Are Glassline Paints for You?

If you're new to painting on glass, you're probably bewildered about what brand of fusible glass paints to get. Here at my Glass Art Tools website, I carry several different lines of paints, chalks, powders, and enamels. So what's right for you?

One way to find out is to contact an artist whose work has a palette you find especially attractive, then contact them via their website or FB page to find out what they use. Another popular method is to take a class--a hands-on way of experimenting with a line of paints your teacher uses.  A third approach is to read up, then purchase a few basic colors and do your own testing. That's why I've packed the introduction to each color collection on the Glass Art Tools website with information about how each type of color is applied and fused.

In this blog, I want to share with you my own experience in using Glassline Paints. I've done a lot of experimentation with these colors, and I've found that they're quite versatile. Here are some of the things I like about them:
    They don't require you to purchase special medium; instead, they thin with water
           (I use distilled). They also work on all types and COEs of glass.
      They can be applied in a variety of ways:
        --thinned with water and sprayed with an airbrush
        --squirted from their bottle top, with finer lines possible using optional tips
        --spread with a palette knife or silicone spatula
        --partially dried and then carved through, scraped, or textured
           using Colour Shapers, chopsticks, or decorative palette knives                     
        --brushed on as a wash, texture-fused, and brushed again with the same color  to deepen its intensity, or with a different color to create shadows and blends
        --mixed with glass powders and gel and applied as a paste        

Glassline colors can be applied to either polished or sandblasted glass, and after they dry, you can experiment by sprinkling glass powders over them, and full-fusing.
     They can be tack-fused (at temps around 1300 degrees F), resulting in
        a pastel, matte surface
     They can be full-fused, resulting in deeper, richer colors and a glossy
        surface that becomes part of your glass.
     They seem to stand up to repeated fusing events without degrading.
There are some cons to Glassline paints. One is not serious, just annoying: Over months, the paint requires that you add little bits of water to the bottle and then shake like crazy to get it to a working consistency.

The MAIN drawback design-wise is that getting the best, richest color out of these paints requires a full fuse. So if you're only working at lower temperatures and desire jewel tones instead of matte pastels, these might not be the paints for you. Also, it means that if you are planning a texture fuse, a slump, or tacking on accessory glasses, you have to plan carefully to get the painted part of your piece full-fused first, and do the lower-temperature work after the full fuse has been completed. There are ways around this, such as creating "part sheets" with your painted images or patterns ahead of time, then cutting, shaping, and attaching them to a larger piece later using a tack fuse.

While Glassline Paints aren't like acrylics in that they can be mixed with abandon to produce totally predictable blends, you can mix them. I suggest pulling out a 10 x 10" sheet of white opal and placing daubs of mixed colors on it so that you have a color reference (just don't forget to make up a written guide to what colors/proportions are in each daub before  firing). Again, these paints will tend to fuse towards the darker end of the spectrum, so in mixing, I suggest creating pastel tones initially--they'll look darker after firing. A few basic colors, plus black and white, might provide enough to play with, to see if they're for you. Get them from Glass Art Tools and save.

The brand that is closest to Glassline in terms of a broad range of hues and similar firing ranges are Colors for Earth, available on the Glass Art Tools website. If you've seen Mark Hufford's work on Facebook or visited the Colors for Earth website, you'll be impressed by the painterly imagery that can be captured with this brand.  Plus, CFE has wonderful educational opportunities for people who use their enamel powders. The only drawback from my own user experience is that the colors must be applied to glass in "puddles" to achieve their full potential in fusing. From that viewpoint, Glassline paints are more versatile.

The other color set that has a wonderful selection of colors is Thompson Enamels. I carry a sample set of their non-toxic, fusible colors on the Glass Art Tools website. But these are enamel powders, and to my knowledge, they're designed to be applied in powder form, so if you're not familiar with how to do that, taking an enameling class might be a good idea.

I hope this overview has helped...Please feel free to comment with your own experience in what you've learned, which in turn will help others. Good luck and have fun!


