An example of a French cleat hanging system used in a gallery context, Jessica Loughlin's an ever changing constant (white)

French cleat hanging systems create a "floating" effect as with this 2013 Jessica Loughlin piece, an ever changing constant (white).

In our last video lesson, Attaching French Cleats, we gave you some instructions for displaying glass panel artwork with a hanging system we particularly like.  French cleats are discreet and sturdy, and give your art the appearance of floating in front of a wall.  But hanging your artwork with a French cleat is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are different sizes of French cleats and considerations should be made based on the surface area and weight of your artwork.

Designing a plate in a glass fusing class at Bullseye Resource Center New York

Jacquelyn Geisner is creating a design that would eventually be fused together and slumped into a plate

The following is a guest blog by painter Jacquelyn Gleisner, about her first experience in glass fusing:

Last January I participated in a glass-fusing workshop at the Bullseye Glass Resource Center New York in Mamaroneck. As an artist with a background in painting, I like to seek out new avenues for creative expression. And sometimes, I crave a break from my studio practice. Trying out a new medium can add spice. A few years ago I learned firsthand that experimenting in a new field helped light the fuse within my wavering practice as an artist.

When I visited the Bullseye Glass Resource Center about an hour outside New York City in early January, James O’Neil gave me a tour. Walking past row upon row of gleaming glass rods, powders and sheets, the glass appeared glimmering and more beautiful to me than I remembered. For over a year I’ve been dabbling in ceramics, a muddy, earthy process rooted in a craft history like glass. There are overlaps between glass and ceramics, though they are distinct. Glass seemed to be ceramic’s mystical cousin, bedazzling in its range of sexy surfaces and rainbow waves of color.

I started working with ceramics during a dark chapter of my art-making career. Suffering from the artist’s equivalent of writer’s block, I tried and tried but couldn’t complete a painting to my liking for many years after I got my MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2010. On a whim I signed up for a ceramics class in the fall of 2013 in Manhattan at La Mano Pottery. As a complete beginner my expectations were rightfully non-existent. Once a week I would wedge and plunge my hands into the cold clay, hoping for a cylinder to rise from a blob. After a few weeks I had made a set of bowls. My humble bowls were horribly misshapen and unbalanced, but I was very pleased. Soon after those bowls were painted, fired and finished, I started painting again. Ceramics not only helped me start working again in the studio, but it also challenged the new work that I made.

Before I started working with clay, I was not making much of anything, much less objects. In fact, I had not made very many objects before those bowls. Paintings are by nature two-dimensional. My flat paintings lived on walls, observed from a distance. I started to think about how I could make paintings that could be wild in the world. I wanted to think about my paintings as objects, too.

Moreover, ceramics felt intimate to me. Functional objects forge a special bond between the bowl or mug, for instance, and the user. When I made my first mug, I imagined how that object would be held in a person’s hand. That mug might touch a person’s lips. To the best of my knowledge, no lips have touched any of my paintings. Not yet, at least.

Glass also lends itself to intimacy. Jewelry, for example, can be created out of glass and worn in a person’s ear or on a finger. At the Bullseye Glass Resource Center, I saw examples of functional glass plates and bowls, too. When James showed me an example of a psychedelic plate that was made in the glass-patterning workshop, I knew that I could easily meld glass into my practice as an artist, which investigates the aesthetic, psychological, and social spaces of pattern and ornamentation. I signed up for the First Glass Fusing workshop the next week.

A few weeks later I donned my safety goggles and nametag in a back room lined with different types of kilns for the glass-fusing workshop. I listened as James, who had coincidentally been my helpful host, primed about fifteen students on the fundamental properties of glass. James also told us the rules for working with glass. With good humor, he showed us where the Band-Aids were.

Next James gave a demo on cutting glass. Many years ago I worked in a frame shop, where I had learned to cut glass using a diamond cutter, a tool with a tip that is actually a tiny diamond. Because of my history with carbon crystals, I was feeling confident. I was humbled when my first attempts to cut the glass were not a screaming success. So I slowed down and focused, as James and another instructor, Jamie, offered words of encouragement to the class.

