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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Five minutes of fame - Magazine profile coolness!

Well, I am hopeful that people all over Australia are running out to buy the latest issue (Vol 9 No 1)of Creative Beading Magazine and turn to page 24 to read my profile!!!!  What can I say, but... "Its Out"!!!!   Yahoooooo! 

I have never had something like this done before, so after I got over my intial surprise at being asked, I was excited and fearful in equal measure.  Excited, because lets face it, its not every day you see your own name in print let alone a whole profile on yourself.  Fearful, because what if the editors didn't realise that you weren't actually that important or accomplished or clever and when they write the article I sound like a knob!!!!   Well, thank goodness Sharon (or Shazza as I think of her) who wrote the article on me was absolutely lovely and extraordinarily clever at putting it all together.  She is a journalistic genius to make me sound so interesting and yet not resort to a single untruth!!!!  LOL

One part of my magazine article journey that really did not work out was the profile picture of myself... lets just say that my eldest daughter Grace and and I had about 500 digital photo disasters and then promptly gave up to let my beads speak for themselves

.... here were a couple of the rejects LOL (although I have used the one with my tongue out as a facebook avatar.... just to scare my mates mostly ;-) 

Along with making a huge effort to try and catch up with some orders and odds and ends, I have been manically working to get some stock into my etsy store.  A bit of a recent sideline has been making some tiny eyeball cabochons for use in jewellery design which has been fun.  I have decided to use them as a way of testing out some glass colour and frit, sort of like a sampler... some are human and realistic, but there are also some ring-in's and I have definitely had fun making a few zombie apocalypse style :-)

Here's a little handful of the eyes..... elicits many opportunities for Puns I reckon!!!

I am having a fabulous time with my glass lately...... I would spend all day and all night on my torch if I could... its a good feeling!!!!!    :-)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beads... beads and more beads!

Its actually interesting the way my brain works (but scary no doubt LOL).  First I work hard to get beads made, then I flitter off and do some off mandrel work.... then I flitter off again and try out some strange "I had a dream in the middle of the night" sort of torch session.  I really do wish I could exercise some self control and settle down to doing just the one thing each day!!!!

Given my excitement at the fact that Creative Beading Mazagine has just done a profile on yours truly.... not just a wee little mention.... but a whopping three and a half whole pages!!!!  I thought I should actually put some stuff into my etsy store... specifically some beads... just in case anyone wants a Natalie Monkivitch special if you know what I mean!

Well, when I checked the pathetic stash, there was hardly a bead to be found, so off to the torch I have gone... with a mission.... to make a set.  Yep for those that know me well the word set usually sets my knees to knocking and causes a watery feeling the bowels.... Set allergy it might be called (but slack arse lack of self discipline it really is)!!

I am very pleased to say that I did manage not one set.... but two fairly big (for me) sets.  I also got right into the swing of bead making again, not that I had stopped or anything, but I had definitely been distracted.  I have had a real ball with it.  First off here is the first set I made using scrap twisties off my workbench, they are italian soft glass and using the bead press (another thing I am usually averse to).
Green Scrap bead set
After being so pleased at the success of the first set, and with the satisfied feeling that I had actually knuckled down and achieved something, I made some twisties for a second set in different colours.  I hope everyone notices that I EVEN made the spacers to match..... yahoo!!!
Pink, blue and turquoise twistie scrap bead set

Amazingly I have managed to photograph them and list them in my etsy, although I will admit to a fairly lengthy delay in removing them from the mandrels and cleaning them.... I seemed to keep walking past and thinking of something more interesting to do ..... as other glass bead makers will attest... cleaning beads is not the funnest part of the whole process!!!

Of course I went back for a second torch session and made some off mandrel cabochons for some more pocket watches.... I particularly like this dragons eye one.... I don't even know why, but it looked rather cool in real life.  It probably won't sell or anything, but that is part of the problem with making things only to your own tastes... I hardly ever make anything yellow or orange unless it is for a particular person, its time I branched out a bit I reckon!!!

Dragons eye cabochon on pocket watch


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pocket watch fun.... and the cabochon has it!

My glass cabs glued onto the little pocket watches

Well, whilst conducting my usual late night "surf the large chinese supplier website because I can't sleep yet" internet use, I came across some really cute little pocket watches with rather cheesy porcelain cabochons installed on the front.   I thought to myself that these would look so much better with a nice glass cab on there and decided to dip my toes into negotiating with the chinese supplier to get something custom made..... little did I know that about 1 million (prob only really 50, just felt like more) emails later, it looked like they have made up exactly what I wanted.

