December 25, 2012

The Easy Contrast Palette

Merry Christmas!
Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you enjoy your present.

I find that the best way to think myself out of a rut or a dry spell is to put myself in a box. Not a literal, honest-to-god box -- that would be sort of creepy and uncomfortable -- but a metaphorical one, where the number of colours that are at my disposal are limited. But even if I'm not struggling at the torch, this is still a fun exercise that teaches me a lot every time I do it. I have come up with multiple ways of quickly choosing a colour palette, and I am going to share one of them with you in this post. 

Working with a limited palette of colours forces you to learn new things and think about your glass in a different way than you have been accustomed to. Some people find the idea of this sort of thing very frustrating and difficult, and others are excited by the challenge, but whatever category you fit into I hope that you give this a shot. 

Please keep in mind, though, that it won't work if you don't stick with the palette you create. Before you start you need to pledge to work with the colours you select for a minimum of ten consecutive torching sessions -- preferably more than ten.

This particular palette is focused on contrast - both colour contrast and light/dark contrast.

Colour Focus
The first decision you are going to have to make is what the 'core' colour family of your palette is going to be. Since this colour family will be, percentage-wise, a fairly large part of your total palette, I would choose a colour family that you like a lot. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you could instead choose a colour family that you almost never use with the goal of developing some appreciation for it by the end of this exercise.

I'm referring to the following list of 'colour families':
  • Reds
  • Oranges
  • Yellows
  • Chartreuses
  • Greens
  • Teals
  • Turquoises
  • Blues
  • Indigos
  • Purples
  • Pinks

This is a somewhat altered version of the standard colour wheel, and it sort of reflects how I think about colour. It contains primary colours, secondary colours and colours traditionally regarded as tertiary colours. It is green/blue/purple-heavy and red/orange/yellow-light. I've also inserted both teal and turquoise between green and blue. I am not really in a position to argue with decades upon decades of colour theory, but for the purposes of designing with colour in glass, I prefer to think of my colours this way.

Step 1 :: Choose Your First Four (4) Glass Colours
Choose one colour grouping from the list/image above and within that grouping, try to achieve some hue variation - for instance, if you have chosen a starting family of 'Blues', try to now choose some blues that tend towards indigo, some that don't lean much at all and some that are more on the turquoise side, but are still essentially blue. Ensure you have a mix of opaque, semi-opaque and/or transparent colours and a mixture of lightness and darkness.

For example, if you had chosen 'Blues' as your palette's starting point,  you could select:
  • CiM Leaky Pen (dark, transparent, turquoise-leaning)
  • CiM Zachary (light, opaque, indigo-leaning)
  • EFF Medium Blue Transparent (light/medium, transparent, mid-blue)
  • CiM Sapphire (medium, transparent, mid-blue)
-or-
  • EFF Dark Blue Transparent (medium, transparent, mid-blue)
  • EFF Earth (medium, opaque, blue, with streaks of turquoise)
  • LAU Steel Blue (dark, opaque, turquoise-leaning)
  • EFF Pale Blue Transparent (light, transparent, mid-blue)
... or any number of other possible combinations.

Step 2 :: Choose a Complimentary Colour
Look at the colour wheel, above (or below, if you chose Blues), and choose one of the colour families that is directly across from your starting colour on the colour wheel. Because my colour wheel has an unfortunate number of slots in it (11), you will come up with two possible choices. For example, if your starting family was Blues, you are now confronted with a decision between Oranges and Yellows. Don't worry about it too much, just pick one. Or, if the decision makes you uncomfortable, make your next selections on the border (e.g. Orangey Yellows).




Now that you've chosen, you are going to need to pick two glass colours that fit inside that new colour family. Again, you want to make sure that your overall palette stays sort of balanced between light, dark, opaque, transparent, etc.

For example, if you chose 'Oranges' you could have selected:
  • CiM Peachy Keen (light, transparent, yellow-leaning)
  • EFF Coral La Mesa (dark, opaque, red-leaning)
- or,if you chose yellows, you could have selected:
  • EFF Yellow Ochre (medium, opaque, orange-leaning)
  • EFF Kelp (light, transparent, chartreuse-leaning)
... or any number of other possible combinations.

