Friday, 11 September 2015

This week I have been mostly making...printing screens

In an attempt to keep track of my progress in the studio I am starting a regular (hopefully!) weekly blog on what I have been making.
I hope it will be an interesting look at how some of my work is made, the development which goes into new pieces and a place to see new work fresh from my bench!
So this week I have been working on my new collection of screen printed glass.

I took delivery last week of an exciting order of a new glass enamel paste!  It looks just like traditional printing ink but is infact a very finely ground glass. When it is printed on glass and heated in the kiln to over 750c the enamel melts and becomes a permanent shiney surface.
Lovely new enamel
The great thing about these enamels is that they are inter-mixable. I love colour so spent quite some time coming up with recipes and writing them all down. From six base colours I now have over 40 different shades to choose from, the difficulty is deciding which ones to offer apart from my favourite blues! As there are unlimited variations It does mean I can colour match and produce bespoke colours for commissioned pieces.
Fav blues
Before I could print anything though.... much of the week was spent designing and exposing the printing screens. For someone who would much rather be in the workshop than on the computer it took longer than always I thought it would take a couple of hours! Not a few days!
Exposed screen ready for printing coasters

Once designing was done I could get messy again! I use photo sensitive emulsion to coat the fabric on the screen, this produces really crisp designs. The emulsion is sensitive to light so I design my prints in black and white, the black areas being those I want to print. The black ink blocks the light to the coated fabric when exposed on a light box, when washed out with water the pattern is revealed on the screen. Its quite satisfying when it works and the design appears!
Colour chart screen
So this week I finished a screen design for my colour samples (think dulux in glass form!) a set of coaster designs and some individual strips for a lighting project which has been on my 'to do' list for quite a few years!
Colour Chart no.1

Printed glass strips for day!
Once I have produced printed glass samples of each of the 40(or more!) colours, and have a kiln full of coasters I will get them out on display in the studio....I hope people will like the new designs!
Printed coasters ready for the kiln

Monday, 31 August 2015

An adventure....North East

Last weekend was my first opportunity for a long while to have time away from Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Some friends invited me to visit them in South Shields which is close to Sunderland and the National Glass Centre. Somewhere I have wanted to visit for a long time. 

The whole weekend turned out to be very interesting with a day in Newcastle visiting galleries and even a a visit to the theatre to see 'Geordie The Musical'!

First stop:The National Glass Centre
The national glass centre was not quite what I expected, looking very industrial and hidden from the outside but when inside it was a very modern light and airy in the sunshine, ideal for glass! 

The centre had a good mix of contemporary exhibits and the history of glass. It was really interesting to find out more about the the glass industry in the North East,something I didn't know much about.

Making drinking glasses on a lathe with a blow torch

It was a great opportunity to see glass which uses different techniques. It was nice to see both demonstrations, exhibitions and pieces to buy in the shop showing the skill of glass making and its possibilities as a creative medium. As always with glass, there are such a variety of outcomes (though often not always to my taste!) that show real skill!

I really enjoyed seeing the skilled glass makers using techniques which I have not had access to since University, like glass blowing and hot lathe work (something ive never seen before!). Hot glass is far too scary for me, I like the control of the kiln but hot glass is an amazing skill and is great to see in the flesh!

As a kiln formed glass maker I did have my eyes on all the array of equipment they had in the workshops, I have quite serious kiln and sandblaster envy.... If only I had unlimited space in my workshop!

I really would recommend The National Glass Centre if you are in the north east, there is lots to see and do whether you are obsessed with glass (like me!) or not. It has a lovely light and airy restaurant too with food served on glass of course!

'Geordie the musical' beer mat
After a busy day at the glass centre I had a surprise trip to the theatre in the evening. My friends knew one of the actors in a musical at The Customs House so got us tickets. Now I am not normally one for musicals, random breaking out into song usually disturbs me, but 'Geordie The Musical' was good! It was set in the 1900's and based around an interesting story with traditional  folk songs from the North East. It was a great introduction to Geordie culture!

A view of  Newcastle quayside from The Baltic.

Sunday was spent visiting Newcastle which seems to be full of bridges (no surprise being on the Tyne!) I really like structure so I was quite inspired by their shapes!
It was really nice sunny (but windy!) weather so I had a good walk around, exploring the quayside and Ouseburn areas of the city to see two galleries on my to do list: The Biscuit Factory and The Baltic.

I have to say the signage around the city was very good, I didn't get lost once and found places easily, Manchester could certainly  learn a thing or two from Newcastle!

The Baltic was definitely an interesting building to visit, very modern, great views of the city and a really good library (I spent most of my time there!).

I wasn't so impressed by the exhibits, a bit too conceptual for me as someone who is interested in well made objects rather than concepts. But still worth a visit!


I did particularly enjoy visiting the Biscuit Factory a gallery which specializes in contemporary art and craft, much more my thing. As the name suggests the gallery is a really nicely converted biscuit factory!

They have some really great quality work on display, my particular favourites were some of the ceramics and of course glass!

My favourite: Porcelain box by Myer Halliday

I loved the subtle textures and intricate patterned ceramics from Myer Halliday and Alison Hellyer, beautiful.
Ceramics by Alison Hellyer
This hot worked glass from Graham Muir was very impressive, such amazing skill to produce pieces of this scale and complexity!
A complete contrast in style to these delicate looking glass pieces.

As well as the work on display, I particularly liked the glass window installation at the gallery. Sadly I couldn't see any info about it!

I thought It was really good how the building had these creative and handmade elements like the window and unique hand shaped door handles.

I would certainly recommend a visit there much like the craft centre in Manchester its a great place in the North East to see and buy craft!

I will definitely have to visit again as many interesting places were closed on Sunday (much like my own studio!), I will have to go on another Ouseburn tour next time including the city zoo!
36 Lime street studios

Cobalt studios

See you soon Newcastle!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

What better time to start a blog!

It has been a busy August with studio merging and renovations at Manchester Craft and Design Centre. I am now sharing studio 10 with talented pewterer Ella McIntosh of THIS IS PEWTER.

I am very happy after a lot of hard work ripping down walls,exposing windows, fixing shelves, cupboards, cabinets, doors and lots and lots of painting we are able to get back to making! 


What better time than now to start a new project, The Blog.
Inspired by my fellow makers THIS IS PEWTER and Kaper  I am joining the blogging club!
As I am not great at updating my website regularly, my blog will be an opportunity to share what I have been up to both in and out of the studio. Hopefully this will be an interesting insight into what its like to be a glass designer maker obsessed with making and all things handmade!

Thanks to Ella I now have weekends and days off again so I want to make the most of this time to visit interesting and inspiring places.

Watch this space for my next blog on my recent trip to the North East.....