Thursday, March 3, 2016

Adventures in making fused glass jewelry: my new toy, a microwave kiln!

Whew, things have been busy in Jewelry Land. I'm working on some new enameling projects, just finished making a necklace for a friend's upcoming wedding, and just completed my glass fusion course. Meantime, I bought myself a new "toy," a Fuseworks glass fusion kit and microwave kiln!

Much as I enjoyed my glass class, I was disappointed with the jewelry-making component of it. On the last day, I finally got to make some colorful pendants and was excited to see how they'd turn out:

This is the "Before" picture, where they kind of look like a smorgasbord:

Unfortunately, they did not turn out well. My teacher was away on vacation and was then sick, and another person took over the kiln for him. Normally, my teacher would supervise as I set up the kiln, but the kiln was being used. Therefore, another glass tech promised to heat my items for me. Since my teacher is the only one there whose specialty is fused glass, I'm not sure this other guy knew what he was doing. When I picked up my pendants yesterday, they looked like this:

They're cute, I guess, and definitely colorful, but the fuse-job is weird. Technically, the glass pieces have been fused together in that they're stuck on one another, but the glass doesn't have that beautiful, melted quality that I love in fused designs. I don't want to pay for extra kiln time, though, so I'll keep these as is. If I wire wrap them and add a chain, I can turn them into funky pendants.

The good news is, I DID learn a lot in that class and truly enjoyed myself. It inspired me to purchase my microwave kiln so I can make my own glass jewelry at home.

The Fuseworks set comes with various sheets of colorful glass, including my favorite, dichroic. Basically, dichroic glass is patterned, shiny and prismatic, so it adds a beautiful sparkle to your pieces. The kit also comes with protective gloves, jewelry findings and a glass scoring tool. Oddly, it does not include a glass cutting tool... which is kind of like being given a fork and no knife. You can find plenty of inexpensive ones online, though.

The kiln itself is a small, round structure, just large enough to heat a pendant or some earrings. You cut the glass, place a sheet of kiln paper on the kiln base, carefully lay out your item, put the lid over the kiln and then set your microwave. I've found that my microwave successfully fuses the glass when kept on for four minutes at regular temp. Many people heat it on high for about two minutes. I suggest playing around. Start with less time, see if the item has fused -- it should be blazing red and molton -- and if not, continue to heat it.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do NOT touch the item! It is HOT! Really hot. 1500 degrees hot. Ouch. Always wear eye gear and those protective gloves.

Anyway, once I see that the item has fused, I put the lid back over the kiln and let the item cool for about an hour. I made the mistake of picking up an item before it had fully cooled and it cracked. I also burned my hand. Stupid, Naomi, stupid.

Here are some pieces I've created so far:

It didn't take me too long to figure out how to actually melt the glass since I do have enameling experience, but it has taken me some practice to determine which colors work best together. My first few pieces -- those elongated green, black and blue ones -- look a bit muddled because the colors blended together. You just can't use darker shades on black or they'll sink into it. Same for using blue on blue. I love the smaller white piece with the green stripe on top, but that's the one I cracked. I'll try to glue it together later today.

The black piece that I have pictured solo is my latest creation and favorite. I made this by using three layers: a black base, a clear dichroic middle and then the colorful dichroic pieces on top. That clear layer in between the black and colored glass provided a buffer so the colors didn't get lost in the darker shade. I also like how it looks as if the top layer is floating.

I'm really loving this new gadget and can't wait to make more things. The kit doesn't come with much glass, so I've ordered more. It's pretty easy to use, but it does help if you have some sort of fusing and glass-cutting experience. Supposedly, you can also heat precious metal clay and enameled pieces in the microwave kiln. If you're a craft lover, I highly recommend getting a Fuseworks. I'll be back with more photos when I turn these guys into necklaces.

Meantime, check out my wire wrapped and enamel jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

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