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Modeling Glass Tips and Tricks
Every month I'll be writing about how to use Modeling Glass in your work, and hopefully answering some questions that will help you get the results you want. There's always a learning curve with a new product, and there are considerations working with frit and powder that you don't have when firing sheet glass. There is a full set of FAQs on the Modeling Glass website at www.modelingglass.com .
Odds are that you have run across this term...it originated in chaos theory, and has become a popular cultural meme (there's even a movie of the same name). Basically, it's the scientific concept that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever. Think in terms of a butterfly flapping its wings in China that causes a swirl of air that ultimately results in a hurricane hitting Cuba. It's interesting...and a bit scary...to think that our actions can have far-reaching consequences. It also is a reminder that the world is very interconnected, something that I have become increasingly aware of as I appreciate the worldwide connections I have made with so many talented glass artists through teaching and social media. It has so enriched my life! But I digress...on to technical stuff.

When I was at the April Las Vegas Glass and Bead Expo, I visited the Colors for Earth booth and acquired one of their new large-format rubber stamps of a butterfly. I wasn't quite sure what I would do with it at the moment, but I loved how large and detailed it was. I'd been playing around with putting Modeling Glass into silicone molds with great results, and thought there was potential with this stamp. It's nice because it has a foam backing that supports the stamping rubber, making it durable and strong but still flexible.
I decided to see if I could use the stamp in a similar way, so I grabbed some Modeling Glass (MG) mixed with Opaque White powder and used a palette knife to press it into the surface of the stamp. I worked very carefully, being sure to fill all the little cavities of the shape with MG. I built it up until it was about 1/8" thick over the entire surface of the stamp and all the texture was filled in. I wiped it away from the very edges of the stamp to help it be easier to release after it was dry.

After the entire stamp was covered, I put the MG-covered stamp into my kiln and dried it for about 2 hours at 200 degrees F. It's important to get the shape completely dry before trying to remove it from the stamp mold! Otherwise the surface can flake and leave bits of MG stuck to the stamp. The stamp can be cleaned with water and a little brush, the MG washes right out.

After drying was done, I very carefully pried the rubber stamp away from the MG shape, by working my fingers around the edges and lifting away more and more until I got to the center and the whole butterfly lifted away. I had a perfect little butterfly! All I had to do was sand the edges lightly and scrape away some of the residue around the antennae and below the abdomen.

After firing, each butterfly measured 3.75"w x 3" h x 2mm
I then did the same with two colors of MG: black and red. First I spread the red into the center parts of the stamp and let it dry in the kiln.Then I lightly sanded the red parts so that the linework of the rubber stamp showed cleanly. Finally, I went back over the entire shape with a thick layer of black, covering all the red and the parts of the stamp that had no color yet. This again was dried thoroughly in the kiln, and lifted out of the stamp mold when dry. This is how I did the body of the butterfly in the upper left corner of the top photo. The white dots were added in a second firing with Rogue white.
I also made one completely black butterfly, so I had a total of four: two white, one black, and one combining red/black. They all went into the kiln for firing, using the schedule above. They came out great, holding almost all the detail of the stamp, with a glossy surface. Shrinkage was right at 20 percent. The finished butterfly was about 2mm thick.

Right: this is how the fired MG butterfly looked in the kiln afterward. At this point it was smooth, glossy, and held most of the texture of the stamp.

Now for the fun part: I had these cool glass butterflies and decided to experiment with several different enamel paints to see how I could decorate them. I admit I'm no Mark Hufford when it comes to painting on glass, and this was all pretty new to me. All the paints were mixed to a thick cream consistency. I found that if they were too thin, they "crawled" and shrank away from the edges of my shapes, but once they were slightly thicker, they worked fine. I used a method of loading my brush and then sort of flooding the top of the shape with the paint to get it fairly thick with consistent coverage. After the enamels were dry, it was easy to go in with a little tool and scrape the paint away where it was unwanted.

