Friday, February 22, 2019

Garden Art Fish with Copper Framing

have been looking forward to showing you this copper-pipe yard display idea. My neighbor’s creativity impressed me — her’s look great — all that is missing is GLASS!
Not sure why I chose a fish to demonstrate with, but I like the colorful transparents surrounded by aqua blue. It reminds me of those bright windsocks and flags that were so popular a few seasons back.

I drilled my fish to accommodate some thin copper wire to hang it with. Before making it a permanent fixture I think I’ll add something to help stabilize it within the frame, to keep it from swinging too much in the wind. Probably another wire attachment between the tail and the mid-section crossbar. 

Copper Framing Closeup
The fish would also look great with a white base instead of clear. I chose clear because I originally imagined it spinning in the breeze, and didn't want it looking altogether different on each side. The white base would provide more reflection and color contrast when seen from a distance.

I hope you are as jazzed about the copper-pipe concept as I was. If you pause the video and look closely at the other examples I've included (my neighbor’s stuff and those from Natalia Philips) it’s easy to see how they are constructed. Besides “Tees” and “elbows” there's also a “45 degree elbow” used in the “roof” section of the outdoor tower-like structure. 

I hope you have fun with this and all in all, a fantastic spring-to-come!                                                                            Project PDF

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

“Hey, Glasshoppa! Where ‘Ya Been?”

Yes! it has been nearly a YEAR since the last post to this original Glasshoppa Blog and for that I will apologize to anyone who might have missed me. This little teaching enterprise has evolved quickly and I would like to explain how it differs from a year ago and what you might expect in the months ahead.
It's been very busy here at Glasshoppa Labs, NINE fusing project videos have been published in the last 11 months, completely overhauling the Glasshoppa website, and climbing to over 10,000 YouTube subscribers. 
The collection of Glasshoppa projects now contains nearly thirty videos, complete with patterns and firing schedules. They are catalogued on the first four pages of Many of those videos will play on-site and many others will guide the viewer to the Glasshoppa Patreon web page, where a small donation is asked for unlimited access. A simple and straightforward explanation of how that works can be found HERE:  Glasshoppa Support — How It Works.
We've been building the Glasshoppa Patreon Library steadily and will continue to do so in the months to come. When a new project is published, the accompanying blogpost is posted there, not here — thus the recent deficiency of local posts. That routine will be ongoing, and intermittent installments will continue here.

In case you've missed them, here are a few of the recently published projects:

Balloon Garden: A daring peek into the dark netherworld of unconventional fusing techniques ...

Cherry Blossom: This teensy Glasshoppa heart jumps for joy when the cherry trees start to bloom. A lesson in using layers to create visual depth.
Reaction Platter: Minimal effort, maximum IMPACT - a great beginner's project ...

Ikebana Vase: Ikebana and fused glass -- a perfectly harmonious relationship.

Fruit Spoon Rests: Counter Candy! One mold and THREE designs to dress up any kitchen counter top.

Look forward to some inspiring segments in the months to come. A recent survey identified nearly a dozen priority projects and techniques that Glasshoppa patrons would like to see, and we’re hard at work to address those desires!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Spirit Tablets - A Glasshoppa Patron Exclusive

It was never my intention to combine these two very different, but apparently compatible techniques into a single project, but the idea evolved of its own energy and well, here we are.

Fossil Vitra and Kiln Carving … both deep with design possibilities and both popular misnomers. I believe the former originated at Helios Glass (Austin, TX) and the name must derive from the ancient appearance that the technique tends to impart. And the latter? Another curious moniker from the creative minds at Bullseye. We could call them “Organic Burnoff” and “Fiber Forming” respectively, but that would just be rowing upstream, so again, here we are.
The Project PDF that accompanies the video includes two time-honored Chinese symbols that are simple to produce in fiber and should be appealing to buyers. Hundreds of others are easy to find online. It’s a little flimsy to use these characters cut from manila folder stock, the medium I’ve always used for making templates, and that led me find to a new and much superior material:  clear polypropylene sheet. It’s strong but flexible, cuts easily with scissors, will stand up to hundreds of uses and it’s cheap. I got mine at:

