Almost recovered from my most hectic spring schedule ever, and way behind in blogging.

I want to share my article published in Glass Craftsman Magazine, about organizing glass powder colors for those of you that missed it.  It’s my way of keeping powder colors organized and readily available for choosing which colors to work with in any given project.

Without further ado:

How to Make Powder Color Charts for Glass Fusing

I would like to introduce you to a method I’ve developed to organize all your powdered glass into easy-to-use fused bars of color that make up samples for each color “family”.  This method will give you color charts that are economical, quick-to-update and will give you a great amount of information in a small amount of space.  Having these useful Color Bars in your studio will make it easier for you to select which colors of powder to use and how much powder to apply in any future kilnformed project.

Color Bars made using transparent powders.

In my work, I use powders extensively and have developed this quick method that I call “Color Bars”, an at-a-glance method that has shortened  the amount of time I spend making up color samples for each of my fused glass projects.  I knew that the amount of powder I applied before fusing made a big difference in color saturation of the finished piece, and that the fired color could be different from the catalog image.  I needed an all-encompassing set of color samples that was economical as well as space-saving for my small studio.  I decided to make narrow one-inch-wide bands of color that would have all the colors I use in each color family on one bar.  You might choose to organize your bars in a slightly different way, depending upon the palette you use and the available space in your studio.

Color Bars made using opaque powders

What you’ll need:

-Powdered glass: all the colors in your collection of powders.  It is helpful to arrange them ahead of time in the order you’ll be applying the colors.  You will probably want to separate the transparent powders from the opals.

-Sheet glass: Fusible glass in clear,  white,  black, and if desired, French Vanilla (to test for color reactions that can happen in kiln work), all cut into 1” wide strips.

-Glass cutter and pliers

-Paper template marked into a grid of 1” squares that is as wide as your longest bar and as long as the number of color bars you want to make at one time.

-Respirator or disposable particulate respirator (N95)

-Line sifter

-Small enamel sifter

-Stabilo or Sharpie pen

Bullseye powders and tools for making the Color Bars

Organize your colors:

If you don’t have every color of glass powder available you can simply make your color bars with what you have on hand.  As your collection of powder grows you can update and expand your color bars.  Arrange all the colors in your powder collection from light to dark and separate them into color families.  This will show you how long you will need to make your strips of base glass for the sample bars.

You may find it helpful to make a paper mock-up of the color bars as a visual cue for where you want the individual colors to go before you don your respirator. Using the manufacturer’s catalog, simply select images of all the colors in your powder collection, then cut out the images and paste them in the correct order onto a strip of heavy paper that is cut to the length you will make that sample bar.  I use Bullseye Glass but you can do the same with glass from any manufacturer.

Paper mock up for planning Color Bars.

Tip:  I made color bars on top of white, black (opaque powders only), French Vanilla and clear sheet glass.  The clear base allows me to “audition” each color of powder over any color of sheet glass without having to make a sample of that particular combination.  The French Vanilla base gives me a good color reaction chart for each color.  Remember, transparent colors will show vividly on white, French Vanilla and clear base glass, but they will not show at all on black or dark colors.   For that reason I don’t use transparent powders on the black bases.

Tip: I combine color families to make a longer strip when necessary to keep my color bars as uniform in size as possible, and to avoid numerous small lengths that could potentially get lost on my work surface.

Preparing the base glass for a Full Fuse set of Color Bars

Cut your one-inch strips of sheet glass into lengths according to how many colors there are in each of your color “families”.

These color bars will be taken to a full fuse, so your sheet glass base must be two layers thick to avoid distortion of the shape.  Cut, clean, and glue all the strips of base colors in the lengths you have determined you will need.  To evenly distribute the powder in one-inch segments of color, place your glued two-layer glass bases on top of a one-inch grid, or mark off lines spaced one inch apart with a Stabilo® or Sharpie pen®.  Align each of the separate base colors for each color family, long sides touching so that you can sift one color of powder across all the base strips at one time. Sifting the powder over your aligned strips in this fashion is quick and gives you a more accurate layering of powder on each base.

Applying the powder to lined up and glued bases.

