29 September 2004


There was a whole arc of a rainbow over the Malvern Hills early this morning as I looked out of the window of my dreadful digs for the last time. A good omen. I am so relieved to be moving out of Pensnett Road. Perhaps having my own self-contained flat with my own things around me will raise the cheerfulness level. It's been a difficult month.

27 September 2004

More design links

Today, to cool down after an astonishingly hot session in the hot glass studio, in which I just about mananged to make a double knop, I did a bit of browsing:
Dale Chihuly Loopy chandeliers in noisy multicolours. I like some of this kind of thing, but mostly not. Seems undsciplined to me.
Marek Fisar Nice spiral on home page.
”spiral” Specialises in sculptural melted glass forms drawn from nature.
eBay - amazing what's there.
Murano glass Modern and traditional. Lots of beautiful vessel shapes here. On sale - and at what a price!
Art Alliance of Contemporary Glass What's nice about this is that the site describes the composition of the glass it shows. Useful for our technology class. E.g a vase by William Morris composed of silica, soda ash, lime, boric oxide, cadmium, silver, copper, cobalt.

24 September 2004

Words describing glass

So far, I've got to:

”fractured”transparent, translucent, crystal-clear, see-through, lustrous, vitreous, gleaming, glinting, sparkle, spangle, glisten, shine, reflective, refractive, magnify, irridescent, brilliant, prismic, glassy stare, icy, watery, pellucid, frosted, filmy, screen, filter, pane, opaque, cloudy, crizzled, crazed, fragile, shattering, shatter-proof, brittle, sharp, shattered, jagged, splinter, shard, polished, burnished, glazed, glacé, toughened, exclusion, inclusion, facetted, fissile, cut, conductive, liquid, solid, fractured, ductile

but I am sure there are lots more.

Picture is some fractured glass from http://www.uroboros.com/

23 September 2004


”corning” It's in the spirit of a blog to log other sites of interest, so here goes. Might as well nick some pictures off them as well.

Corning Museum of Glass - very good on the art and history of glass and glassmaking with useful crib sheets
Museum of Glass (Tacoma) - contemporary collection. And an interactive teach-yourself-to-blow game (kept crashing though)
Glass Notes - technical tasters from a book by Henry Halem and a couple of QuickTime film clips
”spectrum” Spectrum glass- a supplier of kiln products, but lots of technical information available too. They have filligree cane, which I am sure to be interested in.

22 September 2004

Making bottles into tumblers

Spent an interesting afternoon with the alarming diamond cutter, slicing through bottles and bevelling the edges to make tumblers. Quite fun. I then tried the mitre and carborundum cutting wheels again to incise design marks round the resulting glasses. Didn't like the results as I'm not that keen on cut or textured glass anyway. But I did try a bit of calligraphy engraving round a small medicine bottle, with the rubric 'Drink Me'. Also difficult to control, but this is a technique I feel I could practice and would like to master.

16 September 2004

Glass painting

We had our first session of kiln work today and started some experimental glass staining and stippling. This is almost certainly going to be my area; I feel instinctively most interested and as I discover what the techniques are, I am getting ideas about what I could do. I wonder if my watercolour style could adapt to glass. It's not so immediate since a painted piece has to be fired maybe 5 or 6 times as you build it up layer by layer. Alas, because of the change in timetable I am going to miss the next two sessions so it will be a while before I find out. If only I could do some of the work at home.

15 September 2004

Digital photography

Last night I went to a digital photography class that I hope I have the energy to continue – a long day plus travelling issue. We’ll be learning to manipulate in Photoshop (I’ve already picked up some tips) and the theme for the first term is Time. Right up my street. It would be sensible to choose a glass-related interpretation. It’s a City & Guilds course – I’d have preferred an informal evening class. This is the moment to take the plunge and buy a digital camera. The teacher not awfully helpful on which one.

14 September 2004

First engraving

At last we’ve started to do something. After a slow, dull and disappointing start to the day in which a delightfully free Friday was re-timetabled out, I got some hands-on experience of trying the engraving wheels. It’s difficult to control and I’ll need a lot of practice. Luckily, I am not that keen on engraved glass. It’s fun to try, though I am alarmed by all the accident potential. My first taste of machinery was on the excitingly-named linisher – to smooth the edges of a cut sheet.

