Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Adventures in making fused dichroic glass jewelry: my first glass demo!

It's been about 10 months since I began making glass pieces and this art has become my favorite out of all of the jewelry making techniques I practice. I got to share my knowledge -- limited as it is at this point -- with the seniors at the Homestead, a local residence near me.

In my last post, I wrote about how I'm going to be teaching a glass class early next year at Maple Grove Cemetery's cultural center. I want to get a few demos in before doing this, so I asked the Homestead's rec director if I could teach glass fusing at my monthly jewelry making class. She agreed and the seniors seemed to be excited with the idea.

Still, I was nervous. A few of the seniors have minor dementia and glass fusing involves well, glass, and fire. I didn't want anyone to get hurt. To prepare, I pre-cut all of the glass and filed the ends of each piece to blunt them. I also explained to the rec director that I needed to be the only one who operated the kiln.

I decided to have my students make mosaic pendants, which involved fusing colorful bits onto a black base. It's a fairly simple glass project, but the results are beautiful. They're also fun to make!

Before handing out the glass pieces, I explained what dichroic glass is and showed them the kiln and kiln paper. One of the ladies is 91, sharp as a tack, and has a wonderful sarcastic sense of humor. "That looks like something you'd heat Chinese dumplings in!" she said of the kiln. And when I showed her the kiln paper, "Well, now we know what we can use if we run out of toilet paper."

The rec director and I helped them arrange and glue the pieces and we then took a little field trip to the microwave, where I showed them how the glass is fired. This microwave was bigger than mine, so the piece fired in about two minutes -- and the women were impressed. They all "oohed" and "aahed" as I lifted the kiln's lid and presented the glowing, molten pendant. After, that same lady told me, "You know, at my age, I thought I've seen everything, but this is new to me. You can always learn something."

We finished up the lesson with everyone putting their glued pendants into labeled envelopes, so I could finish firing them at home. But the women wanted more! They've asked if I could do another lesson showing how I actually cut and shape the glass. They also loved the idea of working with pre-cut shapes, like hearts and stars.

I'm so happy and relieved that my class was a success! I really love working with these women and am pleased that they enjoyed glass fusion as much as I do. Now that I did this class, I feel more confident taking my lesson to other venues. I look forward to introducing more people to this art form.

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

Monday, October 3, 2016

Selling handmade jewelry: More weird tales from the craft fair, some interesting opportunities and working with precut glass shapes!

Last week was one of the busiest weeks I've had in a while. I had the art fair on Sunday, rehearsal on Monday and Wednesday, and then a combo vendor sale/concert at the Atria on Thursday. Whew! Happily, all went well and it's on to the next projects.

I didn't really make anything new for the Atria sale, figuring I'd just sell my leftover pieces from the art fair. I'm constantly making new items, so I always have a full inventory on hand. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that the seniors wanted less expensive jewelry. Most of my stuff is priced between $15-35, but many people asked if I had $5 items. Fortunately, I always bring wire with me so I can work on projects, so I churned out a bunch of cute wire pendants, selling 2 for $10. Those were popular and I made some sales! I also sold a few glass pieces, as well, but I know to have very inexpensive options for the next event.

I've mentioned my friend Judith on this blog before. She's my music partner, one of the biggest supporters of my jewelry venture and has also decided that she's my "agent." I'm very lucky to have met her and am so glad I called the Atria to see if they needed a flutist. Anyway, Judith hooked me up with two interesting jewelry gigs: I'm going to be doing another vendor sale at the senior home where she used to work and in April, I'm going to be selling my pieces at a four-day tarot card readers' convention.

Full disclosure: I know NOTHING about tarot. I've never seen a psychic or had a reading, or anything like that. I'm open-minded to learning, though, and the Readers Studio is a very popular event that has an artists' market and attracts hundreds of tarot practitioners from around the world. I can't guarantee that my jewelry will sell -- I never can be sure -- but I am certain I'll meet some interesting people!

To prepare for these craft fairs and now this tarot show, I've been trying to make some more commercial designs. When working with enamel, I sometimes use "blanks," which are pre-cut copper shapes. I like to draw and cut my own pieces when I can, but this saves time.

You can also get pre-cut glass shapes. Glass is a lot harder to cut into exact shapes like thin sheet metal, so I've ordered pre-cut hearts, butterflies, Stars Of David, Christmas Trees, etc. I'm still learning how to design my own glass cut-outs, but in the meantime, I can play with some ready-made objects. I've been using them as a base for these cool mosaic designs:

I have over six months to prepare for the tarot event, but I do want to make jewelry that fits the theme. I'm planning to get some more stars and other celestial shapes. I'm also playing around with decals, which you can fire right onto the glass. Eventually, I'd like to learn how to etch my own designs using etching cream. I haven't even been making glass for a year, so I have a lot to learn!

Another opportunity coming up is I'm going to be teaching a workshop at a historical cemetery near me called Maple Grove. They have a cultural center, where they have performances and offer workshops such as Victorian hat making. The woman in charge came to the Atria for a lecture and noticed Judith's glass necklace, which was one of my creations. She and I got in touch and I'm going to be giving a glass workshop sometime early next year. I want to make it fit into Victorian times, so I'm going to explain how decorative glass became popular during that era.

My jewelry is taking me on some unusual, but exciting paths. I'm eager to see where I go next! You can check out my collections at Naomi's Designs, MayaGirl Creations and Glass By Naomi.