So I paid, stalked the postage tracker until they arrived into my hot little hand......... Cute, great.... but not exactly what I wanted.  The big issue I had was that the surface of the watch where the cab gets glued is not exactly flat.... not even a little bit flat... bugger!

The domed surface for the cab to go onto
Well after some brain storming with a lampy friend Darcy we came up with the cunning plan to remove the front from one of the watches and try using it as a push mold on the back of a hot glass cab to give the perfect shape to cab for annealing and then later gluing on... it was a plan!

Watch I "killed" to give me the cab mold

So, even though i was still feeling a little bit under the weather, I fired up the kiln yesterday and tried out the idea using both borosilicate glass and then some soft glass.  I used the boro first (because the kiln was ramped up hotter to start with this, then I ramp it down later to the soft glass annealing temp).  I made up the cab using a slice of my recent boro butterfly cane in a large diameter... the cab was looking nice, so I heated the backside up nice and hot and plunged it onto the "mold".  First off there was some really nasty smells.... then a spitting sound and then when I lifted the cab up, this is what I found!
melted mold after first use
There is no doubt.... I killed it!  Clearly not made of stainless steel, but probably zinc or something.  In any case I was grateful for the good ventilation in my workspace thats for sure.

After this cab, I ramped down the kiln and resorted to plan B..... shaping the back of the cab by hand and just using this mold as a guage for diameter.  I tried using the stumpshaper (the curved bit) to make a concave back..... nope, not neat enough.  Then I tried using the back of a teaspoon and .....yahooo, it worked.  This option works, but is not completely ideal I do admit.  I am thinking of getting myself some graphite and sanding it into the shape I want and using that as a mold which would be MUCH better I reckon.

Some of the tips I got from this first batch other than shaping the back for gluing.... keep it slightly smaller than you think.... heat the back of the cab quite hard and then press down to give slimmer sides which sit nicely on the watch front.   I am thinking there are a complete raft of interesting things that can be done with these watches.... it has been a difficult track to run, but worth it in the end!
Butterfly cab glued onto pocket watch front.... this one was a little bit thick around the edges as my first one

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I can haz..... the flu! :-(

Yep, I have got it.... those dreaded lurgs that seem to be all over Sydney - aka influenza.    I don't want to spend my time blog whinging....(is that called Blinge-ing? LOL) but I have found it fairly difficult to get out onto my torch and actually melt some glass.  Interestingly enough it is not just due to incapacitation by illness.... it is my frame of mind and how being sick effects my creativity I think...... needless to say I have spend a fair bit if time in bed with the electric blanket set on 2, my ipad to play words with friends and pondering the great wonders of the universe... or my navel, whichever comes first ;-)

I thought I would share my experiences of lampworking when in different frames of mind.... sounds weird I know, but trust me - there appears to be a pattern here!

Good mood, kids well behaved and feeling fit
This is a conchatenation of ideal circumstances for me... I am happy and excited to be working, feel like I have almost unlimited patience and like to make really complicated objects de glass!  You can see from the examples below that I tend to use a lot of murrini when I am in a good mood:

aquarium focal bead

Back of burlesque bead

Feeling a little "out of sorts"
Hmmmm, you know that feeling when, well, nothing really excites you.  You feel fine, but just not terribly enthusiastic about anything in particular.  I often feel like this when I have an order to fill, I think the fact that I am somewhat constrained in what I will be making can sometimes stifle the fun out of the process.  I tend to feel this way EVEN if it is something that I really enjoy making, I am sure the psychologist types out there could easily research into what causes this particular reaction, but for me, it is just bloody annoying!  I do find that once I have made a start then it is all sweetness and light.... but 'till then, think Marvin the Manic Depressive Robot goes to work on the assembly line and you will have a closely matched thing to me walking out and lighting the torch!

Frog pond focal bead

Very badly shaped vomitus focal
Cranky or angry
Well, this is not the time to be torching for me, nothing good and NOTHING nice comes out of torching when I am in a bad mood.  The only advantage of Cranky torching for me, is that is can get the bad mood out of my system, unfortunately it is from punishing the glass somewhat though....ouch!    When I am in a bad mood, I slap the glass on, I try to force it to do what I want, when I want and how I want.... of course, it is an epic failure as a result.  To be honest when I cranky torch I could almost just get everything out of the kiln in the morning and throw it in the reject bin sight unseen, not because I am still cranky, but purely because it is ugly, unbalanced horrible stuff!

Cranky torching = beads barely safe for human eyes LOL

Distracted mood, is really thinking of other "stuff" not glass
Yep, I have torched in this stage and to be honest it is another one of those regrettable incidents that is only evidenced by more items in the reject bowl.  I have put eyes where eyes do not belong.  I have picked up the wrong colour and used it in the worse place (think murrini faces with a big birthmark) and have totally forgot to shape the base bead which means the end result is .... disturbing!

