Stuff is happening…just slowly

Lamp progress is happening, just pretty slowly. I had a week vacation in New England that stalled progress a bit, and then we had a group of classes that occupied table space.

We’ve also prepped the mold/building form, so that’s ready to go when the glass is ready.

Mold as it comes

When you buy an Odyssey lamp kit, you get a pattern, an instruction booklet and a building form. The form gives the lamp shape. As it comes, it’s all white with carved lines that represent where the pieces go. You have to apply something, like grout or paint, to make the lines appear. At least it will be easier to put the puzzle together when you know where the pieces go.

Add some paint...

Add some paint…

We took some dark acrylic paint on a paper towel and smeared it all over the form to reveal the pattern.

Mold 3

Magic! Now the pattern shows itself clearly. Just waiting on that glass now…

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What to do with scraps?

Here’s the dilemma that we all face with any glass project is what to do with the scraps! As i discussed a few weeks ago, the glass I used for the lamp was not cheap, and it was beautiful, and I ended up with quite a large amount of scraps, mostly green and purple/blue. I knew I wanted to use these scraps as i was cutting the pieces for the lamp, so I saved all the pieces in separate bins to make my future life easier.

Pre-sorted! That's the best kind of scrap!

Pre-sorted: that’s the best kind of scrap!

For me, one of the best and most fun ways to deal with scraps is to make a mosaic! You can mosaic onto anything as long as it stands still long enough and doesn’t dissolve under water (it will get wet during the grouting process). I got some unfinished wooden plaque things at Michael’s (or at any craft store) and went to town.

Unfinished wood things are great canvases for mosaics.

Unfinished wood things are great canvases for mosaics.

Luckily for me, my glass was mostly opaque, so I didn’t need to paint the wood or anything underneath. If I had had a lot of transparent scraps, I would have glued onto a glass something, like a window, flower vase, or a piece of glass with a zinc frame around it (that’s what we use in our mosaic class). Really, anything that stands still long enough is fine and/or great. Or, I could have painted the wood white or another color (or even a design) that would have shown through the glass. A very cool trick, but not needed for this project.

Also, luckily for me, I live in South Carolina, a wacky state that might have problems, but it also has the BEST state symbol in the country: the palmetto and crescent moon. Not only am I lucky because this is a beautiful image, but it’s easy to do in mosaics and it happens to be green with a dark purple/blue background! I mean, could it get any more perfect?!

Start with the tree and then fill in the background.

Start with the tree and then fill in the background.

For the tree I started with a trunk (from another scrap pile) and then added the branches. With all the lily pads I cut there were plenty of pieces that were kind of rounded and palmetto-looking. Then I cut some really small pieces to make the leaves and filled it in. I will grout it in the next couple of days and be done. So remember, be on the lookout for potential mosaic projects at your local craft sore, thrift shop, yard sale, trash pile or anywhere else you might frequent.

Too bad I didn’t even make a dent in my scraps…

Lamp repairs (sigh)

The water lily lamp is still happening, just slowly, so I’m going to talk about lamp repairs. We see a lot of broken lamps come and go at BHG, some of them are beautiful and some of them are not personal favorites of mine. Some are huge domed shapes, some are small panels, some have curved pieces (which we no longer repair for many reasons), and some are beyond any description (most fall into this category). Most of these lamps should just stay dead, but people have different tastes and that’s what makes the world interesting, right? These repairs are our main contact with lamps since we don’t build many (or any), and while we all moan when we see one coming through the front door, they do teach us a lot about how these beasts are constructed.

Most (I say most because we have had a very few lamps that were made by individuals that the owner knows) of the lamps that come through our door are mass-produced in the third-world, and while they are cheaply constructed and use unknown materials, especially for solder, they are put together the same way that my water lily lamp is made. Each piece is cut, ground, foiled and then soldered onto a shaped mold. Even though the solder is usually not friendly (unlike the normal solder we use that can be melted and re-melted a million times), we struggle through these repairs to pay the bills.

Mike tightening the lamp so pieces can be replaced.

Mike removing the dragonfly filigree wings.

The most recent repair is quite large, at about 24 inches in diameter, and was probably one of those rare pieces that was made as a single unit and not mass produced (we are not sure, just guessing). It had been knocked over and was broken in A LOT of places (lamp SMASH!), but mostly on one side. Two sections were also pulling apart (remember, these things are made in pattern repeats), so the damages were quite extensive. The first step was to remove some of the broken pieces and create a gap between the two sections so we could then make the gap smaller. Mike tightened the lamp much like how they tighten braces: he soldered a thin wire to two spots along the bottom, one spot on each section of the lamp. Then he started twisting the wire, slowly bringing the two soldered points closer to each other and therefore the two sections of the lamp together.

Mike uses a flashlight to see which pieces are broken.

Mike uses a flashlight to see which pieces are broken.

Once the sections that were pulling apart were back together again, Mike could start replacing the broken pieces, one at a time. We can’t remove every broken piece at once, because then we would lose the shade’s shape (we don’t have the mold they used to build it). We are looking for one of the glasses, but fortunately we had a sheet of the transparent red/amber mixture in stock when this guy came in. Hopefully we’ll find a suitable match, but honestly, matching glass is one of the hardest parts of repairs.

New pieces are soldered in individually.

New pieces are soldered in individually. You can see the wire used to tighten the lamp at the lower right.

Needless to say, this lamp is not fully repaired and will be a big project, just like the waterlily. But, like the water lily, it will get done. Eventually.

Selecting Glass

Well, “side” 1 is ground and foiled and ready to go…once I finish the other two.

