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For the upcoming 2020 artVenture program, I was honored to be the featured artist for collaborations! I enjoy being a part of the artVenture program because I believe it helps girls learn how to work together collaboratively and creatively, helping to develop crucial skills for a quickly changing world. No matter what career choices the girls make, being able to creatively problem solve and communicate well with each other are important life lessons.
I have been working with a different group or groups of Girl Scouts going on nine years now, and I like to work on new and different projects when we meet at Architectural Glassarts. Some of the projects can be repeated with different results, but I like to challenge myself with new ways of evolving the process. This year, I decided to see how the girls would do at translating bouquets of flowers into glass. I had a personal goal of getting on the torch and using some new tools that I picked up in Murano during the Glass Art Society conference in 2018. The girls would create the fused glass focal flowers, and I would create the filler flowers and leaves. (Did I mention I also have a degree in Horticulture and took some Floriculture and flower arranging classes in college?)
It was a whirlwind two hours that we met, and I demonstrated how to safely work with glass, then the girls worked at cutting and piecing together flowers to go in the kiln for fusing several pieces into one.
After the flowers were fused for the first time, they had to go into the kiln a second time to take their shape. (The temperature at which glass melts together is higher than the temperature at which it starts to “slump” or fall around a ceramic mold to take a three dimensional form.)
Once the flowers are fused together and have taken shape, it’s time to build the armature for the sculpture and mount them. After a trip to multiple hardware stores to find just the right pieces and parts, I was able to solder the armature together and attach the flowers.
At this point, the flower sculptures look pretty naked. So, summoning my floral arranging days, I gathered some glass and hopped on the torch. While I was in Murano for the Glass Art Society conference in 2018, I picked up some tools from a famous and high quality glass tool maker shop, Carlo Dona; specifically a bell flower mold. (I love the shape of these flowers, which would make great jewelry, as well, which I think is what most folks actually use them for. )
After a couple of sessions on the torch, I had a collection of smaller leaves and flowers that I could arrange around the larger flowers to fill in the space and really make the fused glass flowers stand out! I can’t wait for the girls to see our bouquets hanging this spring for the only fundraising event for the Girl Scout Spirit of Nebraska. Proceeds from the event support statewide programming and a financial assistance fund to provide opportunities for more girls to participate in fun leadership activities, like artVenture!
I’m excited to share an interview I did with Renae about the glass projects I’ve worked on with the Girl Scouts during the artVenture program, and then Girl Scout Annaliese shares the highlights of her 6 years in various artVenture collaborations.
From the ArtVenture FAQs:
“artVenture is an annual event where small groups of girls are matched with artists in their communities. Together, they create a piece of art from conception to completion. Through this project, girls learn a new art medium or technique, work closely with an artist in their studio, and get to know other girls interested in the same art form. Girls also make a small piece of art to take home as a keepsake. Participating girls and their families are invited to a reception, where they can view the collaborations on display and celebrate their contribution.”
During my last visit to Flowing Stone Art Gallery in Beatrice, Nebraska, I was able to slip into the public library to see my piece installed. The remodeling of the library has taken a bit longer than planned, so the piece has been waiting to go up for awhile. It looks so great on the wall, all lit up in it’s own framed light box. I heard that the family who commissioned it was all really excited to see it and happy with how it turned out. It’s a memorial piece for their father, and they all agreed that he would have been very happy with it.
The window is a combination of techniques in glass. The whole thing is leaded together in the traditional leaded glass technique. The cloud and the church are painted on with stained glass paints that are fired in the kiln to be permanent. The flowers are glass on glass (GOG) mosaics, glued and grouted, then leaded into the panel. The landscape glass is all fused glass, with several bits of glass tacked together to make it layered and textured.
To view the window in person, visit the newly remodeled Beatrice Public Library.
This year’s projects were a bit of a departure from the norm, as I wanted to experiment with a few different techniques to see how the girls interpreted them. I was not left disappointed!
The Daisy and Brownies made fused glass flowers to be incorporated into fused glass sun catcher / windchime pieces, while the Juniors worked together to make glass on glass mosaics with the theme and title of their choosing. Below, the finished pieces are: “Love,” “Hope,” “Fire,” and “Fish.” Very elemental and encouraging!
This year’s artVenture collaboration took place once again at Architectural Glassarts in Lincoln, Nebraska. For the collaborative pieces, the girls picked a master’s painting to interpret with fused glass. Check out this great article in L Magazine to read all about it and see more pictures!
