Thursday, April 7, 2011

Practice, practice, practice!!

A local organization approached me about making a piece of jewelry for their silent auction fundraiser later this month.  I was flattered and honored to be asked to make a contribution.  This is the first time since I started working in glass that someone actually requested my work!

This piece was a struggle and it took me a lot longer than it should have to make it.  First, I had these really cool green pearls and turquoise-like stones I wanted to use but every glass I tried didn't seem to be a good match.  I finally settled on an Italian pale green glass that I had bought to make cabinet knobs (I have a ton of the stuff).

The next problem was shock.....  glass shock.  I've been away from the torch too long and lost my rhythm so when I'd go to shaping handles, the lower part of the vessel would crack from thermal shock.  (Working with glass is a balancing act - you have to keep the heat uniform throughout your work, especially on bigger pieces.  When a section of glass cools too quickly you end up with a nasty crack through your beautiful work.)  After several attempts and a lot of wasted glass I finally had a complete, stress-free vessel.

The final problem is something I've been working to solve since I decided to make my own glass stoppers instead of using corks.  The little glass stoppers have been falling out too easily.  I've tried etching the part of the stopper that goes into the vessel, and that worked a little bit, but it was not a great solution.  On the last vessel I made I put rubber cement around the stopper where it comes in contact with the vessel because a lot of glass artists had suggested that solution.  This is not an attractive solution and the cement will eventually wear off so I wasn't happy with that solution, either.

Last night I got to playing on the torch and made a really long stopper, one that reaches almost to the bottom of the vessel.  When the vessel and stopper came out of the kiln I realized I had solved my problem.... with simple gravity.  The weight of the longer stopper is enough to keep it from falling out of the vessel!  I should have figured that out before!!

Lessons learned: 
  1. Don't sweat the small stuff.  You can drive yourself crazy looking for minutia, like the EXACT color match and you're probably the only person who notices the slight imperfections.
  2. If you really want to be good at what you do: Practice, practice, practice.  It doesn't matter how may vessels (or balloon animals) you make over a life time, you loose ground when you spend a substantial amout of time away from the torch.  Skills do get rusty!
  3. Have fun and play with your art!  If it becomes a chore or a quest for perfection it ceases to be fun.  Besides, when you take time to goof off and try something new and different, you might accidentally stumble onto the solution to a problem that's really been bugging you!
God bless,