Saturday, 17 April 2021

My finished Uni Cosmos / Universe piece

  I have finally finished my Cosmos / Universe piece.  I am calling this piece 'My Universe'.  It is made from glass, both cold and hot worked.

I think it worked out how I originally planned it.  My idea was to take a 'core' sample of the universe, how I depict it, and create a glass mobile to represent this small sample .

My rough sketch looked like this.  

And this photo was always in my mind as a guide to what I wanted to show.  A sample digging down into the earth from deep space.

I made five different layers, each representing something that I felt was there, but perhaps we could not always see.

Deep Space

My first layer was to represent Deep Space.  I would have liked to have used black glass, but unfortunately didn't have immediate access to any, so dark amber it had to be.  I deliberately designed it to have the open weave kind of effect rather than being a solid slab, because I wanted to show that there was more to consider even outside of what we know about the Universe and Space.  This layer was created cold in the kiln, then the kiln is turned on allowing the rods to fuse together within a large metal ring that measures 40cm in diameter.  


The next layer I wanted to depict was Nebula.  The colours of Nebulas fascinate me and are actually quite easy to translate into glass beads, due to all the beautiful coloured frits (broken glass) and enamels you can buy.   

Using a hot torch and some glass rods I made a lot of coloured beads, mainly in blues and pinks and purples because I felt these colours worked well between the (supposedly black) top layer and the next layer which wasn't going to have any colour at all. I didn't plan any particular effect of finished bead, I just picked up whichever glass I fancied working with, and poked it, swirled it, allowing the colours to implode which in turn allowed the bead to design itself.  Almost like I didn't want any control over the final outcome, I wanted it to be as chaotic and self-forming as it could be... with only a little help from me.


The next layer I have called 'memories'. It depicts the fact that if you have lived in this universe then you never actually leave.  I have used the cremation ashes of a friends dog encased within clear glass. I would have liked to have used the ashes of a loved one, but I don't have any, plus I thought that some people might cope better viewing the piece knowing it didn't contain an actual person.

These 'memory' beads are made in quite a uniformed manner. It has to be a controlled make to ensure that all of the ash is well encased within the glass, otherwise the beads can have sharp little pieces sticking out.  When a loved one died we are taught to look up to the sky and assign them a star, so I wanted this layer to be hovering above the earth in plain sight.  These beads, like the Nebula beads, are made on a hot torch using rods of glass.


I felt that if I was doing a core section of the universe then I needed to include a planet, and the planet that I thought that would be recognisable by colours would, of course, be Earth.

So I started this off the same way by doing a 40cm mish mash of glass rods in a steel ring in the kiln.  Once fused down after one firing of the kiln, the piece then had to go back in to be slumped into the shape I wanted.   I re-fired the piece on a slumping schedule to allow it to drape over an upside down ceramic bowl.  I would have preferred a shallower bowl if I could have, but having limited supplies at home I was quite pleased with the shape I actually got.


The final layer I chose to do was to depict lava droplets within the Earth.  So I made small orange beads for this and hung them under the Earth's 'crust'.

I am pleased with the final outcome, there are a few things I would have done differently, as I have mentioned, had I have had the materials or tools, but on the whole I am pretty pleased with it.

I expect that a small explanation of the final piece might help people understand what I am trying to say, although it could be perceived in whatever way that people imagine their own universe to be perhaps.

The piece measures about 40cm across by 60 cm long.  All the layers are held together with nylon fishing wire, and it is currently now hanging from my shed roof.   :)

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Mini embroidered cushions


Every craft space needs some cushions.  Cushions equal comfort. If people are comfortable and cosy then they will relax and craft easier. 

So, it was time to make some mini cushions for my mini shed.

I started by taking some calico fabric and hand-drawing some shapes for flowers and leaves. When I say ‘shapes’, it is a lot easier than that, simply a couple of circles and a kind of leafy shape effort.  Luckily, for me, you don’t need to be an artist to do this bit  😊

Once the rough outlines were drawn, (using a heat sensitive pen that would disappear when ironed) I started to fill in the shapes with thread.

Then I ironed away all the ink marks to be left with a cute little flower image.

Then I had to cut out some backs for the cushions  - I measured these to the scale of 1:6 that I am using.

