Monday, November 16, 2020

A Short Story About the Birth of a Glass, Felt & Suminagashi Studio

Here's a little something I've never thought to do~ write up a wee bio for public consumption. So here's a bit of information I think folks might find interesting about me and my work.

Work, you say? Well, that's what we call it around here! I began making lampwork glass beads in 1999 when I purchased a bead making kit for my daughter (ha,ha). She rushed off to college in short order, where she was not allowed to have a torch in her dorm room ~ who knows why? So I was left with a torch, a book, a bunch of glass and time on my hands. I made beads. And more beads. And I found that there was a lot I didn't know, so I made yet more beads. And bought more books, and more glass. The internet intruded with its wealth of information, and then I found there was yet more to learn. A vicious cycle to be sure! And so Isinglass Design was born.

At this point, I've learned so much that I've shared a lot of it on this blog. Take a look around for tutorials and general gibberish about lampwork bead making.

You can see some of my old work on flickr and more recent stuff on pinterest, or pop over to my facebook page. You are also allowed to follow me on instagram if that's more up your alley. Of course there's stuff for sale in my etsy shop~

But bead making is not all I do in the world of arts and crafts these days. I started working with wool and making felt in about 2015. I've made scarves and bowls and puppets and purses. Right on this blog I show how some of those things were made. Look here to see how I get interested in the world of fiber.

And then, more fool me, just before we were all sequestered, I went to an introduction to suminagashi workshop at the local library. So now I play with ink and paper when I can think of nothing else to do! Want to try it yourself? Read here for a bit more info.

Surely no one needs to know more about me than this? But truly, if you look around this blog and watch me on instagram, you will definitely know more than you bargained for!

P.S. my name is Laurie~ yeah I did forget that bit...

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Medieval and Viking style glass whorls for hand spinning

Just a wee post to show off some of my handmade glass whorls, because I fear I have made a few too many. And of course I want to make more! These are based on historical whorls found in various areas from Medieval and Viking times. 

I cannot say they are historically accurate, because the designs are pretty modern. To read more about how these were developed for my shop, you can refer to this bit on my blog.




Over time, the style has gone from single whorls, to whorl pairs (for extra weight and flexibility), and now to a longer style meant to be used alone. Because change is good, right?

You can find them in my etsy shop~

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Suminagashi, the Video

Time to make a suminagashi video with a few examples of interesting things I have learned! The video in all its glory can be found on youtube (it's called  The Suminagashi Movie), with captions to help things along. I'm sort of assuming you've got a basic handle on how this technique works already.

Below is more information about some of the things you'll see in that video.To the left is the finished (still wet) print.

This is just about 1/2 inch of water in a baking pan, with black and blue sumi ink. Nothing fancy. This is pan is solely dedicated to suminagashi~ no ink in the food chain! I do this right next to my sink, which makes it neater, but does not give 360 degree access. The ink has had a drop or two of sumifactant (see below) added to it to help it float and control the spread.

The first thing demonstrated is a way to move the ink designs around. If you place each drop of ink at the base of the previous circle, instead of in the center, the design will move across the water. You can see the different ways the design moves all through this video.

Some early tests
The 'clear' in the first part of the video is nose oil- to use this, rub the base of a brush against the outside of your nose to pick up a little oil (eww...) and use that to make empty circles. This gives a really nice controlled circle inside the colored ink. Another option is to add about a drop of photoflow to a teaspoon of water and use that to make clear spaces in your design. Or try a touch of soap in water and see how it works!

In most cases, a brush is loaded with ink and touched lightly to the surface of the water to make a circle, but there are times when that circle is just not big enough. Then it's time for a double dip or a little longer or deeper dip into the water. If the ink starts looking too thin, wipe the brush off and load it again- water seeps into the brush as it is used.

Accent dots can be added here and there and, again, moved and shaped by adding ink in different areas relative to those dots. Very interesting designs can be made with this method!

The design can be further manipulated by blowing gently or strongly or through a straw, or by fanning with a hand fan. It is not necessary to do all of these techniques in each piece. Remember, sometimes less is more!

Sumifactant (a special surfactant made by Colophon Books) and photoflow  are great for pushing the design around. Careful! Both of these can move things about powerfully. Photoflow seems to be the strongest pusher, and therefore the least reliable. Sumifactant is a little more controllable.
If desired, even after all of this manipulation, you can still add more ink! (Because sometimes more is more~ ha,ha). I often do this to help consolidate the design so more of it will fit on the paper!

The paper used in the video is a very pale purple unryu of about 25 grams. Unryu is my favorite paper type to date; pretty strong and a bit see through with a lovely texture. The lighter weight unryu does not have a very good wet strength. To pick up the design, start at one corner of the paper and lay it on the water as evenly as possible. This paper has great pickup and very rarely comes away with a missed spot or line.

Leave the paper on just until the design shows through the back, lift carefully by one edge and then immediately put it on a flat surface ( I use a large plastic lid), then rinse gently so spare ink comes off. After it is a bit drier, I move it to a glass tabletop until mostly dry, then sandwich it with plain paper and press it for a couple of days under  some weight (a pile of books).

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Glass Bottles ~ Lampwork Tips

Little lampwork glass bottles are quite a lot of fun to make over a torch- when everything goes according to plan! Because I know these can be used for some very special purposes, I tried to keep calm and think happy thoughts as I make them. Which is usually not too hard. They have their challenges, but the final result is often surprisingly nice!
For the glass makers in the crowd, I'll give a few pointers. These are made at the end of a hollow steel tube which has been dipped in bead release. I like to use KRAG mudd because it is strong and cleans out nicely.
* Dip the mandrels the night before so the bead release will be firmly attached to the steel.
* Make a small bead right near the end of the mandrel~ this will be the neck of the bottle. Make the ends of this bead nice before continuing. You will need to keep this area warm the whole time you are working on your bottle so that it won't detach from the mandrel. Bounce it in and out of the flame often keeping the mandrel warm as well.
* Begin wrapping the glass at the base of the neck as you would for a hollow bead.  Because you will add several layers and blow it out and expand it later, the bead does not to be as large as the finished bottle will be. Apply one or two layers of glass and do a 'test blow' to be sure there are not weak spots that will blow out before proceeding.
* Add decorations- more colors, enamel, silver foil, whatever your heart desires! Melt everything together carefully and manipulate as you wish. Don't let the whole bottle get floppy while you do this. If things start getting messy, remember to take the bottle out of the flame and let it stiffen up; let gravity work for you too!
* Shape into a basic teardrop shape, then blow a little air in to expand. Reshape, flatten a bit if desired, blow in a bit more air and continue shaping.
* Add a lip wrap~ just one or two wraps around the top of the neck.

* Add handles~ put a dot of the lip wrap color on one side, then halfway around. If they look straight, add a thin bit of glass even with the dot from the bottle side up to the lip wrap. Melt gently and open and shape the handle using a poking tool. Add another handle on the other side. Handles may need to be shaped more than once.
*  Check the shape of the bottle and adjust as needed.
*  Heat the base, attach a thin rod to it and pull gently to make the end more pointed.
*  Check it all again, make sure everything is warm and pop it into your kiln!