Scoping out the new Glassline Beach Fusible Paint Colors

Who doesn't love the beach? The sand, the waves, the myriad hues of water and sky from dawn til sunset--those are pretty awesome colors.

And that's what Glassline's new color set, called "Beach," is supposed to be about. But how do they look after fusing? And how do these new colors compare with those already in Glassline's fusible paint collection? This blog post is my way of trying to help you figure that out.

First, I'll describe verbally how each color appears after a full fuse. Then I'll show you photos of samples that I fused of warm and cool colors, both old and new, and I'll compare them for you to see. Last, I'm posting a full sample set of "fused swatches" so you can see everything in the Beach set all at once.

Here's the list of Beach colors, and how they appear after a full-fuse:

  • Aegean--deep teal
  • Aqua--rich, medium teal
  • Blue Ice--a soft, dusky aqua   
  • Butterscotch--true to its name, like a butterscotch candy
  • Celadon--soft, muted medium green
  • Coral--a rich red wine color
  • Dusty Rose--yep, exactly like it sounds
  • Marine--a gorgeous, deep-sea blue
  • Mist--a blue grey, perfect for shadows
  • Peach--warm, deep skin tone
  • Sand--lovely warm beige or tan
  • Summer Sun--Wow, a bold, bright Primrose yellow

Next, I picked similar colors and full-fused them on the top surface of two layers of glass, white opal over clear. For color accuracy, I took these photos in bright, full sunlight so you can easily evaluate the new vs. older related hues:

A.   Aqua vs. Aegean vs. Teal vs. Marine
Comparison of blue green Glassline Colors

Aqua and Aegean are extremely similar. If you've mixed acrylics or watercolors, the only difference is that the Aqua is slightly lighter, not like a pastel, but more like if you added a bit more water to an acrylic color. The Aegean is a deeper tone.

Teal (an original color) is quite a lot deeper, with more green than Aegean.
Marine is a different hue altogether, bluer than the other three. It is a luscious color which reminds me of deep water ocean colors off the coast of Hawaii.

B. Turquoise vs. Blue Ice vs. Mist
Glassline Pastel Blues
These are all pretty pastel colors, even when full-fused. Turquoise reads to my eye like a sky blue, more blue-blue than the other two. The two new colors are different:
Blue Ice tends more towards a soft, dusky aqua.
Mist is what I think would be a versatile blue-grey.

C. Summer Sun vs. Celadon vs. Light Green
Glassline greens and yellow
Light Green, an original color, is a nice, medium Spring Green, while by comparison Celadon is more of a wash of an olive green with a hint of blue.
Summer Sun is a cool bright yellow, a must-have if you want bright color.

D.Warm Earth Colors
Glassline Warm Tones
Left Sample: Peach doesn't read "fruit" as much as it does "skin," and would probably be my suggestion for artists who paint people. I suggest using white or black to lighten or darken it. The Orange, an original color, is pure, bright orange.
Right Sample: All of these warm-tone colors are pretty, and useful for earth tones, landscapes, and skin colors. Sand (new) and Sesame (original) are slightly pinker, so they might be good for creating flesh tones. (Peach seems to have the most pink, though). Butterscotch is a lovely dark gold. Sand comes across as the lightest, while Butterscotch and Sesame are more intense values.

E. The Reds
Glassline red hues color sample
I've loved Glassline's Red Orange for years. It's lush, bright, and vibrant, and it doesn't poop out or get oxidized during firing (no need to crack open your kiln!). Deep Red is a darker, but still intense shade, while Coral is much more of a red wine hue. All of these reds really "pop" over black glass. The pastel Pink is an original color, while Dusty Rose reads as more muted than the others. For me, Glassline's reds are pretty unparalleled, and now you have even more red-related options.

