There are clues, if you can find them. And there are things to be found, if you can puzzle through the clues. And there are three Nokia phones to be won if you do well.
So I went down to Kate's last weekend to play with glass and her kiln. it was nice to get out of London for a while, and even nicer to switch off and spend time making physical things.
My first attempt – a large bowl – failed horribly. Making it is a two step process. First you decorate the glass sheet with coloured bits of glass, fusing the two together; then you place it over a mould and, in a second firing, the glass melts, or slumps, to take the shape of that mould.
When you put stuff in a kiln, you have to coat the shelves with stuff called kiln wash to make sure your glass doesn't stick. Unfortunately, we think the kiln wash hadn't dried properly, so when we were fusing some moisture vaporised underneath the glass and caused huge bubbles. We then tried to slump the glass into the mould, in the hope that the bubbles would just slump out, but that didn't happen because it didn't get hot enough. The resulting bowl looked cool, but was too fragile to use.
We then played with making some coasters. The designed worked ok, but I think that they were too knobbly to actually put a cup on. Just before I left we tried a different tactic to try and even things out, but I didn't get to see if it worked. I also tried fusing two sheets of glass together, with frit, stringers and noodles (i.e. coloured crushed glass and glass powder; long thing straws of glass; and long flat strips of glass) inbetween. Didn't really get to see how they came out either. I'm sure Kate will Flickr photos as and when.
What did work, though, was a small bowl. I placed triangles of red glass on to a clear sheet, and fused them together. Then we slumped that into a small round mould, and the resulting bowl came out pretty well. Slightly wobbly, but lovely.
I laid out three more in a similar style for Kate to fuse and slump at her leisure. I really like the idea of making something that she can sell at one of her markets. We also did some jewellery, which comes out really very well. Very simple stuff, but fun to make, and I'm sure it will sell well.
It's so nice to be able to come away with a real, solid thing and say 'I made this!'. I don't get that normally. I don't get to walk away at the end of a hard day's replying to emails and say 'Look! This is what I did!'. I spent four and a half hours today replying to ORG emails, and at the end of it, there were just more queuing up, waiting for attention.
I wish I had more of making physical things in my life.
So T'Other and I had a shitty week last week – if you want to know why, then just read this post at Strange Attractor for an insight. We really needed a break by the time Friday came, so after a lovely dinner out with Michael Tippett from NowPublic (which apparently still gets people visiting via the link I gave 'em when they launched in February last year!), we packed to go down to Hampshire to see Kate.
Aaaaah, just what we needed. Walks in the bluebell woods. Tea at a nearby stately home. A nice gin and tonic in Kate and Steve's conservatory. A play with the neighbour's cat. Lovely.
But the most fun thing was that I got to play with the Vicar. Not a real vicar, you understand, but Kate's kiln, which she's named Vicar, after the Vicar of Dibley.
Here's me preparing to start making a glass bowl. What you can do, you see, is to arrange the glass in a cunning way and then heat it up until it melts, or 'slumps', and then it all fuses together and you have a… heap of fused glass.
My idea was to make like a little wall of glass, and put a sheet on top of it and the whole thing would slump and make a bowl. So this is what it looked like before we fired it.
I was a bit worried we'd end up with just a huge mess, but it worked. Not, perhaps, perfectly but well enough for a first try.
Unfortunately, it was mid-afternoon on Sunday by the time we put the kiln on, and it takes several hours to heat up to 1400F, and even longer to cool down again, so I didn't get to bring it home with me, but it does look rather cool, if a little misshapen.
I also use this stuff called 'frit', which is like chips of glass, or a glass powder, which you can use to decorate the glass you're fusing. I ended up doing this very rough sort of picture thing, which may make an interesting coaster. Or something.
Anyway, I can't wait to get back to Kate's so I can play more! This whole glass thing is fun. I could really get into it. Trouble is, now I want a kiln and there really isn't anywhere to put it. And I think T'Other would be a little perturbed if I went out and spent that much money on something so big before we get our nice new flatscreen monitor for watching DVDs on. Still… gives me an excuse to go down and play with the Vicar again.
Me an' t'other created a tour de force jack o' lantern for Hallowe'en – my first effort, but surely t'will not be my last. Was an absolute scream though.
There are some really impressive efforts at Extreme Pumpkins. I wanted to try the kerosene-soaked rag, for effect, but t'other wouldn't let me.
So, last Sunday evening me an' t'other went to Kew to see the glass by Dale Chihuly. Due to a fuck-up with the underground, it took us a lot longer to get there than we'd anticipated, but it was well worth it.
Chihuly's glass is amazing. Just amazing. I had a hard time knowing quite what my reaction was. I tended to oscillate between 'Wow, that's beautiful' and 'How the hell did he do that?' with the occasional 'That must have taken forever to do!'. There are some amazing photos of it on Flickr – look out particularly for the night photos.
Made me wish I had a decent camera, instead of the old Ixus v3 I have, which is losing its ability to focus in low light conditions (where low light = anything inside). Have a few more pressing expenses to cover first, though, before I start looking at new cameras. Like rent.
Anyway, if you haven't been to see Chihuly, you really should go. In fact, I need to go back in daylight and take a look at all the glass we missed because we got there late. It's a bit weird – I used to go to Richmond and Kew all the time, and never seemed to find the time to go to Kew Gardens. Guess it was too much on my doorstep.
chihuly, dale chihuly, kew gardens, glass, art, sculpture
Kate and I have finally taken some photos of the jewellery I made (with her assistance) on the weekend. They don't really do the glass justice, so when I get back to Dorset I might well have a stab at doing some more.
Kate's jewellery really is gorgeous – if you want to buy some from her (and it's all for sale) then drop her a line. She'll even do you a custom-made piece if you'd like.
Couldn't believe it when I saw rare footage of Banksy on the news tonight, his identity cleverly disguised by having his back to the camera and a hat on. He's been doing is usual stuff on a nice, big, brand new canvas – the Palestinian 'security' wall that the Israelis are building. And it's amazing stuff too.
One of Banksy's finest!