07 September 2010

The Napjesdrager comes to life

(also on flickr)

Here it is, my Napjesdrager, in a long overdue (and just plain looong) post, from sketch to kiln-formed result! And quite picture-heavy, sorry about that.

I worked on this project for about a little more than 3 weeks in August, from sketch to finish although it had been sitting in my head at least since 2003! Ideas have their way with me, not wanting to leave and nagging me until I give in and (try to) realize them...

Back then I didn't have a clue about lampworking yet. I dreamt of stained glass windows in the style of C. L Tiffany, E. Burne-Jones and M. Chagall, and wondered how awesome it would be to mix the colors on the glass sheets themselves (instead of having to use existing colored and patterned sheets).

I had a 40x40cm transparent Effetre glass sheet that would be my canvas for the Napjesdrager, a face/mask with leaves. I wanted to include murrine and all sorts of lampworked elements like curvy/wavy stringers, marbles and pebbles and later on also stars and buds. As if the murrine were pointilist dots and the stringers the stroke of a brush.

Most traditional Green Men have fierce looks with their eyes and mouth wide open but I wanted my spirit to be a serene and contented one. More like a Green Buddha. And at night I had the help from a little moth fluttering all over its face! The book on the right is the "Geïllustreerde Flora van Nederland".

On a walk through the woods nearby (Ronse, where my studio's at, has lots! What luxury we have there...hiking trails practically starting at our front door!) I gathered leaves from all the napjesdragers I could find, and pressed them.

Filled the leaves with water color...

And decided to color the alder leaf (on its chin) purple, the same color it had turned after pressing and drying it.

I had made a bunch of murrine beforehand and seperated them by color. Each leaf has its own color code, and so began the time consuming work of placing each little bullseye or star design on their leaves. I took care not to place them too close to one another, so they had a bit of space to flow into when they were fused and so they would keep their round(-ish) form.

Some lampworked wheels and buds were needed, and of course I managed to drop & break one just before I glued it on. D'oh! You don't want to know how much I drop and break and lose in the studio (don't speak me of jumpy silver findings and precious stones! They seem to have plotted against me.). The speckled stone floor (you can see it in some of the photos below) doesn't help much either. So I swear a lot when I'm in there. That gives some relief. ;-)

The glue I use is just child-safe craft glue. It burns away in the kiln quite neatly, although there can be some devitrification with the smallest murrine.

napjesdrager WiP
Almost done with the leaves... Only one left to go! The murrine are on the small side, from about 1mm to 6mm diameter. Commercial murrine come typically in fixed sizes, but in pulling my own, my designs benefit more from the organic effect of variable sizes.

napjesdrager WiP
Phew, all done! Finally I could start on its eyes, mouth and stems (from bent and wavy stringers like the one of the left), and glue on the stars and buds.

napjesdrager WiP
Now what would I do with the background? I had pulled these bent stringers in colors I used for the murrine for a groovy 70's style vortexy thing, but discovered the leaves alone weren't strong enough to mark the face/mask. I had been rather hasty in designing the panel and had overlooked that tiny detail...oops.

napjesdrager WiP
So I decided to trace its face with cut glass rods. It made him a bit more alien and vaguely Humpty-Dumpty, but hey, I liked it. :-p

I tried out a more wall-papery background, but feared it would draw too much attention away from the fine murrine, so finally I decided on just a few stringers.

napjesdrager WiP
And so it looked before heading off to the kiln... Fusing would change the design profoundly and I was curious to see how the lampworked elements would take it.

And then it came back...



 Oh NoooOOOOOOOoooooo my baby it had cracked!!!

Was it compatibility? The heating schedule? Yeah, luckily it was just that. The cracks had happened early in the fusing process, you can tell because the rims of the cracks are rounded and have melted a little. So the temperature had raised too quickly. I had modified the schedule I used for the tiny squares, lowering the heating t° rate a bit (180°C/h) and soaking it longer in the annealing state, but apparently I should have lowered the heating rate drastically at probably 40°C/h.

My mistake.

But that isn't the end of the story. Yes, I'm an idiot for not checking the heating schedule any better, but overall for a first "big" fusing project it did go pretty well, and I now have a schedule I'm more confident in. It was an experiment, something I made just for me...and secretly I'm relieved it is imperfect now, so I don't have to sell it and can just keep it with me in the studio. It amuses me how attached I am to my projects! I can't part with them, although it wanes after a while, when new projects find their way in, but at first...I'm pretty possessive. LOL.

I'm looking if I can design a standard on which the bottom side can be mounted, and the top panels can be hung. Maybe a welded steel construction or so, if I can find someone who can do that.

Poor Napjesdrager...but also: that lopsided eye just gives it more character.  Not just serene, but a tough little bugger it is now! Being cracked and still smiling...

The Effetre sheet played nice (it is said to have compatibility issues and not really fit for kilnwork), all the different lampworked elements worked well and it gave me lots of techniques for future projects: maybe using just those curved and wavy stringers in an Art-Nouveau inspired panel, or a dazzling mosaic-like work with just the cut transparent rods, and of course, lots more projects with  murrine. It's like pointilism but even better, because I get to design the dots themselves...From far off it's just a colored form, but you can get closer and closer to discover the details.
On my to-do list for this year (my "good intentions") is creating letter murrine, so I can add text to the forms as well. So far I've made an "A". Well, it's a start. :-p

Next post I'm showing you some of the fused details of the Napjesdrager, who I feel is the first in a series of masks and guardians.

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