Thursday, July 28, 2016

Adventures in fusing glass: making fused dichroic glass earrings with three layers

My second jewelry making class is scheduled for this upcoming Tuesday and I'm really looking forward to it! In this session, I'll be teaching the ladies how to make wire wrapped, beaded earrings and rings. Most of my students don't have pierced ears, so I purchased clip-on backs. I've never used those before, so we'll play around with them together.

Meanwhile, I've been working on some earrings of my own. Lately, I've been experimenting with different glass firing techniques, including underfiring the glass and using multiple layers. I've finally figured out how to make triple layer pieces.

I've been trying to do three-layered glass for a while, with mixed -- mostly poor -- results. The top layer of glass would move and break during firing, or the bottom layer would melt incorrectly. This was actually how I destroyed my first kiln; by attempting to fire three layers. The glass turned into a goopy, burned mess, stuck to the sides of the kiln and wrecked it.

I've since learned from that mistake and now stop the firing process midway to make sure the glass hasn't moved out of place. This way, I can guarantee the glass hasn't melted and stuck to the sides. Still, I haven't had too much success with doing three layers... until recently.

The trick is to make sure all of the pieces are even and that the top layer isn't hanging over the edges. You also need to make sure the dichros are flat. Dichroic glass comes in all sorts of forms -- thick, thin, textured, smooth... and when you place a strip of textured next to a strip of smooth, the surface isn't even. Therefore, when you try to place another layer over it, the glass will move. That said, I've found that tripling works best with small pieces and when I use only one type of glass at a time.

I've practiced this technique by making earrings, which feature dichroic glass sandwiched between two layers of clear. So far, I've managed to have a few successes:

I absolutely love that yellow-pink glass. It's fuchsia in certain lights and gold in others. And with the glass on top, it looks almost green from some angles. I'm not thrilled with the pink crinkle glass, though. It looks really pretty when it's fired as the top layer, but when it's under the clear, it has a weird distorted appearance. Still, the technique worked and I'll just have to try it with different colors to see how they fare.

In other news, I'm in talks with my local salon about them possibly selling my jewelry. I showed some pieces to the owner and she's very interested. Hopefully, we'll set up a meeting for next weeks and she'll buy some of my merchandise. I haven't had any luck with getting my stuff into stores, so I'm trying not to get my hopes up... but at least she's showed some interest. That's better than an outright "No," right?

I'll keep you up-to-date on my latest jewelry happenings. You can check out my work at Naomi's Designs, MayaGirl Creations and Glass By Naomi.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Adventures in jewelry making: silver wire wrapped fused dichroic glass jewelry set with necklace, bracelet and earrings

A few weeks ago, I got an interesting proposition from a potential customer. She asked if I'd be able to make her a custom, one-of-a-kind dichroic glass jewelry set featuring a necklace, earrings and bracelet. We discussed some ideas and I took on the challenge.

Making this set was a big deal for me, not only because this was a large order -- believe me, that's always nice! -- but because it was a chance for me to truly put my growing glass-fusing skills to the test. This woman was also the first stranger to order glass from me. I've already sold many dichroic items online, but they've all been to people I know. While I so appreciate my Facebook friends and acquaintances for supporting me, I'm happy to see my work making more of its way into the world.

This customer turned out to be a designer's dream. She communicated easily, was really nice... and had definite ideas for what kind of pieces she wanted. She went so far as to send me a colored sketch for the pendant. Now all I had to do was make this set come to life. Here is the finished result:

We began by discussing which colors she likes. She had some unusual ideas for combos: reds and purples, mixed with some patterns. She also liked this fuchsia and gold glass I have. The color is interesting, but a little odd: in some light, the glass looks neon pink, but in others, it appears to be yellow. I wasn't sure how well these colors would match up, but this woman had great ideas!

I first started on the bracelet, which was the easiest piece to make. Also, the links served as test strips so I could make sure the colors would fire properly. I made about 20 different color links and showed her the ones I thought she'd most like. She approved and the rest will be used to make other bracelets and necklace chains.

This customer really wanted red glass included in her design. I didn't have any on hand; plus, red is notoriously difficult to fire. When enameling, red tends to turn orange-y or brown, especially if you fire it for too long. However, I found two potential reds I could use: Candy Apple and Black Cherry. I hoped one would work.

Candy Apple was a dud. It's bright red before firing, but once it's put in the kiln, the glass turns orange. I tried to underfire it, but it still wasn't a pretty red. Happily, the Black Cherry worked and produced a nice, rich color. Even better, my customer loved it.

Altogether, she wanted six colors included in the piece, but also requested to keep the earrings small, at 12 mm each. I didn't want to cram six colors into such a tiny space, so I suggested that we do something funky and use three colors in each earring. They'd be mismatched, but they'd fit into the set as a whole. I came up with a design that would feature each color and prominently showed off the red she liked so much.

