Experimenting and Soldering With Julia Kellaway

While I am writing this, sunshine is streaming through the window on a distinctly chilly morning, while small white flecks of snow waft intermittently on the breeze. My kiln is labouring away in its corner, warming to the firing schedule that will hopefully transform my latest fusing experiment into something worthwhile.

On dog walks, I kept passing those little catkins I mentioned previously, swaying amongst the bare branches, colours changing as they matured, inviting me to act before they disappeared. So I found myself drawing up plans for a panel to celebrate them, but puzzled as to how to capture the colours? Returning to my previous experiments using fusing as a means to create a background for painting, I thought I might turn my attention to glass powder and tack-fusing (melting the glass together just enough so it stays the same thickness).

I tried sifting powder over stencils and making powder shapes freehand directly onto the kiln shelf, then fired the lot in the kiln. Although the results were a bit thin and curled at the edges, I was happy that what I’d produced had potential and took the experiment a stage further. So I put the shapes onto pieces of glass, sifted on more powder to change the background and fused them together. To use up spare kiln space I also experimented with sifting powder directly onto glass and adding texture with frit. Voila!

Actually it didn’t look half-bad so I went on to add paint, and fire again to make a couple of copper-foiled pieces. Pleased with the result, my powdered glass catkins are hopefully even now transforming into something worthy of my plan, so watch this space…

Then I faced up to soldering my experimental pieces with some trepidation. I’d previously tried making up some tea-light holders containing tack-fused glass, and lost half of them to breakages. So I did some thinking and concluded that it’s all about temperature. Temperature is important.

When soldering lead together, have the soldering iron too hot and the lead melts. This is a bit of a pain, because not only does it wreck a piece that might have taken ages to put together, but the solder used for lead-work doesn’t flow well at low temperatures. By contrast, solder used on copper-foil flows well with a cooler soldering iron, however, getting a good beading on the surface can prove difficult – too much flux, not enough flux, too much solder, not enough solder, gaps being too big, and so on. If a seam is worked and re-worked there is a danger of the glass getting really hot. This I was keen to avoid, considering all the effort that had gone into creating, fusing and painting.

So I hesitantly reduced the temperature of my soldering iron, took a deep breath and began. I had to work more slowly than usual and have an extremely steady hand to make the thicker solder flow smoothly. I was careful to solder one side and let it cool before attempting the reverse and the edges. But slowly, and surely I got my result – not perfect, but then it never is, and I’d rather have something with a few ridges in than something that looks as if it was mass-produced. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

So, here I am, still waiting for my kiln to weave its magic, but content with my progress towards expanding the horizons of my glass art. Where it will lead me next, who knows, maybe something 3D, perhaps some more fusing, or there’s this really nice piece of glass in the workshop that I haven’t done anything with yet. It’s exciting, all this experimenting, if slightly wearing. I think I need another cuppa.