May 5, 2009

Here is a quick look into mixing colors, in case you have never tried this before:

The color I am showing you to mix is going to be a dark lavender/purple color, as a result of the combination of black and periwinkle. The directions are the same for any color of course, though I would recommend to start with the WEAKER color and add the STRONGER color to the rod of the weaker color. Which one is the weaker and stronger color depends of course, but as a general rule, the darker the color, the stronger it is….. If you blend a color with black, use very little black. If you want to “lighten” a color, mix it with white. Moretti white and Murano white will produce different effects. The same is true for Moretti and Murano black….

1.  Warm the tip of the periwinkle rod and add black

Just pretend that you are adding glass to a mandrel, so hold the glass rods in the same way you would hold them when making a bead. The amount of black you add depends a) on the darkness of the color you want to mix and b) on the amount of glass you need for your project. Don’t use too much on your first attempt, it will turn out darker than you think.

2. Melt off the black rod and attach a second periwinkle rod

Now you are using the two periwinkle rods as handles. If you want to, turn your flame a little higher than usual, the glass will melt faster and you will save some time and also some “hand-power”, as mixing large amounts of glass can be stressful for your wrists.

3. Thoroughly mix the glass

While the glass is melting, twist both rods. Just imagine you are holding a piece of dough that you are kneading. It doesn’t really matter HOW you mix the glass, but make sure that the two colors turn into one in the end. It seems to mix easier if you twist each hand into a different direction, for example, your left hand towards you and your right hand away from you. As long as you don’t “fold” your glass over and trap air in between the different layers, you can do as you please.

I usually try to get a walnut-size ball of glass, feeding the two rods of the main color into the blob. The more periwinkle you add into the mix, the lighter the final color is going to be (makes sense, doesn’t it?).

Pulling this glass-blob out into a rod is probably the most difficult part of the whole process, but it is a great practice if you are really a beginner – “pulling” larger amounts of glass will be necessary throughout your career as a bead maker, and starting with mixing glass is a good point to learn.

Later you will need this pulling technique to make complicated twisted or striped cane, or even Murrini if you want to get really fancy. Pulling a thick stringer is the same process. If you are already familiar with this, pulling out a rod of a color mix will be a piece of cake! (and of course, you can refer to the chapter on pulling stringer in Passing The Flame.

4. Take gather out of the flame

Once you have mixed the two colors enough (you will still see striations in the hot blob, but they usually disappear once you apply the glass to a bead) take the glowing blob out of the flame and let it cool slightly. At this point, the glass is still REALLY hot and it would drop straight onto your lap, so you have to balance it back and forth between the rods of the main color (which are your handles!).

5. Pull into rod

The moment to start pulling is usually described as “when a skin forms” on the glass. I have heard several people use this term, and although it sounds somewhat strange, I haven’t come up with anything better yet. Watch your glass closely and you will (hopefully) understand when this is the case. Once this ominous “skin” has formed, pull the blob slowly. It can either be balanced horizontally, or you can hold one side up and the other down. Remember to keep turning your handles back and forth while the glass is still molten.

A nice trick I have learned from Larry Scott is to keep the THICKER end of the pull-up because heat rises upwards and you will get a longer pull because the glass that is up just stays hot for a little longer. You can also “switch” the side of the rod that is up, don’t get too uptight about this process, it will get easier the more often you do it (yeah, right, that’s what teachers always say when they are out of ideas on how to describe the process a little better).