Now came the most difficult part: making the pendant. She'd come up with an abstract design, with the glass cut at specific angles and each color in a definite place. I made a few more test strips, making sure I knew exactly how long to fire the piece so the colors would stand out. I then set to work cutting and filing the glass. I was really pleased with the end result and said a little prayer before setting it into the kiln. I just hoped the glass wouldn't break or move during the firing process, or that the colors would end up being wrong. I was so relived when the pendant turned out just the way it was supposed to.

The customer had found me because she liked the way I wire wrapped my glass jewelry. She wanted a wrap on the pendant, so I came up with a very simple design that would frame, but not obscure the necklace. I used pink Swarovski crystals so they'd show up against the red and bring out the pink in the gold-fuchsia glass.

Now I'm just hoping that the set reaches her in the mail and she likes it in person! It took me a couple of weeks to finish this project, but the labor was worth it. I've learned so much just by making this one set. I'm now a lot more skilled at cutting glass into definite shapes and at firing the glass into definite colors. It means so much to me that this woman not only appreciated my work, but had enough faith in me as a designer to create a complex and original piece.

We just received applications for the annual art fair held in my town. Assuming I'm accepted once again, I'm excited to put my glass on display and to continue to get my name out there. I also got some good news from the rec director at the senior home: she says the women enjoyed my class and has invited me back for a second session. So far, this is turning out to be a good year for me on the jewelry front. I'll keep working as hard as I can to make the rest of 2016 a success.

Check out the rest of my handmade wire wrapped, fused glass and enamel jewelry at Naomi's Designs, MayaGirl Creations and Glass By Naomi.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Adventures in making jewelry: my first wire wrapping class!

Yesterday was my first wire wrapping class at the Homestead Senior Residence. For the most part, it went pretty well.

I've taught children music before, but I've never taught jewelry or adults, so I wasn't sure what to expect going in. The recreation director explained that the seniors are at many different levels in terms of what they're able to do and I wanted to hold a class where there was something for everyone. I tried my best to do that.

I purchased five sets of supplies, figuring I've have a max of five students. This way, I could give each senior one-on-one attention and keep the class intimate. Six women showed up, though two left before the class was over. Both have arthritis and found it difficult to maneuver the tools and wire. I told them I give them credit for at least trying something new.

The other four ladies and I had a great time making jewelry. Things got off to a rocky start when I discovered that no one had the hand strength to even cut the wire with the snippers. But I simply cut wire for them and then showed them how to make basic shapes. I had them bend the wire into circles, squiggles, etc, just so they could get a feel of using the tools. I then turned their abstract designs into pendants and hung them from cord. One lady made four pieces and was very proud of her wire creations. I loved seeing how happy she was.

After we played with wire for a while, I broke out my huge bag of beads... and the women went nuts. THIS is what they really liked! I showed them how to string beads on the wire and how wire is stronger than necklace cord, so it's great for making things like bracelets. We then all had fun making wire and beaded pieces. One lady explained that they used to have someone who came in for a beading class, but she since had to leave for personal reasons. I promised to show them how to make more wire and beading projects -- like earrings or rings. I was hoping to introduce people to the beauty of simple wire creations, but if beading is what they like, then beading is what we'll do. As I told them, I want this class to be fun, and not a chore.

I love performing for the seniors, but in this setting, I actually got to know a few of the women. One said to me, "I love the way you play the flute, but you really need more 'Oom-pah-pah' when you play." It took me a moment to figure out what she meant and then I realized she meant that I should play with a backing track. My music partner, Judy, has actually told me the same thing, so I assured this woman I'd have backing tracks next time. She then made me promise I'd hold my next class on a Tuesday morning because she could go directly to her hair appointment, which was right next to the rec room. Ha! This particular woman had a lot of personality and was a riot.

I don't know if I'll get to teach these students more complicated wire pieces, but that's fine. As long as I'm doing something with them that they enjoy, I'm happy.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Silver wire wrapped bracelet with spirals, crystals and handmade dichroic glass beads in purple and blue

One of the most challenging things that's come up in making glass pieces is learning to control the exact colors of the dichroic glass. "Dichroic" means two (or more)-colored, so each firing in the kiln yields a surprise for me. The Candy Apple red glass I purchased turns orange, while the light blue glass looks more magenta.

Then there's the tie-dyed glass I have where any portion of the sheet can turn any color. It's always an adventure!

When I'm experimenting and just creating pieces as I go along, I don't worry too much about the final glass shades. The dichros are so pretty, it doesn't really matter -- and I enjoy being surprised. However, a customer recently asked me to make her a glass jewelry set with very specific colors in the pendant, earrings and bracelet. She actually drew a graphic for me showing where she wanted each color to be in the design.

This meant I had to get my butt in gear and actually figure out how to get exact hues in the glass. My answer? Test strips.

