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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn
Silver glasses
November bead challenge

So here's the email I sent out to everybody:

Hi all,

well, I felt bad that I only had a chance to do candy-corn beads for October, but actually, no-one else had a chance to participate at all. Which is too bad, but we can try again next year. Onward.

The november challenge is SILVERED GLASSES.

In keeping with the strict/loose alteration, this one's pretty open-ended. Make some designer-sized beads with silver-bearing glasses using a fall (browns, tans) color scheme.

For my challenge beads, I went with silver pink stringer on ivory, and letting the bead cool, followed by a somewhat reducing strike on one side to bring out the mauves/purples.[1]

Silver has an interesting effect in that it forms a colloidal suspension (little particles in a matrix of glass) that reflect and refract light in the human-visible range (roughly 380–780nanometers). As the particles change size, they deflect different wavelengths of light —hence the rainbow effects of some heavy-silver bearing glasses. Heating the bejeezus out of them can reset the particles very small; then you grow them again to the point of interacting with visible light (also burning them off, which is why you typically want to be careful about multiple striking to clear.)

However, this can be kind of a tricky process, often dependent upon other metals in the glass, flame chemistry, etc–hence the serendipity (and frustration). Typically, the more metal in the glass, the easier it is to get it to do something, hence the really pricey glass we all love:)

If you've been itching to play with your $100/# Double-Helix (DH) or Paul Trautman Art Glass (TAG) this is your opportunity. Myself, I tend to pull such expensive glasses into stringer,[2] or use them as casing for florals, to stretch them. But there are other, not-as-expensive options as well.

DH, TAG and the like are so-called artisanal glasses—made in small batches, usually by one person or a small team—like high quality small-batch french-style breads (often baked in handmade brick ovens such as the [City] River Street bakery uses); Zingerman's [is another] example—with prices to match.

Somewhat less expensive, but still yielding some beautiful results are glasses in the $30–$50/lb range —Olympic Color Rod sells Reichenbach and Iris Orange (raku), Magic, Multicolor, Dk Multicolor and Iris Blue are listed $21.67 per 1/4kg (that's Kilo, not pound!) (price is about $40/lb).

CiM's stoneground and canyon de chelley are cheaper yet, about $32/lb from Howaco.

(Or you could dig out those boro samples and play. Use at least 3/32" mandrel & be careful not to burn thru them—if they start sparking, it's time to back off the heat:)

Finally, there's poor (wo)man's silver glass: fuming or rolling glass in silver leaf. Here's a favorite recipe, courtesy of Stevie Belle:

  • ivory, preferably dark
  • transparent red or orange effetre, or CiM sangre, pulled into stringer
  • silver leaf

Make an ivory base bead. Roll part or all in silver leaf. Silver dissolves very readily into glass—melt ("burn off") in.

Decorate bead with the stringer. I like to do scrolling, but you can use whatever design you like. Now strike the red (i.e. let cool almost to strain point, then heat to a dull cherry.)

The red will stay this color on plain ivory, but by heating it on silver, the trailing ‘thins’ and turns a beautiful blue. Or you can leave your trailing proud, and by working (in effect fuming) the silver dissolved in the glass onto the red, get some gorgeous blue and purple effects, very similar to double amber purple. By selectively striking the red, you can get clear, red and purple-blue effects, all out of one stringer!

You need not use ivory as your base glass. Sara Sally LaGrand recently taught a metal-glass class. Her go-to colors for testing were

  • dark ivory (naturally;)
  • coral (particularly sunset)
  • tongue & powder pink (also in the coral family)
  • copper green
  • acid yellow
  • opalino white

I'm guessing the cadmium colors (opaque yellows, oranges and reds) will do interesting things. You could reverse the ivory and transparent red, putting the silver leaf on the red, and decorate with ivory.

Also, Aaron Greenblatt sent in some suggestions, which I failed[3] to send along, but now I can include them:

ou could also suggest that folks use the silver (or gold/copper) reduction frits/powders from Kugler. They cost $2-5 for a two ounce tube of frit/powder and that can go a long way. I've made hundreds of metallic silver spacers from just a single tube with easily-replicated metallic results. Now obviously these require using a reduction (orange) flame, but that's a skill that I think is also worth mastering (along with the ability to evenly apply frit/powder).

Also, some of CiM's silver glass rods (like gunmetal and plum silver light/dark) are very inexpensive (like only $15- $20 a lb) - yet they yield some impressive silvered effects...

Note, if you blow silver plum into shards, it makes for great effects. (I've also blown some of the double helix type stuff (cuz, yanno, expensive) and it also makes some nice rainbowy/soap bubble effects.)

Since you are making small beads, feel free to experiment. When you come with a design you like, make a dozen!

[1]And I see the lensbaby was focused to the left and below of what was supposed to be the focal point of the composition—note that lace in the lower left corner of the frame looks just great. Ooops. Oh well, that's one of the reasons I used the lens, to practice....

[2]The original samples I made for this project involved two such, but though they were pretty, they were also turquoise to green...so I decided on the silver pink/ivory to keep to the brown/tan color scheme (Dilute purple, especially glass, is a good muted fall color...) I was sorry not to play more with the expensive stuff—I really need to practice with it—but cheap is good too;)

[3]Epic faillllll!!!!—yeah, I'm a little punch drunk, here...