Finally, here's a photo of the full set of Beach Color Swatches, again, shot in brilliant sunlight. A key to the names appears below the photo.
Glassline Sample Sheet of Fused Beach Colors
                                               Key to the colors:
Double row A, left to right:   Sand          Butterscotch          Peach          Coral

Double row B, left to right: Dusty Rose  Summer Sun        Blue Ice      Celadon

Double row C, left to right:     Mist                Aqua                Aegean         Marine

In summary, there are some lovely colors in this set, including some that would do well if you're looking for something for shadows (Mist) or flesh tones (Peach and/or Sand). And I'm already eyeing some of the bolder, intense colors as good candidates for mixing. However, some of the new colors are very similar to original ones, so you might want to use these photos to help you pick just the really unusual colors that resemble nothing else in your arsenal. However, if you're one of those people who want the full set so you don't miss out on anything, I'm offering the Beach set at a nice discount, which includes all 12 Beach colors plus bottles of Black and White, as well as a free tip set as a bonus. Find any and all on our second and third Glassline Paints pages.  Oh, and please let me know if you found this analysis helpful. Thanks!


How to use fusible tape and shelf paper around fusing dams

I wanted to share with you a fantastic new use that I've discovered for the fusible acrylic tape that I sell on the Glass Art Tools website.

Recently, I've been producing thicker fused pieces out of multiple layers of glass.
However, as as all fusers know, molten glass will want to "pool out" to an even 6mm thickness unless it's contained within restraints or "dams" during fusing.

Whenever you use a dam--such as those made of firebrick, ceramic (such as mullite/cordierite), or even metal, you have to line the dam with a material that molten glass won't stick to.  The traditional resist material has been fiber cloth, also known as kiln cloth or fiber blanket. This material has a consistency similar to felt, and comes in varying thicknesses.

Unfortunately, traditional kiln cloth has a couple of drawbacks. One is that you have to run it through the kiln separately first, to burn off the binders. Then you can use it with your glass. This is an extra step that ties up both your kiln and your time.

The other drawback is that if the cloth stands higher than the pile of glass next to it, the top layer of glass will tend to "stick" to the cloth, forming a ragged edge (shown below) that has to be ground off and either cold-polished or fire-polished with another run through the kiln. This is a lot of extra work.
ragged edge

I try to avoid extra work whenever possible, so I came up with the idea of using regular
kiln shelf paper instead of kiln cloth. I attach the paper to my ceramic dams using our fusible double-sided acrylic tape:

I use ceramic dams to hold in my glass, and cut the kiln shelf paper (I use Bullseye Thinfire Shelf Paper, but you can use any fusible shelf paper) so that it would fit around three sides of the dam.  (If you're planning to put glass on the outside of the dam, you could of course cover all four sides.) Make sure the paper lines up with the far edge of the dam, unless you want to cover the edge. In that case, you can create a "tab" that is folded over the edge and taped in back.

I then cut three little pieces of the Fusible Acrylic Tape and put them along each narrow side of the ceramic dam, as shown in the photo above. The tape will stick to the ceramic as well as the paper, and will burn off in the kiln, so it's perfect to use.

Fold the kiln paper into a crisply scored line along the edge, and then press dam and paper together. Fit the paper as tightly as you can (without tearing it) around the dam and tape it to the other side. Here you can see one side taped:

Below is a photo of the dam setup I used to create a three-layer (9-mm) thick fused glass cross-brace (two layers of clear glass and one layer of opaque black). In the lower right corner, outside the X, is the place where I used traditional kiln cloth to fuse a 3-layer square component, whose ragged edge is visible in the first photo in this article.

The result, after a very slow full-fuse with a prolonged anneal and cool-down sequence, is lovely and precise. Below is a closeup of the fused edge (two layers of clear glass and a top layer of black) which was formed next to the paper-wrapped ceramic dam. This is exactly how the glass looked coming out of the kiln. It will be used as a structural piece, so it needs no further work. Note the pretty, semi-polished surface texture.

Below is another shot of the finished piece. Clearly, the use of kiln shelf paper wrapped around each dam and attached with our acrylic fusing tape:

  • saved time in assembly
  • formed a nice straight edge
  • saved time in additional polishing/coldworking
  • provided easy cleanup--just tilt each dam over the waste bin and the shelf paper slides right off.