Since there’s not too much happening, I thought I would talk about glass selection for a project of this scale. There are lists of suggested glasses to used to match the original Tiffany designs, but what fun would that be? (Actually, we couldn’t find the list when we started, so I have no idea what the suggested colors are) We went with glass that we had in stock and that would be beautiful with light behind it. In general, with a lamp, you want glass that will let light through (translucent) but that you can’t actually see through (transparent): you want to see that your lamp is on and hopefully get some light from it but you don’t want to see the lamp parts, like light bulbs.

I chose Yougiogheny for most of the lamp. This glass meets all the necessary criteria and is really beautiful to boot. This company also makes Tiffany reproduction colors and offers suggestions for color combinations for the lamps. Generally, this glass is more expensive and can be tricky to work with sometimes, but with a project that you’re likely going to spend multiple months on, you want something that will be beautiful, no matter the cost (in money or your sanity).

Selecting Glass

The green for leaves is Yougiogheny 4444HS, a dark green opal mottled glass. The mottle means it has little spots on it (works great for frogs), and the coloring doesn’t have any direction. These are both nice qualities for foliage because it looks sun dappled, but you don’t have to stress about how you orient your pieces to cut them out. The color is also pretty much the same throughout any given sheet, unlike some of the other choices. The stems and underside of the leaves are Spectrum “Congo,” 6022-82CC, clear, white, olive moss. This color is bright and lighter than the leaves, so it stands out in the ocean of pieces.

For the background (water) I picked Yougiogheny 1634SP, ice white, green, blue and purple. My sheet didn’t have a huge amount of green, but it’s a beautiful sheet of glass. The color is not as even on this glass as with the green, and there is a definite direction to the color, so I had to be a little more crafty with my cutting. I tried to use the lighter sections of class for the top of the lamp and the darker for the bottom, thinking that as the flowers and leaves get denser there would be less light and therefore darker water. We’ll see if that plan worked out.

The waterlilies themselves are Yougiogheny Laburnum SP, autumn gold and yellow gold. This glass is also mottled and the color ranges dramatically from an extremely dark golden color to a very very light yellowish tint. I tried to but pieces to make the flowers look natural, but again, we’ll see how it goes at the end.

Finally, I wanted and needed a bright color pop for the border. I chose Wissmach WO 28, red orange and white wispy, for the border. We got some of this glass in a few months ago and I have been obsessed with it! The color is bright and vibrant and will hopefully make all the other colors pop. Red is the natural compliment of green and orange is the natural compliment of blue, so it should pop the water and leaves, while the purple in the water will harmonize with the yellow flowers. Pretty dang perfect.

Big lead lines look bad…

Grinding is going well, and I’ll hopefully finish working on “side” 1 in the next couple of days. During this phase, I’m fitting the pieces to the pattern and making sure they all fit together relatively. Normally, I’m not too concerned with big gaps in copper foil projects, but this project is totally different from a flat panel.

With a copper foil piece, gaps between pieces create organic lines that vary in thickness.

With a copper foil piece, gaps between pieces create organic lines that vary in thickness.

In a copper foil piece, lead lines are created by melting solder onto the foil, and you get thinner lines where there is no gap between the pieces and thicker lines where there is a gap. This isn’t a problem either structurally or aesthetically, because the lines just look organic, more like drawn lines that vary in thickness as they go along. However, because these pieces will be soldered together on a domed form, the way they fit together flat on a board is not necessarily the way they’ll fit together on the form.

The instructions (which I really have read), talk about 32nds of inches in terms of foil overlap and no more than 1/8in gap, blah blah blah. I’m not a precision worker and I don’t know if I could read 1/32 in on a ruler if you gave me one. But one piece of information that stuck with me is “Big lead lines look bad.” Because the pieces on the lamp are so small, a suddenly fat lead line would look out of place. I agree, so I’m trying to fit the pieces well, in hopes that it will go smoothly during the building phase.

I had a piece that didn’t fit too well, the gap was too big, so I decided to re-cut. It was a background piece, and I have plenty of that glass left, so I went to town, and got a perfect piece!

Re-cut and looking fabulous!

Re-cut and looking fabulous!

About 20 minutes later, I was thinking and looking at the piece and then looking at the pile of glass that I had cut from, and I realize that I had cut the new piece going the wrong direction. Since my background glass has a “grain,” or the color is all wispy in one direction, I need to cut it all going the same direction. Since this is water, I have my grain going side to side, like the way water looks in a pond.

Piece on the left is going up-and-down, the piece on the right is going side-to-side.

Piece on the left is going up and down, the piece on the right is going side to side.

Had I left this one piece going up and down, it would look more like rain than like water, and it would be that thing that you see. You might not even realize that it’s wrong, but you would look at it and think, “Something is not right.” So, I re-cut the same piece. Again. The newest piece doesn’t fit quite as awesome, but I was done cutting that piece and ready to move on.

Starting the Water Lily Lamp

We have owned some Odyssey lamp molds for Tiffany reproduction lamp shades for many years. I have finally decided it’s time to build one! Yes, we’ve read about how they’re made and we’ve repaired many lamps, but doing something from scratch is always different from reading or watching it done. We chose the 20-inch Water Lily lamp (our original thought was the 24-inch Rosebush Helmet shade, but that was just too much) and set to work.

Water Lily pattern, repeat this three times

Water Lily pattern, repeat this three times

The first step, as with all copper foil projects, is to cut the pattern. But according to the instructions (which I read, after initially tossing them aside), you use regular scissors and cut out all the black lines. Standard foil shears won’t work because the pieces are so small and have so many points. And if I hadn’t realized then what I was getting into…leaves cut

Once all 140 pattern pieces were cut out I started cutting glass. This took about 4 days, because each piece had to be traced and cut out three times, for a total of 420 pieces, none bigger than the size of a quarter (that’s not entirely true, but if felt that way). We laid all the pieces out on a large board, and it’s starting to actually look like something. Now the hard part begins…the grinding!