Before I get too far, I want to introduce Judy Clement Wall, a new friend and all-around (self proclaimed) “badass, open hearted, hippie, warrior of love” - who has many, many other optimistic, viewing-the-world-sideways, courageous, encouraging thoughts and artworks over on her website: www.judyclementwall.org.
Here's Judy's "Rain Girl" as I see her. I've recently become a fan of 'pen and ink' - not for drawing so much as for coloring. Goulet Pen company (see link under "Where to Find Supplies" at right) is a marvelous place to find fountain pens and also sells these lovely little sample bottles of ink - great for building up a supply without having to house full-sized bottles.
I stumbled across Judy’s work during a Pinterest binge and - unbeknownst to either Judy or I - a friendship was born. I was immediately taken with Judy’s “Rain Girl” - it could have been because I’ve lived in a rainforest most of my life, maybe it was the fun pattern in the umbrella, perhaps it was memories of enjoying the sweet smell of a rain shower after a sticky, hot, summer day – whatever the underlying reason I felt an immediate need to translate the image into glass. What follows is my journey into ‘fused glass art’ and the start of a marvelous collaboration.
In the first iteration of ‘umbrella girl’ (as I began to call her), I had barely begun to use glass enamels - in fact my first shipment arrived after I’d begun the piece. I started by cutting and grinding the shapes which would become the tree, the girl’s boots, and the umbrella, then painstakingly coaxing glass powders into some semblance of a light post, coat, and tights for our gal. Using these powders to detail smaller elements caused me no end of heartburn – the process was too slow and inexact and that was before trying to get the piece, undisturbed, all the way to the kiln (thank goodness for hairspray!). The arrival of glass enamels was a revelation – a real game changer!
Another favorite technique which I’d just started exploring was creating flameworked elements. In this case, the girl’s hair, leaves and the flowers at the base of the tree were all created with a torch and glass rods. While I love this part of the process, it’s not the most cost effective way to create a piece – so it’s a tradeoff between having fun and trying to make things somewhat ‘reasonable’ in terms of cost to those who might be interested in giving umbrella girl a new home.
As you can see, the process takes time although I can now ‘pull’ a head of hair in roughly half an hour. (Safety note: this should go without saying, but here it is anyhow, PLEASE use fire cautiously - my setup is neither ‘professional’, nor particularly safe – and I don’t recommend this setup for ANYONE – myself included!). I’ve never had the patience to quilt (or do piecework) by hand, but I can sit for HOURS at the torch and watch glass rods go from cold, brittle and stiff to warm (okay – blistering hot), fluid, organically curvy shapes. Plus it’s a great way to warm up the house on a cloudy day!
These ladies won both first place and champion at the local 4th of July arts fair - it may have helped that there were no other glass pieces entered in the fair (it was a small event - the photographers had WAY more competition), but it gave me the deadline needed to finish my rendition of the four seasons.
Between the fun of playing with fire, the ease of using the glass enamels, and the ‘encouragement’ (in the form of folks willing to purchase the finished product), I’d become really attached to umbrella girl and had completed a number of finished versions of the piece. At this point my conscience began to weigh heavy on me – here I was borrowing (or, as my conscience said, stealing) this wonderful image without ever having asked permission to use the artwork in this way. I went back to Pinterest and (thankfully) was able to find Judy’s website almost immediately.
Imagine my excitement at finding even MORE images that demanded to be turned into glass….and, more importantly, an email address for contacting the artist. I wrote a quick email – begging forgiveness (and hopefully permission) for the use of “Rain Girl” – and was thrilled to get an answer back that same afternoon. What followed was a number of exchanges leading to a collaboration of sorts in which I get to share with you all of the wonderfulness that comes from Judy’s quirky, positively refreshing outlook on life and she gets (as soon as I can get something finished and in the mail) more artwork for her wall (pretty sure I’ve landed the better deal!).
I’m so excited to get started on this turtle of Judy’s as the next in a line of ‘need to do’ projects, but in the meantime I wanted to leave you with this thought from Steve Jobs (which is a bit ironic considering how rabidly he went after those who ‘borrowed’ Apple’s ideas): "Picasso had a saying -- 'good artists copy; great artists steal’”
The debate about ‘stealing’ (ideas) in the art world is an old one – which has resurfaced with a vengeance in this age of digital piracy, and is a topic with which I’m still wrestling to formulate a solid definition/working credo of my own. (Yes, yes, that was two thoughts – sorry).
What are YOUR thoughts about “stealing like an artist”?
As with many young girls, I once wanted to be a ballerina. I even had the opportunity to take ballet lessons as a child. Thankfully, after a few short classes, I discovered a most important thing about ballet - that it was not for me! The strength and dedication (not to mention talent and natural grace) required to truly excel as a ballerina were beyond the scope of my interest and ability, but I WAS able to develop a better appreciation for those who have the necessary qualities and who have excelled at their craft.
In the years since that stunning realization, I've discovered that my talents lie in the realm of collecting crafts - learning new ways to play with colors and textures. My 'library' of techniques includes everything from paper making and bead work, to quilting and tie dying to, lately, fusing glass. As the library grows, I often find myself trying old techniques with new materials, in this case glass enamels which, when combined with home-decorating painting techniques, become a fun way to add depth and color to glass art.