In order to give yourself as much information as possible in a one-inch space, it is important to use the powders in a variety of thicknesses on your base strips. Start by sifting as thin a line of powder (one pass) as you can across the widths of the set of strips using the line sifter.  At the opposite side of the one-inch section, again using the line sifter, sift a line as thick as possible, usually 1/8 inch high.  In between those two lines of sifted powder, using a small enamel sifter, distribute the powder creating a graduated application of powder (thicker on one end than on the other).  This graduation will give you a quick reference at how varying thicknesses of powder will appear when fired.  Be consistent in your applications, moving from thin to thick layers across all the colors.

Apply the powder in a wedge shape for color saturation gradations.

For the blue family, I made up two sets of bars.  One set for translucent colors had three bars – white, clear and French Vanilla; and one set for opaque colors had four bars – white, clear, French Vanilla, and black.

I cut my 1-inch strips eleven inches long for my translucent colors to accommodate the eleven different blues I currently have in that collection.  I arranged the turquoise blues separately from the other blues, and applied each of them from light to dark.  For the opal colors I only have seven blues in my collection, so my strips were cut into seven-inch lengths.


Tip:  To render a wider range of saturation within each color you can lengthen the color bars to allow a 2-inch long section for each color.  Note however, that this will double the total length of each color bar.

Continue making your color bars in the same way until you have made color bars representing all the colors of powdered glass you have in your collection. Carefully pick up each sample bar and put it on a freshly-washed kiln shelf with adequate space around each piece.  Load your kiln in your usual manner and fire according to your usual firing schedule for a full fuse.

Suggested Firing Schedule:

400°F per hour to 1100°F, hold for 20 minutes

400°F per hour to 1485°F (or the full fuse temperature of your kiln), hold for 10 minutes

AFAP (as fast as possible) to 900°F, hold for 60 minutes

100°F per hour to 700°F, turn the kiln off

Process Temperature Color Bars:

Process temperature color bars

A second set of color bars can be made to show you how process temperatures affect each color of powder.   For this set, apply the powder in the same style of graduated thicknesses as the Full Fuse sample set, using the same color placement.

You can use a single layer of clear glass for your base because we won’t be firing to a full fuse, therefore we have no volume control issues.

I cut 9 bars from my one-inch strips of clear in the length I need for the colors of powder I have.  After lining them up, long sides together on top of my gridded paper, I apply the powder in graduated thickness. Next I fire each strip at a different process temperature, holding for 10 minutes at each temperature; then anneal the glass as usual.  These tests tell me how the powder colors differ at each process temperature with the same holding time.  It can be painstakingly tedious to make and fire these sample bars, but I find it is well worth the effort.

Side view Process Temperature Color Bars.

Firing schedules are the same as the previously suggested schedule for each of these bars, but with a different process temperature for each. I made sample bars with the following nine process temperatures, and held each of them at that temperature for 10 minutes:

1250°F,   1275°F,   1300°F,   1325°F,   1350°F,   1375°F,   1400°F,   1425°F,   and 1450 °F

(note, in my photo I included 1225 as a process, but in my kiln that wasn’t hot enough for the glass to fuse.)

Why the Color Bars Work:

I used to fire each powder color onto two one-inch pieces of sheet glass and glue one to its jar while the other would ‘float’ around in my studio so I could “audition” it next to other colors.  When it was time to open a new jar of powder, I’d have to pry my color chip off the empty jar and re-glue the sample to the new jar.  My little one inch chips of ‘floating’ glass would become lost in my work area. These Color Bars are substantial enough that they don’t get lost and I can still audition colors next to each other.  I keep my color bars near my powdered glass (which is also arranged in color families) making it easier to select colors for any given project.

Edited by Judith Conway for Glass Craftsman Magazine, Issue # 216 – 4th quarter 2009

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80 colorful panels of glass swivel and sway in the skylight at the entrance of Henkle Middle School in White Salmon.   They were produced by three classes of 5th and 6th graders led by their art teacher, Betsy Petrick.  The project wouldn’t have been possible without funding from the Washington State Arts Commission and the Oregon Glass Guild.

I met with Mrs. Petrick in early February to discuss and plan the project, originally a glass mobile.  Safety issues and technical aspects overcome, and supplies purchased we began our journey the first Monday in March.

The students studied Jackson Pollock and Alexander Calder while I cut up sheets of Bullseye Glass.  Faye Malench produced hand pulled stringer for us; and I contacted Tom Herrera to get started on the support structure.

The students sketched their ideas after I introduced them to glass, the possibilities and parameters.  We addressed safety issues each day, then began…

Students waited their turn in line to select frit and stringer.  After the first session Mrs. Petrick and I realized we needed more help to dispense glass quicker and have more contact with students as they built their panels.

