Glass Furnace Project 1

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So with the summer looming, a colleague and I have decided to take on the challenge of making our own glass!
As I have always had an interest in glass and Ben (the colleague) is a ceramicist: we felt we had enough technical know-how to give this a shot!
It all started by watching this video, from the tv programme ‘Kevin McCloud’s Man made home’.

 

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We started by building our own furnace, outside in the ceramic kiln yard at Loughborough University’s School of the Arts. Unlike the ‘Minimelt’ furnace seen in the video, we  used HTI Fire bricks (High temperature Insulating) to build ours which, required a lot more space to achieve the same amount of insulation. We also constructed a small test crucible, made out of Alumina and China Clay and fired it to a top temperature. The crucible was then filled with some recycled glass and we fired up the furnace for the  first time!

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The results of the first firing were really exciting!

Not only did we reach temperatures over 1200 C, but we were also able to produce a neutral flame and melt the glass without any thermal shock or discolouration. In addition to that, the crucible survived the top temperature (although it did crack once the glass cooled) and we able to gather some glass from the gap in the bricks without making a mess or dropping in temperature.

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From further research, it appeared that we would need to reach higher temperatures, around 14oo C. So to achieve this, we introduced air alongside the oil and we were pleased to discover that we could increase the temperature and at a faster rate!
For the next firing, we plan to experiment with a few glass compound mixtures and document the most successful.

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Glass jewellery and News!

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So since graduating Loughborough University, several things have happened:

Firstly, I received a First Class Honours in my degree. Secondly, I attended New Designers exhibition 2013 and will be exhibiting at Portal 2013 and Lustre.
In addition to all of that, I also got a job working at Loughborough University as a technician on my course!

Therefore, over the summer, I have been preparing for all this events and I am happy to say that I am on track and really enjoying the work I am doing. Although several pieces for the exhibitions are not finished, I have also found time to complete some small jewellery commissions (See image below) Although simple, I have really enjoyed making these pieces and they have given me some inspiration for designs in my other projects.

Plique à jour

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In addition to my 3D printing research, I continued experimenting with glass (which was a predominant feature in my previous project) Ideally, I wanted to include some form of it as a decorative element alongside the wire work and printing.
I started by researching enamelling, which is a glass powder that is heated to 820’C to form a glassy, coloured surface on metal. I felt this process was very appropriate for my jewellery designs. As I continued exploring enamelling, I discovered Plique à jour: a form of enamelling that fills gaps in metal or wire structures. This seemed perfect for my wire designs and when produced well, Plique à jour is a very impressive process.
I did have some success with this form of enamelling, however, it was very difficult to create large areas of enamel or control the tension and movement of the molten glass.

Over Easter, this lead me to broadening my practice to consider molten glass, applying it in the same way as Plique à jour but using a gas torch and glass tools. The results were fantastic, with a higher clarity and a dramatically reduced making time.
The images below show my progress with glass and enamel and the combination of wire, glass and 3D printed form appears to have a lot of potential that I plan to incorporate into my final designs.

Update 3D printing and Jewellery.

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Apologies for the overdue update, but since starting my new project, I have been very busy and have only recently made some progress that could be blogged about.
For this project I have decided to develop my designs from the last project but explore the potential of 3D Printing and new technologies in jewellery making and design. The intention is to find a balance between these new processes and the traditional ones to create an aesthetic balance in different jewellery forms. Initially, my practice was quite slow as I have to source technology available to experiment with 3D printing. At one point I thought I was going to have to send all my files to ‘Shapeways’- A company in Eindhoven and New York, which would be reasonably cheap but take three weeks!

Fortunately, with the help of Loughborough Technicians in 3D Design and the Wolfson School of Mechanical engineering: I was able to find facilities available for third and fourth year students. This organisation is actually responsible for the research and printing of Richard III’s skeleton. More information can be found at their site: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/amrg/#tab1

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Since finding a suitable printer and learning the CAD programme Maya, I have started to experiment with 3D jewellery forms to gain a better understanding of the material I am using and its abilities. The bottom picture is the most recent print and has been truly successful: the plastic is very strong but also flexible and can be pulled and stretched to fit a wearers wrist or finger, in addition, the level of detail is very impressive.
Not only have I been printing but I have continued my traditional technical research in jewellery. Last week I set my first stone: a garnet with a bezel setting and designed my own basic claw setting for pate de Verre glass around hand forged and cast wire. Both these small projects have allowed me to gain a greater understanding of jewellery making and taught me some useful techniques.

I have two weeks left until Easter and within those weeks I hope to develop these processes further and start to combine them in final prototype designs.

Final Pieces

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Apologies for the late update, the beginning of 2013 has been really busy with my dissertation and finishing my final project. But finally I have completed my project and can show you the results, which I am very happy with. Unfortunately I was unable to print a CAD designed piece due to limited access to the printer, so instead, I forged through with the handmade wire forms.
Considering I only started soldering in October 2012, I am very pleased with the standard I have reached. 🙂

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Glass and Wire Sculptures

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Right, it has been a while since my last update, but I have made considerable progress with my work. I have moved away from wearable pieces and focused on the use of wire structures to support, elevate and display the pate de verre. To create tension and elegance in my work I have created forms that require balance and may rock. The way the glass interacts with the wire is also important and I have again referred to tension and balance to hold the pieces in place.
Interestingly, some of these pieces have visual references to jewellery which would be an interesting challenge and I intend to continue my exploration of how the glass and wire can interact.

Consolidating Designs

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This slideshow shows a collection of my most recent pieces and the direction that my work is taking. I have moved away from electro-forming, which although is a fascinating process, is no longer applicable to my work. I am focusing more on my wire work and the sense of tension I can get from threading through the glass and the wire forms I make to support them.

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