Stretch Both Your Skills and Your Imagination!
A few years ago Rae Williamson got me (Greta Schneider) involved in an online glass “Challenge” put on by Kelly Crosser Alge, using her sgraffito technique with black glass powder. I occasionally had a hard time getting a project done each day but I still got so much out of the challenges. There were 30 challenges in 30 days but particularly in the beginning they were very quick, literally minutes for each piece and meant to be quick, easy….and not kept. Of course you didn’t have to do every one….. but it was nice doing the challenge online where we could compare projects with the other artists and also get more ideas.
My thoughts on this came about partly because of discussions of how much things have changed due to Covid……with few meetings in person and no live shows for two years now. Many of us have taken a break from our normal artistic routines. However, that can also be viewed as an opportunity! What I liked about this particular challenge was that it was not a complicated technique… .but it really made you realize that you could “go back to the basics” and learn a LOT! It was very “freeing” to have to do lots of very quick projects in the beginning…. sometimes just minutes to produce each one….and with limited “tools”. You were supposed to take a photo and then dump it afterwards. No firing at first unless you really wanted to save something, your choice. It was to make us loosen up….take a shot…play….and not get all hung up on what we thought a finished project “should” look like. Kelly has a few videos online showing how she does some of her techniques that are fun to watch if you are interested and she will probably be doing more online challenges too.
I’m going to include a few photos with quick examples I did using very simple things like business cards, wooden skewers, my fingers or a brush…..to create a pattern, shape or shading. That was part of the fun… realizing how much texture and shading you can get using very simple items rather than actual tools! This general idea also applies to other forms of fused glass. A piece of art doesn’t always have to be complicated… sometimes the simplicity is what makes something truly striking and beautiful.
The first photo shows just a simple fence in front of a bush…….done in seconds by dragging a business card through a light coating of black glass powder. The second photo uses a quick egg shaped stencil, cut from paper…and then powder lightly sprinkles mostly around the edge…..and it is amazing how much shape that simple act creates. Then by lightly dragging a card, or whatever works best for you, gently around the edge….you create just a very light but crisp exterior line. This makes a cute Easter egg too, if you draw designs across the egg with a wooden skewer, for instance. This general technique works well for creating realistic looking fruit.
The next two shots are trees and branches and a little vegetation drawn in just seconds with wood sticks, paint brushes, rubber tips, etc. Add little bits of powder to thicken some areas with your fingers or a small spoon. Try all kinds of things to see what sort of impressions or drag marks they make. One of the last projects we did for the challenge was a face, either a self portrait or someone else we wanted to do….so I chose Albert Einstein. Another challenge project was something we were afraid of. I worry more about spiders than sharks but I didn’t want to look at a piece of glass art with a spider as a subject. I doubt I’ll ever get to swim in the ocean again…..so I went with a shark for the scary subject. The desert scene is just something I decided to try using the techniques I had played with during the challenge and I was quite pleased with the results. I thought it was interesting how many textures and shading differences you could create with rather subtle movements and it is something that will be useful in completely unrelated glass projects. Also, think how much you could do by combining painting enamels or line art with the powder shading.
We should all go back to basics sometimes….and play…..because we have all learned better ways to complete our projects as our glass journey has progressed…… so you can do something now that you maybe tried and weren’t that happy with when you first started glass…..and bring a whole batch of new skills to your work! Playing and experimenting can really bring new excitement, new ideas and better results to your glass work no matter what technique you use or how long you have been a glass artist.