Monday, August 15, 2016

Fused dichroic glass jewelry making techniques

Many friends and family members have asked how I've learned to fuse glass. Well, I did take a class at the beginning of the year and I also watch a lot of videos. My favorites are by Tanya Veit, an artist who works for AAE Glass. Her videos are comprehensive and I've learned so much from her. There are several on YouTube; you can also download some on the AAE site.

I'm also learning different techniques just from practicing. The great thing about having my own kiln is I can make as much glass as I want. So while there have been failures, I've also picked up some new skills along the way.

Lately, I've been working on layering. Ideally, you'd have a full-sized kiln for fusing glass -- one where you can make dozens of pieces at once and fire them over gradually increasing temperatures over the course of a few hours. Frankly, those tools are expensive and I don't really have room for one in my apartment, so I'm depending on my microwave. It limits me because I can't do multiple firings like you can with a larger, more professional kiln, but I can still do plenty with it -- and I've been experimenting with various techniques and textures.

In the above photo, I show how those techniques can create very different types of glass. In the upper left-hand corner is a piece that's been overfired. To be honest, I did not mean to overfire it, but I left it in for a bit too long. The dichroic glass is deeply embedded into the clear base and rounded out; there are few distinct lines between designs. Also, the colors have dulled.

On the other hand, the piece next to it, in the upper right-hand corner, has been underfired. While the dichroic glass has been fully fused onto the base, it still has a textured, 3D effect. The glass edges are well-defined and the colors pop. I personally love underfiring because the pieces are so vibrant.

That blue piece in the lower left-hand corner has been fired for just the right amount of time (this is a lot like Golidilocks, LOL). I did this by using only two layers, as I did in the pieces above. It's simply blue glass fired onto clear. That top layer is "uncapped," resulting in glass with a shiny, metallic finish.

The other blue piece in the lower right-hand corner, was made with three layers: clear, blue and green tie-dyed dichoic, clear. This glass was "capped," resulting in a thicker, rounder design where the dichro looks as if it's floating.

When it comes to techniques and layering glass, there are literally millions of things you can try! Veit demonstrated pendants made with five or six layers; she likes to use transparent glass so she can create interesting colored background and add depth to her designs. I've been trying to do more of this. I successfully fired a four-layer pendant the other day, but the colors were too dark and it came out looking a little murky. Still, it didn't fall apart or melt, so I at least know it can be done. I'm going to continue to practice and see what I come up with -- and if I make some beautiful creations along the way, even better.

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Silver wire wrapped and fused dichroic glass jewelry set with Swarovski crystals: glass necklace, pendant, earrings and bracelet

Summer is usually quiet for my jewelry business, with August being especially dead. This year has been crazy, though -- not that I'm complaining! I had my class yesterday, plus I've had a bunch of large orders. Also, August 22 marks the deadline for submitting work to my town's annual art festival.

I was accepted into the festival last year and in 2013, but I was rejected in 2014. There are many talented artists in Queens, so I can't just assume I'll make it in. That was what killed me two years ago: my hubris. I didn't submit my best photos and a blurry picture kept me out of the event. Many more people now know of the fair so there's a lot of competition. I need to step up my game.

A few weeks ago, I completed a custom order for a woman who contacted me on Etsy. She had me make her an abstract fused glass jewelry set containing a wire wrapped necklace, earrings and a bracelet:

I loved designing these pieces, but it was a lot of work -- and a bit stressful at times because the customer had specific colors and patterns she liked. We were both really pleased with the end result, though, and I decided to create a similar glass jewelry set:

I had a lot more freedom when it came to making this and based my patterns around this gorgeous butterfly glass. This was an impulse purchase I made when I was ordering red dichro for the other set. I saw the butterflies and just had to have them! Now I'm trying to get my money's worth and use this glass as much as I can.

I also really like that gold-fuchsia glass that looks pink from certain angles and yellow from others. It's an unusual color, but is so pretty.

The first set's pendant is on a black cord, but I wanted something with a bit more "oomph" for the festival. I added rainbow colored Swarovski crystal bicones to the chain for an extra burst of colors. The crystals repeat in the bracelet chain. I was going to make the earrings with posts, but ended up turning them into dangle earrings with yet more crystals.