… and sewed them together using the sewing machine, before stuffing them and hand sewing them closed.

Two nice little plump embroidered cushions.   These took around an hour and a half each to make, so time spent on this project so far is now 48 hours.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Playing with Gourds

 Recently I have been messing about with Gourds.

One of my uni projects was to embark on something I had not done before, and although I had fancied working with gourds, I had never actually got round to doing anything with the ones that I had ordered on a whim.  So now it was time.

I did a little research and found painted gourds, drilled gourds, carved gourds.  gourd lamps, gourd instruments, gourd bowls.... so many gourd ideas!    So I thought I would try out a few before choosing which technique I liked best to use on my final uni project.

Before starting the gourds have to be cleaned, if you want to have a go at this yourself, do do some research into how to clean your gourds.

The first gourd I carved a hole in the bottom for a light source, then drilled, with many different sized holes.   I learnt a lot drilling this gourd.  I learnt that you needed to have a little hole for the drill to grip into to start otherwise it would bounce all over the place drilling random gorges in the gourds surface.  I also learnt that if you do not apply enough pressure to the drill it will move about and make a bigger, messier hole!  Another lesson was not to apply too much pressure as once the hole was done, the drill would slip forward and mark the surface of the gourd.   So many learning curves   :)

But I was quite pleased with the final outcome, I can position some of the messier holes at the back and no one would ever know   :)  

For a light source I bought these little push-lamps, they work really well with the gourd just sitting on top of one.   But you can also heighten it by placing it on top of an upside down glass, or bean tin, inside the gourd to make the light hit more holes.

The next technique I tried was pyrography.  I researched some more traditional gourd carving designs and tried to apply them to a small practise gourd.

For this project I decided to make a small bowl, so I sawed the top of a gourd and cleaned it out, ready to start,

After sectioning areas off to work in, I started applying some heat via the pyrography iron - it has some patterned tips which I used to create the designs.

This was fun, but quite smelly and smoky, and I had to wait a long time inbetween patterns for the iron to cool down enough to enable me to change the tip.

I think maybe to finish this off it needs a coat of some wood oil or something, it looks a little raw.

When I explored painting these gourds I considered acrylics, which I think would work really well, but I am not an artist and I prefer just to move colour about in a random way, so after a little research I decided to order some alcohol inks and a bottle of 99% alcohol to help spread the ink about.

I could just blob this ink onto the gourd, then add the alcohol to move it about and make pretty patterns.  The one above was a small gourd, but I liked the effect so much that I decided to have a go on a larger gourd.

I was really pleased with how this turned out... but this is the back of the gourd, the front had a crack right in the centre. I was keeping it just to do some practise on, but now I really liked it and wanted to make it into something beautiful.
So  I sawed off the top, and sawed around the crack.

I then cut some holes up the sides of the hole to create eyelets.   After sanding the opening and the top, I painted them gold, along with the drilled holes.  

Then I laced it up with some gold ribbon.    No idea, how useful this piece could be, but it certainly looks pretty now   :)

Now I have to decide which of these techniques I am going to use for my final piece.... any suggestions?

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Felting my shed roof.

I have been pondering over what to do about the roof on my mini shed.  I really wanted it to look like a shed roof, but roofing felt was a bit thick and expensive as you can’t seem to purchase it in small amounts.

It was then my son, who is a skateboarder, suggested I used the grip tape that skateboarders use on their boards. I didn’t even know there was such a thing, so he pointed me to a website where I bought four strips.

The lovely thing about this stuff was that is was also self-adhesive, so really easy to put on…  just removed the backing and smooth down. 

‘Smooth down’ might sound easier than it was – the tape it by no means smooth, it’s like a rough sandpaper, so smoothing it down was a bit hard on the hands, but I found if I used the backing tape inbetween my hands and the grip tape I could do it without much trauma to my hands.

But all in all it was relatively easy to do, I tucked the edges underneath the roof and stuck them down.

All done… but the seams seemed to be lifting a little.  I guess that this tape is not designed to overlap.  I decided I would pop a bit of hot glue on in the morning, but by the time the morning had been and gone and the sun had come through the conservatory window and heated up the tape, it seemed to stick itself down  😊 

So, all in all I was quite pleased with that result.  It actually looks like a proper shed roof now.