Step 3 :: Choose Two (2) Accent Colours
Now, look at the colour wheel again, and choose the two colour groupings that fall between the two you've already chosen. Again, this is art and not science and there are no wrong choices, but my colour wheel is lopsided so there is going to be one clear choice, and then one sort of ambiguous one.



If you've stayed with me so far and are working with Oranges and Blues, you will now need to find yourself some Greens and some Pinkish Purples / Puplish Pinks. You are going to choose two glass colours fitting into each colour family. Again, you want a good mix of hue, saturation and lightness in your colour choices here, so you could go with:
  • CiM Dirty Martini (light, opaque, teal-leaning)
  • EFF Sage Green (dark, transparent, chartreuse-leaning)
  • EFF Sedona (medium, opaque, purplish pink)
  • EFF Pale Amethyst (light, transparent, pinkish purple)
- or - 
  • CiM Commando (medium, opaque, teal-leaning)
  • EFF Pale Emerald (light, transparent, mid-green)
  • EFF Dark Lavender (light, transparent, pinkish purple)
  • EFF Evil Devitrifying Purple (medium, opaque, pinkish purple)
... or any number of other possible combinations.

Step 4 :: Choose Four (4) Neutrals / Non-Colours
Finally, you are allowed to select four colours that don't really fit into any of the colour wheel slots.  You can choose any four browns, greys, blacks, ivories or whites. Again, you want to make sure you have a decent mix of hue, saturation and lightness in these colours. This palette is all about contrast.

For example, you could go with:
  • CiM Marshmallow (light, semi-opaque)
  • EFF Oliva Nera (dark, transparent)
  • EFF Black Metallic (dark, opaque and FUN)
  • EFF Ivoryish (light/medium, opaque)
- or -

  • EFF Ivory (light, opaque)
  • EFF Light Brown Transparent (light, transparent)
  • EFF Black (dark, transparent)
  • CiM Adamantium (dark, opaque)

So, you've created a palette...

It might look like this one:
  • CiM Leaky Pen
  • CiM Zachary
  • EFF Medium Blue
  • CiM Sapphire
  • CiM Peachy Keen
  • EFF Coral La Mesa
  • CiM Dirty Martini
  • EFF Sage
  • EFF Sedona
  • EFF Pale Amethyst
  • CiM Marshmallow
  • EFF Oliva Nera
  • EFF Black Metallic
  • EFF Ivoryish

No cheating. You can use goldstone, dichro and assorted metals (e.g. silver, gold, brass, paladium, copper) with these colours, and you can use Clear. That is the extent of the variation you are permitted. If you have a favourite colour that you feel you can't live without (e.g. Ivory, Dark Ivory, Copper Green, Opal Yellow, White, Black, EDP or Intense Black) you should have structured your palette to include it. If you need to, go back and fix it now.

Use your new palette for at least ten sessions. The first few sessions can be hard -- you may feel sort of stuck and uncomfortable with experimenting, and maybe no good beads will come out initially. The key is to be persistent, and work through those problems instead of abandoning ship. Usually for me, around the third or fourth session, something starts to click and I start having brand new, exciting ideas for what to make. I hope you do, too!

If you feel tempted to change colours before you hit your tenth session, suppress it. The rule I enforce for myself is that if I am that undisciplined, I need to pay for it. The clock resets on my palette and I'd better like that new colour I snuck in, because I have to use it (and the others) the next ten times I torch. The only exception I make is if I actually run out of something and I'd have to spend money to comply with my strict rules. In that case, I let myself find an alternative that can slide into the palette in its place (same hue, lightness).

I hope that you enjoy this exercise. 

December 18, 2012

Test Results :: Fostoria

1 - w/ Silver Leaf, 2 - w/ Silver Leaf (reduced & encased), 3 - Over Silver Foil, 4 - w/ Silver Glass Frit Stringer (encased), 5 - w/ Silver Glass Frit (reduced), 6 - w/ TerraNova2 Frit, 7 - Plain, 8 - Plain (reduced), 9 & 10 - w/ Tuxedo, Copper Green, Opal Yellow, Ivory and Peace

CiM Fostoria is a pale pinkish, purplish neutral colour. Whenever there is a new colour in this range, I always hope that it will be like Sepia Unique #1, but this one wasn't. It's a pretty colour in its own right though, and nice to work with. This colour will boil, if you aren't careful, but I was working pretty hot and had to more or less park the rod in the hottest part of the flame to make it happen.