After we had practiced cutting, James showed us various fused plates for inspiration. Then we were invited to feast upon what James called “the glass buffet”, a table with various sizes, colors and opacities of glass. Each person selected items from the table, which would be cut, arranged and later fused together in the kiln to create an 8″ x 8″ plate. I chose opaque black, transparent gray and a few “art glass” pieces as accents. I brought them back to my workstation and began to design my plate.

By the end of the two and a half hour workshop, my ability to cut had improved. I even completed a few cuts using my hands to break the scored pieces apart. I cut several small triangles and used pre-cut squares, which I arranged in a pinwheel design. I cleaned each piece of glass and carefully laid them on the pink pre-treated shelf for the kiln. I wrote my name on a Post-it and placed it beside my glass creation.

a design ready to be fused and slumped in a beginner's kilnforming class in mamaroneck new york

The finished design is ready to be fired in the kiln twice: once to fuse it, and then to slump it into a plate form.

Before class was dismissed, James explained to us that our plates would be fired in the kiln twice. The first firing melts the glass pieces together. Then the plates are fired again in a slump mold to create the elegant, slightly curled edges. After the plates have cooled, our works of glass-fused magic are complete. I look forward to picking my plate next week and continuing to explore the world of glass. This class was my first experience working with glass, but it won’t be my last.

Editor’s Note: Jacquelyn Gleisner is a visual artist, writer, and adjunct professor who splits her time between New York and New Hampshire. Since 2011, Gleisner has been a regular contributor for three ART21 columns: “Open Enrollment,” “Praxis Makes Perfect,” and “New Kids on the Block.” She currently teaches at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. View her work at http://blog.art21.org/author/jacquelyn-gleisner/.

A glass sculpture made using the lost wax kilncasting method

The lost wax kilncasting method is highly useful for making detailed fully three-dimensional sculptural imagery.

Which kilncasting technique is right for your project?

Earlier this month, we released a new video lesson detailing the Lost Wax Kilncasting method.  If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s an amazing lesson that covers every step of the process from making the wax sculpture original to divesting the finished product.

The appeal of the lost wax kilncasting method is that it’s a very powerful technique that enables you to create all kinds of highly detailed three-dimensional imagery out of glass.  No question about it, it’s a technique that belongs in any serious kilncaster’s toolkit.

But depending on the project you’re making, other techniques may prove more practical.  So here’s a quick rundown of some other popular kilncasting techniques, a brief overview of what they are, and why you might consider using them.

An example of box casting by artist Ted Sawyer

Speak (2003) by Ted Sawyer is an example of box casting.

Box casting - Box casting is a method used to create reverse-relief glass imagery. It’s also a fairly simple technique that beginners can learn easily, and experienced casters should be able to use with a minimal failure rate. Box casting molds are also made of vermiculite board, which means they’ll often be reusable, making this method ideal for producing multiples of the same design. For more information, watch our Box Casting video lesson or read our Box Casting TipSheet.

Open Faced Kilncasting – Open faced kilncasting and box casting are similar methods in that they’re both used to create relief imagery by using a mold. The difference is the mold. Whereas in box casting, you may find yourself limited to the dimensions of your vermiculite box, open faced kilncasting allows you greater control over the size, shape and texture of the mold. For more information on this technique, watch our video lesson on Open Faced Kilncasting.

A day of the dead skull made using the pate de verre method

Our Day of the Dead Skull lesson is a fun and easy way to make yourself more comfortable with the pâte de verre technique.

Pâte de verre – Pâte de verre is a technique in which frit is mixed with a binder to form a paste. Pâte de verre means, literally, “paste of glass”. The paste is applied to a three-dimensional mold, then fired to create a piece is actually quite strong despite its delicate appearance. Additionally, because you’re using frit, the finished piece will have a uniquely rough texture. To see a step by step explanation of a simple pate de verre project, watch our video lesson Day of the Dead Skulls.

People in the various departments at Bullseye HQ have their own pockets of expertise on the subject of glass.  This is because casters look at glass differently than QA people, and they look at it differently than salespeople, and so on.  Add to that, each person in each department has his or her own unique experience with glass.

Which is what makes Working Glass, an annual contest in which Bullseye employees are invited to submit their own original kilnformed glass artworks, such an interesting competition.

