit like agates. Or turtle shells. So far, it seems the designs show up best on a simple clear background.

Time for pictures!

I started with some murrini end pulls- pieces that are 4mm or more in diameter will work well.
I made a long bead, slightly wider in the center than at the ends, then rolled one end in silver foil and everything in raku frit, just for a bit of 'background noise'.
A piece of murrini rod was laid diagonally from end to end. Don't stretch it out, just lay it on.

Bead and rod were melted together just until the rod was attached; then the attached rod piece was melted slowly and snipped with scissors all along the length. Heat a small section and make a few cuts, then heat another section, all the way up the bead.

There are a couple of different ways to approach the cut bits- either push them onto the bead as you go or cut all the way up, then remelt and push. I use a small knife, place it into the cut and then pivot the knife sideways to open up the center of the murrini rod. It will not look like a regular murrini, but will have an interesting design.

 Another line from a different murrini end was added parallel to the first line and treated in the same way. I added a line of clear between the cut lines, a few dots of aqua here and there, melted everything together and called it done.

My feeling about this bead is that it turned out a wee bit murky. I've made a few leaves on a simple clear background, and the design shows up much more vividly on that background. It makes a pretty cool turtle shell, I think, though next time I will try it on a clear or color encased in clear as the background.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


My murrini is on the purple, Kaz's on the blue and orange
Oh my! I've gone on a murrini making binge. I bought a few from Kaz Baildon in England, but couldn't wait for them to arrive, so I got a rod nipper and began making a few of my own. Still working on making them turn out as I have envisioned them- right now, some come out quite nice and others, well, not so much. But, because I'm making them, I must also learn to use them. I have resisted this whole silly thing for more than 15 years! Now? Well, I may be getting just a wee bit addicted....

If you are not a bead maker or glass afficianado, you may wonder what the heck a murrini is. For your edification, I must, as usual, point you to the wiki about such things. One builds a tube shaped blob of glass using a lot of different colors, pulls it into a rod and then cuts thin bits off of it. These cross section pieces have sweet designs in them that get placed onto the hot bead. They can look like just about anything- the classic use is in a millefiori (thousand flowers) design, where piles of flowery-looking murrini are placed all over a piece. But a murrini doesn't have to look like a flower- it can be a fish, a heart, a star, your initials- anything, really!

So now on to the small touch of something I think I've learned. First, in the purple fish pictured- the murrini at the bottom is encased, while the ones at the top of the bead are placed on the surface and melted in. The encased murrini was an extremely thin slice which I simply laid on my marver and picked up with the hot bead. Because it was so thin, there was no worry about it shocking and breaking. And it was easy to melt smooth and encase. A nice use of those bits that are simply too thin to pick up, and it really shows off the design nicely.

Another cool thing is the 'barnacle effect' as seen on the tree bead. As best I can remember, I did not melt these murrini all the way down, but got them about 1/2 way melted in and then  put a blob of clear on top. Not exactly what I was going for- it looks a barnacle or eye-leafed tree, but it's a fairly fun idea that could be used effectively somewhere, I'm sure! Those wee murrini next to the tree are the ones I used on it, and my favorite pull so far- modeled after peacock tail eyes.

If you are interested in learning the art of murrini making, I can highly recommend the October 2013 issue of the Soda Lime Times. I read through all the different instructions there and ended up sort of combining things together. John Rizzi did a particularly nice job with his tut! The magazine also has murrini recipes from a whole bunch of different people. I have not attempted to follow any of those, but it was great to see see what folks do!

I use just regular tweezers ('cause that's what I've got!), but I have heard that it is helpful to have either tungsten tipped tweezers (so they won't stick) or some pipe and tube or universal cylinder tweezers from Micro-Mark. I have not tried these, but folks were pretty excited about them on facebook.