Some additional tips:

--Before firing, be sure to look carefully along the inside walls of the dams to make sure no ceramic is exposed to the glass. If you've missed a spot, just cut, fold, and tuck in an extra piece of kiln shelf paper where needed.

--Before you close the kiln door, make sure your glass is perfectly in place, and gently squeeze together the opposing walls to make sure they are flush against the glass.

--This setup shows 3 layers of glass. When fusing more layers, place a firebrick outside each dam to hold it in place.

--Always experiment to make sure this technique works in your specific kiln, and for your specific application.

Have fun!

Thoughts about taking art classes and workshops

I've just returned from an intensive five-day workshop taught by Kari Minnick at the Bullseye glass studio in Santa Fe New Mexico. This workshop focused on a variety of techniques that will have a huge impact in my own work. (The photo above shows one of my pieces from the class). This all has led me to think about the value of taking art classes and workshops.
   Signing up for an art-related workshop is a calculated risk: You hope that what you're going to learn will be worth the registration fee (which, for many of these workshops, can be quite expensive), the loss of time taken from your own studio, and any travel costs, from airfare to hotels, to meals, that you'll have to invest. (However, if you've started a business around your art and have a tax ID, all of these costs are deductible at tax time.)

   Due to the explosion in popularity of working with glass, there’s a dizzying array of workshops available across the country and even abroad. It seems that every glass shop offers beginning classes, while many community colleges, universities and even neighborhood recreation centers offer classes in stained glass, glass fusing, lampworked beads, even glass blowing. If you live in a city with a thriving art center, you'll probably be able to find classes through that organization. For those willing to travel, the Glass Craft and Bead Expo held annually in Las Vegas offers literally dozens of courses, while manufacturers such as Bullseye Glass sponsor classes in both their home base of Portland and in satellite stores, such as those found in Pasadena, Santa Fe, and New York. If you’re planning a vacation, a Google search of glass classes in that location might turn up a bonus to your trip.

   Assuming that you have a limited time and budget, how do you choose the class that's best for you? Here are some thoughts that I came up with that might help:

a) If you're just idly shopping around for something to do, then it's certainly worthwhile to give anything a try. But if you are looking to build your skills in a particular area, it's best to select a class that expands knowledge you already have. In other words, if you're a painter and think that it might be fun to take a glass fusing class, you can certainly take an advanced class but you won't get as much out of it because you don't already have the basic knowledge in glass that will allow you to fully understand the technical aspects of what's being taught. In my opinion, it would be better to take an introductory class so that you can appreciate how to work with the medium, and after that, take a more advanced or specialized class.

b) Most art and craft-related classes fall into one of the following categories:
•    introductory/basic/overview
•    new or specialized techniques
•    how to use new materials, equipment or tools
•    specialty subtopics or projects
•    skill building
•    stylistic development or expansion
•    Master class with a Master Artist
•    workshop with local tours

   Finding what's right for you depends on where you want to go with your art. If you're in the early stages of your learning, classes that help you build your skills to make your work look more professional might be what you're after. If however you have a good solid foundation, you might be interested in expanding your repertoire and learn new techniques or styles. Art pieces that combine more than one technique tend to stand out in a gallery situation.

c) Last but not least, there's the consideration of who's teaching the class. Taking a class from an established artist may sound exciting in theory, but make sure that you resonate with their work by visiting their website or Facebook page before you sign up. It also doesn't hurt to call the sponsoring organization and ask about that teacher, to see what the feedback has been from other students. Some teachers love to interact with their students during and after class, which would provide you with plenty of opportunity for you to show them your work and ask for their comments. Other teachers might be less social, but the course content might make up for that. Before you sign up, be sure to read the course description and if possible, the course outline or syllabus, to make sure that you know exactly what's going to be covered and whether it’s right for you.

