Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eurotool Flush Cutters

Today I needed some more fine silver wire, so I stopped by JFF Jeweler Supply. The family that runs the store is always fun to talk with, and extremely knowledgeable. I asked Dustin about flush-cutters. Lindstroms are phenomenal, but I don't do enough wire work to justify the expense. I need something mid-range--good quality to last and to do the job well, but not so high end.

Dustin said that most people have been extremely happy with the EuroTool Professional quality flush cutters. In his experience, he said, they did as well as the Lindstroms for about 1/3 of the price. Their springs aren't as robust, but more than adequate, and the slightly larger size fits my large, square hand very well. Time will tell how long they last, but I'm willing to trust Dustin's judgement.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Four Tails Lampwork at Amalgam Arts Studio Cruise

I'm absolutely chuffed, as my Australian friend says, to be part of the Second Annual Rail Arts District Studio Cruise. Together with Art of the Firebird, we're going to participate in the marketplace. This is a great opportunity--last year's Cruise attracted nearly 1000 people! This year's cruise is on 7 February 2009, 5-10 pm.

If you live in the Atlanta area, stop by! (Or tell a friend who lives in Atlanta.) There will be food and drink and music in plenty, but most of all wonderful eye candy. Even if your pocketbook is flat, come for the music and the demos and the conversation. There will be an open studio at Duckbill Studios--watch owner Tadashi Torii and his assistants blow glass. There will be performances and demos at Mudfire Gallery and Clayworks, art over at The Alcove, and numerous opportunities to hang out and talk to some seriously creative people. Don't know where the Rail Arts District in Atlanta is? Here is a map.

To whet your appetite, here's links to two videos from DuckBill Studios. The first is about the glassblower's way of toasting bagels. The second shows an open house from 2007. Alas, I cannot embed either, as embedding has been suppressed. You can still see the videos by following the links.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Some things only a sister ....

can get away with! No, really, this is seriously cool. First, though, some background: I have a couple pairs of riotously coloured socks from Sol-Mate--see the picture from Socklady.com's website, above. Each pair is deliberately mismatched in pattern, though they stay with the same yarns. If you get several pair in similar tonalities, though, it really doesn't matter what two you grab! I love wearing them; they are cheerful, and make me grin. And they are wonderful for wearing through security at an airport. You just can't take the delays too seriously when you are wearing blueberry, crocus, purple, orange, and fuschia socks. Want your own? You can get them at Socklady.com.

My sister Leslie, of Iron Mountain Jewelry, sells frit to finance her own frit habit, and has begun to make her own unique blends. If you melt glass in the 90-104 range, you should try them some time! Anyway, she always kids me about my "crazy knit striped eye-assaultingly bright mismatched" socks, and ... tada!!! She is making me some crazy sock frit! She has installment one done, the opaque colors. The frit looks like tons of fun! I
m eagerly awaiting the transparent / translucent colors, though--something about the purple / orange / fuschia / lime combination just makes me want to get up and dance. Wearing the socks, of course.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Random Musings about Experiments

The last Southern Flames meeting featured a presentation by Margie Deeb and Kristy Nijenkamp on color theory and color mixing. I had some time to torch today, and I played with color mixing, with varied success (it was my first time!) And that got me thinking ... always dangerous.

When you're mixing colors you're using some of the same skills you need to build complex glass cane or twisties, and you're using some of the techniques. Some people build a cane using a flat lollipop-shape of glass as a base, whereas others use a cone or a barrel shape. Some people build cane right on the parent rod, whereas others use borosilicate or Moretti clear rods as punties, with or without a maria on the end. Others prefer stainless steel chopsticks. For simple canes or twisties, the method generally doesn't matter. Whatever works for you is what you should do.

As I was mixing colors, however, I began to think about what differentiated techniques, and--by extension--what differentiated beadmakers. Why did some people become teachers and others not? Why do some people write wonderful techniques books and others not? Why do some people improve steadily in their art and others stay at hte same level? Obviously, talent, time to work, inclination, and many other variables all play a role. But I think the habit of analytical reflection is also part of the process. I make my history students tell me the argument of the text they are reading, because if they can articulate it, they own it. I make myself do the same thing when I am reading. If I just understand something non-verbally, chances are I don't really understand it clearly enough to use it. And I find the same thing happens when I'm torching.

As I was mixing, I was thinking about the ways Kristy--and Drew Fritts--suggested holding the stainless steel chopsticks. While I could see the benefit in that method, I found that, for me, a style more closely rooted in knitting worked better and gave me better results. I could see why, because of the twisting action my hands were making, but I could also see the downside, namely more glass on the chopstick. As I worked around that obstacle (letting the glass on the chopstick stay hot while letting the glass on the other cool down enough that I could swipe most of the glass from the first chopstick onto the larger mass of glass), I considered twistie techniques, and realized that I could say when I would prefer to use a maria rather than a chopstick (a large gather with stripes I wanted to keep even), when I would use a boro maria (I want a clean break at the end), when I would use a cone (I'm using chopsticks and don't want "bones" at each end), when I would use chopsticks (Most cases, but especially using up shorts), and the like.