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In our new video lesson, “Tabletops”, we show you how to make a thick glass tabletop.  I really like this lesson for its practicality.  I live by myself in what some might call a “bachelor pad”, and still more might describe as “underfurnished”.

Most of my furniture came from one store.  (I’ll let you guess which one and here’s your hint: everything came with “some assembly required” and a little hex wrench in a plastic pouch).

So this lesson is perfect for people like me because it teaches you how to make something personal that can fit in any size space.  In the lesson, we give you the formula for determining the amount of glass needed to make a tabletop of any dimensions you want. And that includes thickness, which I want to elaborate upon.

The thickness you choose for your tabletop will require a few considerations including how much glass to use, and how much time is needed to heat the glass to process temperature.

Most importantly, however, is how much time is needed to bring the glass back to room temperature.  The thickness of the glass will significantly affect the amount of time to safely cool the glass to room temperature.

This is because the glass must be heated and cooled uniformly, and for thicker slabs this means there is the potential for large temperature differences throughout the piece, which means greater possibility for thermal shock or other problems.

In the lesson, we create an example tabletop with a thickness of 3/4” (19 mm).  A 3/4” tabletop is not an especially thick slab, and so the annealing phase is relatively quick — only three hours — and the prescribed cooling rates through all of the cooling phases make it a relatively quick process.  All told, it will take approximately nine hours to safely cool a 3/4” glass tabletop.

But let’s say we jump the thickness up to 1 1/2”, twice the thickness of the example tabletop in the video.  One might assume the time to properly cool the piece would also double.  But actually, while the time for the anneal soak doubles, the rates for subsequent cooling phases are significantly reduced.  (e.g. The cooling rate from 900 degrees Fahrenheit to 800 for a 3/4” tabletop is 45 degrees per hour; the cooling rate from 900 degrees to 800 for a 1 1/2” tabletop is 12 degrees per hour; therefore, with a 3/4″ tabletop it should take you a little more than two hours to go from 900 to 800 degrees while for a 1 1/2″ tabletop it will take over eight hours to cover that same temperature range). In total, a 1 1/2” tabletop will actually need approximately 28 hours to safely cool.

Just for fun, what if you were making a 3” thick tabletop? Again, there would be a significant decrease in the cooling rates.  The total amount of time to cool would room temperature would be approximately 99 hours.

And, hypothetically, what if you were making a 6” thick tabletop?  The total time would be approximately 375 hours.  Yes, it’s a long time.

I’m not telling you this because I think you go and make a 6” thick tabletop.  Rather, I am telling you this because I want you to be aware that you have the freedom to make a tabletop as thick as you want — but you must be aware that different cooling rates must be considered for different thicknesses.

Here’s the good news.  We have a handy dandy chart that shows you the cooling times and rates for various thicknesses.

Take a look: the Bullseye Chart for Annealing Thick Slabs.  Keep it handy when making those tabletops!

Exclusively for subscribers: This month we feature three new videos recorded at BECON 2013: CHROMA CULTURE: read more

How to describe the works of Mel Douglas?  I would start off by saying they’re not especially showy.  If I saw one from across the room, it likely wouldn’t pull me in.  But as I moved closer to the piece as I would naturally, I would notice it and the closer I got to it the more it would pull me.  I guess you could call that “gravity”.

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Photos from last week’s workshop–

Karl Harron, of Northern Ireland, began his 2014 US workshop tour at Bullseye Glass Resource Center Bay Area. read more

The Realm of Quantifiable Truths, the debut solo exhibition of Emily Nachison, was on view at Bullseye Gallery from July 2 – August 30, 2014. Emily, who is a Portland native, dropped by to speak about some of the ideas she was exploring while working on this project, some of her inspirations, and goals of her work.

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Folks come from far and wide to take classes in Bullseye’s Research & Education studios in Portland, and this week was no exception.

A group of 10 students from Japan have been here participating in a five-day glass fusing expedition organized by Junji Miwa of Jujo, a Bullseye dealer in Nagoya, Japan. This is the sixth such group trip that Miwa has led to Portland since 2005. For several members of the group, this was a return trip. Here are a few pictures snapped throughout the week. read more