If you're running out of room in your house/garage and are looking at building yourself a workshop or studio in the garden for your glass fusing, here are some things to think about:
Yes, size does matter. Partly because your local planning regulations will tell you how big your new workshop can be and how close to the house it can be, and also partly because it needs to be able to fit all your stuff! Get the biggest workshop you can afford which is within the regulations - you can never have too much room! If you want something bigger, you can apply for planning permission but bear in mind that this will take longer / be expensive / make the process a lot more complicated.
Be a good neighbour
It is also worth having a chat to your neighbours before you make your final decision on location, to make sure that they are on side. Also, if you put your shed right up against the boundary remember that you won't be able to put a gutter on that side without their permission, nor will you be able to get down there to paint that side of your shed! It's a good idea to leave an 18" gap, or enough for you to squeeze down with a paintbrush, as that will help to reduce issues in the future and keep your workshop in good condition.
Are you tall or short?
Think about what height you would like your work bench to be - do you sit or stand when you cut glass / design your pieces / work on your grinder etc. You might want to have a couple of different heights of bench as if you're working on your tile saw that adds at least 6 inches to your working height.
You can never have too much workbench!
Check your ceiling heights, especially if you are tall or you like to stand up to work! Sheds / workshops tend to be a bit low and can feel claustrophobic if you're in there all day.
Wet work or dry work?
Do you do a lot of coldworking? Do you want to make yourself an area you can hose down? You could use lino flooring and put a plug in the middle with a sink trap underneath to catch the glass particles. Shower curtains also make great protective screens.
Yes, power. Get a qualified electrician to give you some advice about powerpoints - you can get cable laid to your new workshop and it can be on its own fuse board - this is the best option and much safer - means if something goes phut it won't take the house down too!
Yes, I said it, webcam. If you can get a webcam into your shed, especially if your kiln will be in there, it's a really good idea as it means you can check on your kiln from the comfort of your house in the middle of the night, rather than having to brave the British weather and unexpected slugs!
If you're going to have a workshop at the end of your garden, you need a path wide enough for a sack trolley so you can get your heavy glass deliveries down there. This also reduces the amount of mud trekked into your workshop by you / your students / the cat! Also you need to get your kiln down there somehow too!
Your kiln and the width of your doorway
Yes, your kiln needs to fit through the door. Double doors (or 1.5 doors - one big one small) are a really good idea. I like the "one big one small" type of doors as it means you can walk through normally most of the time and just open it up when you want extra air or need to move something big. Also bear in mind that your kiln will need clearance around it, so do leave an extra foot or two all round when you're planning, especially if you do a lot of hot work / casting.
Be sure about your floor. You want something you can sweep and mop, and that is smooth enough that it won't hold on to glass particles. Some people have poured concrete floors, but this can be really cold on your feet - it's a really good idea if you do vitrigraph though as the hot glass can melt other floorings. You can get industrial carpet, but I'm a bit wary of that. Lino is lovely, and you can get underlay with it too if you want to be really comfyposh!
One of the most important parts of your studio. Consider shelving with covers or curtains in front, even transparent ones, as this stops the dust getting all over your supplies and moulds. You'll want somewhere near the floor to store sheet glass, vertically, plus storage for smaller sheets, and scrap (keep it separated by colour - heavy duty ziploc bags can be good if you don't have a lot). Also frit and powder - those "over door shoe storage" pocket things can be quite fun as a starter, or those "narrow shelving for cans" - try Lakeland - are great for the 450g jars. Do not underestimate the growing power of your supplies stash! Moulds can go higher up, but again make sure you have enough room and that you can either wrap them or put a door on the storage so they don't get dusty. Underglaze pencils can be great to write reference numbers on your moulds, and also to make a note of which kilnwash / MR97 spray you have used on which mould.
Insulation and Heating
Get insulation for the walls and ceiling so you can work in there in winter and remember to allow for this in your floorplan as it will take about a foot of length/width off your shed. Remember that your nice warm kiln won't be on all the time. A little wall mounted bathroom heater is a lovely thing, as are those mini oil filled radiators. If it's just your feet that get cold you can actually get battery powered heated socks (look into motorcycle gear!).