Fish..... sorta
Butterfly..... sorta

Sick... unwell.... think I am on the edge of death sort of thing
Oh yeah, most lampworkers have done it, and probably better than me, but when I am sick I am just incapable of taking any joy in melting the glass so I don't do it.  This is when I break out the dead bead graveyard  - clean off the shitty old soft glass rejects and whack then into a VERY hot kiln walk away and they into little puddles....voila, cabs!
Dead bead graveyard - cabs

Well, the only problem I can see with this journey of self discovery is..... how often am I actually in a good mood for glass.    Thank goodness I am usually in a good mood.... probably 6 days out of 7 I would say.... phew!  

There is one true exception to these observations of myself.... that is when, some middle of the night or heat of the shower bat crazy idea strikes.... all bets are off.... glass is melted in a frenzy - "things" are made!  LOL    All said and done, I think a positive frame of mind and approach to the glass will result in better work by yours truly.  I admit that it shows a distinct lack of self discipline, but that is how my crazy brain works and I like to operate on making interesting stuff... not production line work (even thought that would pay the bills, I hope my hubby Leo is not reading this one) !

Thursday, August 9, 2012

All Chained up

Well, following on with my theme of work progression I thought I would blog about my boro chain making and its still evolving state :-)

I started making some boro glass chain work after seeing a gorgeous necklace made by a lampworking friend that was a little bit...... organic in shape.  After some serious thought I came to the conclusion that I could make chain and fairly neatly if my idea worked.... off to the torch I went!  Here is the very first boro chain I made.  I made alternating Amber and clear links, partly so I could see where I was on the job and partly because I wanted something a little different than just clear at the time!

First boro chain work - 2009
At first to get my links really neat and round I used a piece of thick walled stainless steel tubing my husband Leo got for me at a garage sale which I clamped onto my workbench.  I could then heat the rod roughly to the length I required to wrap around the tubing then finished off each link using punty's (holding the work with a rod of glass for the unitiated).  If the shape was not quite right a large diameter graphite reamer did wonders.  Then came the tricky bit.... the joining links!   I found out fairly quickly that it was easy to accidentally fuse one link to the other.... accidentally face the flame past the link you were working on and cracking another one.....etc...etc.   I quickly worked out that working up under the flame was the way to go and using a small torch like a minor made the job fairly easy to be honest.

I made the chain...... I liked the chain..... but........ the chain was boring!  Yeah, I know I could have used different colour links, but that was not challenging enough..... enter... the dongle!

Momka sunflower cane murrini dongle necklace
Yep, following a good hot shower that nicely stimulated the grey matter, I decided to insert a section of rod through each link with a small marble at each end....... oh, clearly it worked, but OMG was it a nightmare to heat.  I found at this point that fighting the weight of the glass as the necklace built was very difficult and badly complicated how well sealed the punty should be.  To overcome that I made up a little wooden stand that I could sit the majority of the work onto underneath the torch... yeah it got scorched, but I reckon it saved the work from having a cracker of a time (if you get the pun) LOL   I also found a few problems with keeping the work warm given the large volume of glass on the first marble end when putting on the second one..... yep... many a crack occurred for sure!

I tried different dongle ends as the fancy hit me... bumpy ones, helix twist ones, murrini ones:

Bumpy dongle necklace
helix dongle necklace

Its sad to say, but I went through a real "dongle" phase.... everything got dongles on it, fun and fiddly, but time to move on again.  Thats when I decided I would try making some actual chainmaille in glass.... this is a fairly simple pattern, but it turned out quite well I thought

boro glass chainmaille

At this point I decided to go back and revisit the chain links itself...... coloured chain links made out of helix twist rod came out rather nice, but was a bit busy when put all together.... so I made some work using an alternating clear link!

Blue helix twist alternating Chain links
Then I had a play with the shape of each individual link.... here is my triangle necklace.  It sits rather awkwardly off the neck, but surprisingly looks really great when worn.  Bright and different, but definitely for the person who has some real sense of self and is a little bit out there I reckon!

Triangle chain necklace

I came up with another way to decoration the chain what would satisfy my need for fine stringer work (something I actually enjoy quite a bit) and still use the boro chain.  I made a couple of these necklaces, a gumblossom floral one and this ocean themed surface decoration chain linked necklace.  They were a ton of fun to make, but incredibly fiddly and I don't even want to think about the investment in time they took me, but they came out really beautiful in the end.  I am thinking I might make myself one of these, but flowers and butterfly murrini or something similar.

