Sometimes, getting a piece of commissioned work is a “no brainer,” but the work itself can turn into a challenge. Today, Pilisa tells us about a few of the difficulties in finishing her sandblast commission for the galleries that represent her work in Sedona and Scottsdale.
Creative Gateways has three Arizona locations at this time: one in Tlaquepaque, formerly known as Kuivato Glass Gallery, now known as Creative Gateways Tlaquepaque, the second in West Sedona, known as Creative Gateways West Sedona, and the third in Scottsdale, in the Fashion Square mall. Each location carries different styles of my glass art and each serves champagne to customers who shop there. When they recently updated their logo, they asked me to sandblast the new logo onto 4 dozen new stemless champagne glasses they use to serve the champagne.
I thought that this was going to be a quick and easy job… little did I know! Let’s back up and I’ll show you how it’s done.
The image on the right shows the champagne glass before being sandblasted as well as after. You can also see a few of the freshly sandblasted glasses behind the front two. To the very right bottom of the image, you can also see part of the sheet of sandblast masks that I use to actually do the sandblasting.
There are several steps to get from the glass on the left to the glass on the right. First of all, I had to take the logo image Creative Gateways received from the graphic designer and turn it into a grayscale image to make the black truly dark. Usually ink jet printers use a combination of black, cyan, magenta and yellow to create a rich black that looks dark to the eye. However, the masking material that I expose to ultraviolet light the only sees black ink as black, not any of the other colors. So, while the eye can be fooled, the masking material can’t.
Once I converted the image from color to grayscale and made sure that there weren’t any stray marks in the image that would print on the mask, I printed the image onto a piece of film. The film has a shiny side and a dull side, and if you don’t print on the dull side, then the ink never dries. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten that wrong on the first try, *sigh*.
When I had the film ready to go, I exposed the masking material under ultraviolet light for a quick 20 seconds, then covered it with a piece of blanket and rushed it to the sink. At the sink, I used hot water to wash the masking material out of all the places that were black on the film. What was once black would become the sandblasted areas on the glass.
Then, I cut one sandblast mask from the sheet, I applied it to the glass, then I used wide painters tape to mask off the areas immediately surrounding the mask. This kept the sandblaster from etching away parts of the glass around the mask by mistake. Funny enough, when I first bought the painters tape for sandblasting, it only came in blue that matched the masking material. Now it comes in green, purple, and several other colors.
Next, I had to get the sandblaster ready by turning on the air compressor, making sure the air got to the sandblaster, then turning on the sandblaster itself, making sure that all the right valves and levers were in the right positions. Because I’m a short 5′ 3″, and it’s hard for me to see into the sandblast cabinet, my studio assistant made me a clever pull out shelf to stand on. (Kind of like a keyboard drawer on steroids! Pretty cool and very solid. So much better than the cinder blocks I used to have to stand on! 😊)
When the sandblaster was good to go, I took one glass at a time and carefully aimed the nozzle at the masked area with the pedal to the metal, making several even passes across the mask to get a good even etch. After dumping stray sand out of the glass and getting most of it off my hands and arms, I pulled the glass out and grabbed the next.
After the first three glasses were done, the sandblaster seemed to stop spraying the usual amount sand and blew twice as hard as before. Suddenly, the masking tape as well as the mask itself were being blasted right off the glass! Oh no!
I turned everything off and decided to figure out what went wrong the next day. Except the next day when I tried it again, it started up just fine and I went right through all 9 glasses remaining in that case that I had prepped and ready. It was only on the last one that I started to notice the same thing happening as the day before.
The next day, I spent the morning prepping another case of glasses. In the afternoon, I only got through another three glasses before the troubles started again. After a few choice words, and knowing that my assistant would be in the next day, I went back to prepping more glasses.
My assistant did a little of his magic (I swear I do exactly what he does, but he has magic hands or something!), and I was in business to blast more glasses. I got through another three glasses and it started happening again! Ah, it’s not me, after all! Whew!
To make a long story a bit shorter, I got through the rest of the glasses by doing a few at a time, then shutting down the machine for the day. We’re still trying to troubleshoot that blasted machine, but we will prevail!
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