You can run the garden hose up if you need to, but a water butt is a good way to have some basic water out there without needing a plumber ... if you mount it above waist level you can have other storage underneath and also get some water pressure!
You might want to have an outdoor area for doing work during the nicer 3 days of summer, or for doing messy cold working. Covering this with an awning or possibly polypropylene sheeting means you can use it even when it's raining, and can also be a great place for sitting out during your annual monsoon BBQ! Do make sure this area has a floor you can sweep or mop so you don't get glass in your grass.
Those new LED bulbs are nice - I have one of the "100w equivalent white light" ones in my art room and it's lovely.
Wooden sheds need maintenance and can be draughty if not lined, but are easily repaired. You could consider a portacabin style building, or a concrete garden room if you wanted something more permanent.
Do think about security, and insurance, as that's a lot of kit to leave out and about. The guy who put up my shed told me he once had to go and fix someone's shed when someone had removed the whole wall to get the stuff out! Also, he told me don't get a metal shed - they're horrible for ventilation, they rust, and you can basically break into them with a can opener!!!
If you want your workshop to last, make sure you get a decent base put down. You can get concrete poured to make a hard standing, and for a permanent workshop that would be a good idea. If you want a more affordable / moveable option then you can put down heavy duty landscape fabric and then use wooden bearers to hold up your shed. If your garden is damp / subject to flooding then seriously consider having your workshop up on stilts!
I'd get as many windows as you can for light, but be aware that there's a balance with security. Make sure at least one of your windows opens.If you want to self build or get someone to make you a workshop then you can often pick up double glazed units very cheap in odd sizes (cancelled orders etc) from your local double glazing supplier. If you're going to be teaching then good light is essential - you could consider a skylight but sunburn ... blinds for the windows are a really good idea too as it means you can shut them at night, and also you can pull them down to stop the sun getting in your eyes.
Get an extractor fan. A good one. Ask your local glass supplier to make sure you have the correct extraction for your needs.
Health and Safety / Fire Safety
Don't mess with your health. Have a designated space (near the door) where you keep safety equipment, a suitable fire extinguisher / fire blanket, appropriate goggles / gloves / aprons, and eye wash / steri strips etc. You may not be able to get to the house in an emergency.
It's a really good idea to take your telephone down to the workshop with you as you are working alone and your home address may be on the internet. Also, remember to lock your house if you're working in your workshop.
Your new studio isn't necessarily just a work room, you may want to use it as a gallery or a teaching room too. If you teach, then this room is much easier to double as a gallery than your active workshop - it can be quite frustrating having to be open for customers if you're feeling inspired and can't get into your workshop as you've had to clean it all up!
If you're teaching, then have plenty of room, make sure you have cupboards where you keep the things they're not allowed to use, and a separate set of storage for the things they are allowed to use. Bear in mind that, although you may be used to standing to cut all day your students may not be able to, so do have stools / chairs available for everyone and bear this in mind when planning your workshop space.
I hope that gives you some things to think about. If there's anything else you think I've missed, please do leave me a comment!
Some of you may know that there has recently been a major upheaval in the fused glass industry, with one manufacturer shutting down completely and others having curbs put on their production until new environmental controls have been installed. With prices going up as a result, this has obviously made lots of us think quite seriously about our profession or our hobby and about how we could do things differently if these products were not available.
One of the options is to use float glass. Float glass is window glass. It's much cheaper than fusing glass, comes in big sheets, and can be obtained easily from your local glazier. You can also buy some coloured float glass, though it is expensive and you need to be sure that it is coloured and not coated. You can buy compatible frits and powders too, from Kansacraft.
One of the reasons float glass is cheaper is that it isn't compatibility tested. However, if you fuse pieces from the same sheet they will be fine. The coefficient of expansion (COE) is the thing which restricts which glasses you can melt together, as if the pieces are too different they expand and contract differently and will, over time, crack your artwork.
