30 November 2004

Glass blower turned chimney sweep

Two chaps came to sweep my chimney this morning. One had been a glass blower at Webbs. Started at 15 as a taker in (the lad who breaks the pieces off the punty and puts them in the lehr), then progressed to being a gatherer (bringing glass to those in the chair) and then became a blower. Had his own business at 21 making yard of ales, but could only make 30 in a day and found that uneconomic. So he went back to piece work at Webbs where he was in the ‘large fancy’ department – salad bowls, rose bowls and so on. The quota was 60 large bowls a day, which meant that if you came in at 4.30 a.m. you could fill your quota by 10.30 and then be off for the rest of the day. But he and his mates were on piece work and made 125 a day. The economics of it sounded as if he got paid roughly what 2 bowls would finally retail for. When he then went to college, he found a Saturday job that paid him £500 a day – that was in the 80s.

29 November 2004

Venetian techniques

canes” We had an impressive afternoon’s demonstration on pulling canes, making twisted canes, rods for millefiore and murrine by two stalwart French girls. At one point, one gathered up a line of clear and white rods, fixed and twisted them on the marver, and then blew a beautiful tumbler. I asked if I could buy it but it broke as she cracked it off – the punty was apparently too hot. Someone said, ‘make one yourself’, but honestly I don’t think I will ever be able to do that. Two days later we watched again as they made a large plate and a large vase using the canes and tiles. Very impressive, but I felt they overworked the pieces and that they would have been more pleasing had they halted earlier in the process.

28 November 2004

Scratching and blasting

Stephen exhibited at Tracey Sheppard's open house studio this weekend and I had an interesting conversation with her and with Sally Scott about glass. They run a weekend course together at West Dean in the summer whichit might be fun to go to. I tremendously admire Tracey's craftsmanship. She had various works in progress and it was interesting to see them in their various stages. She's given me the name of a second-hand dealer should I want to get some equipment. I think I do. This is something I could practise at home -- there are only two hand-held enngraving tools at the college and someone is always using them.

Pictures to follow when back in London.

26 November 2004

Pâte de verre (2)

This is an ancient Egyptian technique, revived by modern glass-makers to make opaque glass through which light glows - looks a bit like alabaster. We saw a film of the work of Shinichi & Kimiake Higuchi who specialize in cabbage leaves and special secretive boxes. Very fine work – though not my taste.
I didn’t know mosaics are made from this technique and would like to try that. You can achieve sculptures like the one pictured by Dan Dailey which I quite like though as a technique I have not much enjoyed this one

my tiles waiting to be fired

25 November 2004

Pâte de verre (1)

”handles” This is a complex series of processes that involves making some clay tiles with textures and patterns indented in them. Then clamping them within boards into which you pour a mixture of plaster and molochite. When this has set, you take out the clay, clean up the mould and clean the floor (which is very messy by then). You then take home some glass cullet - looks a bit like washing soda crystals - wash it and sieve it through three different sieves to get a coarse one (like large sugar crystals), medium (like granulated sugar) and ideally a fine one like caster sugar. But few students have a pestle and mortar in their digs, so I haven't achieved that one. My tiles (one pictured)are waiting now for the next stage which is to add colour and fire each one at a different setting.

22 November 2004

Taking a trail

Decided to have fun in hot glass today and not worry about making something half-way reasonable. So I did a bit of pinching, a bit of taking trails round an object, and trying to blow to the right thickness or stick on something you could call a handle. Got a few nasty looking 'expressive' objects into the lehr - to be pictured here if they come out uncracked. It's all about getting to understand the material and the things you use to shape it. Might get there some day.

21 November 2004

Thinking about design

”beads” To what extent does this slumped plate by Liz Lowe (at the V&A) start out as a meticulous design and how much does it grow organically? I have been thinking all week about designing as you make something rather than knowing beforehand what you are going to do. I feel there is room for both approaches. I tend to adapt all the time as I go along -- rather like a musician does in interpreting a score. The college ethic seems to be to be able to show and document all your thinking processes. It's not so linear for me. Sometimes you go in seemingly aimless spirals, and arrive at a place you might not get to with step-by-step thinking.

19 November 2004

A day at the V&A


”pezzato” I spent hours in the glass gallery at the V&A looking closely at modern and more recent glass -- not my old favourites, the 18th century twists. Took some photos and made drawings and notes. Lots of ideas to take further. I also watched all the videos on the touch screens. They're quite good. I learned a great deal about technique -- not more than by watching the real thing, of course, but they did fill in a lot of gaps of understanding. Then I went to the library http://www.vam.ac.uk/nal/ and made a favpurites list of periodicals and books to look at next time. It's a better collection than the Harrison Learning Centre.
A day very well spent.

pix: millefiore knife handles; pezzato Venini vase; mosaic-blown bowl

16 November 2004

Slumped glass

It’s as it sounds – a sheet of decorated glass sagging into a ceramic shape. We made the forms out of an oblong of rolled out clay last week, incised design textures into them with shells, string and other items and then suspended the whole across an upturned chair, rather like a jelly bag and something of that shape. Here’s mine . I can’t say I like this sort of shape. I used a degussa enamel panel that I didn’t feel like working on any further. I might add some lustres to it.

15 November 2004

Batch calculations

”batch” Today we learned how to calculate the weight of raw materials needed for a batch of glass and the percentage of metal oxides – sand (silica) being, of course the central ingredient with other compounds (e.g. lead, soda ash, borosilicate, etc) varying the consistency and brightness. I found this strangely compelling, though the chances of my needing to do it myself are slim. At £600 a ton of molten glass, I am unlikely to need to make up a batch. Took me back to chemistry at school.

picture shows float batch from Siemens website

08 November 2004

Visit to Wolverhampton

”beads”We used our design session for a trip to the Harrison Learning Centre at Wolverhampton University to browse through its collection of books and journals on glass. Fairly inspiring and generally useful, but I thought it cut into studio time a bit too much. There's quite little usable time when you can get in to a workshop continue a project -- if you are like me and need to feel unconstrained by time.

07 November 2004

Making beads

Back from half term and in our hot workshop today we did lampworking. All the health and safety fandangle again -- but it is important. This is potentially very dangerous as the propane can whizz round the room and ignite in seconds. Like all hot-working, it is far from as easy as it looks.
”beads”I made 7 beads(pictured) of which 3 wouldn't come off the mandrel. I look forward to going on with this -- lots of possibilities here.

Where have I been for 2 weeks?

Working on my design sketchbook.
On a surprise birthday holiday in Andalucia.
Spoiling our pussy-cat who returned home after having gone missing for three and a half weeks.
Coping with sick-computer syndrome - a virus? Painfully slow - hence no pictures.

06 November 2004

My flat

I've rather enjoyed having my own space and making it look nice without having to negotiate with anyone else. At first, I was going to keep the white walls empty, but I can't seem to do that. Acquisition creep has crrept.