A glimpse of reef

I can't really say where I am heading with this chain work, but I know I am definitely not there yet.  One of the nicest ones I made was just clear chain, with clear dongles.... it looked like drops of water around your neck.  I am thinking I might make a clear fine chained small dongled clear one next..... that might look quite nice I think!

Seaspray necklace - clear chain, clear dongles

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Honey dipper story :-)

OK, so the local lampworkers here in Australia are fairy well aware of my penchant for making honey dippers.  But..... for everyone else I thought it would be interesting to hear how they came about and where I think they might be going LOL

Honey dippers started as a bit of a mad idea.  My Dad's mate (aka Uncle Geoff) and is a woodturner and I am sure everyone has seen the gorgeous wood turned honey dippers available all over the world, they work wonderfully well and look lovely.... so I thought... hmmmmm, what about the same thing but in glass.  Off to the torch I went and after a couple of failed experiments (if there is such a thing, nothing is a failure that teaches you something in my opinion) I had some sweet success  YAY!

Here is one of my early honey dippers.  It is boro, which I think personally lends itself best to food and perhaps a little dishwasher abuse more so than the soft bright italian glass.  I made a quick and dirty honey bee murrini I could inert into the top handle in a round marble shape and used some colour on the working (dipper) end.  The design for the dipper part was a study in experimentation for me.... make an end, cool it.... drizzle honey with it....DOH...... make another.... cool it.... drizzle (you get it I am sure) until I hit on just the right base shape and distance between stringer wraps.  The real trick was actually to make sure the end where the honey drips off is just right and pokes out a bit... that gives you the ability to write on your toast with the neat pour of honey!

Early honey dipper design

After these first clunky ones I decided that I did not want any glass colour near the food (just to be sure everything was all safe etc.) so they became all clear with just the fancy top.  With the epiphany of approaching the honey dipper top a little like a bead (and on the same scale) it all went smoothly from there.  Justin Rossi, fabulous bloke and brilliant glass artist showed me the helix twist and so I started applying that technique which looked much classier I thought.  I also started making cute but slightly cheesy christmas honey dippers.... ;-)

Helix twist and christmas themed honey dipper tops

After struggling a little bit on the shape and balance of these honey dipper tops I started on the floral themed ones.  I used some Momka commercial cane for the flowers and added some of my murrini bees for good measure, they came out nice and I started to see more of where I was heading with these dippers.   You might see the lump of clear glass on the top of the dippers and that was really firstly because I thought it looked classy.... and secondly because it helped me line everything up nicely...  I got over that fairly quickly when I realised that it was distorting the view of my work underneath LOL

Floral bee honey dippers

As you can see in the above pic, some of them I got a bit heavy handed on.....after all, how many flowers could I fit nicely in a honey dipper.  I resorted to asking for some feedback from my critique group..... my Mum Faye and my hubby, who when really pushed will tell me the truth (no pushing required for my Mum though LOL).  The consensus was that just one bee and just one flower was the classier look.  So I moved along, made some new flower murrini to add some extra colour and made some rather sweet butterfly murini to add in as well...... This is the latest incarnation of my honey dippers:

Latest version honey dipper with butterfly murrini.... and the odd bee!
When I was making some of these honey dipper tops I got a bit over excited on one of them.... hence, honey dipper gone wild Marble.... not so funny at the time, but I liked it when I got it out of the kiln.  I just seemed to keep adding layers of flowers and butterflies and grass etc.  It got out of hand I just decided that I would turn it into a mib.... ha ha ha

Last but not least I made a couple of sets with a matching honey dipper and jam spoon.... Here's adam and eve:

Adam Jam spoon and Eve honey dipper set
These honey dippers have been a real work in progress, they are morphing into something new regularly when I am at the torch and for that I have to be grateful for customers giving me ideas and the people I supply for allowing me the freedom to put what I like on top of the buggers :-)  I sell these at our local honey supplier and at the Canberra Glassworks gallery .  I do sell the odd one on my Etsy store, but to be honest I have a bit of a hard time keeping up the supply, I shall have to get my proverbial finger out I suppose ha ha ha.

I will be supplying some special ones for the Canberra Glassworks gallery Floriade stall, so anyone who is visiting Canberra during floriade, please drop in and see the gorgeous glassy goodness at the glassworks or at least call into thier stall at Floriade and see my honey dippers in real life... say hello to the girls for me, they are lovely :-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 slack blogger !

Well, finally I have got my finger out and blogged.  I have spent MONTHS saying that I need to update my blog and yet, as the uncrowned queen of procrastination, I have managed to put it off!