   In addition to these points, there is the intangible set of benefits that you get simply from being in the same room and rubbing shoulders with your instructor and fellow students. Sometimes just watching them work provides you with insights and ideas to improve your own techniques and processes. Often a special energy emerges when the teacher and members of the class are sharing in the excitement of making new and wonderful things. And, one last suggestion: Don't be afraid to go to lunch or dinner with your class members: It’s a great way to learn about one another and possibly launch friendships or mentorships that will enrich both your life and your career.

How to make Bullseye fusible glass powders work for you

Bullseye (BE) powders are nothing more than fusible sheet glass ground into fine powder. I've done a lot of experimentation with them, and I want to share what I've learned with you in the form of some Do’s and Don’ts.

I'll start first with the Don’ts so that you can learn from my mistakes and wasted efforts.

Don’t expect Bullseye powders to act like enamels when fused. You can't just sift a light layer on and expect rich color to result; in fact, full-fusing a very thin layer of most BE powders just makes them disappear. This applies to even many of the “opaque” opals. However, you can get interesting composite color effects by adding additional layers of powders over the course of multiple firings.

Don’t hesitate to sift, pinch, or shake on a generous amount of powders. Bullseye techs say that if you want your BE powder to look like sheet glass of the same color, you have to pile on a layer thicker than sheet glass in order to make up for the air spaces in between the particles of powder. So, to get the same color richness of a 3mm sheet of BE glass, you have to pile up 4mm of powder. Remember that you can add additional interest and texture by moving the powders around with brushes or silicone Colour Shapers.

Don't assume that a channel of glass powder (or even frit) is strong enough on its own to hold together two adjacent pieces of glass. Yes, powder can help fill gaps where two pieces don’t fit exactly flush together, but if you want to make a piece that will last, add a second solid layer above or below. And remember that your strength always lies with precision cutting and fitting; don’t expect powders or frit to “bridge” nearby components and “glue” them together without a solid base or cover layer.

Don’t expect clear glass powder to stay clear. Unlike other BE glass powders where piling on a thicker layer results in a richer color, piling up clear powder results in a milky whitish layer. Why is this? Bullseye techs explain that air bubbles get caught in between the particles of clear glass powder, and result in so the thicker the layer, the milkier it becomes.
apply clear powder thinly to avoid a milky effect

To avoid this, just make sure your application layer of clear powder is very thin.

Now that you’ve heard the don’ts, you’re free to explore all the neat things that you CAN accomplish using Bullseye powders:

Do try Bullseye’s “strongest” powders for image and pattern creation--the black opals and the aventurines.

In my opinion, the most versatile BE powder is black opal (BE-00100). It can be applied thick or thin and will retain its distinctiveness and granularity on contrasting color sheet glass. It also will hold a pattern and texture when manipulated with brushes, palette knives, or the silicone Colour Shapers found on our Glass Art Tools website.

Do sift a thin layer of black opal powder over any black sheet glass in your piece: After a full fuse, the glass will be a glossy patent-leather black that covers any imperfections in the glass sheet. Just be sure to use a brush or our mini vacuum cleaner to remove any stray particles from edges or anywhere else they don't belong, or they’ll show up after fusing.

Do consider experimenting with Stiff Black Opal (BE-000101) accessory glasses—both powders and stringer. Stiff Black gets is name because it is more resistant to the heat of the kiln than regular black opal. This is great for stringers: Bullseye’s .5mm Stiff Black Opal stringers retain their straightness and won't wiggle around in a full use the way that regular black opal stringers can.
stringers of stiff black opal keep their shape

Stiff Black Opal powder might be the way to go if you really want to retain the definition of every grain, although it will blend perfectly into black background glass during a full fuse. However, be prepared: Stiff Black Opal on the surface of your plate or bowl might make it take surprisingly longer to slump. Being “stiff,” it resists bending! So watch your glass carefully and expect to take it at least 10 degrees hotter and perhaps hold it longer than usual in order to get your perfect slump.

