Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Breaking Rules


Originality is born through experimentation. 

From childhood, we’re taught to color inside the lines. But there is so much to learn from exploring outside set boundaries. 

When planning my new webinar, Fusing for the Adventurous, I focused on designing unique pieces that didn’t adhere to traditional stack-and-fuse construction. I made it a point to try techniques that would yield questionable results. I then used those techniques in combination hoping for unexpected outcomes. My goal was to create fresh characteristics that I could then expand on to make extraordinary pieces of art. 

When you experiment, there are bound to be surprises along the way. Many of the projects came out better than anticipated. Those are the pieces and methods I’ll revisit to take farther. Some projects didn’t come out as I had hoped, but their educational value is intact. With only minor changes to construction, materials, or firing schedules the pieces eventually came out well.  

The best way to introduce yourself to experimenting is to start small. Next time you have an open corner on a kiln shelf fill it with a piece that’s made using a technique that intrigues you. I usually make the piece 2” x 2”. The piece may be small and even ugly. That’s okay. The value lies in stretching your skills and in seeing the results of the firing. That small success gives you the confidence to invest more material and more time into expanding that and other ideas. It opens a portal to new concepts and fresh designs.   

Here’s what I learned during my experimental journey.

5 Tips for successful rebels:

1 Start with a Plan
The most exciting experimental pieces are often complex and tedious to make. Without a solid plan, you might be tempted to take short cuts or even quit. The educational value is lost without completion. Allow yourself the luxury of time and patience to follow through to the natural end.  

2 Take Pictures
Before and after pictures are priceless, especially if you’re playing with unconventional materials. Different glasses react differently to heat. Therefore, variations in the expected results and the actual outcome are likely. These irregularities are welcome for the new design directions they might suggest.     

3 Take Notes
This may seem repetitive to taking pictures, but notes are very valuable to the success of future projects. I write my notes in a pink spiral bound note book with glitter on the cover. The glitter is optional. Before fusing, I write down the glass I used, the starting dimensions of the project and the color and size of frit used, if applicable.

After fusing, I add comments relating to the changes that occurred during firing. I note if the shape changed unexpectedly or if a color looks different than I planned. I include the fusing temperature and the slumping temperature, plus any other details I think might be useful.

The benefit of taking notes goes beyond this single project. With good notes, you can combine techniques and accurately predict the outcome of previously untested designs.

Another befit to note taking is you can repeat your successes. More importantly, you can learn from and avoid repeating failures. Plus, you don’t have to keep all that detailed information top of mind. You’re free to welcome new project ideas knowing the information is easily accessible.        

4 Stick to the Plan
It never fails, I’ll be in the middle of a new experimental project and the novelty of it spurs a new purpose for the art. When that happens, I force myself to stick to the original plan all the way to the end. I may take notes, so I can come back to the new application, but I forge ahead.

Trust yourself that your original idea was a good one. If you follow every tangent that presents itself you’ll become lost in the weeds and never accomplish anything of real value.

5 Never Give Up
Artists that you admire were not born great. They became great through trial and error, by pioneering innovative techniques and staying true their creative spirit. You can too!

This is only the beginning. There is so much potential for growth. The possibilities and endless.    

Keep on fusing!

Excerpt from Fusing for the Adventurous Webinar

For more tips and tricks visit: 
Instagram: lvogt_originalsinglass

Upcoming Webinars and Classes
Join me for more exciting tips and techniques!

NEW Fusing for the Adventurous Webinar
September 5, 2017

NEW Fusing for the Adventurous Webinar
September 7, 2017

Fusing with Frit Webinar
October 26, 2017

Creative Slumping Webinar
January 18, 2018

Advanced Glass Fusing Workshop
February 6 – 9, 2018
4-Days, Hands-on, Wesley Chapel, FL

Exceed your expectations! This workshop is ideal for ambitious glass fusers determined to go bigger and explore more in-depth kiln forming techniques! Join me in this comprehensive, 4-day workshop and enjoy, one-on-one instruction, step-by-step guidance to develop your own design style and an individualized project program - make what inspires YOU! You’ll love the creative momentum you gain from working four consecutive days. Seats size is limited. Register today!

