Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pocket Rockets Exhibition

I am very excited about exhibiting twelve of my latest jewellery designs in the Pocket Rockets Exhibition.  Over 40 NZ artists, including Isla Osborne, Peter Viesnik and Lisa-Jane Hervey will be exhibiting paintings, jewellery, sculpture, glass art, textiles and a whole lot more!

Venue: ROCDA Gallery, 73 Princes Street, Dunedin
Opening: Monday 2nd August, 5:30pm - 8pm
Exhibition Open: Mon - Fri 11am - 6pm and Sat 11am - 3pm

See you there!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The New Zealand Jewellery Show Highlights!

Last Thursday, I attended the opening gala preview of the New Zealand Jewellery Show, held in the Sky Tower, Auckland. The show, now in its fifth year, is an exhibition of New Zealand jewellery designers' work showcasing top contemporary and fine jewellery designers from throughout the country. The doors opened at 8pm to a world of stunning contemporary and fine jewellery exhibits. It was great chatting with the artists whilst viewing their jewellery.  At 10pm it was all over and I had covered less than half the room! I returned the following morning to finish off perusing. There was such a variety of styles and materials, I felt inspired but overwhelmed by the time I left! I spent most of my time in the Contemporary Jewellery Designers section and I was so impressed by some of the work, I have noted below which pieces really stood out for me.

Sophie Lewis-Smith
Claudia Jaffe
Iain Henderson

Monique Connell
Marty Jestin

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Part 2: Setting Up My Glass Studio - The Elusive Kiln

Do I need a kiln?
I spent some time deliberating over whether I needed a kiln straight away, as it was another big outlay of my hard-earned cash and I was able to make beads just fine using vermiculite and a fibre blanket.
Or so I thought... I then learn't that if I wanted to sell my beads, they would definitely need to be annealed in a kiln. The next question I faced was, which kiln?

If so, which kiln?
My first consideration was cost and my second, space. You couldn't swing a big cat in my studio, so I wanted a compact kiln, that could sit next to my workbench.  After trawling through websites and chatting with manufacturers, I decided the Paragon SC2 was just the ticket.  It was compact, affordable and has a digital controller built in. The next decision was where to buy the kiln from. I contacted the Paragon USA factory and got a quote for shipping to New Zealand. I also contacted Cindy Durant, a Paragon distributor in Australia, who had come recommended. Cindy's quote for one Paragon SC2 kiln, shipped to New Zealand was the most competitive, so I ordered through her. The NZ customs charges came to $128NZD. The total cost of the kiln came to about $1200NZD.

It was an exciting way to start the day when I opened the front door and a massive parcel was sitting on the doorstep.  I felt like a small child opening a Christmas present! I was now the proud owner of a kiln! I quickly skipped through the manual, wanting to know how everything worked immediately! That is a trait I seem to have, I always want to run before I can walk!

How does it work?
I emailed Lisa-Jane at Bord to Bead for some advice on firing programmes, after all I had absolutely no idea what temperature soft glass fires at and at what rate it needs to cool etc...
Lisa-Jane suggested the following programme's;

Programme:  #1 - Soft Glass Bead Annealing (Hot Beads)

Segment 1
Ramp Rate: FULL (999°C/1799°F)
Temperature: 515°C / 959°F
Soak Time: 3.30 hours or session duration
Segment 2
Ramp Rate: 315°C /599°F
Temperature: 200°C / 392°F
Soak Time: 0 mins

Programme:  #2 - Soft Glass Bead Annealing (Cold Beads)

Segment 1
Ramp Rate: 330°C / 626°F
Temperature: 515°C / 959°F
Soak Time: 30 mins
Segment 2
Ramp Rate: 315°C /599°F
Temperature: 200°C / 392°F
Soak Time: 0 mins

I turned the kiln on with nervous excitement! I entered in programme 1 and pressed start.
The first thing I noticed was how quickly the kiln 'ramped up' to 515°C. It took about 5 minutes!! The second thing I noticed was the smell. It stank out my whole house with a gas-like smell. I thought I was going to have to put it outside permanently. Fortunately it was only this first time that it did this, so it now lives next to my workbench. The third thing I noticed was when it reached 515°C, it turned itself off! Not ideal. I tried restarting it, changing the programme around, re-reading the manual in a little more detail, changing sockets etc... This was a very disappointing start but another lesson was learn't - Don't plug your kiln into a shared socket! (If you have two sockets in the same fitting, only use one) It doesn't like sharing and simply turns itself off. So now the kiln has a socket all to itself and works perfectly.

Another tip, don't forget to order a kiln mandrel rack when you order the kiln. I forgot!  I couldn't wait, I wanted to start using the kiln right away so I used the fire brick holders as a make-shift rack. This worked fine but not as a long term solution as they did fall over quite often and limited the amount of mandrels I could fit in. I ordered my kiln mandrel rack from Annie Rose and it does the job properly.

At the end of my bead making session, I always want to have a quick peep at my beads! I have to stop myself though or else I may end up with more cracked beads. I have been taking my beads out of the kiln when they are around 50°C. I have been told this is fine BUT they should not be put in water straight away. They need to cool to room temperature first. This may seem obvious but in the  excitement it is tempting to take them off the mandrel and start cleaning. This advice has saved me a few beads I'm sure!

If you have any kiln tips you would like to share, I would be very interested in hearing them!

Part 3: Setting up an extraction system...coming soon!

Part 1: Setting Up My Glass Studio - Choosing A Torch

After six days of lampworking, I knew I wanted to set up my own studio (below) to make beads at my leisure and begin to sell them online, as well as incorporate them into my current jewellery designs. With my very limited experience and indeed knowledge, setting up my studio seemed a daunting task! Which torch should I buy? Which kiln? Should I use oxygen bottles or an Oxycon system? What kind of extraction fan? How will I know if the air I am extracting is being replaced sufficiently? etc... etc...

I did some research in books and online, reading forum posts and various articles but I was surprised at how much time it took me to feel confident I had gained a reasonable understanding of what was on offer. I guess this is because we all have different preferences and ultimately there is no right and wrong. Anyway, I am going to share what I have learn't in the process of setting up my studio, what equipment I have brought and what I would change in hindsight.  Hopefully this will be useful to those of you starting out, facing the same hurdles as I did.

Choosing a torch

I did some extensive research into which torch I was going to purchase. I talked with several experienced lampworkers and suppliers to get a better idea of the options available to me.
This is what I found...

Single-Fuel Torch
  • Smaller start-up investment
  • Cooler flame allowing slower work pace
  • Sarah Hornik uses one! 
  • Slow to melt glass
  • Noisy
  • Uses up fuel quickly

Dual-Fuel Torch 
  • Hotter flame
  • Glass melts quicker, so faster production times
  • Adjustable flame for glass reactions and fine detail work
  • Higher start-up investment and maintenance costs
  • More complex torch, steeper learning curve
  • Harder to transport and move around with
Which torch?

I brought the Nortel Minor Burner dual-fuel torch (£175) as I was impressed at how quickly it melted the glass and as i'm a speed freak, this appealed to me. I was also told it was a great torch for those starting out in. I am using an oxygen bottle set up in my studio, which I operate between  5 to 15 psi and the propane at .25 to 5 psi. Ultimately, I would like to run an oxy-con system as it is more economical in the longer run.