I won't pretend and say quarantine life is easy. I'm not sure where other artists find the motivation to continue updating their art but I find it a bit difficult to do so stuck up in one place. I've been much more inclined to catch up on things that I neglected in homely life, now that I'm here long enough to notice. Chores and housecleaning have taken most of my attention. I figure that it's not something to be sorry for, though, because I'm still staying productive and exercising creative thinking. Even so, it can be real boring in a box.
That being said, I'm not staying quiet on social media simply because I'm unmotivated to create. I'm all for staying informed, however it's a bit overwhelming to be bombarded with the news, misinformation and opinions of other people. It's discouraging to see people acting rebellious, self-righteous or lacking compassion.
I know in my heart that I should still focus on my work, because it's my intention to show people that good things still prevail in bad times. I get that some people don't/are unable to understand but it's my purpose to reflect on it. I can't directly help with the efforts against the sickness, but an instructor of mine once told me that art isn't functionless if it can't be used. It can always have a function to inspire.
I should still try and show you what I'm working on, even if you may not happen to see it in the saturated feed, because in the chance that you do, it might comfort you in some way.
...that was a bit hard to articulate, but here's hoping I didn't sound completely sloppy. Now we're gonna about integrated glass printing.
Okay! During my studies at Sheridan, one of my instructors lent me a book because he learned about my interest in print. In the contemporary art world, interdisciplinary methods are continuously evolving and it's very worth the time to read up anything relating to your intention, aesthetic, etc, in case you stumble upon a medium you particularly like. This book is Glass & Print by Kevin Petrie, and I liked it so much that I gained my own copy. It listed and explained a few of the many ways both glass and print can lend their best qualities to one another. There was a short chapter of vitreography, which helped my understanding with using glass as a matrix.
Another method, which I found very interesting, was integrated glass printing. This method was essentially a way to make multiples of three-dimensional pieces that functioned as “glass editions”. The process involves making a rubber casting of an etched plate, with which you can easily make plaster molds of. The linework of the plate would thus be replicated in the plaster, and you would fill these in with coloured glass powder, almost as you would ink a plate. Then you pack it up with more glass, enough to allow the linework to have a body to integrate with. It's brought up to fusing or casting temperature, and when it comes down again, you pop it out. If the mold is still in good shape, you can cast again for a “ghost casting” the same way you could monotype a “ghost print”. The mold may split in another firing, but with so little glass you aren't at risk of a spillage in the kiln. The piece itself will remember these scars, which I personally find very cool.
I have yet to replicate exactly how Petrie does it; his work seem to have a transparency and vividness to them that leads me to believe he has the resources to have very clean glass or powders. Each particulate of glass you mill yourself is covered with glass dust, so it exhibits a milky translucency when fused or casted. Almost all of the works I've made have been opaque, unless I specifically use clear sheetglass as the body. That could very well be how Petrie does it but it's not mentioned in the book and I haven't contacted the man myself, nor have I actually seen his work in person. It has been a very interesting journey, however, working through this process on my own.
Instead of etched printing plates, I use glass that have been deeply engraved through sandblasting and dremelling. Thus, my integrated glass prints have a lot more depths and levels to them, acting as reliefs. I'm interested in using the engraved pieces as vitreographs, but they're much bigger than what the baby press can handle. With having different cavities to work with, I can work with a variety of colours without having to worry about them mixing and muddling together. The first half of this process is very straightforward. The casting bit, however, was when things got real complicated.
Many glass colours are reductive in nature. They strike into a different colour when another variable is present, like duration at a particular temperature or a chemical reaction to something in the kiln. Many of the first castings I did burnt out to dark, ugly things. It was apparent to me that this process required many, many, many tests.
But the nice thing about that is I'm very stubborn and methodical, so it wasn't a big deal.
Through these tests I managed to develop a deep understanding of what happens to glass in the kiln. Lost-wax casting is a lot more apparent because the glass is more active, but when you make integrated glass prints, you learn how to distinguish subtle details. How deeply packed your glass was, what shade of colour ended up exactly how you wanted, how clean the glass was to begin with, whether there was any moisture left over in the mold before you started working... so many variables had their part to play.
I had a very good sense of how the kilns functioned at school. People requested my help beyond technologist hours so that made me feel pretty cool. Yet, when it comes to a kiln of my own, my research will have to backtrack, maybe even start in the dark. Every kiln behaves differently, so at any time, the knowledge I've developed won't always be automatically correct. I am really excited for the moment I finally fire my own kiln!!
I think I'll end it here. The last thing I wanna talk about in medium is glass painting, so look forward to that for next time!
