Friday, October 23, 2009

Lights, Camera, ACTION!!!

So, I've made the move from Napa, California back to Lincoln, Nebraska and am slowly, very slowly, getting my studio set back up. But, yesterday, I finally got my lighting and photo tent set up in it's permanent location! I actually have enough room now, that I don't have to take it down and set it back up!!! Yea!!!
I was able to take a few pictures of jewelry that I've been meaning to list for a VERY long time. Now, I just need to find the box with the rest of the items that I need to photograph in it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Napa Valley Open Studios - 2009

For the last year, I've been working with Saint Helena hot glass artist, Ed Breed. I've been learning to work with hot glass so that I can assist him in making pumpkins, glass tumblers, and vases. While he can make pumpkins by himself, it certainly is quicker and easier with an assistant. But, when making larger pieces and pieces that need to be transferred back and forth between pipe and punty, two or more people are needed to complete the process.
In the beginning, I was very timid. It's rather sketchy working with hot glass on the end of a stainless steel rod. Especially when that glass is so hot that it moves around like honey. (In fact, in the very beginning, I would practice with actual honey and a wooden skewer.) "How hot is glass when it moves like honey?" you ask. Well, it's about 2000 degrees F, or hotter. Hot enough that you probably wouldn't feel it right away, because it would burn your skin off and then the nerves as well!

So, my feeble attempts in the beginning made the work harder for Ed. The glass that I would bring him for the pumpkin stem was hot, but not nearly hot enough. He would have to pull harder than is comfortable to do repeatedly, to get a pumpkin stem...and then need a day or two to recover strength in his overworked arm muscles... (My first solo pumpkin attempts can be seen here, and are a great example of what happens when the glass isn't hot enough.)

What really helped me to get my heat right was the repeated pulling of flowers, which I really enjoy. Once I got my heat right, it was no longer a race against time with me trying to pull the glass before it got too cool to move. It was also easier for Ed and I to work as a team. Now, he could focus on blowing, and I could bring the stem when he was ready. After a year of working with Ed, I am now able to anticipate the steps, and we can work more efficiently with fewer mistakes.

Sporting my hot glass gear and my hot glass flower

Here I am at Open Studios in Napa, this year. I made the trip out to Napa, shortly after moving back to Nebraska (to be nearer to my family), to help Ed out with hot glass demos. We had a beautiful setting on the patio of Beverly Wilson's house in North Napa. We were set up outside, with Beverly showing her bright and bold Napa themed paintings both inside and out, and jewelry artist Marjorie Shachnow displaying the tools of her trade and her beautifully organic precious metal jewelry inside.

It was a hot time in the sun with the weather being over 100 degrees and the glory hole blowing 2000 degrees out at us, but we had a great turn out and a lot of friends were able to stop by and see what I've been doing.

For the demos, we pulled flowers, blew a few pumpkins, and made some drinking glasses. We were able to keep most of what we made, but the traveling hot shop's annealer is much too small to hold everything. There were several broken hearts every time we had to let a piece break open or shatter because there was no where to let it cool slowly. Below, are pictures of Ed and I making a tumbler...

Ed blowing hot glass into the shape of a tumbler using a wooden mold

After Ed has blown and shaped the glass to the point where he can go into the mold, we need to transfer it to a punty and shape the lip of the glass, knock it off and put it in the annealer to cool.

Transferring a blown glass from the pipe to the punty

Shaping the glass with a paddle and jacks

Finished glass

I really enjoyed my short California vacation and can't wait to get out there again!
As a side note, Ed can only make the drinking glasses with an assistant, and they really are beautiful and impressive when entertaining guests. Hint, hint ;)
Thanks to Erika for the great pictures of Ed and I working at Open Studios!

Ed Breed's pumpkins
(photo courtesy of Ed Breed)

Ed's "Pumpkin Patch" at Open Studios


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