We use test strips in enameling, where we'll fire a color on top of plain copper, copper with a white base, copper with a clear base, etc. The thing with fine glass powder, though, is that it's usually at least somewhat close to the shade it'll yield. You can be pretty certain that purple powder will turn into purple enamel. It might not be the exact shade you want, but it'll at least be in the correct family. You won't end up with pink or yellow glass... unless you're applying the powder to silver or gold foil, which is a whole other story...

Anyway, I decided to fire small pieces of glass so I could determine each shade. In the end, I created dozens of these tiny cabochons. I didn't want to waste them, especially since they took time to make. My solution is to turn these into links for bracelets and necklaces.

The first bracelet I created was this purple and blue piece:

The links are pretty small, so I added a silver spiral and a couple of matching crystals. I love my blues and purples... my friend and music partner, Judy, would say it's because I'm an Aquarian, LOL.

I have dozens more of these links, in all different sizes. I'm using some to make a necklace, which I'll post soon. And I "found" my colors! The woman's jewelry set is coming along nicely and should be completed this week. I'll have photos soon, though you can sneak a peak on my Instagram page.

In other news, my first wire wrapping class is tomorrow morning. I'm a little nervous. I've been so looking forward to this and hope it goes well. Wish me luck!

You can check out the rest of my handmade wire wrapped and dichroic glass jewelry at Naomi's Designs, MayaGirl Creations and Glass By Naomi.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wire wrapped jewelry: wire wrapped fused dichroic earrings with crystals

When I began working with fused glass a few months ago, I made a whole bunch of test pieces. This included two blue/green squares that I fused onto white glass. I wasn't sure what I'd do with them; if I'd make them into earrings or make more and design a chain. I ended up putting them aside and frankly, forgot I'd ever created them.

I came across them the other day while organizing my work area and decided to turn them into earrings after all. I added green crystals, which bring out the blue and yellow specks in this gorgeous green. They reminded me of peacock feathers and I named them my "Peacock Earrings."

Happy with how those came out, I made a few other pairs of earrings. The trick to firing earrings properly is to slightly underfire the glass. I usually keep a piece in the kiln for three minutes, but earrings are usually smaller than pendants. Three minutes has turned out to be too long, as I found out when I overfired blue earrings and they came out a dull gray. But 2 minutes, 40 seconds seem to be just right for 12mm earrings. I love the way the yellow pair turned out. The yellow had a bit of orange in it so I chose the red to round out those warm colors. I call these my "Heatwave Earrings."

I've been playing around a lot more with firing times in my kiln. It's something we do in enameling and is one way to alter the glass powder's color and texture when it hardens. I'm learning to employ similar techniques with glass fusion. For instance, I have this beautiful magenta glass that has light blue undertones. When I fire it for two-and-a-half minutes, it turns a deep maroon. But if I fire it for three, the glass is more of a purple color. I'm still learning as I go.

Check out the rest of my handmade jewelry collection at Naomi's Designs, MayaGirl Creations and Glass By Naomi.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Check out my NEW handmade glass jewelry shop on ArtFire!

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! As you can see from the title of this post, I've made a big decision: I've just opened an all-glass jewelry store on ArtFire! Please take a look at Glass By Naomi.

I really enjoy being on Etsy and am having a good run with that site, but I've been working to build more of an online presence. I've been updating this blog more often, created an Instagram page and have been more active on Pinterest and on my Facebook site. I'm not the most tech-savvy person, but a friend who is tech-savvy -- and who runs a very successful wedding blog -- advised me to update my social media and to sell my jewelry on some additional sites. So I'm trying my hand at ArtFire. I'll still be selling my work on Etsy, but the glass will be on both pages. Since most of my pieces are one-of-a-kind, I'll have to remove items as soon as they're sold on a particular site. I can't imagine two people buying the exact same item at the exact same time on both sites. That wouldn't be the worst problem to have, to be that in-demand, but I doubt that'll happen!

I created an ArtFire store a few years ago and didn't have much success with it, but I didn't really take the time to list items and build my shop the way I have with Etsy. I also think I'll have better luck if I focus on one kind of jewelry: fused glass. This way, customers can see all of my dichroic pieces at once. Having "Glass" in my shop title should also help.

I only have a couple of items listed at the moment, but will continue to add some every day. So be sure to pop in to Glass By Naomi! And, of course, you can still see my wire wrapped and enamel jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy 4th Of July! Red, White and Blue Jewelry Photo Gallery

This weekend, we're celebrating Independence Day in the United States -- and a Happy Canada Day to our neighbors, too! We'll probably join many of our fellow Americans and head to the beach while we take in a fireworks display. But in honor of the Fourth, here are some "patriotic" red, white and blue wire wrapped, enamel and dichroic glass jewelry pieces. Enjoy and have a great holiday weekend!

Check out the rest of my handmade jewellery collection at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.