Silver turns Fostoria a yellowish brown. This is most visible in the bead on the left, where I used Silver Leaf over Fostoria. In the centre bead, I reduced and encased the silver which has resulted in an interesting, blue and purple-tinged silver coating under the clear. In the bead on the right, I encased a couple of layers of silver foil, and it turned golden.


I didn't get the results I wanted, but I did get some appealing streakiness in the bead on the left, where I used frit stringer made from Fostoria and my random Double Helix frit blend over Fostoria and then encased the bead in clear. If you look back at my results for Mojito, Pale Green Apple and Straw Yellow you'll see what I was wanting to happen. This bead ended up quite a bit too dark.

However, my reducing silver glass frit looks gorgeous over this colour, and I think my TerraNova2 frit would have too, if only I had not accidentally reduced the bead. It doesn't show up well in the picture, but the colour developed fairly well except for the mess I made.


When Fostoria is used on top of Opal Yellow and Copper Green, a lighter outline forms around the dots/stringer lines. I'm not sure how useful this information is, because, as you can see, Fostoria doesn't exactly look beautiful on top of these colours. I am probably just not using my imagination.

Opal Yellow has a sort of mottled appearance on top of Fostoria, alternating between pale, almost Ivory and brighter yellow.

Peace, Ivory, Opal Yellow and Copper Green all seem to separate slightly on top of Forstoria, resulting in a faint inner outline.

I already showed this bead with my Vanilla Latte test results, but I used Fostoria to encase the base bead prior to adding the decoration, so I'm showing it again. If you had enough of this one last week, don't look :P

December 11, 2012

Test Results :: Vanilla Latte

1 - Plain, 2 - Plain (reduced), 3 - w/ Silver Leaf, 4 - w/ Silver Leaf (reduced & encased), 5 - w/ Silver Glass Frit (reduced), 6 - w/ TerraNova2 Frit, 7 & 8 - w/ Tuxedo, Copper Green, Opal Yellow, Ivory and Peace

CiM Vanilla Latte is just a beautiful colour of tan, that falls somewhere hue-wise between the beautiful pale of Butter Pecan and the rich terracotta of Adobe. The glass is creamy and wonderful to use, and just loves silver. Vanilla Latte is the first CiM colour that I have used where I have observed any curdling effect. I have so many more things I want to try with this colour, but will have to wait until it is for sale in January like everyone else before I can get any more.

This is a colour that will be gorgeous as a base colour for organics. It is nice to use for sculptural work, but like a lot of other CiM colours, you can see streaky joining rings wherever new glass is added to old, so you'll need to keep that in mind.


For those of us who like making organic beads, the bead on the left shows how beautiful Vanilla Latte is with silver. The silver leaf I used has turned sort of golden on top of the Vanilla Latte, has spread out, looks a little wispy in places, and has fumed the Vanilla Latte to a golden brown sort of randomly. When the silver leaf is reduced and encased, it develops a shiny silver coating that is heavily tinged with both blue and pink under the clear.


The bead on the left, with my reducing silver glass frit, got so shiny that it was extremely difficult to photograph. And I got beautiful colour out of my TerraNova frit, considering that I didn't even strike it properly. I think I must have had a little less oxygen in my flame than I needed because there are some red reduction streaks visible in the fritty bits.


The most interesting reaction here is the one that occurred between Tuxedo and Vanilla Latte in the bead on the right. The Vanilla Latte has risen up in halos around the Tuxedo, and in places that halos are ringed with an extra outline of black that must have migrated from the Tuxedo.

Copper Green likes Vanilla Latte, and the two colours develop a very faint dark line reaction, but the big takeaway here is that using these two colours together keeps Copper Green looking pretty and turquoisey instead of greyish green.