Each year for the Girl Scouts artVenture collaborations, girls of all ages come to create together in a working studio using glass as a medium for a work of art that will be auctioned off during the annual fundraiser for the Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska.
For this year’s collaborations, the girls learned how to make their own custom frit blends by crushing glass to use as “paints.” After their collaborative pieces were ready for the kiln, each girl took time to design a piece for themselves. This year, the girls made a pendant and suncatcher to keep.
This year’s group of Girl Scouts met me at Architectural GlassArts again for our fused glass collaborations. Girls age 8-16 years old participated, with most of the girls being in the 10-12 year old range.
After talking safety (how to cut glass, how to handle glass, wearing safety goggles while cutting), we discussed different ideas for themes of the plates. The girls divided into groups based on which mold they liked (and, of course, who their friends were), then began talking about the theme and colors they would be using. They dug through my scraps of glass to find pieces to cover the clear glass blanks that were cut to the size of the mold.
I didn’t give them any rules for constructing the plates, knowing that I may have to tweak the firing schedules a little. But, thankfully, three of the groups did two (glass) layer plates, which are easy-peasy to fire in the kiln.
And, as I had access to Architectural GlassArts big coffin kiln, I was able to fire all of the projects in one firing (except for “A Billion Sunsets” – read on). The “Big Kiln” measures approximately 30″ x 48″ and is able to accommodate a LOT of glass!
After the girls finished working on their collaborative pieces, they started making pendants & sun catchers that they get to keep. The collaborative pieces will be auctioned off on April 29, 2012 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska. (For tickets, contact Jenny Cardwell at 402.875.4345 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Most of the pieces were fired to 1440º F, which in my home kiln is a tack fuse, but in the “Big Kiln” is a full fuse. So the textures in the plates was a bit softer than I was going for, but not a big deal.
And then… I knew I was going to have issues when firing “A Billion Sunsets.” This piece was piled high with glass that was 3/8″ thick in some spots, but 1/2″ thick in others.
I wanted to full fuse the piece so that it had no more texture, but tons of depth! When you full fuse glass (to 1480º-1500º Fahrenheit), it spreads to become 1/4″ thick. That means that “A Billion Sunsets” would have spread out across the shelf to be bigger than our mold. The solution to that problem is to dam the glass in the shape that you want it. However…
I forgot to put ThinFire (special paper that doesn’t totally burn up in the kiln) down on the shelf, which means that air got trapped under the base piece of glass we built on. When the outer edges of the glass sealed shut against the kiln shelf, there was nowhere for that air to go but up and through the layers of glass above it. (Remember that air expands as it gets hotter, so that bubble may have started out really small, but as the kiln got hotter, so did the little bubble!) So, “A Billion Sunsets” will now have a brilliant sun where I fill in with some sparkly dichroic and some more glass…
Sometimes when you fuse glass together, you aren’t able to clean it thoroughly…this can lead to “devitrification.” Devit is a scummy, dirty looking fog that doesn’t clean off of the glass. There are a few things you can do to fix it. Here is how I’m fixing it: Sandblasting.
Notice the lovely mask and ear protection I’ve got going on. The mask is to prevent any silica carbide (the blasting media) from entering my lungs. Silica carbide is a black, shiny sand that eats away the surface of the glass.
After sandblasting the glass, it needs more attention. Now, it’s got a matte appearance that also absorbs fingerprints. So, next the pieces will go in the kiln for a “fire polish” and “slump.” A fire polish will turn the matte finish back to a shiny surface. The slump gives the flat piece of glass a 3-dimensional shape, turning our glass into functional plates.
During the month of February, I was able to participate in a program with the Homestead Girl Scouts in Lincoln. I was once a Homestead Girl Scout myself, and would have loved to participated in an art program like this one! I met with a group of sixteen girls on a Friday night. I explained the process of glass art, a bit about the considerations to keep in mind while working with glass, some safety information, and then they started working. Together, we made four different collaborative pieces for the auction, then each girl got the chance to make a sun catcher and fused glass pendant to take home!
From the application…”artVenture is an annual art auction fundraiser for the Girl Scouts-Spirit of Nebraska Council. A unique feature of the artVenture auction is the collaborative artwork created by local artists and area Girl Scouts working together. Girls learn a new skill, see how an artist works and collaborate with the artist and other Girl Scouts to create a piece of art for the auction. Artists get to demonstrate their skill and technique, expose future artists to a new medium, share what it means to be a working artist and have fun in the process!”