My friends, Charlene and Angela agreed to join the fun.

Students placed a clear panel of glass over their drawing, then bent high temp wire into an omega shape and glued it on the top center of their panel.  They either buried it with frit or placed a small piece of sheet glass over it so it would become embedded in the glass.

Students took limited amounts of frit and stringer back to their sketch, applied it then went back for more glass.  We used Thompson Klyr-fire to hold the frit and stringer in place during transport.

The extra help from Charlene & Angela freed Mrs. Petrick & me to better help the students.

The panels were transported to my studio kilns for firing.  A Paragon above and Skutt below.  Each student also made a small pendant to keep for themselves.

My three kilns were loaded and reloaded several times for 80 panels.

First group finished.  We used a process temperature of 1385º to retain texture.

Second group finished.  A few of the panels had to be re-fired as the wire wasn’t completely buried in frit.

Third group finished.  Thanks to Valerie Adams for leading me to Flex-Tec, an anti-shatter coating that I painted on all the panels after they were fired.  Thanks especially to Mark at His Glassworks for holding my hand during my learning curve.  Finally, fishing swivels were attached to the embedded wire so the panels would twist and we were ready to install.

Metal artist Tom Herrera designed and produced the metal supports.  Henkle’s Jim Mansfield drilled all the holes and clear-coated for us, then installed the supports within one day!

Mrs. Petrick and I each took two sides of the skylight and arranged panels so the colors would flow and the relative visual weight  of each panel would balance.

The ‘man-lifter’ felt much safer to use than the ladders!  As we installed each panel it was fun to hear all the positive comments as students and staff walked by.  “There’s mine!” each of the art students said as they spotted theirs, pointing it out to their friends.

We found a rhythm inserting the metal wires, twisting to secure and moving on to the next panel.

In less than two hours all panels were hung.

I went back the following morning to snip off the excess wire, completing the project.


More detail…

Good thing many of my photos were blurry or you’d be looking at even more detail shots!

As we finished Mrs. Petrick pondered the possibility of adding more rows of panels, moving up the skylight each year.  Wouldn’t that be fun!?!!

One of the best parts of a project like this, is watching the kids come to know and understand glass and it’s seemingly limitless possibilities.  You can see their enthusiasm for the media grow and their pride in ownership when we’ve completed the project.  Some kids are already interested, curious and willing to learn.  Other kids are afraid they’ll cut themselves, or display disinterest because they already think they have no artistic ability.  Some are tired because they haven’t had enough sleep or worried about an upcoming test and can’t concentrate on the task at hand.

With heartfelt joy I tell you by the end of  a project like this, there is a smile on every kid’s face, full of pride and authority from their newfound knowledge.  It’s that beaming smile I always remember beyond the project.

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March 12, 2010

Here it is, the final photos for the last few weeks of work and my two previous posts.  Tom Herrera’s fence installed at the Windy Flats Walkway and Viewpoint at Maryhill Museum, with my glass inserts.

Detail above and side view below.

Join us for the dedication March 20th at 4pm.  Maryhill Museum is on Hwy 14 just off Hwy 97, near Goldendale Washington in the Pacific Northwest.  I’ll be there, will you?

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March 7, 2010

At noon I was able to open the kiln door to find as perfect a set of glass panels as I could hope for.  They’ve been cleaned up and coated with FlexTec (an anti-shatter substance) which is curing for the next 6 hours.  Because we’re short on time, I’ll accelerate the normal 4 day curing time by placing them back into the kiln at 150º for 8 hours.

Above are the two 20″ panels with the sun hitting them so you can see the sparkly iridescent glass.  Below are the two 12.5″ panels with the iridescent glass sparkling.

And in the photos below, you see the same sets in the same order with the sun behind the glass so you can see how vibrant the colors are.

They’re so much better in person!  Hope you can join us at the dedication and see for yourself!!  The next photos of these panels will be installed at Maryhill Museum, where you’ll also see the the fence and patio.