I get to submit three photos for the festival, though last year I submitted four since one enamel piece had a different pattern on each side. I'm definitely including this set, which will also be a show piece if I get in. I'm thinking of including a photo of the first set, as well as a picture of a wire wrapped item. We're not required to share photos of pieces that will actually be in the fair; they just have to represent our product.

I'm really hoping to make it into the fair this year. I sold many items in the last two and I'm especially excited to show off my glass. Also, I've become very involved in the community over the last year by working in the two nearby senior homes, and I enjoy being a part of the local art scene. I've met some wonderful artists and musicians and like being involved. Perhaps if I'm rejected, I can volunteer and help out at the festival in another way.

Whatever happens, I'm proud of what I've accomplished as a burgeoning glass artist. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm happy with what I'm creating along the way.

Check out my handmade wire wrapped, fused dichroic glass and enamel jewellery at Naomi's Designs, Glass By Naomi and MayaGirl Creations.

Adventures in teaching jewelry making: making handmade beaded earrings and rings!

Yesterday was my second jewelry-making class for seniors. I think it went very well!

Last month, the four ladies who I worked with requested that I show them how to make rings and earrings. So I bought some French hook and clip-on earring backs and figured I'd teach them how to make a few different kinds. When I showed up to class, though, there were now 10 women waiting for me. Gulp... I mean great!

I wasn't expecting to have such a large turnout and I had to hustle. I passed around my giant bag of beads and let the students choose which ones they wanted for their project, while I quickly cut wire to make earrings. I'd learned the last time that most of the seniors lack the hand strength to cut and manipulate wire, so I have to help them with a few steps. Because there were so many people there, I had to literally run around to get to everyone. I actually worked up a sweat!

It was all good, though, because the ladies came away with some beautiful pieces:

A few of the ladies really "get" jewelry making and didn't need my help that often. Honestly, the beads I brought aren't that pretty; I'd ordered a 1000-piece bargain bag of plastic bits. But a couple of women managed to find the prettiest beads and put together some amazing color combinations.

Others needed more help. Since I'm working with seniors, their levels of functionality vary, and some need more assistance. I'm happy to work with them, though. The rec director told me afterward how their last jewelry teacher would get angry and impatient with the students. You HAVE to be patient when dealing with seniors, who might have memory or cognitive issues. I keep telling the ladies that the goal isn't perfection; it's to learn something and to have fun making things by hand. As I explained to one of the women, I'd have nothing to teach if they were already experts.

The hour flew by and I loved listening to the ladies chat while they worked. Part of forming a group like this is to foster friendships and I hope that if they don't enjoy making jewelry, they're at least enjoying the companionship. One woman was funny and kept joking around as we made the rings. She'd hold up her ring and announce, "Look, I'm engaged! Let's get married!" I told her that my husband would have something to say about that. She answered, "Well, if a guy really gives you a ring like this, then he's cheap." This lady is a riot! When I said I've taught children, but this was my class for adults, she said, "We're like children." I disagreed, noting that if they were kids, they'd be throwing the beads or sticking the beads up their noses. (Side note: I actually did stick a bead up my nose as a kid and had to be taken to the hospital).

Much as the women love beading, I'd like to make different jewelry projects that are a little out of the box. For next time, I'm planning to have them make scratch-art pendants. I now know to come prepared with ready-made materials, so I'll work on some pendant bases beforehand. Basically, I'll cover a sheet of oak tag with colored crayons and then add a layer of black. I'll then cut the oak tag into small shapes -- hearts, squares, etc. -- and punch a hole in the top of each one. In class, the ladies can use a bit of wire to scratch out a design and we'll then turn their creations into pendants. This is something I did as a kid, but it's so much fun! The rec director loves the idea, but agrees that most of the women won't have the strength to scribble down the thick layer of black crayon.

I think as time goes on, I'll even have them do some art projects other than jewelry. They haven't had an art instructor at the home for a while and many miss making things. It's a fun way to pass the time and it keeps them mentally and physically engaged. I've always loved making crafts, so I'll do some research and see what types of easy projects we can make. Right now, we're meeting every month, but the rec director is thinking of having me come every two weeks.

I really hope my students are getting something out of my classes. I'm certainly learning a lot from them!

You can see my work at Naomi's Designs, MayaGirl Creations and Glass By Naomi.