Tap Plastics  -- 20+ west coast stores and a fine website:

Don’t feel like these techniques have to be used in combination. They will each stand alone and usually do.  I’m sure we’ll employ them again in future Glasshoppa projects. Meanwhile, enjoy making and selling these venerable Spirit Tablets

Unlimited access to this and many more Patron-exclusive video tutorials is available for a small pledge of support: 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Trees & Wreath

There’s still time!!

Yes you can crank out fused glass holiday gifts with only 10 days to go ...

The first of these sparkling keepsakes may take you an hour, start to finish. Subsequent versions — and they'll all be delightfully different —will take half that.  And if you really want to speed things up, just nip up your scrap without the attention to detail that I demonstrate in the video, and place them without such meticulous fuss. 

In my experience, fused glass tree ornaments look great, until you hang them on a tree. Even well-lit, a holiday tree (mine, anyway) never seems to show glass well. So I prefer these projects backlit on stands (night light hardware works) or hung in a window. 

I hope you make a few and enjoy doing so, and if you give them to friends or family, be sure to drop by every year during the holidays to make sure they're out and prominently displayed!

’Tis the season … I wish you all a life of peace and love.                         Project PDF

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Sea Turtle Wall Art

In a yoga class, in an awkward position (downward facing duck, I think), I noticed this sea turtle design on the back of a fellow practitioner. A few days later my own glass facsimile was cooling in the kiln. To simulate the shell, I used Vanilla Cream opal coated with transparent Sea Green powder. The ensuing reaction was just enough to make it interesting, but I was never completely satisfied with the project on the whole.

So … things got considerably more elaborate. I went swimming with the sea turtles on Google — saw hundreds of them — and decided to use a technique I call “powder plowing” to create an organic looking pattern that could be repeated in each segment of the shell. By powdering each segment individually and low-firing them before project assembly, the “rolled edges” became a design feature that outlined each segment.
first effort

The appendages are formed with a “stepped volume” approach that contribute to their sculpted shape, and their embellishments are frit pieces, screened to two rough sizes and individually placed.

For hanging, I used the homemade offset mounting technique described in the “Hanging Glass on Walls” video. The end result is 11 x 13 inches in size and weighs 1 Lb 10 oz (28 x 33 cm, 740g).

This project is more involved than most of those featured on Glasshoppa’s Video Glass Projects, but it’s not difficult — just a few extra steps. The components are twenty-one cut pieces of glass, frits and powders, but it requires only two firings and no molds. My favorite part is the pattern itself; the subject matter is a trendy eco-conscious one, and turtle shells make a great canvas for all kinds of creative fill.

The Sea Turtle Wall Art project video is currently available to Glasshoppa patrons on the community’s Patreon web page. A $3 pledge of support earns access to this and many more video glass projects (complete with patterns and firing guides) that are available exclusively to program patrons. You can see their descriptions HERE, and learn more about Patreon HERE. Enjoy!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Revealing Images

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

Here, by “revealing” I’m referring to the use of negative space between glass pieces to create the focal imagery. It calls for simple designs and therefore simple construction, but adds a certain elegance to an image that might otherwise seem unimaginative. 

These are reflective pieces that use opaque glass and therefore call for an extra step -- creating a paper pattern. I use manila folder stock for this. With a light table I can trace from my printed pattern onto the folder stock, and the material is sturdy enough to draw around when transferring the images onto glass. Then the pattern pieces can be stored in an envelope and labeled for future use.

If you find yourself wondering why, in this video, the adjacent seams healed and disappeared so nicely in the “blue bamboo” example, but remained visible in the others, the answer is edge-roll (or edge scarring) in the variegated glasses. Review the “Upscale Switch Plates” video for a detailed explanation (Glasshoppa Video Directory).

