2019 was a busy year with over 2 dozen new designs being worked through, a gallery renovation, and a lot of visitors to the studio to make pumpkins and ornaments. It was a blast!
2020 promises to be just as creative with a host of new work that will be designed. So what is on deck? Right now I am taking a break from production and classes in order to do some repair work in the studio as well as to build a new piece of equipment, a miniature reheating furnace. This will be a great new addition to the studio since this furnace will be the most fuel efficient model to date. That makes the boss happy and if he is happy, I am happy too! (winks)
I will be working on developing some designs for cast glass later in the year. I will be outfitting an older ceramic kiln gifted to me by a friend with new heating elements to turn it into a casting kiln for new glass creations. I already have a design I am eager to get started on, which is a larger than life feather cast entirely out of glass that will be used as a wall hanging. After that, I have some ideas for some angelic wings that I think should look pretty great, but I have to work through some technical issues before I decide on exactly what these wings will look like. Both pieces will deal with the idea of the presence of the divine and the angelic.
I am in the process of ordering new glass color for a line of work that has its roots back in 1999 and is called the Fiamma Series. These are contemporary works in jet black with dichroic glass. I will begin with a series of bowls that will be made available through the studio gallery and will be available online as a studio limited release. I expect these pieces to be available by early Spring.
New ornament designs will continue to be worked out through the year in anticipation for the Fall season. I hope also to offer a class on making your own blown glass bowl. As soon as the bugs are worked out on that, it will be included in our roster of classes on our website at http://www.staffordartglass.com/classes
Speaking of the website, I will be adding a new booking calendar in the hopes that this one will be a better and more compatible solution with our site as well as our users mobile devices. I appreciate your patience as we thrashed through what turned out to be a pretty awful booking calendar! The sheer number of people who persevered in spite of it shows just how popular glass is. We love glass, that is obvious, but we are very glad that so many people in our area do, too!
I will be adding custom sourced boxes for our most popular items as well as labels of our logo that will go on them to give our work a more professional look. I will be busy making new story cards for ornaments as well as our other blown glass work. These will help provide our customers with a better presentation when giving our work as gifts. These will make our Christmas trees look breathtaking as a gift once the holiday season rolls around again. I know that we just got through Christmas, but we prepare for Fall months in advance!
The studio will be closed for the month of January and will be open to the public the second week of February. Thank you for your patience as I work on the studio and get it ready for the next season!
It’s hard to believe that I began teaching seven years ago. After a serious shoulder injury in 2007 that my doctor explained would take me out of my studio practice for a year, and then a divorce a year and a half later, my tempo had slowed enough for me to pursue teaching. It’s been a wonderful experience. I am now at a place where I will be returning to my production work again. It is interesting to note how when I talk to my colleagues in the industry and my absence from it, they all say that if there was a time for me to be out of my production work, this was the time.
The market for handmade has been completely transformed. Galleries closed, shows that were a mainstay went away as inline selling has gone through continual gyrations as the market continues to change.
In the midst of this change, it seemed good idea to consider a re-branding of my glass business. So far, this is the new logo I have been working on.
I clean a lot of glass in my work, and whether it’s my blown glass that I’m getting spotless for a show, event, or customer, or whether it’s getting the shelves on which the work is to be displayed, getting glass clean has become both science and art. I thought I’d pass along a few tips for cleaning glass that I have found indispensable.
First, forget glass cleaners. That’s right, forget them. I’m sorry to say that while the rest of the world is using Windex glass cleaner, I have long since given up on this product for a far superior product that is more effective and, gasp! Cheaper!
Glass cleaners do clean glass. The problem with cleaners like Windex is that they contain polish and this always leaves a film behind. If you want a cleaner that gets right to it and leaves no residue, buy a gallon of distilled white vinegar. It cuts grease and dirt and leaves no residue once all dirt and grease are dissolved. The nice thing is that vinegar is an excellent degreaser and I have been using it exclusively as a cleaner for my glass as well as my kitchen counter tops and surfaces. The advantage here is that there are no more chemicals or dyes and the cleaner is as hypoallergenic as you can get.
Remember to get distilled white vinegar since this has no residue from the fruits used to make it (like Apple cider vinegar has).
A Magic Material
Next on the list is not even a cleaner per se, but a material that cuts down significantly on your use of vinegar in the first place. This wonder is called a microfiber cloth.
Microfiber came into vogue over a decade ago, and once I was given one by an exhibitor with whom I shared some technical information with (as a kind thank-you), I became a believer in its ability to spit-shine my glass…..without the spit! If you haven’t used microfiber yet, you should, because it can greatly reduce the need to use ANY cleaning fluids on mildly mussed glass.
