Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fused Glass Fun with Girl Scouts

The girls creations at the end of our 2 hour session.

As a Girl Scout Community Collaborator, I work with Girl Scout troops to create glass art. Sometimes we meet for mosaics, but this post is all about glass fusing! Earlier this year, I worked with a Girl Scout troop from Council Bluffs, Iowa. There were 6 girls able to attend the meeting. We talked about how glass is made, how to "play" with glass safely, and how to create art with glass.
A kiln full of glass before firing.
I give each girl two sheets of clear glass; one for a plate and one for a sun catcher. After digging through my scraps and piecing together their larger pieces, they can make pendants (or magnets) for the rest of the session. Generally, each girl will finish all three projects. Some may end up with more pendants, and some spend a lot of time piecing together the perfect plate (and need help from mom or friends to finish other projects).
Same kiln - after firing.

After our session, the girls go home and I get to work! After cleaning up the work area and letting the glue dry (so the pieces don't shift on the way to the kiln), I prep the kiln for firing. I need to coat the kiln shelves with kiln wash to prevent the glass from sticking to the shelf permanently. Then, I need to let the kiln wash dry or else the glass pieces end up with kiln wash stuck to them! I generally speed this part up by running the kiln up to 500ºF for 30 minutes and then letting it cool back down to room temperature.
Close up of plates pre-fire

Now that the kiln is prepped, I can load all the pieces in it. If I'm lucky, I can fit everything in the kiln at once. However, since I seldom give strict rules when the girls are constructing, I'll sometimes have one piece that needs to go in the kiln at a different temperature. This is a decision I make based on my years of experience firing glass taking into consideration how much glass has been used, whether or not it's even across the entire sheet of glass and how I know the glass will act in the kiln.
Detail shot after firing.

The glass comes out of the kiln in one piece, but it's all flat. For the plates, I need to put the glass back in the kiln in molds to shape them and make them three dimensional. This is done in a separate firing because the temperature doesn't need to get as hot as it did for fusing the glass together. (By the way, glass fusing temperatures are around 1480ºF, whereas slumping temperatures are only around 1250ºF.)
Fused glass sun catchers after firing.

When all of the glass is finished firing, I clean up the edges. Sometimes little bits of glass will end up grabbing the kiln shelf and creating needles. I grind those off so that the glass art doesn't bite! Then, I wrap it up so it won't break and label it with each girls name, and they're ready to be picked up! Generally the whole process takes 5-7 days. If this is something you'd like to do with your Girl Scout troop, please contact me for a list of available dates. Current pricing is $25 a girl, which is a steal!
Each girl made one plate, one sun catcher, and as many pendants as she wanted in a 2 hour session.

Mosaic Stepping Stones with Girl Scouts

As a Girl Scout Community Collaborator, I work with Girl Scout troops to create glass art. Sometimes we meet for glass fusing, but this post is about mosaic stepping stones...
I prep the paver stones, so we're ready to get started when you get here.
There are a few different approaches to making mosaic stepping stones and as an introduction to the process I choose the easiest and most accessible way! Instead of having to build upside down, pouring cement and having to wait to get your stepping stone back, we use paver stones from the hardware store. I gather all the materials and get them prepped before you show up. I choose the 6" x 8" paver stones, because that guarantees that we finish close to the 3 hour mark. After I clean the stones, I prep them with the adhesive. (It's a heat set adhesive that cures quickly to allow us to finish the class by grouting, instead of waiting for glue to dry.)
Piecing the glass together on the paver stones
Then, when you show up, we talk about how to safely "play" with glass, how to cut it with nippers and rules for arranging a mosaic and using the groutlines for design. If the weather permits, we work outside the whole time. Otherwise, we'll work in my studio. (For large groups, we meet at Architectural Glassarts.) I encourage everyone to come to class with an idea of what they might like to make: flowers, cars, animals, sun, moon, ocean, mountains, pineapple, etc. It doesn't mean you won't get inspired by the glass to make something else, but it helps get past the "creative block."
Grouting the stepping stones
After covering the paver stone with glass, it's time to pop them in the oven to cure. Then, we take a studio tour, and I talk more about glass and different things you can do with it. If you'd prefer to make this snack time, we can definitely do that, too! We have about 30 minutes to wait while the stones heat up and then cool back down and are ready to grout. Then it's time to get dirty! You may want to wear clothes that can get stained...
Stepping stones finished in 3 hours
We grout in the grass because it's super easy to clean up that way. I show you how to mix the grout and help you to get the right consistency. Then, we spread the grout across our pieces. It needs to sit for 5-10 minutes before we can polish it off and make the glass shine and sparkle, but then we're finished and the stones are ready to take home with the girls!
Beautiful flower stepping stone

If this is something you'd like to do with your Girl Scout troop, please contact me for a list of available dates. Current pricing is $25 a girl, which is a steal!

artVenture 2013 - Girl Scouts and Fused Glass

Getting started - talking about how glass is made.
This year's artVenture took place once again at Architectural Glassarts in Lincoln, Nebraska. Thanks again to Rod Scott for his generosity in offering up his space!
We started out talking about how glass is made, how it comes to the glass shop, how to cut it and what happens after it goes in the kiln.  After the girls piece together the glass to create their design, the plates go into the kiln for an initial fusing that makes all the separate pieces into one. Then, the flat pieces go back in the kiln to get slumped into a mold. When, they come out of the kiln after the second firing, they have taken on the shape of the mold. Each group was given glass that was pre-cut to match the molds on their table.  We broke into groups and started brainstorming themes for our pieces. 
"Cold Blaze"
6.75" x 14.5"
Artists: Kaity, Jessie, Haley

Kaity, Jessie and Hallie created "Cold Blaze," a combination of an underwater scene under a blazing sunset. Can you see the fish, turtles and sea plants?

"Four Seasons"
set of four: 5.75" x 5.75"
Artists: Belle, Emma, Carrie

Belle, Emma and Carrie came up with a seasonal theme to go with the four molds they were presented. Clever, huh?

8.5" x 8.5"
Artists: Paige, Anna, Hallie
Paige, Anna and Hallie created an abstracted sunset for their piece...

Part sheets created for "Fireworks"
Artists: Noa, Laci, Krista, CJ, Jenny, Madison
...which leaves the last and largest group. This group of 6 were given glass blanks, but no mold. Generally, I coach the girls as they make their collaborative pieces which are donated to the artVenture auction. Additionally, I submit a piece of my work to be auctioned. This year, I wanted to try something different for the last piece. So, the girls made the blanks that would be cut up to become a larger panel that was pieced together and framed by me. I wasn't sure how they would react to the suggestion that they would make something specifically so it could be cut apart again. However, I think the fact that they don't get to keep the collaborative piece anyway really helps. (All the girls do get the chance to make fused glass pieces to take home. This year they all made 4"-6" plates and jewelry pieces.)
26" x 10.5"
Artists: Noa, Laci, Krista, CJ, Jenny, Madison
Pieced together by Carrie Strope Sohayda
I absolutely love how the panel turned out and once again all the girls made fantastic fused glass art!


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