You can also use bottle glass, but again the best thing to do is only to use bottles singly, or if you cut them up only fuse pieces from the same bottle together, as otherwise compatibility problems can occur.
If you want to add other colours and textures to the top of your glass you can use glassline pens, compatible frit/powder or enamels (check that these are compatible with the glass you are using before you buy them).
You have a lot of options for "between" the glass too ... some of these are "bubble paints" (oxides), metal foils, sheet and leaf, and mica. Obviously you can also use wire to form hanging loops or shapes between the glass. (If your wire goes black where it sticks out of the glass you can clean it by soaking in fizzy cola!)
Devitrification (surface crystallisation) of the glass is often an issue with float glass - there are sprays you can buy (Spray A) which can help to minimise this, but making sure your glass is clean and using the right firing cycle makes a huge difference too.
Glasswithapast has some fabulous information on how to use float / bottle / recycled glass, including projects and firing cycles, and is well worth a look.
If you find these posts helpful please do leave a comment, subscribe to my blog and/or follow me on Facebook!
Yes, I'm sorry, Christmas in June! Well, it's 115 days to Christmas apparently, so the Great Festive Countdown (yeah ...) has already begun!
To be honest, if you make and sell your gorgeous handmade things, now is the time you need to be considering Christmas fairs, whether booking them or making extra stock to make sure you're not overworked in October-November!
Getting your new product lines out there now means you have a better chance of things being picked up by magazines or other exciting advertising opportunities, and also gives people the chance to drool over them and add them to their wishlists, or to bookmark them for later.
If you are considering doing some Christmas fairs, then you should start looking, and booking, fairly soon. Some places you can just book. Some places are "curated" which means you send an application (and/or a deposit) and then they let you know later whether you have been accepted. Other fairs are by invitation only. Most fairs have limits on the number of stands of any one sort, so early applications are advised especially if you work in jewellery.
The definition of a good craft fair is tricky, as a good fair can mean different things to different people. A craft fair can sometimes be the only time of year an artist or crafter leaves the house and puts themself and their work "Out There", so it's a great opportunity to get feedback and gauge customer reactions to your work and pricing structure. Success for you might be getting some lovely comments on your work, it might be handing out lots of business cards or building your mailing list, it might be selling loads of stuff or it might be breaking even, or it could be a combination of any of these. It's up to you.
So I'm looking for a new craft fair where people will buy all my products ... what do I do and where do I look? Well, that's a tricky one, and customers won't come flocking to your stand to salivate over your work just because you've booked a prime position at an expensive fair. These things can help you to attract new customers because it gives the impression that you are successful, but they are not the be all and end all. Having a loyal following of repeat customers who follow you and buy year after year is a much more sustainable way to build your business.
A craft fair can be an opportunity. A craft fair can be a disaster. I've certainly had fairs over the years where I've stood and smiled and sold nothing, fairs where I might as well have stood in my back garden in the rain and burned a £10 note every hour for 8 hours, but those fairs have also taught me valuable lessons about how to display my work, how to advertise, how to deal with craft fair organisers and other stall holders. Always smile and be polite no matter how trying the circumstances - it does really help and word gets around very quickly if you're rude!
Do your research. Work out whether the sort of people you want to sell to will shop at the sort of fairs you are planning to attend. Who is your ideal customer? Draw a picture of their life and consider how you could reach them to show them that your product is exactly what they need for their home / wardrobe / cat / dog / etc.
For instance, if your theme is horses or pets, consider getting a stand at a County Show or a farmers market, or other similar outdoor event. If your theme is haute couture hats then you might be better off at a fair at or near a racecourse or wedding venue, or even taking out an advert in a fashion, horse racing or bridal magazine instead. If you specialise in wedding favours, go to a wedding fair.
Also, building up trust is key to making good sales. If it's your first time at a new venue, people may walk straight past, or stop and take a look but not buy. I have had people come and chat to me for two or three years in a row before making a purchase. People love to hear about your artistic journey, the reason you made a particular piece.
Customers are for life not just for Christmas. Treasure them - they are making the decision to spend their hard earned cash on an object made by you, which will be with them for many years to come.
