My Glass Hobby

I learned how to make stained glass windows using copper foil (the Tiffany method) back in the 90’s when my daughter gave me a class as a present.  I loved it and have since spent much time and money working the glass.  I also learned how to do leading at the same time but was much happier doing copper foil.  When we moved to Houston from California, I set up a workshop in my garage, had a small business, took some commissions and enjoyed it very much.
Subsequently though, we moved to Singapore and then Korea and then lived in various places while my husband worked rotation in Angola and Nigeria.  I didn’t lose my enjoyment of making window panels and other such stuff with my glass but it was all popped into storage and set aside for a good number of years.  .
When we were informed that we were going to live in England for awhile, I determined that I could get my stuff out of storage and take it with me and start up my hobby again

florida sunset before fusing

florida sunset before fusing

.  This was gonna be great and exciting and I could hardly wait, I thought.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten a lot of what I had learned so my glass and tools sat in the garage of our rental house for well over a year.  Our garage was underneath a deck and was just dark and dank.  Not exactly a place for the wonderment of having light and glass and colors and such.
Finally, some progress though.  I found a place to go learn stained glass again and also learn how to fuse glass.  OMG.  Do I so love that.  I have discovered that in the intervening years between my Houston studio and small business, my osteoarthritis has made it much more difficult to cut glass and shape it into the small pieces I used to love to do with copper foiling.  So I am leaning towards loving making leaded pieces now and fusing.  Fusing uses powders and frits and glass and all kinds of possibilities.
Over the years, my tools and my lead came that had been in storage for years suffered from the neglect.  Traditionally, you get the lead came and you stretch it (I say traditionally because there is a lot of debate on line now as to whether it needs to be stretched or not).  Stretching it puts some rigidity into it and helps keep it in line with where you put it.  The lead I had in storage was so rigid, I couldn’t move it into place at all and finally took it to a metal recycler and just got new lead.  So I need to stretch it some



.  I have a little shed that I have put up for my work.  I have a lead vise on a small bookcase and can put the lead into it, pull on the other end, and get some stretch.  Unfortunately, the bookcase isn’t very heavy and you do have to put quite a bit of umph into the pulling.  So I have to stand on one foot, brace the other foot against the bookcase to keep it from moving, and pull hard to get a stretch in my lead.  There’s a line between pulling the lead too hard and having the bit break off in your pliers and you go flying backwards, and just pulling enough to get any kinks out and give it some rigidity but still pliable enough to shape.  Still working on finding the fine balance.
Also, when you lead, you really need a solid steady surface to place your pieces, put your lead on, push them together, fit them together, get it all in good shape before you solder it all.  I don’t have that.  My table is an old craft table that wobbles.  So when I am leading, everything shakes, I do a lot of un-doing, re-doing, un-doing again to get it tighter and so forth.  So while I like leading a lot now, sometimes it just is too frustrating to finish a piece.  AND I am having so much fun doing fusing.
My glass guru is a wonderful artist who studied for years, has worked in the industry for years and has her glass windows all over England in wonderful places like the Tower of London and such

fused glass meadow

fused glass meadow

.  Not a hobby for her but her livelihood and passion.  Thank goodness she does love to teach and I take every class I can get from her.  Fusing is great.  You pile up your glass in a pattern of some sort (having a pattern does help), which might involve cutting some glass, might involve a lot of frits (glass gravel) and such.  Then it is cooked in a kiln.  You come back later and voila, you have a wonderful piece of fused glass for your window or whatever.   I was so fortunate to become a good friend of my guru as well and when she bought a new kiln, she loaned me her old one to use and practice my skills.
Of course, I promptly broke the dang thing!  how absurd is that.  But I managed to fix it so that it still works (and I do promise to get it fixed professionally before I return it).  And now I’m happily fusing away whenever I can manage to find time to get enough things ready to pop into the kiln and set it going.  I think our electric bill has climbed a bit because of it.
This past year, my family presented me with a gift certificate to learn how to blow glass as well.  My husband and I found a groupon for a one day class and we went and made paperweights.  Then I got the gift cert and had a day blowing glass at a studio in Cranleigh.  That was marvellous as well.  I’m not very good at the blowing bit though.  My instructor just gives a puff and his glass has a nice bubble and shape.  I blowing for all I’m worth as hard as I can to get the same little bubble.
Think that my love is fusing though.  It is the easiest for hands and eyes.  So I am experimenting a lot.  Don’t have it all sussed out quite yet.  Sometimes my colors come out wonky and sometimes my shapes don’t do what I expected but I’m learning and it’s great.


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