Copper Green, Opal Yellow, Ivory and Peace all spread on top of Vanilla Latte, making the stringer dots and lines quite a bit wider than I thought they were when I put them on. When Vanilla Latte is used on top of those colours, it seems to sink very slightly into the surface, resulting in thinner lines and smaller dots than I actually applied to the bead.

Finally, in the bead on the right, not only did the Opal Yellow spread out, but it has also gone all strangely mottled, with darker yellow in the centre of the stringer dots and lines and paleness towards the outer edge. It hasn't really separated, but it looks pretty neat.

Here are some fun beads with Vanilla Latte. You can see evidence of the colour curdling if you click on the goddess picture to see a bigger version of it and check out her belly.

December 5, 2012

Test Results :: Bonnie Blue

1 - Plain, 2 - Plain (reduced), 3 - w/ Silver Leaf, 4 - w/ Silver Leaf (reduced & encased), 5 - w/ Silver Glass Frit (reduced), 6 - w/ TerraNova2 Frit, 7 & 8 - w/ Tuxedo, Copper Green, Opal Yellow, Ivory and Peace

I have deep love for this colour... the kind of love that drives people to hoard glass. Unfortunately, I talked myself out of participating in Frantz Art Glass' Black Friday sale, so I don't have a whole lot of it, and if you all agree with me that this is possibly the nicest blue glass ever, I will miss my chance to get more.  This colour really shines on its own, and is also really nice in a base bead, under clear where it won't react with anything. It is also weirdly compelling on top of Opal Yellow.

Effetre Bonnie Blue seems to be a light blue opaque layered with two different colours of blue transparent - one on the teal side, and the other more aqua. Whatever they did at the factory, the result is a magical, streaky and beautiful.


When you reduce Bonnie Blue, it develops a patchy reddish reduction coating. I won't ever do this on purpose again, but if you have a use for this effect it's nice to know how to make it happen.


When silver leaf is melted into the surface of Bonnie Blue, a couple of strange things happen. First, the silver turns sort of yellow in places. Second, where it is darker, almost a dark grey, the silver has beaded up on the surface slightly. When the silver is reduced and encased, no good comes of it - it's yellow and brown and really sort of gross-looking.


Bonnie Blue also isn't a big winner with silver glass. My reducing silver glass frit sort of turned brown in places, and while I got some decent shine out of it the blues of the silver glass frit don't really bring out the beauty of the base colour. My TerraNova2 frit didn't really develop nice colour on top of Bonnie Blue and looks sort of sad and brown in places.


In terms of colour reactions, there are some interesting things to report.

On top of Tuxedo, the edges of my Bonnie Blue seem to have curdled slightly, and the streakiness of the Bonnie Blue is really evident. Nothing so interesting happens when things are turned upside down and it is Tuxedo on top of Bonnie Blue.

Bonnie Blue causes Copper Green to separate when Copper Green is used on top of it, and when Bonnie Blue is used on top of Copper Green it helps Copper Green to looks pretty and turquoise and not develop that greyish sheen it seems to like having when used by itself or with other colours.

I am oddly attracted to what happens to Bonnie Blue on top of Opal Yellow - the streakiness of it is accentuated and the stringer lines and dots look almost weirdly rippled on top of Opal Yellow in the bead on the left. When Opal Yellow is used on top of Bonnie Blue, it just looks like Opal Yellow.

Bonnie Blue and Ivory have a reciprocal dark line reaction, which because of the streakiness and semi-transparency of the Bonnie Blue in places is echoed all through the stringer lines and dots in my test bead where I used it on top of Ivory. This reaction is fairly strong - even in the bead on the right you can see that the Ivory has a dark line around it but is also pretty thoroughly shaded and discoloured on the inside of the stringerwork.

Peace and Bonnie Blue co-exist without doing anything noteworthy.

Here are some fun beads made with this colour. I used Bonnie Blue in the base of the mushroom bead.


And here is a really bad picture of the goddess bead I made with Bonnie Blue. I'm posting it only because I'm too lazy to try to take another picture, and so that you can see how pretty the colour looks when used in a sculptural piece. Please excuse the lint.