“Lisa is an exemplary educator who is passionate about her craft. She is highly organized and mindful of her student’s strengths and challenges. Best practices of teaching as well as craftsmanship were utilized throughout the workshop. Thank you for igniting my creative spirit to a whole new level.”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

When to Give Up on a Failed Glass Fusing Project

Failed drop out mold.

Eternal optimists, those of us fitted with rose colored glasses, have a hard time giving up on failed projects. We’re artists. It’s in our nature to see the potential beauty in raw materials. So, when something goes wrong we want to fix it or repurpose it, rather than abandon it. 
I’m here to tell you sometimes, when the signs are there, it’s okay to take a hammer to your art and smash it! As a matter of fact, it’s therapeutic, liberating and flat out FUN to destroy a rebellious creation. 

Failed bird cage.
What are the signs that you should abandon a piece of artwork?

A story tells it best. I was working on a commission, a wall sculpture with 14 circles. All the fusing compatible sheet glass came in a single crate, directly from the manufacturer. The glass circles were fired in the same kiln, using the same, trusted firing programs. One of the 28” circles broke for no reason. I ruled out glass incompatibility and firing speed issues because the larger circles came out beautifully. 

It was a lot of material to waste. Rather than throw it away, I pushed the two halves back together and re-fired them. It worked. When I opened the kiln, I was happy to see the circle was intact and the glass surface looked smooth and shiny. I left the kiln open and worked on cutting another circle. Later that afternoon, I noticed that the circle was cracked again! I was the only one in the studio all day. It was a mystery as to why the glass broke. 

Still struggling with that drop out mold.
Stubborn and tenacious, I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I stacked the two broken pieces on a layer of clear and re-fired the glass. This time the ramp up was even slower to account for the increased mass and to minimize the appearance of a scar where the two pieces fit back together. It worked! The fused glass looked great. 

It never happened before, and has not happened since, knock on wood. Without warning and without cause, the huge lid on my clamshell kiln fell and slammed shut. It was as unexpected and frightening as a clap of thunder on a sunny day. I jumped out of my skin. When I recovered and opened the kiln, the circle was split down the middle.

That was defiantly a sign. I firmly believe forces bigger than us are at work while we’re at play. And for whatever grand, unknown reason, deemed that fused glass piece undesirable. After a cool-down walk and a stiff drink, I dumped the broken glass in the trash and made a new one, which is still in place ten years later.  

Fortunately, I’ve had very few kiln malfunctions. 

Since then I’ve had two similar incidents. In both cases I was experimenting with new techniques. I repeatedly fired pieces three and four times after they broke during fusing to salvage the materials and gain authority over the technique. 

Glacier. I had the title and a mental image of what I wanted this bowl to look like. It was freeform in shape. The art I imagined was deep blue in the center and gradually transitioned to clear around a lacy rim. Picture ice crystals growing from a thick slab of ice. 

I used casting rocks to make the piece as their angular shapes added to the organic feel and growth of the piece. The piece broke during the fusing stage. No problem. I smashed it up with a hammer, reassembled it and re-fired it slower. It came out great. Then the darn thing cracked like and egg during slumping. Break out the hammer again. Fuse it again. Success. Yay! 

During the final firing, while slumping the glass my most reliable kiln overfired. It hadn’t misfired before. The results were disastrous. In place of the lacy bowl I expected was a solid three-inch-thick puddle that resembled a frozen duck pond instead of a delicate freeform vessel. 

In this case, I abandoned the inconsistent material, the casting rocks and started over. This time I applied the innovative fabrication ideas I’d learned in the process to sheet glass with great success. I like the resulting piece of art. But it doesn’t have the born-of-nature, angular traits I wanted. Nor does it satisfy my original artistic purpose of building with new materials. And so, this project remains on the revisit list.   