Above: "flooding" paint onto the fired butterfly. Messy in process, but the end result was great.
Starting with a white butterfly, I grabbed Colors for Earth enamels. You'll recall this is also where I got the wonderful rubber stamp. I picked out pumpkin, glacier white, and outline black. These colors are in powder form except for the outline black, which is liquid. I wanted to get the maximum amount of testing variety from these butterflies. What I didn't realize (lack of experience with the products) is that the outline black is matte unless it's capped. On a second firing, I added cobalt black to the body and edges for a richer black. So I ended up with a grey-bordered butterfly, which I actually really liked with the more muted pastel pumpkin color and white dots. You can see the finished butterfly in the top photo, lower left.
The next butterfly, a black one, was painted with Unique Glass Colors (UGC) enamels. I chose two colors of blue: dark blue and turquoise from the NT line, plus brite white. As before, I used a "flooding" technique to get full coverage, cleaning away the messy bits after the colors dried. Unfortunately the dark blue didn't show up well against the black body after firing, so I re-coated the butterfly with all turquoise and fired it again with the same schedule, which worked beautifully. The finished butterfly is in the top photo, lower right.

Right: I use a sharp blade to scrape away the dried enamel where it may have run into the wrong area. This was a very easy way to clean up the shapes.
I made the yellow butterfly with the new Rogue Enamels carried by Glass eMotions in Ottawa, Canada. I've played with them before and love the vibrant colors and extremely bright opaque white. I painted the remaining white butterfly with citron yellow, then overlaid black linework. Lastly I added the white dots. The result was a beautiful, very intense butterfly that can be seen in the top photo, upper right.

Left: the yellow butterfly on top of the rubber stamp, showing the 20% shrinkage in size after firing. This happens because there is a lot of trapped air in the MG before firing, and when the particles melt together, the volume is lost. This is the case in all pate de verre-type glass powder techniques.

Overall I consider this a very successful series of tests. I am excited by the large rubber stamp, and will be trying out other shapes. The enamels really brought the butterflies to life, and I didn't even really experiment with blending colors, just used them out of the jar. I found that the Rogue enamels gave the glossiest surface and brightest colors with this firing schedule (which is at the low end of recommended temperatures for enamels). The CFE and UGC colors ended up slightly more pastel and had a satin finish rather than a high gloss. I didn't test with any other enamels, though I am sure Fuse Master or Easy Fire enamels from Fusion Headquarters would perform equally well.

Upcoming Workshops
Feathers and More UK June 14-16, 18-20
I'll be at Glassification in Ilminster, UK for two sessions across the pond! Students will learn how to make a realistic, proper British owl feather using pure powdered glass and my Modeling Glass product, but the activities go way beyond that. I'll go over many interesting ways of working with Modeling Glass, combining it with enamels in a sgraffito technique, and sculpting with it to make a summer garden.

These workshops are both sold out, but you can get onto a waitlist. Also, check out the many other wonderful workshops at Glassification Learn more here.
Sculpting with Modeling Glass, July 26-28
I'll be at The Glass Underground in New Jersey in July. Students will learn how to make a realistic, great horned owl feather using pure powdered glass and my Modeling Glass product, but the activities go way beyond that. I'll go over many interesting ways of working with Modeling Glass, combining it with enamels in a sgraffito technique, and sculpting with it to make a summer garden.

According to the website, there is ONE SPOT LEFT! Learn more here.
Additional Workshop Opportunities
Lois has a full schedule of workshops across the country as well as Canada and the UK. See the schedule here .
Modeling Glass
This new product was developed by Lois Manno of Glass Bird Studios. It is a two-part system made of a powdered binder and liquid medium that, mixed with frit or powders along with a little water, turns the powder into a material that can be sculpted like clay. It is featured in the workshops she teaches.
Want to purchase Modeling Glass? A list of retailers is available on the website. The list keeps growing, so check back. And ask your local glass retailer to add Modeling Glass to their stock if they don't have it!
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