A couple of people have asked me to do a tutorial about how I blow
my patterned shards... while nothing beats a live demo, I'll try to describe the process
as well as I can.
I start with a stainless steel hollow mandrel or blowpipe.
Heat the end to a glowing red so that the glass will stick well to the pipe.
I start my first wrap of glass a bit back from the very end so that
the glass can't travel to the inside of the tube.
I then continue to
wind on the glass as if I'm making a disc bead on the mandrel.
The process is very similar to making a hollow bead on a mandrel
except the other end of the bead is off the end of the tube somewhere :)
Be careful and try not to leave tiny holes in betwwen the wraps, or
when it's time to heat everything up, your bubble will collapse.
I like making shards with many colors of glass, so I'll change colors
often as I wind on the wraps, as well as add a bit of frit or twisties here and there.
As I get to the half-way point of the form, I start to wind each wrap
slightly to the inside of the previous wrap so that the shape begins to
close. What I'm aiming for is a hollow ball.
Don't forget to keep everything warm while you're building
up the walls... especcially where the metal touches the glass... the metal is like
a heat sink and will draw the heat from the glass.
Eventually the ball will close , and this is when I might add abit more color
with frits or some surface design. Try not to add too much
glass thickness to any one spot, or your bubble wont blow out evenly.
Ok... Now the tricky part...
Melting it all smooth and blowing your bubble:
The trick here is to keep the bubble molten without having it collapse
on you before you're ready to blow it out.
Remember that the tube is really a hole, and that the heat inside the bubble
wants to escape out that hole and make all your hard work collapse like a sad
little popped balloon hanging off the end of the tube. There are a couple
of things you can do to avoid this...
One, is to cover the hole at the mouth end of the tube with your finger
while you turn the bubble in the flame.
The second is to periodically blow in tiny soft puffs into the tube from time to
time to help the bubble keep it's shape. I do both of these things.
It is important to keep the mandrel/tube turning while you do this
so that the bubble stays on center.
To even out your wall thickness, you're going to want to expand and contract
the glass a few times before you do your final blow.... in other words,
puff up the shape a bit, and then let it collapse down a bit... back
and forth a few times. This really helps with your final bubble shape.
When you're ready, and the glass is evenly molten...the same glow
throughout the bubble, it's time to blow your big bubble.
Do not blow hard or you will blow out a side...
Not only does this ruin all of your hard work, but the little cellophane-like
glass pieces that float about are very dangerous to breathe in.
Using a soft breath should be just fine. If the glass isn't expanding
with a soft breath, it's not hot enough. Blow slow and steady until the ball is
about the size of an orange, and the walls are very thin.
As I couldn't photograph myself durring the blowing process, here are a
couple of pictures taken by Cindy Brown ( Cindybeads ) durring
my class in Omaha.
And then you're done!
I drop the whole shebang into a coffee can until it's cool, and then
bonk it with something heavy like a hammer ... the shattered pieces are
your shards. Have Fun!! Be Safe!!! And dont get too
discouraged if you fail the first few times...
it's a learning process, and you'll eventually get a feel for it!!