This was an illicit gatecrash into a parallel group’s class doing what we will be doing on Friday afternoon, because I am trying to find ways of clawing back a 3-day weekend. Our (excellent) design class triggered all sorts of ideas that I need my own space for. I could spend one day at home doing preparation work. Looking forward to this bit.

11 September 2004

My interest in glass

Our first assignment is to write about our interest in glass. So I am posting what I said right here.

I have been modestly buying drinking glasses of all kinds. My particular passion is for 18th century opaque twists, roughly between 1740 and 1777 - though I can't afford to buy them any more. I like their purity of form; I'm not too keen on engraved glass, though I expect I shall change my mind as I learn to do it and look more closely. I also rather dislike 'art' glass: I found about 80% of the work at the biennale aesthetically unappealing. Will I change my mind about that too as I discover how knowledge of techniques impacts on design?
glassesI have done pencil drawings of my 18th century twists, but it is impossible to capture their quality. These watercolours were for a Christmas card puzzle I made a few years ago. I should love to learn to make some modest form of a twist, though I can see already that the control and experience would take years to learn. I hope I will discover why no one is making them now.

10 September 2004

Health & safety

I've bunked today's induction on health and safety to have a 3-day weekend at home as I needed to regroup. But I am doing a bit of research on the internet. I wonder if they are being advised to grow pots of aloe barbadensis miller as a ready supply of leaves to rub on burns. There are even more hazards to working with hot glass than are obvious when you are watching someone else do it -- not just cuts and burns, but possible damage to the lungs and eyes. I know we are getting protective glasses, but what about masks so we don't breathe in silica dust? A Health and Safety Executive document tells me that 41% of all injuries in the glass industry are caused by handling (however they define that). I feel some anxiety about my current back injury: glass is heavy stuff. And I think I've got the wrong kind of clothing -- my floaty garments are a bit hazardous and natural fibres are safer, plus I need more solid shoes.

09 September 2004

Factory visit

The mid-week induction day was a coach trip to various glass places -- at last something interesting! We visited MRJ Furnaces where they make sheet glass for windows and for stained glass in the way it used to be made -- blown into a cylinder, like a large drainpipe, and then opened out and flattened with a wooden 'iron'. The curved tops of these, called muffs, are first cut off and were available for us to buy for £1.50 each. They look like bowls with a hole in the bottom and a jagged edge. We were advised that they would be a good source of colour. I bought a green one and a deep Bristol blue one, not really knowing what I would be able to do with them, but taking a risk on it. Someone said you could do things with slumped glass. I have a lot to learn. Only one other student did the same. The factory also blows circular panes. In fact, there is only one expert blower and their output is quite small. He made it look so easy, but we all knew it isn't.

Picture by Alan Shuttleworth

07 September 2004


It's Day 2 of the first week, all of which seems to be taken up with induction -- so there is a great deal of running round campuses, being talked at and attempting to get to know the names of fellow students. Some of us are longing to get on with it, but I anticipated this would be quite a boring week and am not too distressed. In addition to the glass course, I have signed up for digital photography and life drawing evening classes. It's a bit displacing being a student again.

My digs are dreary and unaesthetic, but could be a lot worse. I have a sunny view of the Malvern Hills, the house seems fairly quiet and quite well appointed. The landlord is a pleasant, bluff sort of fellow who is reasonably eager to please. It's not his fault he has such dire taste.

At least the sun is shining.

04 September 2004

The glass college

Well, this is where I will be spending my days. Lovely Brierley Hill as seen from just outside the college, then the college itself (it used to be a library, which is why it is so light and airy and has good feng shui).

Up these stairs, everyday, and past this window.

03 September 2004

Steps in the dark

JaneI am packed, and ready to go up to Brierley Hill (part of Dudley College) in the Midlands for a full-time course in the Techniques and Technology of Glass at the International Glass Centre. It starts on Monday. I'll be learning glass blowing, enamelling, stained glass, painting, engraving and I don't know what else. It's going back to a previous me -- the artistic side -- that I have not fully explored and I feel time is running short. It isn't as huge a leap into the dark as it might sound -- I have been thinking a lot about 'glass pages' and about interactivitiy and creativity. In the back of my mind are some connections between writing, glass and technology that I want to think about. I am fortunate to get an EU-funded place, but if this goes anywhere further I shall be looking out for some sort of grant or residency.

Am I scared -- oh yes! But looking forward to a new challenge.