Glass enamel works very much like paint, however when fired in a kiln, the enamel becomes part of the glass itself and is as durable as the glass (unlike glass paints which can be scrubbed off when washing a painted item). As with various paints, enamels have their own personalities and don't always play nice with one another - which can be helpful in certain cases. After a few months of trial and error I thought I'd share a relatively simple project using enamels (which I also call paint - because laziness).
As anyone who has ever painted a room knows, painter's tape is a girl's best friend. The first step in the project (after washing the glass of course) is to mask off the border.
Enamel can then be glopped on (yes, that IS the technical term), and spread using a highly advanced tool (just don't plan on using the spoon with food after this project). We're going to play with this even further so I'm not worried about getting an even coating.
We continue our 'decorative room painting' technique by wadding up a piece of plastic wrap (or a plastic shopping bag, or a sponge, or a wad of paper - practice with a few different things - they'll each add a different texture to the finished product) and dobbing around the border. I worked the lighter areas first, then switched the dobbing material and worked the darker areas - shading into the lighter areas last to give a graded effect. It's a gloriously messy process - so remember the paper towels!
Set the project aside to dry - which can take anywhere from an hour or so to better than a couple of days depending upon the enamel used. In this case Glassline "paints" are the choice of the day - they dry quickly and tend to stay where you put them (they don't blend and flow after application like Color Line enamels do), but often fire to a dull gloss - rather than a high sheen such as that of Color Line paints. Once (mostly) dry, remove the painters tape and clean up any stray bits of enamel.
Now for the hard part - painting something that has to look recognizable when I'm done. It frequently requires slapping a rough draft onto the background glass, then many laborious minutes, sometimes hours, spent doing 'cleanup'. In this case, the black Color Line enamel has a lovely sheen, and fires with that glossy, glassy look (compare it to the, now, matte-looking dried Glassline paint of the border), but it likes to spread out, and details have to be constantly refined until the edges quit 'moving' (which can be tedious - but results in fewer chipped nails and cuts than refining a piece on the glass grinder).
Painting is done, now they dry for a while...or longer. Color Line paints are really smooooth, and have a lovely, creamy texture to them but they do take (literally) days to dry when used straight out of the bottle in a fairly heavy application such as this. In the meantime that gives me time to play with the torch and make the pieces which will become the ballerinas' tutus. Poor ladies look a little hollow in the middle - I did that because I wasn't sure how see through the tutu pieces would be and didn't want the black outline of their bodies behind the tutus....
Finally dry! Now to dress the girls... each "petal" piece requires 2-3 minutes of work using the torch, a glass rod (the lighter pink) and some crushed glass (darker pink). Torchwork (even with a Hot Head - which any serious flamework artist would turn their nose up at) is super relaxing (mostly, as long as I don't shock the glass and end up chasing down burning bits of glass before they do too much damage to hearth and home) and somewhat addictive (my longest session so far is a 10-hour day...my husband is a patient man). With tutus in place (hint - unscented hair spray makes the best glue for holding things for the trip from the house to the kiln) and a few additional accents, the ladies are ready for their 'dry sauna'.
Some projects require multiple trips through the kiln, but in this case - as long as one is patient and can wait for the paints to dry - just one trip is needed. I sometimes will fire a piece to set the paint when I know that another layer needs to be added - or especially when I want to layer paints that don't play well together.
The above would be an example of the paints 'arguing' - the Color Line paint (black) loves to travel - and if you put if on (or even NEAR) a water-based paint (the pink Glassline paint), you'll get this (actually lovely, in the right application) 'river delta' effect as the paint travels across the water. It was an effect that I've seen before (and fought with), but was thinking might look good in this application. Alas, I wasn't happy with the effect and ended up starting over on the pink border - I'll keep working on a way to use the effect, but that's not what this project was about so onward we go.
A gentle tack fuse is enough to activate the enamels (they're so much richer once fired) and bring back the gloss. Fusing flattens the flameworked elements a bit but not so much that they lose their 3-D look.
A closer view so you can see the great texture that the sponging around the border gives to the piece - adding a bit of interest and color to what might otherwise be a bit plain (and very un-magpie-ish).
This was another piece that used the sponging technique, a few more flameworked elements and frit balls (I don't know why that's so much fun to say).
Now it's time to go experiment some more - what would you do with those fun little Color Line 'river deltas'?
I'm Kris Reed, the Magpie, a lifelong Alaskan, lover of all things sparkly and giddy about glass,
Favorite Resources & Inspirations
WHERE TO FIND SUPPLIES
Slumpy's (forms, tools)
Bullseye (glass, fusing supplies)
D&L Art Glass (ALL the glass stuff)
Mulberry Paper (YES, paper!)
Goulet Pens (It's not glass, but it IS glass pens - and ink)
INSPIRE ME! colors, textures
Judy Clement Wall - Art
Evgeny Hontor Figurines
Hitomo Hosono Ceramics
Jennifer McCurdy Ceramics
MrXStitch ALL Needlecrafts
Rachel Wright Needlework