Before Christmas I made several blown glass ornaments. On one of them I ‘drew’ a poinsettia on a blown ornament and it didn’t crack while I made it or break from thermal shock in the kiln. I was elated. This success gave me so many ideas that I wanted to try and one of these ideas I actually dreamed about the other night.
Yesterday I was able to torch for the first time in weeks. The day was cool and the studio was about 55 degrees, a perfect starting temperature since the torch and kiln will raise the temperature in the studio by at least 10 degrees during the course of working at the torch. I knew I was almost out of oxygen so I knew that once I ran out of oxygen I might not have another chance for a while. So I got busy. I had to dip my hollow mandrels and get them ready, and I had to wait for the kiln to warm up enough for what I would feed into it so I made a red, white and green twistie to pass the time.
In my mind the ornament would have a clear base with grapes and vines decorating the top. I didn’t have any dark purple cane pulled so I created one with periwinkle as the base and dark amethyst transparent encasement, pulled out to about a 2 mm thickness. I cleaned a rod of clear glass and got ready to make the ornament.
Heating a freshly dipped hollow mandrel will sometimes cause the bead release to pop, so I carefully introduced the mandrel to the back of the flame and wafted it there for a few seconds. When I could see that there were no pops or cracks in the bead release I brought it forward in the flame and started heating the mandrel and also the clear glass rod. When the clear glass was liquid I applied it to the very end of the mandrel, and then marvered the glass to press it onto the mandrel and give a better neck to the ornament; and then I began to wind on the glass to form the hollow blob of glass that would be blown out later. As I wound the glass on, I brought it out until it was about double the diameter of the neck and then I wound it back down so that it had a roughly sphere shape to begin with.
Next I heated the glass until it was glowing and puffed a small amount of air into the ornament to expand it very slightly. This is to help center the bubble inside the ornament so it is a better final shape. Then I added another wrap of clear glass so that the glass is thicker and will make a sturdier ornament.
Now that the glass was thicker it was time to blow it out to make the ornament shape. I heated the glass until it had a uniform orange glow, and then I raised the blob straight up over my head and begin to blow through the hollow mandrel. Understand that when I say blow I really mean just little puffs of air, not like I’m blowing out birthday candles but more like saying “puh puh puh”. Watching the ornament grow with the air that I’m puffing into it I am aware that the ornament needs to be centered by turning the mandrel and also by lowering it to a horizontal orientation so that the heat of the glass will cause it to droop floor-ward but turning the mandrel keeps the ornament centered by using gravity and turning to offset each other and give a good shape to the ornament.
The base of the ornament was made and I really liked the shape of it. It was centered and a nice round shape. Now to decorate!
I used the purple cane I had pulled earlier to make dots in a grape-cluster shape in three places on the shoulder of the ornament. I didn’t concentrate on finishing one cluster before moving on to the next, but put two or three dots on one spot and then moved on to the next, continually turning the ornament and wafting the whole thing in and out of the flame to keep the whole thing warm. Putting the grapes on was definitely a stressful thing to do, and then I needed to put on vines and leaves! I found a piece of yellow-green cane and spiraled it on the shoulder of the ornament just above the grape clusters, making small loops that would suggest the tendrils of a grape vine. Next came leaves that I made using some vine cane that was on the bench. I added two or three leaves to the top of each grape cluster and then a few on the vines. I felt that it still needed something so I found a piece of goldstone cane and used it to suggest a stem on each of the grape clusters.
WOW! The ornament was complete. I couldn’t believe that I had put the decorations on the ornament without it cracking or the bead release breaking. I looked at it and decided to blow it out a bit, so I heated the ornament and puffed a couple of times into it. That made the clear glass at the bottom grow down instead of out, making it more of an oval shape. I knew that it was a good shape and I was afraid to take the time to check for any gaps or misshaped grapes, so I put it in the kiln.
Then I took a deep breath!
The annealing process takes several hours and when I checked on the goodies in my kiln during my nightly dog-walk, the temperature was still 125 degrees. I pulled each item out and looked at it, but didn’t keep them out long, and I returned them to the kiln to cool completely. At this first look the ornament seems to be okay, but the only way to tell is to check on it the following morning when it is completely cool. This morning I removed the ornaments and other beads I had made from the kiln and examined them closely. Unfortunately the grape cluster ornament has a very small crack under one of the vines but it is hardly visible. Overall it is in good shape. I won’t ever sell or give this ornament away, since it was my first grape cluster ornament, so it is definitely worth keeping.
Let me know what you think!
My first grape cluster ornament!