Thursday, August 29, 2019

Murano, Murrini, Millefiori and Other Glass Confusion

Fish with murrini eyes and decorative murrini accents
Today, when I was getting ready for a bit of torch fun, I threw out this sentence~ 'I'm just going to make a few murrini.' The response? 'I thought you had to go to Italy to do that.' Hmmm, and this from someone who has slogged through many years of listening to me talk about glass, glass and more glass. I'm sure a lot of folks are confused by glass terms because, well, a lot of them sound similar. And what's with all the Italian words?! So I'm here to, hopefully, make a little of it make sense.

Follow this link to find out more about the language of lampwork.

Murano~ Many of you are familiar with 'Murano Glass'. Murano glass is simply glass that is made by traditional methods on the island of Murano in Italy. But... The supplies for most of the beads I make are made on that same island. Some companies will call their glass Murano glass because the raw materials for the items are made in Murano. There are actually strict rules about what should labeled Murano glass ~ find more information about that here.

Making the cane
Heating the glass to stretch it
The canes before being cut
Murrini~ A slice of composite cane which creates a pattern in cross section. Lino Tagliapietra gives a thorough explanation on his website. There are a number of different ways to make this cane, both over a torch and in the kiln. Glass is layered into a large barrel shape, which creates a pattern within. The cane is then heated and stretched into a thinner rod, which reveals a pattern in cross section when it is sliced after it has cooled. These slices or chips are then applied to hot glass in a number of different ways. They can be applied on the surface or encased with clear glass; melted flat to the larger glass piece or left as bumps on the glass. Nearly any pattern can be made using this technique, as shown by Loren Stump. Find more information here. My own murrini are pretty simple. I've still got a lot to learn in that department!

Millefiori~ Italian for 'thousand flowers', millefiori is a lot of murrini laid up right next to each other, often covering an entire glass piece or an area of a piece. I personally expect the murrini in a piece referred to as millefiori to be patterned in a way that looks like flowers. Otherwise, I would refer to the glass piece as having a 'mosaic' design., which is what these patterns were called prior to about 1849.

Moretti~ A type of soft glass commonly used in glass beadmaking which is made by the Effetre company on the island of Murano.

Here's a wee bit more about my own murrini use.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Removing a stuck lampwork bead from a mandrel.

Removing a Stuck Bead From a Mandrel

Here's what I have found works particularly well for removing long, thin glass beads from a mandrel (a tip from my book 'Reflections, the Diary of a Glass Beadmaker'). Tubes can be more difficult to remove from your mandrel than other types of beads due to the larger amount of glass that is in contact with the mandrel.
Soak the beads in water for a little while. Grab mandrel right below the bead with vice grips (at the long end of the mandrel). Make sure the vicce grips are tight on the mandrel and perpendicular to it. Grab the bead firmly with a paper towel or flexible jar opener. Turn the whole apparatus so that the bead is at the bottom. Grip the bead firmly and (here's the trick!) wiggle the vice grips (not the bead) back and forth and turn them until the bead loosens. Once the bead has loosened, twist and pull it to remove completely.

I have heard that soaking in vinegar may help, and also that putting a bead in the freezer might help because the metal mandrel contracts a little bit. For me, the vice grips method works best.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Lampwork Glass Fish Beads and Other Glass Sculpture to Wear!

See Spot
Well, I have little, if anything new to say about lampwork glass fish, except I make them. A lot of them! Sea life is always a fun theme. Most of my fish styles only exist in my lampwork world. They often come together as I work on them, though I have an idea about colors and design before I begin. As I go, I pay attention to how the design is developing and decide what seems to be working (or not!). There is a gallery that contains some previous designs on flickr, and always loads of fish pendants available in my etsy shop, of course!

Pink Adobe Turtle

I also make turtles, seahorses, a random sea urchin, some shells now and again and even mermaids when things lead me in that direction. Turtles are always interesting- folks ask for odd colors and then I want to check and see if there are any actual turtles in similar colors. What a surprise! There really are pink turtles. Not quite like these, but still... Oh, and frogs, but perhaps I should have a special post about those guys.