The fibers pick up dirt extremely well and lock the dirt in the fibers. Just remember to give your cloths a good cleaning with mild soap and a vinegar rinse every so often. It is good for dozens of cleanings of window panes, metal objects, or just about anything shiny (do be careful with plastics, love, as they can be mildly abrasive to them). Just bear in mind, microfiber will work only on dirt films on glass and is not designed to sop up big spills. For that, I offer the towel, be it paper or terry cloth.
If you bring these two simple ingredients into your arsenal of cleaning, you will find your world cleaner without the need of the expense of the vast cornucopia of chemistry now under your kitchen sink.
I hope that you have had a marvelous holiday, and if things are in need of a little cleaning, I hope you will give my suggestions a try. My work here is done. Godspeed and good morrow, my dear glass enthusiasts!
There is lighting glass and then there is lighting glass. You wouldn’t think it would be that much of a challenge; throw some light on it and there you go, right? I suppose, for some things, a dash of light would be better than wasting away in a dull corner and getting no attention. Yes. I have been lighting glass in a variety of spaces over the years and there are some tips that I think will help when considering a new piece of glass or breathing new life into an older piece.
There are ways that you can approach lighting ANY object that can make all the difference in your home. You can raise a piece from noticeable to an exquisite eye-catching centerpiece. How? Walk with me…
First, there are a range of different glass objects, all with different considerations. How you light a large solid piece will be different from a transparent bowl or vase, and this will also be different from an opaque work. The first consideration is where the object will be placed. Will it be against the wall in the case of a hanging piece like a sculptural platter or a work on a pedestal up against the wall? Will it be out in the middle of the room? Will it get natural light? Will it be high or low?
First realize that glass eats light. The more light you give many glass pieces, the more brilliant they are. Mostly. But not all. There is such an incredible range of glass out there today and as a result a one-size fits all approach doesn’t always work. But for the sake of simplicity I am going to cover some basic issues and try to hit this with scatter-shot. I will say from the outset that, for me, there are two choices for lighting; halogen and daylight. In some cases I have used LED’s with a specific color range that is balanced for daylight, but for the most part, all other lighting options offer less than acceptable qualities. Incandescent floods often are very warm and this can shift blues and greens in slight ways to help keep them feeling quite as dreamy and brilliant. Fluorescent is just difficult because it is so diffuse. Good for fill, but bad for hitting glass with sharp points of light for great highlight effects. Yes, LED’s are now being made to fit halogen gimbals. I just don’t like them for most lighting due to its flicker rate and this also includes fluorescents. When I say “flicker rate” I mean that all LED’s and fluorescents are powered by electronics that control power and thus pulses the electricity through them. Wave your hand in front of a fluorescent or LED and you will know just what I mean. All of these are good on the pocketbook and help to keep down energy use, but until they make an LED that produces the SAME light as a halogen, I remain very much a halogen man and feel that you should too (and if you are a lady, be a halogen gal, ok?)! Having said that, LED’s CAN be a good light source for solid works lit from the bottom, such as how I light my Inscapes and Andromeda Geodes.
If you have work that is colored but transparent and will be near a wall, my number one suggestion is to consider having that wall be as neutral a color as possible and if white is an option or a very pale gray, this will show off colored transparents the best. The white wall will act as a giant bounce panel for you and you will be able to shoot light onto the wall all in an effort to bounce light back through your cherished piece. If this is not an option, however, I suggest lighting directly from above or even from below (as in a lit pedestal–it’s actually a lot simpler than you might think; a tube with a sheet of frosted glass on top and an appropriately powered light kit in the base or just below the glass top). In the work that I do I intensify the color of tranparents by putting them against white backgrounds as I blow the piece. Without a bright background transparent colors will come across as dull and lifeless. If you just read this and your wall as a nice terracotta and you are feeling that lurching feeling in your belly, consider before grabbing the whale gray, just hang a white sheet on the wall to see how the piece is changed. You might then realize that the piece isn’t for THAT wall or space. Sometimes, though, by lighting straight down on a transparent piece, you can mitigate some of the surrounding color influences somewhat, so give it a try before giving up.
Opaques, by comparison, can most often be in almost any environment and show well. They will, though, be a lot flatter in dimension and subtlety as a general rule. In this case, it is more a consideration of placement and decor. Will it look good on that terracotta room, or would it benefit from being closer to the windows and a different color arrangement? But remember; please never become a slave to matching colors. Think coordinating and you will have just given yourself a lot more freedom and room to no longer match the sofa. But that’s not really about lighting is it? No.
In the case of very thick glass (half an inch in thickness and up) or solid work, this is a whole other animal. Many pieces will be greatly enhanced by being lit from underneath, and the amount of light in a clear solid piece or a lightly colored work necessary to illuminate will likely surprise you. Depending on how large the piece is, the lighting requirements will go up with size. It is not at all unusual to need 200 watts of light to show off a very modestly size piece 6″ x 6″ in two dimensions.