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It’s been a whirlwind romance for this project, with a very short timeframe.  Tom Herrera is transforming a fence retrieved from Sam Hill‘s Seattle estate and installing it at Maryhill Museum’s new Windy Flats Walkway and Viewpoint.  He’s asked me to produce 4 glass inserts, for the ends and center of the fence.  So, with no time for research, I pulled earlier visits to Maryhill from my memory banks.  I always loved the Loie Fuller exhibits and made a quilt honoring her back in my fiber arts days.  I have also photographed and rendered the peacock population in pastels many times, trying to capture the lovely iridescence.  Tom’s only prerequisites….colorful and 1/2″ thick!

With those thoughts in my mind, I played with fine frit and powdered glass on sheet substrate to see which would yield a better result.  Above photo on the left is the powder test already fired and on the right is the frit test ready for its first firing.

The frit wasn’t as crisp as the powder, when stacked and fused into four layers, so I chose powder, the finished sample pictured above.

Above are the 20″ panels and below are the 12″ panels, stacked and almost ready to load into the kiln for the final firing.

I was so involved with the process that I didn’t remember to photograph all the steps along the way.  Cutting the glass, sifting the powder, then drawing lines through.

Two views of the 20″ panels, cleaned after the first firing and ready to stack & fuse together.

Below are the 12″ panels, after the first firing.

Side view of 20″ panels, topped with clear iridescent glass for a sparkly effect.

Loaded into the kiln, held in place with kiln furniture to prevent the glass from flowing when heated to process temperature.  That’s where the project is now.  And will be for another day.  Waiting with crossed fingers and toes hoping  it comes out as planned, that nothing goes wrong in the kiln.  The project is due out of the kiln on delivery day, so there’s no time for error.  Which is why I chose an excruciatingly long firing cycle, ramping up at 100 degrees per hour.

I’ll post the final outcome with sun glowing through the panels which is how you’ll see it at Maryhill.  Better yet, join us Saturday, March 20th for Maryhill Museum’s opening event.  The dedication of the new Windy Flats Walkway and Viewpoint will be at 4 p.m.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2010

Wishing you a day filled with fun, color, and love…..

My studio sale was the last show of the season for me and I thought I’d share some of the details with you.  Jean & Angela have helped me set up and run the sale for many years.  A couple of times I’ve been close to not having it due to time constraints but they’ve insisted and I’m always grateful afterwards.

My very first studio sale was small with everyone I knew invited, including my doctors, dentists, and those I did business with.  I invited another artist to bring and sell work which gave our customers a wider selection of artwork to purchase.

Eventually as I realized I had more work to display and less room for co-exhibitors I began having solo events.  There is only so much room in my little cabin in the woods, turned gallery for a day; and as you can see in the before & after shots, I have a lot of work to display.

Thankfully my friends are always willing and ready to help because I couldn’t pull it off without them.  They’ve helped me clean, clear out my personal collections and have moved books and furniture.  They’ve baked cookies and made hors d’ oeuvres for me.  They’ve washed windows, swept off my deck and even dusted off houseplants.  They’ve kept me sane when we were out of time and almost ready.

Angela and Jean have helped me for the last five years.  They insist.  They love unpacking my stored glass and arranging it throughout my house.  Before them I asked different friends for different types of help each year because I didn’t want to take advantage of them and I wanted each person to enjoy the task at hand.  Yes I DO have friends who enjoy cleaning, although I try to set aside time to do that part myself.

Angela and Jean are both fabulous with displays.  I try to not be so controlling as they are creative women who open my eyes to new possibilities.  Each year we start out together surveying the space and our available display tables, then after an overall plan is developed we each take a section to set up.  Over the years it’s become easier to simply let them set up their way.  I end up with a fresh new look for each sale.

Angela always does the flowers for me because she happens to be a great floral artist.

Jean is a fabulous administrator and keeps us on task.  Also an artist she is usually the one with vision for the overall set up.

When we have the main area almost complete, we shift our attention to my studio where experiments and seconds (not up to my perfectionist standards) get displayed.

I’ve stashed all my work equipment outdoors, or in cabinets and under my workbench.  I put up barriers so you won’t see the mess.

Usually the guest room, aka shipping/receiving and storage room gets our attention last.  It’s a small room with a lot of work to display.

This is the room with the closet that you don’t want to open.  I’m guessing you know what I’m talking about.

We put all the discontinued work in this room.  Some of my older series I’d love to get back to one day, but I have to admit to myself it might not happen.

When that room is ready we call it a day, get a good night’s sleep and come back to finish the following morning with fresh eyes.  We prepare the food and flowers, then throw open the doors to welcome our guests!

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