There is this cool book called 'Art Forms in Nature' published by Dover books that is simply filled with interesting designs to influence my glass work! any of those creatures are from the ocean realm. But sometimes I just have to pull them onto shore! Some these beads go distinctly into the fantasy realm, like these mannikin beads. I call them that because, well, they remind me of little sentries, or maybe chess men!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Medieval glass bead spindle special tips

The other day, I had the good fortune to meet someone who had been gifted a glass bead spindle from my etsy shop. She had some questions about things that I had never thought about, so here are a few extra special tips to help modern gals learn about going Medieval with their spindle skills. And do remember to see my other spindle blogs, and the missing spindle blog and youtube channel about these for even more information! Each listing in my etsy shop tells about the weight, size and spin-ability of the whorls shown. That's a good place to start making an informed decision. These are all bottom weighted spindles meant to spin thin yarn. I have not tested them as top whorls.

First the oh-so-helpful o-rings and/or clear hair bands that will help keep your whorls from whirling away. Why do I recommend these and send them along with your order? Well, when I first began making these whorls and they were being tested by Lois, she came back and said something like~ 'these are really sturdy, they were rolling all over my concrete floor,' I looked at her and said- 'we've got to stop that!' A little thinking cap time revealed the o-ring solution. If the whorls go skidding across a hard floor too many times, they should not break, but they will get scuffed up. And it's annoying to have to go skittering after them all the time. You should be able to get more o-rings at your local hardware store in the section with all the little boxes of random hardware. I use the two smallest sizes available. The best place I've found for the clear hair bands (if you prefer those) is Sally Beauty Supply. 
(P.S.~ if your whorl does break, please tell me! They are guaranteed not to do that.)

Why are there two whorls? Well, for the weight! Use them both together when you begin, then as the cop grows you can remove the bottom whorl. As it grows even more, remove the top whorl and put the lower whorl back on. When your cop gets really heavy, you may even be able to take both whorls off and keep on spinning! The double whorl system came into being when my design partner (Lois of missingspindle fame) and I were trying to figure out a way to make the glass a bit more weighty. Since I am only able to make relatively round whorls up to a certain size & weight, we thought of adding a smaller whorl below. Et voila! The two whorl system was born. The smaller whorls can also be paired quite nicely to sit below a heavier pottery whorl~ this is mostly done for looks!

Which end of the stick is which? These sticks are tapered at each end and fatter in the center~ but one end is shorter beyond the wide bit than the other. The short end is for the whorls, while the long end is for spinning up your fiber. Please be sure there is no fiber under you whorl and that your cop is not so low that it is pushing on the whorl. It can push it right off the stick if it is.

What's with the tapered holes? My glass whorls are built on a special steel mandrel that is tapered; so the holes in the beads are not straight. Why? So they will fit on the spindle nicely; it also means there is a right and wrong way to place the whorls on the stick. To double check, put the whorl on and look up the stick to the base of the whorl. If there is a lot of 'wobble room', the whorl is likely on upside down. Flip it and check again. A small gap can often be remedied by pushing the o-ring up snugly under, or even partway into, the gap. A wobbly whorl will make for a wobbly spin. When you are checking whorl listings. be sure and read through the whole description~ if the whorls have a little wobble, I'll let you know. If they spin like the proverbial top, I'll tell you that too!

Do all whorls fit on all sticks the same way? Definitely not! Here's why. I make the whorls in my home studio, Caroline makes the sticks in Ohio, the mandrels for building the whorls were made by a glass tool maker in California. Everything is made by hand by the three of us. All my mandrels are not precisely the same size, with the same taper (I've got a couple of faves I normally use now, which helps). All of the sticks are not precisely the same size. This is one advantage to getting an entire set from me~ I have tested the whorls and paired them with the stick they fit and spin on the best! In some cases you may see that a set is only available all together. This is because the whorls have been particularly difficult to pair with a stick. In some cases I have tweaked the stick and sanded it to make sure everything works well. If you are considering buying a pair of whorls, check the photos to see how close together the two ride on the stick shown. This is a good gauge as to whether they will fit on just any old stick. If they are close together, the chances of them fitting on your stick are often a little smaller. You can also ask me if I feel they are tetchy or easy to pair up!

I hope this might answer some of the questions folks might have about all this. If you have questions, please let me know. You can visit my facebook fan page and send me a message, or message me through my etsy shop.