What it does is help me do what I want to do with glass more mindfully when I consciously, rather than *only* intuitively, know how to achieve the look I want in glass. And I think that may be one of the things that separates the writer, the teacher, the learner from those who stay still--the habit of conscious analysis.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pantone Spring 2009 Colors

Pantone has released the Spring 2009 color report. From the language, it looks as if they are trying to reflect hope and optimism, while recognizing that people are searching for stability and are conscious of the need to conserve. As always, fashion language seems to be talking to someone other than me, a long-time frugalista--but the colors are useful when planning my offerings for spring!

From the report: "Top Ten Colors for Spring 2009."
PANTONE 18-4043 Palace Blue
PANTONE 15-3817 Lavender
PANTONE 14-0754 Super Lemon PANTONE 15-1626 Salmon Rose
PANTONE 18-2328 Fuchsia Red
PANTONE 14-1307 Rose Dust
PANTONE 16-5804 Slate Gray
PANTONE 16-6339 Vibrant Green
PANTONE 16-0435 Dark Citron
PANTONE 14-5714 Lucite Green

Fall '08 saw blue and purple rise to the forefront of fashion. As is often true, colors evolve from season to season, and spring '09 is no exception. Palace Blue, a favorite among designers this season, takes a steadfast, classic, spring navy-like tone and makes it sparkle. Paired with just about any color in the report, it offers many intriguing spring combinations. Taking purple in a lighter direction, Lavender presents a softer, more summery hue, extending the mystical aspects of purple available last fall."

You can see the original, from which I took my text, here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chew on this ...

What do you do if your dog gets into your glassmaking supplies?

I'm currently dog-sitting for my ex-neighbor's two dogs, both of whom get along really well with Mr. Justin Wigglebutt, my rescue whatsit. Justin sleeps in his (open) crate in the study, because I can trust him not to chew the books on the lower bookcase shelves. Milo and Diamond sleep in the kitchen; although that's where my workbench is, neither dog has ever shown any sign of pulling things off the table. Until night before last, when Milo decided to take a taste of my workbench. I woke up to find Val Cox' Frit Secrets in a pile of gleefully ripped pages, along with parts of Passing the Flame and two half-packages of silver and gold leaf. Most alarmingly, there were chewed plastic bottles of frit, ripped sacks of shards, and loose shards and frit strewn all through the debris.

First of all, don't panic, but assess the situation as calmly as you can. Remember that most glass shatters at an angle that is more likely to pass safely through the intestine than ground glass or thin pieces, like shards. The larger the frit is the safer you are. After my first flush of sheer panic, I looked carefully at Milo; Diamond does not have a history of ripping things up, but Milo does. No blood on his gums, no glass or frit in the pads of his paws. I looked for the icky stuff--there was no diarrhea or bloody stool, and no blood around his anus. Given that what looked like all the frit was on the floor or still caught in the container, I was most worried about his involuntarily swallowing a piece or two, not a whole lot.

My second step was to call the emergency vet for advice, while pulling out some bread slices. Why bread? Bread is an old home remedy for any animal that's swallowed something sharp, such as bone fragments. It can coat the bone and help it pass safely through the intestine. The emergency vet confirmed that, and also said that unless the glass had lead in it, it would not show up on an x-ray. I did a fast Internet search and found the answers inconclusive. The vet didn't think there would be enough in Milo's system, so she told me to do the things I had already done--feed him bread (the other two were happy, because what you give to one ... ), and watch his behavior and his stools, and bring him in if he began to show blood, to vomit, or just to become lethargic.

Milo was wrestling with Justin, and clearly hadn't a care in the world. *I* was a nervous wreck. On my way to visit Art of the Firebird to pick up her unwanted dog crate (I could have put Milo in Justin's crate, but he does like to den in it, and AoF wants to get rid of the crate ASAP anyway) I called Milo's human to see if he wanted me to take any additional action, and to give him a heads-up about the situation. He said no, no emergency X-Ray in case; he agreed with me that it was unlikely that Milo had really *eaten* any of the glass, let alone enough of the glass to possibly show on an X-ray *if* there was lead in it.

Last night Milo slept, most reluctantly, in his new "box," which will be his permanent bedroom whenever he comes to stay with me. Diamond usually dens with him, but this time she stayed in the kitchen, and Justin slept in his blanket-covered crate. As you can see from the pictures, taken this afternoon, Milo is happy, healthy, and active (he's the littlest one; Diamond is the middle-sized Pit bull, and Justin is the largest Lab/Spitz). His only ocmplaint is that he had to sleep in a crate, rather than rrrrripping into things, eating more frit, and getting more bread.

But if you work with glass, and have dogs, I offer you both this cautionary tale and this medical method.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Blew it again!

Yes, I disappeared. Eeek! I am back home, the house is swamped out, the students are registered, and life ought to be much more regular (I hope).

Meanwhile, I want to congratulate Maureen McRorie for winning the 2008 Frabel Novice Award! The Frabel Awards are highly competitive and very prestigious, so winning one is an extremely Big Deal in the glass world. Maureen deserves it--both because of her skill and because of just being a Good Human Bean. Maureen is one half of the team that runs our fantastic local glass shop, Flame Tree Glass. The other half is her husband and business partner, Lance McRorie. They are two of the sweetest and most generous people I know. I am in awe of their glass skills, and I learn so much form them just as human beings.

When you look at Maureen's stuff, of course, the word "novice" does not come to mind. Here's her winning entry: