Saturday, January 22, 2011

Leaves again! Lampwork glass beads for demos

I know I mentioned this idea before, but wanted to bring it up again. I've started working on making a few leaves to use along with a demo.
I love to demonstrate for kids- schools, scout troops, whatever. And I know they don't have a lot of spare cash for this kind of thing. But doing it for free just doesn't work for me any more. I have finally come up with a new way to make this work better for both of us. The kids love to bring home a souvenir, and what better than something they can watch being made?
So now I offer a demo for a sensible fee, or they can buy a leaf for each child for about $5 and get the demo for free. It's win/win, I think. I bought my leaf press years ago just for demos. It's a nice quick thing that even an adult with a short attention span can usually manage to sit through. And it gives that nice 'aha' moment when the leaf is quickly pressed into shape. Of course, me being me, I always have to pull out the scissors and reshape a bit too...

Here is the link on this very blog to an easy photo tut to make some quick little crowd-pleasing leaves.
Look! I made a youtube video too!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Clean, clear glass for your lampwork glass beads

Sometimes things just seem to come together- like when I was listening to Abbey Road while doing my high school English assignment and realized that the Beatles had used an old English poem in one of their songs (Golden Slumbers). Got my class out of a whole day of work when I brought it along to school! Woo-hoo!

The same thing happened when I saw this information about making your clear glass really clear posted on facebook by Patty Frantz:

Now normally, this would just go to the back of my brain, because I am not likely to want to have any sodium bisulfate lying around. But then I mentioned it in passing to the man I live with, and he thought I was talking about dill pickles. And THAT reminded me about a library book I had been looking through that mentioned a homemade metal pickling compound made with vinegar.

So I went in search of that info on the internet and ended up here:
Please read through this for much more specific info about the pickling solution.

Now I had all the information I needed. Would it be possible to make my own pickling solution, use it on my glass per Patty's instructions, and end up with a beautiful clear glass? I think the answer is 'yes!' I tried it out and am very happy with the results. Please do read Patty's information- you use this the same way she suggested in her article, but this is a non-toxic solution.

First- about your safety- you are responsible for that. I am not saying any of this is safe or recommended by the AMA or the fire department!
Here's what I did-

1) Used recipe from 'I dream I can fly away'- 1 cup vinegar to 1 Tbl. salt- heated in a non-reactive (ceramic-lined cast iron a la le creuset) pot to the steaming point, stirred until the salt dissolves. I wouldn't boil this stuff.
2) Let solution cool to about 140 degrees. I put the clear and transparent rods into a 15x9 pyrex pan and poured the solution over them. Don't pour it over when it's too hot, or the rods may crack. The clear I am using for this is Moretti #006. All the transparent colors are also Moretti.

3) Put that into an oven that is set to about 150 degrees. I left the door open so it wouldn't get too hot for about 15-20 minutes.
4) Took the rods out and rinsed in tepid water to remove the salt. Handle the rods carefully or use gloves so that the rods don't get oils from your hands on them.
5) Stood the rods upright to dry on a couple of paper towels.

That's it. When the rods were dry, since I didn't have gloves, I picked them up using a plastic grocery bag, bundled them according to color using twist ties, and put them into plastic bags to try and keep all the dust from my house from getting on them. That is the next challenge- how to keep the rods clean!
You can keep this stuff in a non-reactive container and reuse it. Though I haven't tried it, it seems you can also 'refresh' it by adding extra vinegar. And when you do dispose of it, it should be neutralized with baking soda.

Yes, you still need to clean with 91% alcohol to get all those nasty fingerprints off, and you may still need to pull a bit of smutz off the tip from time to time. But this is definitely worth the time it takes- which is not much. Now I can encase without fear- if I could just do it without smear!

Here are couple of the beads made with my newly cleaned clear. I normally don't even bother with this type of bead because of the smutz factor. With that problem out of the way, maybe I'll finally get down to the business of learning to encase properly!
A very special thank you to Patty Frantz and to Jo Hollingsworth- you two rock! And thanks to Larry Scott, who told Patty about this to begin with.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Epiphany! Lampwork glass beads for Mardi Gras

Well, today is the first day of the Mardi Gras season, aka Epiphany. The season always begins on the same day- the twelfth day after Christmas, no matter when Mardi Gras actually falls. Of course you know that Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring. And Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter- the beginning of Lent. Well Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) is simply the day before Ash Wednesday. The whole mess lasts right from Christmas to Easter, with some of the days for celebration, and some of them days of moderation.

If you want to know more about all of this, you should visit this site- it has loads of info about everything from the Mardi Gras Indians to Pete Fountain's Half Fast Walking Club- well at least I hope they include that! No Mardi Gras morning would be complete without a bunch of extremely drunk men walking by, attempting to play music, and kissing everyone in sight at 5:30 am or so...