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!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Katy! I am looking for a class where I can learn the soldering technique for jewelry pendants. Do you offer that kind of class also? I have tried soldering on my own, but with little success. I feel I need to learn from a professional who can show me the ropes. I am from Bluffton Indiana, so coming to a class in Fort Wayne would be great.

    Thank you,
    Lee Ann Garrett