It took me about an hour to do this part, so in total that makes 45 hours work so far.


Friday, 26 February 2021

My sustainability project.

  I have finished my uni piece for my 'Sustainability' assignment.

Due to the fact the working with glass isn't one of the most sustainable art forms, I decided to create a piece that might draw attention to the plight of the planet instead.  

I also decided that I would not purchase anything to create this piece, but concentrated on working with things I already had.

In my head I wanted to make a clock, to draw attention to the fact that we have limited time left to help the planet.

I had a box of mini wine bottles that I scrubbed and dried, then popped in the kiln to melt down flat.

My kiln is quite an energy efficient one, as it's not soo big, but I did need to do a couple of firings to complete my piece.

Once they were flat I messed about for a bit trying to decide on a formation. Ideally I would have liked to use all twelve bottles, but this was going to make the clock too heavy to hang.  In the end I decided on a formation of eight bottles, leaving some to use in another project at a later date.

I cut the numbers out of old copper sheet that I had rescued from a fire pit.

Once that was all nicely fused I was just going to fit a clock part, when I came across a clock kit in my stash that had an interesting wooden ring. Immediately I thought this would be excellent as a 'warning' ring if painted red.  Warning road signs are usually red rings.  

Because there was also another piece of round wood in the kit, I could sandwich the glass in-between the pieces with glass glue and bolts - therefore making it a much sturdier piece to hang on the wall.

As I now had a red warning ring I felt like I needed a warning statement to go on it.  My daughter helped me out with that - I wanted both the words 'Time' and 'Waste' within it.  She she wrote... "Don't call time on the Earth, reuse, don't waste". That worked really well so I wrote it on.

I was VERY unhappy with this as my handwriting is appallingly bad.  So it was back to the drawing board for that.

After a quick repaint, I dug out my vinyl cutting machine and I had some scraps of black vinyl left that had come from my old shop many years ago.  I cut out the words by machine this time and it looked so much better.  Using the vinyl was something I wanted to avoid if possible, due to it being plastic.  If it wasn't lockdown and I could have found someone with nice handwriting I would have definitely done it that way instead.

Now it was time to put it all together and add the clock mechanism.

And my piece was finished.  And it holds it's own weight well on the wall... and you can tell the time so it's functional too, as well as being a conversation starter,

I have enjoyed this project. I particularly like working with materials that might have otherwise gone in the bin.  Giving something a repurpose is something I try to do in other aspects of my life, like adapting clothing and sprucing up furniture.  So this assignment was right up my street.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

A little stumble....

 Today I had a meltdown, like a six year old might, when my project didn't end up looking how I wanted it to look!

The day started well with me managing to scrounge some nuts and bolts off my Husbands friend - I am trying very hard not to purchase a single thing towards the making of this clock, so if I don't personally have what I need I will ask other people if they have it.  If they don't I will have to rethink my plan.

I then had to mark off where to drill on my ring, and the piece that would sit underneath, and find a drill bit large enough to accommodate the bolt.  My first attempt at drilling a hole wasn't massively successful as the wood all chipped badly on the back.

So I gripped it to the underneath piece and decided to drill them together.  This didn't work well either as the wood then just chipped under the second bit.

So I then drilled right through both and into a scrap piece of wood.  This worked!

If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.... as they say.

I didn't want the bolts to be black, so I drilled a load of holes in a scrap of wood to stand them up in while I spray painted them.  I also painted the two pieces of wood as the same time to hide all the chipped holes.

Once the paint was dry it was time to work on the wording.

My daughter had come up with a nice slogan that I thought would work well.  I wanted the word 'Time' in it, and also the word 'Waste'.

"Don't call time on the earth, reused, don't waste"

I liked this so I then proceeded to write it on the ring, in-between the screw holes.

And this is where my meltdown began..... why I even attempted it in the first place is beyond me, I know my handwriting is complete scrawl.

I type, I have no need to write.  Maybe that's a skill I should work on for the future.

The worst bit was, I didn't actually have my meltdown at this point, where it would have been much easier to rectify... no, I waited until I had glued all the wood into place on the glass bottles and screwed all the bolts tightly into place too.  THEN I decided to have my tantrum.

I decided to pour myself a rather large glass of wine and put it all away to deal with another day.