Glass update, 2016 – part 2

So, what’s been happening? As is becoming, worryingly, a habit, not very much, and somehow I still have no time left for anything.

This year’s biggest craft project is not made of glass but has a lot to do with it. With the help of a certain person with victorian engineering tendencies who apparently does not mind being exploited, there was much work going on at the far end of the back yard. Two old sheds got demolished (one of which was made of concrete panels), paving taken up, lots of digging done, concrete mixed and various chunks of building materials assembled. There is now a large slab. Before the end of the year this project may well actually get finished, and that is quite exciting.

In the meantime, it occurred to me that my wirework could do with a bit of practice. One of the most noticeable effects the internet has had on my crafty efforts over the years was showing, in lots of graphic detail, just how many people there are out there who are really quite a staggering amount better at stuff than I am. My core skills for jewellery assembly are pretty decent, but, inspired by some beautiful things off the interwebs, I had a bit of a play with wire and some of my beads, with a view to getting beyond the basics.

First three efforts:

2016 wire 03

So apparently it was moving about more than I thought when I was taking the picture. Still, can be seen clearly enough. This one is mostly thick wire hammered flat, with a bit of wrapping to finish:

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Things to consider next time: types of wire. Most of the stuff I have is sold for craft / jewellery purposes and has some kind of coating on it to prevent the surface oxidising. The thick wire used here was just plain copper wire. The difference is that the coated wire, being true to its purpose, stays shiny when dunked in the oxidising stuff. Which is fine when this is the intention, but not so much when the plan is to give the whole item that “aged” look. Love the way the finish turned out on the uncoated hammered wire though.

A few odd recycled bottle glass beads:

2016 wire 01


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Shiny glass update – 2016 Part… 1?

Some more of the eyes. I had plenty of bits of cane left over from the last attempt, plus there is one other design than I thought worked quite well.

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Knobs! Another first attempt: little drawer pulls. I don’t actually have any use for them at the moment, but I just wanted to see if I could make this sort of shape. They’re quite small knobs (ooo-er), only about 3 cm; you’d have to glue in something with a screw thread on the inside, and then they can be attached to stuff.

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I bought a disc-shaper at last year’s Flame Off. Turns out these shapes are pretty tricky to get right: it takes a bit of practice to squish the right amount of glass in the shape, and it gets quite obvious when it’s not right. Plenty of potential though, I’ve seen what some people can make with these things.

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Nest instalment of Trying to Use the Bullseye. This was taken before I finished this bit; there ended up being a few more. Probably even got enough for a necklace; I’d have to see how heavy it gets. Would also work quite nicely as a bracelet – the shape works better than round beads.

2016-02-06 05

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New skills 2015

In 2014 the new thing I tried was metalwork. Couldn’t let 2015 go by without trying a new thing, could I*.

Back when I was in middle school and going to art lessons in the evenings, my favourite thing by far was when we were allowed into the pottery studio. This didn’t happen very often, but I rather fondly remember the few relatively successful things I made. Like the several stylised toys, which survived firing and sat proudly on my shelves in their painted glory, until we moved, and someone casually threw them out or something in my absence.

Something I always wanted to do was try to make something on a potter’s wheel, but I never had access to that when I was little. Now, this is the kind of thing I could take on as a hobby now, but I’m not going to. Honest. The sensible reason is that I already barely have enough time to do all the various things I like to do and make, so I shouldn’t start anything that would consume quite so much time, money and space. But, of course, that’s hardly going to stop me, is it. The real reason why I’m not taking up pottery is the way it would interfere with another craft/decoration hobby. Namely this:


Shaping clay with long nails is just not going to happen; I have asked people who know, and they confirmed.

But 2015 was a bit different. What with all the DIY and all, I had resigned myself quite early on to the fact that my manicure was going to get quite comprehensively trashed to bits for a few months. And then I found out that a fairly local place did regular standalone classes where absolute beginners could try pottery throwing, so what better opportunity.

This is how I ended up spending a Sunday afternoon last October at a pottery workshop in Clapham (+1 to middle class).