Do try Bullseye Aventurine Blue (BE-001140) and Light Aventurine Green (BE-001412), Bullseye powders that combine color, sparkle, and more definition than regular transparent powders. I especially like Light Aventurine Green powder because it can be applied more thinly and manipulated like black, but it shows up better against darker background glasses.
Light Aventurine Green powder test samples

Do choose Opaque White (BE-000013) instead of regular White Opal (BE-000113) because, according to my tests, Opaque White seems to hold its definition better under higher temperatures. It shows up best when tack-fused as opposed to full-fused.

Do try playing with a combination of coarse frit and powder: I’ve found, at least with transparent colors, that when they are contained together in one area, they create a mosaic effect after fusing.

consider texture-fusing powders. Here's a photo of a part-sheet that I made using powders and clear stringers:

When fired to a lower range, 1250-1320 degrees, powders retain their graininess and can be “piled” and manipulated to create a “bas relief” surface. And as long as you keep the temperatures within this range, you can re-fire your piece after you've painted on additional colors, such as Reusche pigments mixed with Propylene Glycol. Chalks won't stick at this temperature range, though.

Do tack-fuse a thinly-sifted layer of powder onto glass to provide a rough layer for applying chalks and paints.

Do help prevent air bubble formation by sifting a thin layer of powder in between layers of glass.

So those are the basic Do’s and Don’ts that I’ve learned in working with Bullseye powders. My bottom line rules are:

  • opals tend to show up better than transparents
  • dark colors will show up better against light backgrounds than light colors against dark  
  • the thicker the powder layer, the more visible it will be
  • additional layers (and multiple firings) will add depth and richness of color
  • always experiment on a smaller piece first!

While our Glass Art Tools website doesn't sell glass powders, you can easily obtain them from your local glass dealer or directly from bullseyeglass.com.  Note that they come in a variety of sizes--I recommend starting with the smallest bottle and experimenting with it before you commit to purchasing a pound or more.

If you have any findings that I’ve missed that you think will be helpful to people, or if you have different experiences with a different brand of glass powder, by all means, please share!

How to Make Paint for Glass from Reusche Pigments

I love Reusche pigments...Although the palette is not extensive, the colors are rich and vibrant and fuse directly onto glass. As pigments, the Reusche powders can be mixed with any medium--water, oils, and any material that would burn off cleanly in the kiln.

One really easy medium to use is Propylene Glycol, a type of alcohol that dissolves both in oil and in water. It's non-toxic, and spreads with a consistency of maple syrup. Here's a really simple method of creating your own glass paint using Reusche pigments and Propylene Glycol:

Set up your mixing area first. You'll need:

  1. A sheet of clean plastic, rubber, or coated paper to cover your workspace
  2. Your protective mask: These pigments are in the form of really, really fine powder that becomes airborne with the slightest movement. You don't want to inhale this.
  3. A measuring spoon, size dependent on the quantity of paint you want to make.
  4. A palette knife to even off the top of the measuring spoon and later for stirring.
  5. A small container that preferably has a pour spout.
  6. Your choice of airtight container in which to store your mixed paint (If you don't have one, check out our Storganizer jars).
  7. A clean, dry eyedropper (optional)
  8. Your partially-opened container of ONE COLOR of Reusche pigment.
  9. Propylene Glycol

The basic recipe that I've developed is simple:
Mix one part Reusche pigment to one part (by volume) Propylene Glycol.
I suggest starting out with a smallish quantity, like a teaspoon of each. That way, you can test this mixture to see if it works for you, and adjust as you see fit. Then you can mix larger amounts.Just make sure you run the knife across the top of the measuring spoon so that you get an exact measure. Put the measured pigment into your container and add the same measure of Propylene Glycol.

Stir very thoroughly, like for 2-3 minutes. Wipe off the knife on the inside edge of the container to save every drop.

The next step is: Screw on the cap, put the container aside, and wait a couple of days. What will happen during this time is that the useable paint will settle out and the excess propylene glycol will rise to the top. (While you're waiting, you can try rescuing any spilled pigment). Wipe down your tools and work area with a damp cloth so that it's completely clean, and you can move on to mixing another color if you want.

