Wow, what a lot of information, ideas, new people, and just plain fun! I just returned home from BECon 2013, which is Bullseye Glass’ biennial conference held in Portland, Oregon at Portland State University. This year the theme of the conference was Chroma-Culture, the intersection of color and culture. There were two and a half days of lectures from such noteworthy glass artists as Narcissus Quagliata, Richard Marquis, and Clifford Rainey (and many more). There were great technical displays by vendors in the Student Union building during the entire conference. There was a fun opening night reception held at the Bullseye Glass gallery, a happy hour in the tech display the second night, and a tasty Lehr-B-Q at the Bullseye factory on the closing night.
Okay, I can hear the gears grinding already and I can hear you asking: “What in the world is a Lehr-B-Q?” The Bullseye factory has been doing this for the last three BECon events, apparently. They shut down glass production for a few hours and allow the caterers to run the trays of ribs and chicken through the annealing ovens (made by Lehr) to create fabulous tasting BBQ chicken and ribs. Don’t worry, it’s not bad for either the glass-making process or the consumers of the BBQ chicken and ribs made this way. At least, that’s what they say…
Better than all of the information and ideas I gathered from the lectures, or the people I met during the conference, or the entertaining evening events, or the new vendor of glass paints I was introduced to in the tech display, was the pre- and post-conference classes. Quite a while back, I was experimenting with frit painting to create a series of red rock tiles. (For those unfamiliar with frit, it is just the shorthand name for ground glass.) I wanted to be able to reproduce a set of 6 red rock formations in tiles consistently. What a pain in my butt! Seriously!
I tried using stencils to put the frit through to hopefully separate the various layers of color. Nope. Didn’t yield clean lines, was very messy, and was definitely not reproducible. I tried using glass paints. Nope. The GlassLine paints I bought did not have consistent color from batch to batch and they didn’t yield good results either directly from the bottle or pressed through a screen. I tried a few other techniques as well, but none of them yielded very good results.
When I signed up for the conference, I noticed that Stacy Smith was teaching a class on screen printing with frit. “Sign me up,” I cried! What a great idea that turned out to be! As it turned out, we each created a set of 4 coasters or tiles by screen printing with dry powder frit onto pre-cut colored glass squares of our choice. (Class project is shown in the photo on the right. Click to enlarge the photo.) The detail is amazing, the lines are nearly perfect, and the final result is perfect for what I want to create. Viola! I have my process.
Add to that, in the Color Lab, taught by Nathan Sandberg for two and a half days following the conference, I learned how to create the red rock red color I need in glass! Bullseye, even with their vast range of color, can’t produce glass in every shade, tint, and hue that we glass artists might desire. It’s just not possible, not to mention that it’s not economically viable. So, Nathan’s class helped us to create a process for experimentation to combine colored sheet glass or sheet glass with different colors of powdered frit layered on top to create exactly the look we want.
During our experimentation, we were encouraged to vary the amount of powdered frit sifted onto a piece of clear glass to see how it increased or decreased the intensity of the color in the final sample. We were also encouraged to pick a few starting points in sheet glass colors and then layer three variants on top of each to create a grid of different interactions. Most people were varying the color by adding red, yellow, and blue to the our starting suspects to move those colors around the color wheel a bit. Since I was going for a particular color of red, I identified (with Nathan’s guidance) a grey, an olive green, and a iridescent white to create shades and tints from my base red color. Using this process, I was able to create a pretty convincing red rock hue, red rock shadow, and red rock highlight color! (My class samples are shown to the left. Click to enlarge the photo.)
So, between the two classes, I now have both the process to paint the colored frits onto the tiles and the way to produce the colors that I need. Awesome! I’m already deep into the process of figuring out exactly how I’ll be making the tiles and will start as soon as I return from my next adventure… And I’ll definitely be heading back to Portland for BECon 2015, if not classes at Bullseye before!
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