Hard work, but so much fun. I tried to turn four smallish lumps of clay into things. Two ended up as cups, one as a bowl, and the final one was a bowl which dramatically collapsed when I got a tad over-ambitious. You get to keep up to two of the things you make, which the studio will fire and glaze for you, and these are mine:

Clapham Pottery

I’m particularly impressed with the bowl: the shape turned out so much better than I expected to be able to manage. And both things are useable as well: they fairly frequently contain my breakfast.

(* having a mortgage does not count)

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Glass: November 2015

This lot are a couple of draft versions of some designs I’m trying to work out. It’s following up on that spiky collar I did a while ago. They’re more like cabochons instead of “proper” beads: instead of a hole all the way through, there is cavity in the flat side where a small nut gets attached, so you can screw these spikes on to things. The one at the back’s the first attempt; the one at the front the second, but not the final; I need to play around a bit more with the colour of the base and the shape of the tentacles:
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These, on the other hand, are probably not going to change, I’m quite happy with them already. Now I just need to make a few more:
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Also, here’s a hollow bead necklace, just because.
2015-10-25 necklace 1a

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Shiny glass update – October 2015

First, the new things I have been learning.

It was nearly Hallowe’en at the time, and there was a video tutorial on the interwebs, so what better time to try this. Just one attempt so far, but I think I’ll do more at some point, just because it’s rather cute. I need to practise the heat control: there was a bit of a scare at one point, when a wing fell off, but I made a new one. Also, it’s got a (half-repaired) crack. In its bum, appropriately enough.

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This lot is the first experimental batch for someone’s craft project which requires animal-like eyes. This involved pulling a couple of canes and chopping them up into murrini, neither of which I’d done before. Could do with improving the general tidiness, both of the cane and its application. I do, however seem to be on the right track with the iris colours, they turned out better than I’d hoped. There’s now another, improved, batch as well, and I’ll take some pictures of that soon. They’re about 10mm in diameter.

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Update on the Do Something With The Bullseye Glass project: a set of bright blue round beads with raised black scroll designs on the surface. There’s brass wire inside, which means strings of shiny little trapped bubbles. I haven’t made this kind of design much lately, it felt good to come back to it. So far there’s a necklace, and I’ve got a few beads left which I may do something else with.

2015-09-26 necklace 1a

One of the simplest things I’ve done, but I’m quite pleased with it. I had two tiny bottles which used to contain perfume, and I melted them into spacers. They turned out very pleasantly clear – one transparent blue, the other pink, so I added extra bubbles to make them more sparkly. Turned them into simple chain necklaces, which are great to wear but somewhat tricky to display!

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Shiny glass update: the rest of summer 2015

This is a mix of work from several weekends’ worth of torch time; I made them into finished things first, then took some pictures. Mostly badly, as usual. Although I did find a way of setting up the photos which seemed to make them turn out better: hanging the items from some plants. The back garden is making itself useful, and the camellia that came with it is earning its keep.

This frit is something I got a small pot of last year; for the shape I used the same roller as for this one, but on a different, smaller, setting. Note to self: when trying to make 1 set of beads over several sessions, it may help to write down which colours were used. Some of these turned out more pink than others; I suspect that this may be because each time I couldn’t quite remember which stick of light blue I’d used for the base last time and just took a guess. Anyway, the result is one of my recent favourites:

2015-05-03 bracelet 1b

Some perennial favourites:
a) bright red
b) dots.
Turns out they work well together.

2015-04-03 bracelet 1b

This is the latest part of Project Use Up The COE90, i.e. attempts to creatively get rid of a small bunch of rods I’ve had for ages that aren’t compatible with my usual lampworking stuff. This is quite a fun exercise, having to come up with something based on a limited choice of colours. I’m trying to do this without buying any more of this stuff, as it would rather defeat the point. Having said that, I keep finding myself thinking “now, if only I got two more sticks of clear and one of white, this would go a lot better…”
So apparently I can find the combination of bright green and black that’s been quite trendy recently quite appealing:

2015-08-23 04a necklace


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May 2015 – new Effetre colours and DH Hyperion

Yes, May. Last weekend I actually sat down and took some pictures of what I’ve done since… umm, ages. I see I haven’t really posted much since the Christmas catch-up. I did make a few things in the first four months of this year, but it wasn’t much, and I’ll post pictures after I’ve made it into some jewellery.