After a couple of days, carefully open the container and remove the excess Propylene Glycol, which will look once again like a clear liquid floating atop the colored paint. You can pour it off, but I've found that using an eyedropper allows you to more accurately remove the clear liquid without losing any of the colored liquid.

Now that you have your paint, make sure that you have a nice matte surface to your glass that will receive the colors you paint on. Here is a little sample piece that I did that allows you to see how bright the colors are before fusing. They will retain this brightness and develop a polished surface if fused exposed to the air of the kiln. They also spread nicely on the 36-grit matte surface that I made with our Matte-Making Kit.

Before you run off to play, here are several things to keep in mind:

  1. The manufacturer recommends that the ideal fusing range for these pigments is 1140 to 1400 degrees F, which is below a full fuse, with 1200 to 1250 degrees being a good target to start with. Once pushed higher, or heated longer, than the recommended range, the colors might not turn out as you wish. So experiment first! One strategy might be to do the full fusing of your glass first and then paint the surface and fuse again at the target temps for the paints. Remember that these are cadmium and lead-free.
  2. When you're planning your painting and kiln schedule, keep in mind that the Propylene Glycol takes longer to dry than water, so allow about 24 hours drying time (more or less depending on ambient humidity) if you want your piece to be dry before it goes into the kiln. I fused the above piece wet and it turned out well, so you might want to experiment with that and see if it works for you.
  3. These colors might interact with one another to produce reactions that you hadn't planned. This is due to their chemical composition, and if you're familiar with the reactions involved in combining various colors of Bullseye glass, you'll understand. Again, do test pieces first before you commit to investing lots of pigment in a large piece.
  4. You don't have to work with paints that are this thick. Feel free to experiment with not removing the excess Proplyene Glycol, or even thinning your mixture more to "stretch" these pigments, some of which are pretty expensive. Be sure to work on a test piece first to ensure that you have adequate coverage and color saturation.

I will be addressing some of these temperature and reaction considerations in a future blog. Meanwhile, have fun!

And if you have any suggestions for ways to mix, apply, and fuse Reusche pigments, please let me know and I'll add them to a future blog post!

Glass Studio Safety 2: Protect Your Lungs

It's amazing that well-educated people who would never tolerate asbestos in their homes would place themselves in similar danger on a daily basis by working in their glass studio without wearing a protective mask. And yet, for my beginning years doing stained glass, I was one of those people.

I can't believe now that I spent countless hours leaning over my glass grinder, intent on cleaning up and smoothing the edges of my glass pieces, never realizing that all the microscopic glass bits I was grinding off were attaching themselves to water vapor droplets and sailing right into my lungs with every breath I inhaled. In my defense, my teacher never ever mentioned the need for a mask, but in retrospect, why the heck didn't I see that for myself? Maybe it's because I was SO intent on making my art, that I never gave it a thought. But now I do.

Like asbestos, fine glass shards and powders get trapped in the body. They don't dissolve, they don't flush away. They build up over time, and eventually they interfere with the functioning of the cells and air passages in our lungs. So it's important to BE AWARE of the occasions where air- or water-borne glass, enamel, or other particles can be drawn into our vulnerable lungs, and PROTECT ourselves.

The best protection, of course, is wearing a mask that will filter these particles out. What follows is a very rudimentary discussion of masks. You can find lots of technical information on the web; this is just meant as a simple introduction. Here are some of the masks in my studio currently:

The thinner, lighter masks (the white ones shown at top) are easier to wear and you can find them at any drugstore or hardware store. I've got several, and I hang them within reach near work areas so I remember to put them on. I find that they work well for me when I'm hand-sifting glass powders, enamels, pigment powders, or any other non-toxic powders that I'm applying by hand.

I also wear a mask when I'm scraping kiln wash off of kiln shelves or molds. And I try to wear a mask when I'm scraping up and disposing off the powdery residue of kiln-shelf paper after firing.