So yeah, things don't look that great but keep your chin up. Some of our parents and grandparents have withstood worse things than COVID-19, and we just gotta persevere. We're in a different age where we can access global information insanely quickly, but the amount of information we're exposed to can overwhelm us with the wrong information, often filled with semantics, politics and problematic opinions. Stay informed, double-check everything, and keep a positive mindset.
During this time my wrist has been killing me more than usual, which is terrible timing. I had intended to print every other day or so and generate a good stock of prints but it doesn't look like it's gonna happen quickly. It would be ideal to go to a physiotherapist but with how things are I am hesitant to do so... not in fear of getting infected, mind, but it does take a long time to get in touch with someone even outside of a pandemic. I'll try mending it with what I have here and just take it easy. It'll be a good opportunity to work on other less strenuous things, but I am still remorseful.
Gonna snap out of that by diving right into what I promised last week; glass casting.
So! I was first introduced to the process at Sheridan, obviously. Hot casting was the initial icebreaker; pouring a ladle-full of molten glass into a mold in a sandbed. This process is very hands-on and almost industrial in the sense that you can get multiples if you work efficiently. It requires a lot of preparation, and the more time you spend in the mold stage, the cleaner the casting is. The act of casting also requires a bit of skill; clean gathers and pours, perfect amounts of glass for the mold, control, ability to quickly recover and fix mistakes. I liked it, but I deviated to kiln casting in my later years since it was something I could take my time with and work independently. Sandcasting is a team effort. Since it was still within my major, I did offer to help my classmates with their pours and projects. I am still affectionately referred to as “Ninja Snips”.
As I mentioned, kiln casting was where I found my niche. I started sculpting with clay, but found that my preferred medium very quickly was microcrystalline wax. It's also very hands-on, but not fast-paced. I had complete control on how long I can spend my time with each piece. When I attended Western I was noted to have poor sculpting skills but I realize that my materials were just lacking. The closest I'd say I got to the sculpting I excelled at was making a concrete gnome. Could have been a good indicator of the process I would end up pursuing, even if it's applied differently.
It gets extremely technical in a kiln room. You've got pounds of wax to melt and maintain in a way it doesn't suffer from dirt or water contamination. You gotta make sure you don't get wax on every surface while you work, so containing it in a space is mandatory. Making a mold properly ensures it can survive glass-melting temperatures, but even a good mixture can't save a poorly-plotted orientation of a piece. Steam-out of the wax is messy business and can also compromise the integrity of the mold. Placement of your mold in a kiln is important with air circulation and heat distribution in mind. Understanding what's happening inside the kiln both theoretically and practically is something you gain from experience. Demolding has to have good timing and etiquette. The difficulty of coldworking the piece depends on what you planned ahead with sculpting in the first place... your sanity depends on where you ended up placing that reservoir.
Man, all that vague jargon! In order to explain everything more thoroughly I'd have to dedicate posts to each step in the process. You can always comment or contact me if there's anything in particular that you're interested in.
I became particularly enamoured with making casted vessels... drinking horns in particular. Drinking horns started as a thing for me in Glassblowing, since its very simple shape made a great basis for more ornamental, story-telling elements. Since blowing wasn't my schtick, I carried it over to kilncasting. The trouble, of course, is that it's a hollow object; most castings are solid. So, hollow-core casting was something I studied, making multiple prototypes and figuring out exactly how I can effectively cast this shape. Since it initially has no point where it can sit stable, I have to make bases for them, but I always find that they detracted from the look. So I started giving them feet. It's still something I want to do when I start working with a kiln again.
It's been nearly a year since I graduated and I'm perpetually in the wax-sculpting stages. I'm partly glad I am because I'm not losing touch with the medium. I've also done dozens and dozens of rubber casts of them, so when it comes to it I'll be prepared for a production scenario. Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak, I have a lot to work with indoors. I have a few drinking horn and shot horn prototypes to finalize, as well as a lot of bottles to play around with. For the time being I'm brainstorming interesting and symbolic cores for them, so obviously I've made small human skulls to start me off. Even if I get to the point of making their molds, I won't be able to fire them any time soon in quarantine.
So I'll just keep waxin' away!
How do printmaking and glass casting intertwine? Find out next week when I talk about integrated glass printing.
Well uh... I will date this moment and say that I'm writing Wednesday night, right after an unfortunate occurrence took place.
The Lonely Hydra plate shattered on the second run.
And yeah, glass breaks, it's a thing! It's the risk you take when you use it as a matrix. Up until this point I had been very careful with the pressure of the press and adjusting every few prints. Sometimes the pressure seems extremely dangerous but when the plate is on the bed with nothing underneath, it can withstand it.