This does not mean they get discounts though. Remember you have to make a living from this.
I hope that has given you some things to think about. If you have any top tips to share then please do add them in the comments :).
I was recently asked how to create a fused glass handkerchief style stringer drape vase ... so thought I'd share it with you :)
This free tutorial may be helpful to those who work in fused glass, and will hopefully give some of you non-fusers a bit more of an insight into some of the processes involved in making these gorgeous pieces.
Handkerchief drape vases aren't a core part of my repertoire, but I thought it would be a fun project to share :)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please feel free to use this tutorial to make items to sell, should you wish to do so, and to print copies for your own use. If you want to share this tutorial with your friends, please point them at this blog post. If you would like to use this tutorial with your students, please contact me. Thank you!
DISCLAIMER: This tutorial my own creation, is not based on any other specific tutorials, and is not intended to be a step by step tutorial. I accept no liability for artwork which doesn't turn out as you hoped. There are other more detailed tutorials by other artists available to purchase, should you wish to do so, or you could go on a course and support my wonderful glass colleagues that way too!
Copyright Jane Cameron 2016.
How to make a Stringer Drape Vase
You need a cocktail shaker (stainless steel) or similar shaped object (or a proper drape vase mould, available from glass fusing suppliers - these last much longer than cocktail shakers and are much thicker and better quality stainless steel), some clear glass and some compatible stringers. You'll also need a glass fusing kiln, some kiln wash for your shelf, some pliers or mosaic nippers to cut the stringers and a glass cutter to cut the sheet glass if you're making a different size or shape.
You can use a square or a circle as your base shape. A circle will give you a more “wavy” edge, while a square will give you more of a handkerchief drape shape with points.
SAFETY NOTE: Always wear protective glasses and closed toed shoes when cutting glass.
(Note this pic shows a chutney dish not a cocktail shaker!)
Option A – Simple vase:
Option B – Crisscross vase:
Option C - Bare Stringer Vase
You can obviously use coloured glass instead of clear, if you'd like.
You can use glasstac or other suitable fusing glue to hold the stringers in place so they don't roll about.
Then full fuse (use the firing cycle appropriate for the glass you are using) to get a nice glossy stripy thing or tack fuse to keep the texture. This will give you a square or round stripy flat plate.
After this, kilnwash or MR97 your cocktail shaker, put upside down in the kiln, put your square (or circle) on top and slump. Some people put a layer of thinfire paper on too, between the metal and the glass, to make doubly sure it won't stick.
As the kiln heats up, the vase will droop down and form lazy ripples around the shaker. Don't let it go too far down cos if you overslump it then it can hug the shaker too tightly. Once it's draped enough, forward your kiln programme on to the "annealing" segment.
SAFETY NOTE: Always wear appropriate glasses and heat protection (proper gloves and clothes made from natural fibres!) when peeking in your kiln - you can get special infrared filter glasses which stop the glow from damaging your eyes. Remember not to get too close - I'm sure you like your eyebrows!
You can also do these drape vases in tealight size using those little chutney dishes they use in curry restaurants! I sometimes prop those up on a kiln post or something so that the edges can flop down past the edge of the dish.
It's a good idea to only do one of these in your kiln at a time, because different colours of glass melt at different speeds.
I'll update this post with progress pics later!
As you can see, although of relatively simple construction, these vases and bowls do require a certain amount of attention and take at least two days to make and shape.
Have fun! :)
UPDATE 11th June 2016:
Wow! I had no idea that this free tutorial would be so popular! Thank you so much to everyone who commented. I look forward to seeing what you create!
As requested by loads of you on Facebook, I have made a couple of tealight size samples to give you an idea of the finished product.
This green one is one layer of glass with stringers on top, full fused:
This blue one is two layers of stringers, tack fused:
I hope that these pictures give you a better idea of what to expect when making items like this, not only how different layups look but also how the shape of your mould can affect the finished item. You can of course make bigger ones, but I decided I wanted to make little ones :).
Experienced silk painter, glass fuser, teacher, enthusiastic and inspirational.