I have been busy though, with a few things not entirely related to glass. Most of these things to do with a) moving house and b) buying said house (well, flat, but details). This calendar year has more or less been written off to that, and I now have what I like to call The Biggest Craft Project Ever taking over my spare time. On the plus side, part of the deal is that there will eventually be a proper shed, where my glass kit will move, so I will have access to it rather more often.

Let’s start with… new colours. This was supposed to be a post in May or something, but… see above for excuses.  Back in April, there was Flame Off, where much fun was had as usual. I ended up with a set of samples of new glass colours. Most of these were Effetre ones which were just being launched then: 481 Antique Ivory, 480 Jade Green, 283 New Ivory, 482 Senape and 483 Cedar. Which I think is the order they’re in below, right to left, but I can’t swear to it, as there are 2 pairs of fairly similar colours. Two of each: one left alone, the other etched. I’ve done a little bit of playing with them, but should probably investigate further at some point.

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First impressions on seeing the rods: not exactly my favourite colours. I’m not a great fan of yellow (it can be nice in general, but y’know, on other people), and there are also two which basically look like greyish beige. And there’s a reason I sometimes use the word “beige” as a description of something that, try as I might, I just cannot find interesting.

And… beige is what they are. One is more grey, the other sort of yellowish; I think that’s the one called Jade Green, but maybe there’s a trick to it that I don’t get, because all I’m getting is beige. I haven’t tried combining it with exciting stuff like silver, so you never know. I think they may both react with stuff that the likes of ivory react with: there are lines around the bits of frit in the (oops, rather unfocused) picture below. Neither seems to do that striated thing as much as ivory does. Could be a decent base for something more interesting. Also, all the opaques look rather nice etched.

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The yellows are on the warm and sort of buttery side of yellow, which is how I prefer them: as far as I’m concerned, lemon is for tea.

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I’m actually rather fond of the one on the left in both pictures (BTW, I need to make another one of those encased beads and see if it stays together), which is not entirely opaque and makes me think of caramel or marmalade. This one I made while still at Flame Off: that’s the 2nd yellow from the left (Senape?) Pleased with the result, and with the striated effect.

FO2015 6

Now, that colour in the middle – New Ivory – is a bit more fun. In the rod it looks like ivory with a black streak running through it, and the effect is basically like ready-made silvered ivory in a stick, or that thing some of the “Father Ted” blacks do, but without having to heat the hell out of everything. It behaves more or less like ivory as well: melts pretty easily.

This was made while still at Flame Off, and the design seemed the natural thing to do:

FO2015 1

And this is a later idea. The larger one’s part of the set, which I will photograph when I have replaced it with one without a crack in it:

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And finally, I also got a stick of the new Double Helix glass called Hyperion.

This is little bit scary, since I still can’t really cope with posh striking silver glass like DH. The kind that reduces to a metallic shine I’m fine with and will use with some enthusiasm. The kind that’s supposed to strike to all sorts of glorious bright pinks and purples… doesn’t. I look up tips and instructions, follow them and… nope. Just sort of yellow. But still, let’s try again. In chronological order, from left to right, and displaying my inability to get rid of reflections in photos:

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One: overcooked and turned to beige. Heh.
Two: aha, it seems to have turned from yellowish to brownish-purple. I think we may have progress on the striking front.
Three: Getting there…
Four: There, I may be getting the hang of it. Still don’t know if it can strike to something exciting, but reducing it and encasing it seems to have produced nice results; I feel I have a set coming on.

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Shiny Glass Update – now with added shopping!

The Etsy shop which has been sitting around doing nothing has now been dragged out into the light again, made to look more presentable and given a gentle prod with the motivation stick. Not only that, but things have been put in it! Shiny things! See?

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Shiny glass update – Christmas 2014 catch-up

Why yes, it has been three months since Christmas, and I still haven’t posted. I am now finally sorting through the backlog of unphotographed things and unedited pictures.
The Christmas craft binge didn’t produce much in the way of spectacular finished items; it was mostly spent playing with new designs, some of which I will pick up again and some I will not.