Another sign to abandon a problematic project is obvious incompatibility. On occasion, I use different fusible components together to create unique projects. These materials have been collected in my studio over the course of years and therefore compatibility issues arise. I’ve also found that certain colors are more apt to have compatibility problems than others. 
How to identify incompatibility issues.  

Incompatibility issues are easy to identify. Random cranks will form around the incompatible glass. The project will break from the inside out. You can cut the incompatible parts out and make something new or trash the entire piece. 

Once a piece of glass shows itself to be incompatible with the rest, I don’t trust the project anymore and get rid of it.   

Eruptions can ruin your day.

Have you ever had a bubble form between your fused glass and the shelf? Yeah, me too. It stinks. The bubble forms when firing too fast on a very smooth surface like a primed kiln shelf or Thinfire fiber paper. 

As the glass is heated the rim becomes soft first. The soft glass seals to the shelf like a suction cup. Air becomes trapped. As the trapped air is heated it expands and forms a bubble. Sometimes the bubble is paper thin. Sometimes it breaks during firing and heals leaving a hole. 

The disappointing part is the bubble usually distorts the design. You can re-fire the glass but the distortion will remain. Of course, you can pop the bubble and fill the hole. But the original design will suffer. The best solution is to avoid bubbles in the first place. I’ve included the firing guide I use to eliminate these types of bubbles below. 

I generally toss projects with eruptions rather than waste time and resources on something that doesn’t meet my standards of quality.    
What happens to my ugly creations? 

The super bad pieces are dumpster frisbees. Let me tell you, that glass can fly. The loosely called, art pieces end up in friend’s houses. Friends like to adopt the misfits because they’re neat, weird, flops with some cool characteristic that makes them fun conversation pieces. The others, the somewhat interesting, unexpected turn-outs become part of the, “artist’s private collection.” This is a fancy term for dust collectors hidden on the back of the bottom shelf in the gallery room.      

What I learned. 

As frustrating as failure is, it pales in comparison to the thrill of success. I won’t stop trying new techniques or using unconventional materials. But there is a time to take a different scenic route and that’s the beauty of creating, there are always new paths to cut. 

Never give up!

Here are my firing guides.
Notice the hold at 1300 degrees in the Fuse program. This hold will eliminate bubbles by allowing the entire project to soften uniformly. 
Firing Guides are for projects 12” or smaller, 3 layers of glass plus accent.
Fuse:        Rate                Temp               Hold
1                300                  1300                60*
2                300                  1465                10
3                500                  960                  40
Let cool to room temperature.
*This hold prevents bubbles from forming between the glass and the kiln shelf.

Slump:      Rate                Temp               Hold
1                300                  1265                10
2                500                  960                  40
Let cool to room temperature.

Tack:         Rate                Temp               Hold
1                300                  1365                10
2                500                  960                  40
Let cool to room temperature.

**These firing guides are for System 96. They work equally as well with other COEs.
***Kilns fire differently. Test fire your kiln and make adjustments as needed.

Let’s get together and fuse glass! 

 I experiment so you don’t have to. Want more innovative tips, tricks and brand-new project ideas? Join me for this exciting new upcoming webinar. I look forward to seeing YOU there!
NEW Fusing for the Adventurous Webinar
September 5, 20147

NEW Fusing for the Adventurous Webinar
September 7, 2017

Fusing with Frit Webinar
October 26, 2017

Creative Slumping Webinar
January 18, 2018

Advanced Glass Fusing Workshop
February 6 – 9, 2018
4-Days, Hands-on, Wesley Chapel, FL

5 Reasons Why YOU Will LOVE this Workshop!
1 One-on-one instruction
2 Step-by-step guidance to develop your own design style
3 Individualized project programs - make what inspires YOU
4 Four full days of hands-on creating and fusing
5 Unlimited possibilities