I have used some unique materials for the framing -- the frames themselves and the double-sided adhesive strips used for mounting the glass. Details on both of those can be found on the Project PDF.

Have fun with these! Maybe you'll find yourself looking at pictures differently in the future, wondering if they could be rendered “from the outside in!”

Friday, July 14, 2017

Choosing Your First Kiln

Surprisingly, one of the questions I get asked most often is some version of this:  “I am shopping for my first kiln … What would you recommend?”

To answer that, I need to make a few assumptions. Since this is a first kiln and they're asking the Glasshoppa, I have to assume the question is coming from a relative beginner. But who knows what their fusing future might hold? In five years they could be a high-production glass artist or a highly-stressed parent with a barely-used kiln.  I also assume that if this beginner had some vision of where they wanted to go with glass they would be clearer on their needs in a kiln. That said, here is how I respond:

I recommend they start with a small (but not tiny) kiln that plugs into any household outlet and comes with a programmable controller. This class of kiln usually accommodates a thirteen to fifteen inch (33-38 cm) shelf and at least a twelve inch (30.5) square or circle of glass.  They are usually top-fired (heating elements in the lid only), with a chamber depth of around 6 inches (15cm), and they and max out at about 1700 degrees F (925 C)

Here is my reasoning:

1. The size accommodates a large majority of the projects most of us enjoy making.
2. There is no need for new wiring or circuitry or even a house call from the electrician. Just plug it in.
3. It is easy to relocate.
4. It is less expensive to purchase and to operate.
5. In the future, if interest wanes, this is probably the easiest class of kiln to resell.
6. If the fuser's needs “outgrow” this kiln, they will probably choose to keep it even after investing in a larger one.
In my experience, there is always a place for a small kiln. The larger the kiln the more costly it is to operate and the longer it takes to cool down after firing. Firings are not always full loads or large projects. For making components (pebbles, puddles, frit lace, etc.), for trying new ideas on a small scale, or for running “small loads” of anything, a small kiln is as handy in the studio as a microwave is in the kitchen. 

Other than the obvious, here’s what you sacrifice when you choose one of these small kilns:

1. Depth. Six inches is great for fusing and slumping almost every glass project you're likely to make. But certain designs and techniques require (or benefit from) greater vertical space: drapes over molds taller than about 4 inches (10 cm), pot or screen melts, and drop-slumps.
2. Multiple shelves. With heating elements only in the lid, stacking shelves to add capacity will result in uneven heating.
3. “Touchpad” controller. Most of these small kilns come equipped with 3-button controllers — that is, you have to scroll through the digits to reach your settings rather than just enter them. It’s an inconvenience, and frustrating when you're in a hurry or your mind is wandering, but that's all. Of course you can upgrade to a more full-featured controller, but that's a big expense.

Other considerations:

Digital controller:  You may be attracted to a kiln equipped with only an infinity switch (off-low-med-hi settings) because of the price, but believe me, you want the digital controller. This technology is arguably the tool that made fusing accessible to the common crafter like you and me. Without it you're a slave to your project. Don't get me wrong, it is perfectly possible to be a successful fuser with an infinity-switch equipped kiln, it just requires a lot more time and effort.
Lid construction:  a ceramic fiber lid is preferable to a brick one, though this feature is not commonly available in the smaller, less expensive kilns. Firebrick is very soft and heating elements expand and contract during firing. It is not unusual for bits of brick to loosen and fall from the kiln ceiling during firing, usually onto your work! Those of us with top-firing brick-lidded kilns are accustomed to using a shop-vac on the lid element channels periodically to keep it clean.
Element mounting: look for a kiln whose elements do not require steel pins to be held in place. 
Solid State relay: mechanical relays are usually the first thing to go. Choose solid state.

If you've watched many Glasshoppa videos, you know I use Skutt kilns. I am a critical consumer and when I find something excellent, I stick with it. I have also had very good experience with Paragon and Evenheat products.