Before going very far into this I also need to mention one very good tool for helping you light work, and that is the halogen track light. These can be purchased at the hardware store with plugs and, with a couple of them, you can move them around to find the best arrangement for your piece. This is especially good if you are sprucing up and considering putting in some track lighting but haven’t yet done so. The cost of a cord for a track is about $7.00 – $12.00 so it can be worth it in the long run to have the mobility to try many different things Before you attach the track to the ceiling and hard wire the electrical connection more permanently into your house’s electrical circuitry.
So what about washing your glass treasure with light? What are some other ways this can be done? I am a believer in keeping the light source within a reasonable distance from your glass piece. Trying to wash a piece with light from six feet is going to be a lot more effective for modest pieces (under 2.5 feet in height or diameter) then it is from ten feet or further away. However, if you absolutely want your glass piece far away from an available track and installing track lighting is not an option, I would direct you to consider spot lighting. Normally these lights have a very focused beam, but the beam is also very intense and holds its illumination over distance. By using both spots and a few floods, you can get a very good effect for glass lit from a distance. All beams spread a certain degree and the further away, the more diffuse the beam will be. Spots close up, though, might not be useful for anything but small pieces. In some cases, it can even make the piece seem over lit or with hotspots, so you have to adjust for your specific needs and likes. See the first image at the top of the post for an example of hotspots from lighting. They work when they help to add dimension, but they an also quickly become obtrusive, giving a harsh feeling to the work.
If you have a piece that is large and will be a centerpiece in a room, consider lighting this kind of piece from multiple directions and being careful to keep the angle of illumination close instead of far in order to eliminate long shadows. In the case such as this, even one strong central light directly above could be just as effective as numerous lights four feet or more from the center of the piece. The larger works such as glass sculpture will most often require lighting that is both directly above, several feet away and then at least ten to twelve feet away in order to get the right range of illumination. Lighting that is above will provide a sense of the work being lit from within, but for sculptural work, you may want to be able to see the surface as well instead of just having a glowing sun of a piece in your large front foyer. Adjusting how much light hits the piece is important, so it may be that a few choice 50 watt lamps close by will do most of the lighting while several smaller lamps further away will help to light up the surface enough so it can be seen in a way that interior or close-up can’t do.
If you want to get into perfect lighting of a piece, pay attention to the lighting hot spots on the piece from your lighting. Some of these are nice and helps to give the work dimension. However, if you are lighting a large piece you can wind up in a situation where the piece looks marked by many lamps. In fact, some pieces that have undulating surfaces can be lit rather modestly and yet have many hot spots on them or distracting reflections from the lighting simply due to the way the surfaces will pick up one light source many times.
Sometimes, when you are limited in your capacity to put in track lighting for your piece, one thing you can consider is actually keeping the piece in a dimly lit room with one light source on it. I light paperweights and solid work like this all the time, and the effect is remarkably dramatic and effective. A vase on a light box shining light up into it in the right degree of spread, can be amazing. Likewise, you can also light a vase from its center using something as simple as a candle. During Christmas I often will take a large blown clear bowl, fill it with water and place a dozen candles made to float, in the water. The effect? Pure magic!
But how much light do you need to throw onto a piece, specifically? Again, it is based on the piece itself and the environment that it is in. You can shoot one spot straight down on the right piece in a dimly lit room and get amazing effects for that piece if it is appropriate, but you see, this is all subject to so many elements that have to all line up, like the planets. But as a very general rule of thumb I find that any piece of glass worth its salt will need anywhere from at least 50 watts worth of light to an upper end of 200 watts. Having said this, there are pieces I light that use seven watts. My gallery at the studio, which is currently only about 300 square feet has over two thousand watts crammed into that room and to be honest, I could use another thousand watts easily. I also have hundreds of pieces in that room, all screaming for light. And yet, the gallery does not feel over-lit. It is bright, yes, but over-lit? Are you kidding? Light is so good with glass. So use these numbers only as a starting point. And one option that I would consider if you want to go the track lighting route are dimmer switches, which will allow you to modulate how much light you put onto a piece as well as to give you options for creating a mood with a piece.
Hopefully, armed with these tips, you can make the best of your artglass. If you run into challenges along the way, drop me a line, as I am always happy to lend insight if needed. For those interested in light boxes, I am including a source that has been good for a variety of applications. When searching, search using “LB” and “LBX” as the search term, as this will bring up all of their light boxes! You can also click on “light bases and turntables” in the left hand column. The smallest boxes are four inches in diameter and will have a seven watt bulb, which is good only for small pieces several inches in diameter. However, you can outfit these with a ten watt bulb and this will greatly improve it’s lighting capabilities. Happy lighting!
Please contact me directly for studio hours: our work is seasonal and sometimes the studio can be down for repairs, for example. Some days we are blowing glass while other days we are running errands or away at a show. Let us know when you are free to come see us and we can work something out that works for you.