However, when it comes to machine work--sawing, drilling, grinding, or engraving glass--it's best to invest in a 3M mask with replaceable filters, such as the one shown at the bottom of the photo. I found this one at a home improvement store (you can also get these online). The pink cartridge areas are where the filters are housed. This mask has squarish filters; others have round filters.

These masks have two main differences from the little white ones:
a) The mask part that fits on your face is plastic, and it's designed to seal against your skin so that the only air reaching your nose is air that has been drawn through the filters.
b) The filters are much better--they filter out smaller particles, including vapor-borne particles. This protects your lungs much better as a result.
c) After you've worn the mask for a while, you can replace the filters.

The downside of these is that they are more cumbersome to take on and off; it's harder to breathe through them; and they are not as comfortable. But you have to weigh that against the risks of lung disease or cancer, and then, it's really worth wearing it.

In addition to wearing a mask, there's one other thing you can do when working with powders, and that is: keep it damp. That means, when you're done with your powders, don't sweep up the residue with a brush; use a damp paper towel instead. Wipe up surfaces with a damp cloth, sponge, or paper towel (I prefer the last because we have a septic system and I try to keep as much foreign material out of it as possible, so I just toss out the paper towel). If you want to use a can of compressed air to "blow dry" your sifters, just take it outside. Even then, wear a mask!

Safety in the Glass Studio Part 1: Protect Yourself from Glass

If you're a glass fuser, you know that a glass studio is not a place for the faint of heart.

First, there's the glass itself: It cuts, bites, slices, pokes, gashes and pricks effortlessly. Even a tiny shard can stab you; even a sliver can embed itself magically into your skin. Sometimes it doesn't even hurt--until you see the droplets of blood!

So how do you keep glass from injuring you while you work? Some people wear special protective gloves when cutting glass, which is fine if that's all you're doing. But I often do detail work such as pattern-cutting, and gloves get too clunky for that. So I've developed some self-defense measures that I'd like to share, and I'd welcome any additions you might have:

    1. Beware the edge. You know that the scored, broken edge of a sheet of glass can cut. So place that edge down or away from where you might most likely grab it. If you're going to handle it a lot in preparation of a piece, you might want to consider quickly running that edge along a grinder--It only will take a few seconds and it will make the glass safer to handle.

    2. Remove the jagged chips; pulverize the points. For me, it's the little jagged pieces that stick out, and the pointy edges of sheet and scraps, that do the most damage, especially those pieces where the point is so thin that it's barely visible. Once I bent down to pick up something off the floor and my arm gently brushed against a jagged corner of a sheet of glass in my storage bin. I didn't even notice what had happened until I felt blood running down from a huge gash in my arm. So now, as I'm cutting, I force myself to use my grozing pliers to literally twist, bite, or "chew" off those little triangles and points that show up. I find that my life has been much less bloody as a result.       

    3. You probably are well aware of this, but it bears repeating: Keep little kids and curious pets out of your studio. If you're giving a tour, prep the adults to keep ahold of their children. Glass is beautiful, but a lot of people, including kids, aren't aware that one must beware of glass!

     Do you have any tips on how to protect yourself from getting cut by your precious glass? Please share!

Welcome to my New Website!

I am so excited to welcome you to my new website, Glass Art Tools! This site is meant to gather into one place all the neat tools, materials, and methods that I've learned about for glass fusing. No, I don't sell any glass here--you can get glass from your favorite supplier. What's NOT so easy to get are the unusual tools AND the techniques I'll be sharing in the coming weeks and months, in the form of downloadable files (in our Fusing Library) and videos.

So enjoy browsing the site. You'll be pleased to note that my prices, in deference to the tiny pocketbooks of most artists, are 15% off regular retail prices. That's year round, not just a one-time sale. My goal is to get these clever (and sometimes quirky) products into the hands of artists like you who will DO something GREAT with them!

Please let me know what you think! My email is: glassarttools@gmail.com.