By Johnny Gordon, Feb 11 2013 10:49PM
I can't seem to design anything that's not either a bird or a tree. That used to bug me a little. I've gotten over it.
After the success through the holiday season with our carved glass snowflakes (thanks to all who picked one up. special thanks to those who picked up more than one!) I was reminded of a piece that I was commissioned to make by seven children for their parents 60th(!) wedding anniversary when one of the 24 grandchildren asked me to post a photo of the piece on The Facebook.
I had made the piece back in 2008- one of my first forays into painting on glass. The two Cardinals were representative of the parents and the nest with seven eggs symbolized their children (I offered to make one of the eggs cracked- every family has one...). It was an honor to get to make a piece that was such an important gift. On a personal level, it was one of the first drawings that I had made that I really liked. I had some ideas on busting the design back out one day (it helps in experimenting with techniques if you like the design you're practicing with). So (finally- get to the point), while doing the dishes and looking out the window to the backyard there was a cardinal perched on a snowy branch...I knew what I was supposed to do.
Sorry, Kentucky fans, I don't think that there are going to be any wildcats in the backyard to become inspired by. Ever.
The idea I had was to cut a design from different colors, top it with a thin piece of black glass and fuse it together into one solid piece. Then I could take a design and sandblast through the black glass to the colors underneath- creating almost a backwards coloring book image. (the idea sounds relatively simple, eh?)
Here's how it went down.
I placed two layers of clear glass as the base and then figured out the cut areas. There's a big 'ol piece of white glass that's missing in the picture above, but you get the idea. After this it's getting it ready for the kiln for the first firing.
Freshly out of the kiln. I tried to make this in less firings but it just didn't work out as well. It also became aparent that I needed this layer to be as flat as possible (mainly in the areas where the different pieces of glass meet). I found that getting it pretty darn hot (technical terms) in the kiln allowed for the next part to go a lot more smoothly. (not pictured- all the bloody times it didn't go smoothly).
I took a couple strips of black and red (I know it looks orange in the picture. It's a color that "strikes" in the kiln. Meaning, it turns to it's true color once it's heated to temperature (chemistry!). Also, it means it's expensive. but, only the best for you!) and laid them on their edge to act as the border on either side. Then I placed the black piece over the top and put 'em back in the kiln. (each of these firings take about 16 hours to cycle through).
Woot! smooth as...er,
Meanwhile, as the kiln does her thing, in a tiny dark room in The Basement lit only with a yellow bug light I'm prepping the design to burn into the vinyl for sandblasting. Which looks a little like this...
That light set up is designed to burn a drawing into the light sensitive red vinyl. Through a lot of trial and error Amy and I have come to learn the nuances of this. It's hardly as straightforward as you think it should be. My process in this case has been this- take the pencil drawing and copy it onto a piece of vellum with a thin sharpie. The black parts are the parts that are going to be sandblasted through to the color underneath (really easy to get that backwards for some reason). Since you have the design set on the light for 3 minutes the black parts NEED TO BE REALLY, REALLY BLACK. That only means that you need to take an opaque paint marker and go over everything (without messing up). Think you're done? Nope. Now flip the vellum and take your opaque pen and black in the other side. Oh, you should wait a little for the paint to dry. Notice that the paint marker likes to drip big blobs of paint when youre trying to be as delicate as possible? Yeah, I noticed that too. Carefully you can clean some stuff up with a pointy Q-tip (not for an ear canal) and some paint thinner. Once your design is done and everything is as black as it has to be- lay the vinyl down on the black mat, place the drawing over the top and wrap the black mat over the plexi tube and turn the timer on for three minutes.
In order to get the design to show itself you have to wash out the vinyl- it's all very similar to silkscreening. Get the water as hot as you can and with a high pressure nozzle, go to town. (While trying to ignore that it's January and bloody cold and you are wet).
So, now the fun part. Getting the design to line up where it needs to. I'm not going to get into it here but needless to say, it's important to get it right....
...and what I've found is that you never know until you're blasting it. Here's the piece finally ready to be blasted. I decided to add my logo and the year in the bottom corner because...well, because.
OK. Here is where the magic happens-
In the corner of The Basement- just past The Bathroom That Must Never Be Used- through a large sliding heavy metal door there is a cold, tiny room that leads to a much bigger room that has a barely functional flourescent light that flickers and buzzes.
This room is now just referred to as Dead Hooker Storage.
..or the sandblast room.
I actually filmed a minutes worth of video of me sandblasting one of the cardinals. It was quite possibly the most boring video ever made. I've decided to spare you. It's loud (but a good time to listen to the new Gordon Family Best of 2012 playlist! A three and a half hour journey of musical bliss! Click here to get yours!) and each one takes about a half hour to blast thoroughly.
Still not finished yet. I could have left the legs black I suppose, but since I wanted the glass to be all shiny I knew that I would have to firepolish everything. So, a bit of burnt orange glass powder gets (carefully) placed into the voids where the legs are and one last night in the kiln. And then.....
(not pictured is the wood cutting/sanding/staining/polying(?)/waxing/metal bending/assembling/leveling/cleaning).
Easy, right? Ready to make your own now? If you have questions feel free to ask, I can tell you what not to do. If you'd rather just let me stand down there and sandblast one for you head on over to the "Gifts" page (or click here to go to Etsy if that's easier) and get one- I'll make one for you. (because I care).
As always, thanks for reading! We've got some neat stuff coming up in the next few months.
By Johnny Gordon, Dec 10 2012 5:39PM
I finally finished putting the the final touches on the Peregrine Falcon piece.
er...namely, I put the falcon on- but not without fighting with it for a little bit to finally get it right.
By Johnny Gordon, Nov 26 2012 7:48PM
Welp, we lost the University job.
I've been trying to figure out the best way to write this post. The intention of this blog was to try to show how my little piece of life works. When I tell people that I'm a glass artist there's usually a bit of interest in how I came to do this and what I do on a daily basis.
You know, the "artist lifestyle". (ooooooohh)
By Johnny Gordon, Oct 17 2012 2:02PM
Here's a little interview done by our local cable station a couple of years ago. Basically, I talk and talk and talk and talk....
I get a little, er, uptight when doing these things. They're awesome- don't get me wrong- but when there's a camera in your face and these lamps that just feel like there's a bunch of heat bouncing off of you...ugh. Then there's that incredible feeling that you sound like a moron. (I'm 38 years old and still can't believe that's what I sound like when I hear a recording of my voice.)
Things I've learned from doing a couple of TV spots.
- Don't talk so darned fast. My Mom has been yelling at me for that since I was a kid. ("You're always talking on 78! Slow down! I Can't understand a thing you're saying!)
- Don't try to pronounce the names of artists that you've never heard before. I brought up the fact that I am a big fan of Alphonse Mucha's work. I realized right after I said it that I am not sure if his name is pronounced Moo-cha or Moo-ka. Quite honestly, I'm still not sure.
- No, really. Relax.
- Don't drink too much coffee before the interview. (it ruins all the aforementioned points. Even the artist name thing).
- Smile. (but not too much. It's creepy)
Hope you enjoy it. It's a fun story to tell.
Oh, and here is the installed photo of the Peacock window. This was my first foray into painting and silverstaining and enameling. I've learned a lot since then...
By Johnny Gordon, Oct 2 2012 6:46PM
I've been consciously working on my ability to take criticism. I'm not that good at it.
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