It could have either been two things: the pressure-adjusting cranks shifted, as any little nudge can do so easily without me knowing; or I was truly careless when I decided to put the glass facedown on the paper, rather than traditionally faceup. It could be both, but I'm leaning to the latter. I was just so excited about using alcohol inks as a middle layer, and amidst the excitement I thought to myself, “wHy, It'S gLaSs, I cAn SeE tHrOuGh It To ReGiStEr!” and the logic centre in my brain didn't light up. Doing it this way introduces the gaps of the matrix (the blasted image) as pressure points. When you cut glass to pieces, you snap it in the opposite direction of the scored surface, so it only makes sense. I had a separate plate that I was experimenting with... if I had thought to use that for this experiment I may have spared the Hydra.
But it can't be helped. I had initially thought to play off the cracks (a slight impression transfers to the paper) but it's more hassle than it's worth. It takes maybe twice as long to ink because you're careful not to cut yourself or damage any of your applicators. Don't even get me started on the slivers and crunching. I can see it being done with the glass fastened on a stiff backing, but it would have to be water/oil resistant and thin enough to accommodate the height this press already lacks. It's overall messy and cumbersome.
My plans for the print have been scrapped, obviously, because registration is very particular. Making a new plate would require an identical piece of glass and an impeccable eye to place the design exactly in the same spot and orientation. I would be better off starting from scratch, reprinting the first layer all over again, but no! I will not.
Glass is versatile, and I should be, too. I'll take this blunder as a reminder that approaching it like a traditional printing method squanders its potential. Its quality really allows it some flexibilty, which is hard to believe considering what happened but I mean it. So I'll get some similarly-sized pieces of glass and brainstorm with it.
I had originally decided to move on to glass casting in this post but when interesting things happen in real time they should be covered first! My only regret is that I didn't make a rubber casting of this plate before it went, which would have allowed me to make integrated glass prints of it down the line. While I'm working on my next print I can cut another vinyl of it.
In other news, I've been keeping busy at the studio in Aylmer, making many rubber casts of bottles! So far I'm up two six completed, with some simple yet interesting shapes. Cheryl noticed my current project and gave me some more from her collection to make some more.
I just realized that I never really explained how I got access to a studio space, so let's dial back for a second. The third year of my program at Sheridan required me to find an establishment to fulfill my Co-Op term. Glass-related places offering a paid position are next to nothing, especially London since I wanted to be closer to home. Galleries seemed like my only hope but they all fell through as well. I guess in desperation I started contacting art guilds to help me connect with any glass artists they knew. The Association of Port Stanley Artists was the only one that replied back and connected me with Cheryl Garrett-Jenkins, artist and owner of Rubyeyes Kraftwerks.
I met up with her in Port Stanley at her brick-n-mortar location at the time, a very cozy shop close to the beach, with a studio in its garage. It was a very pleasant meeting and she agreed to take me on because no one else would. She paid me bi-weekly for gas in exchange for my hours helping her around the place. I'd step in at the register when she was working in the back, open and close the shop, and basically any grunt work she needed. Luckily enough she was clearing out some unused/scrap glass at the time. It was a wonderful summer, and I gained an invaluable friend too; it never really felt like she was my boss, and in fact it kinda feels like I got a really cool aunt and uncle (her husband is really sweet). It was at this time that I learned how to properly fire enamels, solder, came, and cut glass, and it was the first time I was acquainted to silver stain.
I returned to school but made sure to come visit Rubyeyes whenever I came home for the weekend. Then, after graduating, I still remained open to work with Cheryl. However, at that time she had decided to close down the store front of business and merely keep working from her garage. I helped them move her studio to Aylmer and things look really good. I don't technically work for her, but she's graciously provided me space in her studio to continue my practice. We hope to make a collaboration piece very soon! It just takes a while with all of our personal projects taking precedent. I visit her studio twice a week so that I don't lose grasp on the medium, now that I don't have the school facilities or assignments to keep me in check. Since going there, I have developed an extensive mold library that keeps on growing. Now I only wish I can finally fire these objects in glass sooner!
And perhaps I will.
Glass casting is next week's topic, I promise.
P.S. In light of recent news, don't panic, and stay away from fear mongering social media outlets. Be sure to continue supporting local artists and businesses because they rely on you.
This has been a fairly good week. In order to make up for Saturday's snowday I got to go to the studio on Monday, which entailed a lot of mouldmaking. I made rubber casts of three bottle-like items, which I'm very excited to play around with today when I see them set and cured. On Tuesday I tided (or rather set up and organized) an area for myself to carry out my printing projects.