The main thing to report is that I have finally managed to produce something that looks recognisably like a petal bead, on my fourth attempt. I had a couple of tutorials and a demonstration to follow, but that’s not the same as actually trying it; I think, however, that I am finally starting to get it. Here are all my attempts so far; the bead in question is the smallish purple one in the middle (the one on the right then went a bit collapsey after I got too ambitious). Helen G has nothing to fear from me, but I am feeling quite pleased with myself.

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The following two are what happened when N got me some new lampwork tools to play with.

These two beads are pretty large – 35 and 40 mm across, so big enough to be fairly sizeable pendants. A fun addition, but I’ll have to have a good think about the design before I use them: they take quite a long time (there’s a lot of melting to do!) so I can’t just pick them up and play for 15 minutes.

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And I will need to practise with this quite a bit before anything useable comes out of it: making glass rings is fun, but takes a bit more precision. A bead made on a small mandrel is easily made neat: a bit of heat and patience, and it will just turn itself into an nice even round blob. No such luck when there’s a great big ring mandrel in the way.

2014-12-27 03 rings

(Yeah, the purple one is broken. Quite annying, since I was going to wear it).

Another fusing experiment, one that didn’t go too badly. Quite like the design, but need to be more diligent about not having bubbles in the glass when I don’t want them.

2014-12-27 09 cufflinks fused

And an approach to cufflinks I haven’t tried before. The findings are mostly an old cufflink I took apart; rather like this idea, will do it again. Also contemplating getting a disc bead shaper as my next toy.

2014-12-27 02 cufflinks 1

I’ve finished a couple of reasonably successful bracelets as well, really should sort out some pictures.

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Metal jewellery course, or: I continue to accumulate bits of craft skills

I think I’m pretty good at most crafts which involve needles and/or thread, and my lampwork is progressing well enough for me. Where my skills are lacking is using other materials to hold it all together, like metal. I can twist wire and attach it to things competently enough, but that’s about it.

There have been half-arsed attempts to manufacture things out of bits of metal with guidance from books, the interwebs and guesswork. The results suggested that, while I could get halfway decent at this after some time, it would probably take more practice and trial & error than I can be bothered with, unless I had someone to tell me what I was doing wrong.

Then I spotted a leaflet on a notice board in a jewellery supplies shop off Hatton Garden that said something about beginners’ metal jewellery courses. Turned out that the place in question was actually not far from home, and I signed up for a 10-week copper- and silver-bothering course which runs at a pretty convenient time one evening a week.

Absolutely loved it. The tutors are lovely, friendly and helpful. It really makes a difference when there’s someone around to show you how things should look, sound and feel, spot when you’re doing something wrong and explain how they did it. Things like figuring out which tool to use when, with how much force and how to tell when you’re done is something I can do far better if someone’s actually there to watch me. Along with some fairly basic skills, like how to attach a blade to a saw without it being wonky, and, more importantly, how to tell if you’ve done it right.

The course was structured around making rings: the first three in copper, each using different techniques, then one to rule them all as a final project, where you do whatever you like and can make it from silver if you want.

It started with the basics, like how to saw and file things properly, then how to apply texture. I got to play with a rolling mill for the first time ever, and it’s every bit as fun as I expected.

This is the first one. It is made of a strip of 0.5mm sheet copper; there’s no solvering involved, it just wraps around. The design changed a bit during the process, mostly as a result of the texture not quite coming out right after I put the metal through the rolling mill. Fun fact: apparently, if you squeeze at least some types of polyester hard enough (e.g. with a rolling mill), the stuff crumbles. Still, very pleased with the way it turned out in the end, and I got to practise cutting shapes out of the middle.

Flux 01a

The second ring did get the texture I wanted. It is also my first proper attempt at soldering, and it did not go horribly wrong. Obviously, all credit goes to Becky the tutor, who supervised the whole thing.

Flux 02

Ring the third: solder an oversized band together, then hit with a hammer to make it bend in the middle, which also reduces it to the correct size. Then hit with hammer until done to get that surface texture. A lot of fun not only to make, but also to wear.

Flux 03

The final project. Fail points first:
a) it’s a size smaller than I intended. Still big enough for me to wear though.
b) some of the attached decoration is a tad wonky.
But that’s all. I love the result. It was fairly ambitious for a beginner, what with the fiddly little soldered-on domed bits, it’s only a little bit wonky, and nothing went wrong otherwise.

Flux 04

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