Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Creative Soldering at Glasslink, Fort Wayne

GlassLink is an art glass studio, supply retailer and education center specializing in Stained Glass, Fusing,  Mosaics, Lampworked Beads, Dichroic Jewelry and Precious Metal Clay.  
      Recently I had the opportunity to take a class at Glasslink in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The classes they offer range from beginning stained glass, more advanced stained glass, and even glass fusing.  The class I was interested in was Creative Soldering.  The soldering process of creating stained glass is what holds all your glass pieces together...pretty important.  
The black lines surrounding and between each piece of glass are made of a mixture of lead and tin that has been soldered in place.  Soldering means to melt a metal then flow it into a new formation, generally fusing two or more parts together.  At first it is silver in color, but this birdie's lead has been chemically enhanced...shhh, don't tell her friends!
      Normally, the soldered lines of stained glass art are smooth, even, and slightly rounded.  In fact, as a stained glass artisan your goal is to try to make your leading as smooth as humanly possible. However, I had seen glass art in which the leaded portions of the piece were not smooth, but were textured in many different ways to enhance the artwork.  It was one of those things you see and think, "I don't think I could ever do that! It's so intricate, detailed, and seems nearly impossible to control!" I was intrigued, though, and bought a book that I thought would enlighten me.
Solder Magic Book, by Kay Bain Weiner
      I tried. Then I cried. I just couldn't comprehend how to get hot, melted, liquified metal to form into a sculptural thing! Mine just kept, well, melting. It turns out that you need an actual person to teach you how to do this. There are many nuances of melted lead that are intuitive to the artist.  A person has to explain these things in a way that a book cannot.  
My experimental panel.  You can see several different textures in the soldered lines.
      We were instructed to bring our own soldering irons.  After everyone had a laugh at my trusty, but quite crusty, old iron, we got started.  We began by soldering together a small experimental panel with many lines of solder to practice on.  
Not the most beautiful thing I've ever made, but boy did I learn a lot!
      It turns out that a lot of what goes into creative soldering is simply temperature control.  That, and quite a bit of practice!  We learned how to make soldered dots, dashes, stippling techniques, and more.  Additive soldering is when you actually add more metal to your existing line, like adding dots, drops, or beads of metal.  Subtractive soldering is when you remove part of the solder that is already there, like in a technique called Bamboo.  
Teardrop pattern, an additive soldering technique
Dash pattern, another additive technique
      I loved every second of the Creative Soldering class at Glasslink, and I will definitely be taking more classes from them.  And since my class, I have been able to use some of the techniques I learned in my own glass art.  
Snowflake Heart Ornaments made by me, using creative soldering
      I love how the dimensional soldering turned out on these little ornaments.  I also love how it turned out on one of my big stained glass panels I've created for the Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship.  Be looking for that blog soon!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Little Cedar Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, Allen County

Little Cedar Creek Sanctuary Nature Preserve
      I was recently looking through some photographs that I had forgotten were on my camera's memory card, and realized that I had neglected to blog about my family's most recent hiking adventure.  In October we visited the Little Cedar Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in Allen County.  This is the only hike we were able to take during the colorful fall months so I was eager to find and photograph some of nature's autumn splendor.  I wasn't disappointed...
This preserve is a floodplain forest where the drainage divides between the Eel, Wabash, Saint Joe, and Maumee Rivers.  I'm not sure which river this part of Little Cedar Creek is headed for, but don't the fall colors reflecting off the water's surface look gorgeous?
      Nothing says "fall" like colorful foliage...

...and fungus!
LichenLichen is a primitive plant species that consists of strands of alga linked with roots and branches of a fungus that together absorb minerals from the ground and conduct photosynthesis.  Lichen can grow almost anywhere from moist bark, to recently cooled lava, to frozen rocks.
Turkey Tail bracket fungus
 I love the deep purple edge on these mushrooms!
More Turkey Tail fungus
Bracket, or shelf, fungi are decay organisms.  Their job is to decompose the dead wood they feed on so the nutrients can be recycled by new plants and animals.  
As you can see, Turkey Tail mushrooms come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors.
      As excited as I was for beautiful fall photos, the kids were on the look out for more tangible souvenirs of the season.  
Hank and Evelynn are going on a leaf hunt!


Hank showing off a few of his colorful finds. 
       By the time we left the preserve, Hank and Evelynn had acquired quite a collection of beautiful, and somewhat soggy, autumn leaves.  They were busy plotting and planning what they would do with their collection almost all the way home. 
       I am blogging in December about a hike from October because I forgot about my camera's memory card stashed in my backpack.  Yeah...the leaves are still there, too.