A LOT has been going on in my glassy life since my last blog, so I think I will blog about it in chronological order.... at least then it will make sense to me if no one else  ha ha ha

Gumblossom Dreams boro glass necklace

First off, some of my readers may recall that I was on a bit of a mission to get some of my work into some galleries.   Well, not only do I have work showing at the Barracuda Gallery over in Perth and the Canberra Glassworks gallery I was invited to participate in an "invitation only" flameworking event at the Craft NSW gallery in George Street in Sydney.  The "In Nature In Glass" exhibition was fabulous and at the same time SCARY AS HELL.  I was participating with a raft of big names in glass and felt a little like the tiny little tiddler in a pool of sharks, but I figured as long as I do my best, well that is the best I can do.    It was a really big thrill to see my work displayed beside the likes of Chris Arnold and Laurie Young, Peter Minson, Al Usher, Bernie Stonor, Jo Wu, Justin Rossi, Carol Marando and the lovely Penel Bigg!  I even braved the Sydney Train system (which is scary for a transplant from Canberra who is a little frightened of getting lost on the trains) and went into town for the opening of the exhibition by the gorgeous and talented Marina Hyasat.

Well.... you get the idea, it was crazy fancy and I am a bit of a bogan, but after leaving the crocs and moccies at home, I rubbed shoulders with the big guns and it felt really great!  Here is a pic of one of my entries, Gum Blossom Dreams.  Unfortunately it didn't survive the transport and didn't end up being displayed, but I have since fixed it and donated it as a raffle prize to a lovely Canberra Textile group (ACTTA).

Year of the Dragon bead set 2012 Sydney Royal Easter show Entry
I was also happy to participate in the Sydney Royal Easter show again and W O W was the competition hard this year.  It was so great to see the diversity of styles and the large number of entries.  for a competition that was losing some of its support by the local lampwork bead artists, it has turned right around and now a large number of people enter in support.   I was EXTREMELY lucky to get a third with my dragon set this year and to be honest, there were some sets of beads that utterly deserved a prize and yet missed out.  For local Aussies who want to see what is at the edge of the envelope in glass beads go along to the Easter show and have a squizz (might want to take a notebook to write down the names you might wish to contact afterwards too).

Well, I don't want to just write a novel on this one blog entry, so I shall continue on very soon with more glassy musings :-)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fascinating flat laps..... yeah!!!

Chameleon top on jam spoon
Well, Happy New Year and a great 2012 to all!

Sorry I have been off the radar, in between christmas, kids holidays and a massive volume of glassy orders I have been too busy to pop up even a quickie blog entry.... doh!
I have been honey dippering and now Jam spooning a LOT to fill some local and international orders.  Here's one of my recent Jam spoons with a cute but cartoony little bloke on the top.  The slightly difficult thing with these jam spoons is making the bowl a nice shape and my VERY clever husband made me a spoon press a little while ago.  It is basically an el-cheapo pair of tweezers with two el-cheapo teaspoons on the end in position to cup each other and therefore press the glass into a bowl after squeezing into a flat paddle on the end first.  Easy peasy, although I am going to get myself a couple of steeper more deeply bowled spoons to make a deeper dish on my glass one... more things for the drawing board!
The other thing I am glass to say that I got for christmas is a cheapish but cheer flat lap with machine.  It is one of the Inland swap tops and I absolutely love it.  All of my paperweights have flat and shiny bottoms now and I have started a few lapping experiments as a basic entry into some simple coldworking.  I decided last night that I would make something to lap and rather than go with the "window" style commonly seen with the fish or garden scenes encased in clear then layers of opaque and frit and enamels and stuff around the outside that gives the impression of a thunder egg sort of thing.

I only had 10 minutes or go and reprogram the kiln (it was also 11pm so I was keen to get to bed) so I just make a simple barrel bead using lots of thin coat layers so that the layers would show as stripes when ground back.  Here is the starting bead.... not fancy, but something to practice on:
Simple layered barrel bead
Then I lapped the ends a little, the two large sides and put a bit of a facet on each edge which I think made it look a little classier..... although it took a bit of practice to get these facets straight and even!

Lapped barrel bead after polishing
It feels lovely and smooth in your hand and I keep running my fingers over the soapy feel of it.  I am quite happy with the shape and I think I did a much better job of the polishing than I had done before (thank goodness that was only on the bases of the paperweights and therefore doesn't matter).

I have installed this one on a simple beadable pendant bar with a bali silver bead as a spacer to take up the tiny bit of slack on the bar..... I am really happy with it and are already thinking of more complicated things I can do.... using stacked murrini canes and stuff.......oh  yeah!!!!!!