Wednesday I travelled up to Georgetown with my friend so that she could make works for sandblasting. Allow me to explain a little bit; my friend, Hannan Fayad, is a glass artist who graduated from my program while it was a diploma and continues her work in London. Since my graduating and returning home, we've connected and have gotten very close. She doesn't have a glassblowing studio so she rents time or 'slots' at a studio in Georgetown to make her stock. Since I also want to stay connected to the glass art scene, I offer to be her uber. At some point I want to use the facilities myself, but for the time being I come up to see old faces and secure some quiet time to think creatively. I sketched a lot this time around, brainstorming about the bottles, the claw ring, and the Lonely Hydra print (which I'll get to in later paragraphs). I took lots of pictures of her working so that's always fun!
I was a bit drained on Thursday but I took care of some errands. Yesterday was a bit more productive since I got some proofs done of the glass plates I showed last week. The laser-engraved plate proved too shallow, and no amount of underwiping is worth the time, but the linework has a very good read. For the next design, I'll ask to see if it can be engraved multiple times in place... it might just do the trick. I will however go back into it with a dremel because I feel there can be some really good values to be unearthed from it. The vinyl-blasted plates were great, the depth just right, but I preferred the bigger between them. The teeth weren't compromised as much. This print was originally as small as it was so it could be submitted to some mini-print exhibitions but it clearly doesn't want to be small.
Before I go into too much detail about the Hydra, I'll delve into today's topic. Between the two traditional mediums, people voted for Printmaking, and I will go into what that means in my practice.
A few blogposts ago I explained that I was first introduced to printmaking through a highschool field-trip workshop. I was really enamoured by the industrial yet manual process, and it wasn't a question when it came to choosing it as a specialization. During my time at UWO I learned relief, etching, silkscreen, stone- and plate lithography. I found every process therapeutic. When it came to my final year, I requested special permission to take 4th Year Print, since it wasn't a fleshed-out course yet; there were four of us that did the same. It was in this year that I created the Steambeast series.
There is just something incredible about printmaking. It's not the fact that I can make the same image over and over again, because I'm actually the worst at registration. The process appeals to me more than accuracy... I embrace the flaws. In recent years I've become incredibly interested in monoprints and monotypes, which relates to my explorations in vitreography.
But but but! I can't get too ahead of myself.
At Sheridan I tried to continue my practice. The printshop was literally next to our classroom, and none of the print students actually used the litho stones. The print technician was very kind and allowed me access to the studio after some protocol safety tests. I managed to get at least one stone completed in my four years there... clearly not enough to me. My program was a lot more demanding. In order to properly get my printing fix in, I took Surface Design in Textiles as a minor.
Printing on fabric was a suitable replacement, I reasoned, even though silkscreening was my least-favourite method at UWO. I was pleasantly surprised when I started getting the hang of it, and more. Pigment sprays, stamping, and stenciling in any and all combination, left to my whimsy. I wasn't the best at making seamless patterns, but that was never my strong suit to begin with. I made organic compositions and tapestries. When I didn't have to worry about registration I set myself loose. I remember during one of my critiques, a classmate noted how immersed I get with the process. I love to get messy, to be unorthodox. This was my way of freely exploring abstract landscapes, the most ethereal of my works.
I had also tried to connect glass and print during my studies. One of my instructors lent me a book in which glass and print were combined. There were two processes that I was really interested in: vitreography and integrated glass printing.
(Vitreography is more of a printing process so I'll go into it here, whereas I.G.P. is more of a casting process and will be covered in another post.)
I tried to print my first glass vitreograph plate but it cracked under the pressure of the press. One of my classmates collected data for me in her travels and helped me refine the process. Since then, I've been incredibly happy with the method because you can approach it in any way you like! You can treat it as a relief, etching, or monoprint (and apparently as a lithographic surface, but I have yet to venture that far!). Glass has always been an optional material when it comes to monotyping but with my attained knowledge with it, I felt empowered. The plates could be: blasted with vinyl-cut designs (linework), liquid latex painting (for blotchy stepblasting), or photo-resist (bitmapped images); etched with a dremel or diamond pen; or treated with acid etch or gluechip.
The Lonely Hydra, a project I've been battling for a few months, has also proved that laser engraving is worth pursuing. I pulled proofs from the plates I had prepared and I am so excited to proceed with the final ones. Just yesterday I experimented with alcohol inks, because who's to say I can't use them? I like the result. You typically use alcohol inks with a gel press but whatever! Glass works just fine for me.
I'm not sure how enlightening that was for anyone but that's how traditional print works into my practice. Next week I'll talk about glass casting.
Hope you have a wonderful day,