Thursday, February 26, 2015

Interview with Jodi McRaney-Rusho: Glass With a Past

Jodi McRaney-Rusho

I have followed Glass With a Past for several years now. I admire Jodi McRaney-Rusho's work and approach to recycled glass, as well as how open she is to share valuable information such as firing schedules, tech tips, and project tutorials. The kiln carving patterns she shares on her blog alone will keep anyone busy for months!

Kiln Carving Pattern for Flaming Heart

So I asked Jodi for an email interview and she graciously agreed. I can't say how excited I am about this interview! Jodi really pulled the curtain back on COE for recycled projects for me! So enjoy the interview and don't forget to follow Jodi's blognewsletter or YouTube channel. You won't regret it!

What was your previous job?
Before starting glass work, I was a Merchandising Analyst for Sundance Catalog Company.  My job was relocated to California in 2002. Rather than go with it, I elected to stay in Salt Lake City. I went back to school and finished my Bachelor of Science in Economics.

Did anything you did before help your work or inform your glass business?
Obviously, I've always been an analytical number crunching kind of girl.  My analytics background makes it easy for me to isolate variables and test each permutation of a situation individually, and then figure out which variables are causing the problem, and which are going to solve it.  Analytics jobs require that you can find and figure out problems and explain the issue and solutions to broad groups of people.  I like to think that I can do that with glass as well as numbers.

From an artistic point of view, I feel like the engineering/analytical side of me comes out pretty strongly.  It's almost instinct for me to figure out faster, better, higher volume ways of making something.  The very serious downside is I struggle to make one of a kind pieces, and it is incredibly difficult for me to make whimsical or fun pieces.

I read that you got into recycled glass because an instructor told you that you can’t use recycled glass. Could you tell me a little more about that? (What did they tell you, etc.)
When I began, several seasoned glass artists expressed disdain for artwork made with recycled glass, even going so far as to say glass art could not be made with anything but art glass.  At the time, fusible glass was becoming much more available to beginners and recycling was really not at the forefront.  As recycling and eco-awareness have become more mainstream, we've seen that attitude change and I couldn't be happier.

What kind of things have you learned from projects that didn’t work?

The vast importance of record keeping, for every single piece.  The first few YEARS that I was making glass nothing worked.  It was incredibly disappointing.  Now I take photos of every process, every batch before and after firing, and log every firing schedule in a book.  I also track how long each piece takes, how much materials are used and how much they cost, how long the firing takes, and how much electricity is used.  I love spreadsheets and data bases.

You do a lot of kiln carving. What do you like about kiln carving?
Kiln carving is a great technique.  If you have fiber paper on hand, you can cut it and have a project in the kiln in no time flat.  It's also a highly successful technique which makes it great for beginners or those who don't have a lot of time in the studio.  A few years ago I made a kiln carving pattern and put it up on my website and it was incredibly popular.  Since then I have made something like 45 free downloadable patterns and they still seem to be very popular.
Kiln Carving by Jodi McRaney-Rusho

How do you organize your materials to avoid COE problems?
Ah.  The CoE question.  Everyone asks that, and frankly, I don't even worry about COE.  That sounds cavalier, but there is a very good reason.  I don't mix bottle glass when fusing.  Glass is always self compatible, so if I don't mix bottles, there isn't a COE problem.  If I do mix bottle glass colors and types, I grind them down to fine frit and then mix them, creating a new, unique COE.  I wish I could take credit for that idea, but I read it in a Boyce Lundstrom book 14 years ago, and Bedrock Glass in Seattle has been doing it very successfully for decades.  It is a ton of work though.

For much larger pieces, I use float glass.  I have pieces that measure up to 64 square feet, so I can still stick with the single sheet of glass plan.  Since I've never worked in fusible glass, I don't get hung up on the desire to mix colors, instead I find non-CoE sensitive additions  such as paint, mica, metals and even dirt.

What are your future project goals?
So many goals.  On the artwork front, I know I need to work much harder at pushing myself.  I need to do those things that terrify me.  That's not easy for any artist, so I'm working my way up to it.  I'm also launching a custom mold line including a wide variety of kiln formed bead molds and molds made specifically for bottle glass - bottoms, donuts and rings.

I think I could spend all day reviewing your blogs. Do you have any thoughts of writing a book?
Funny you should ask that, my first book "Fused Bottle Glass Animals" should be ready to ship before the end of March (hopefully earlier) and the next will be a combination of fused bottle glass projects and techniques.

Additional thoughts? Advice?
The single most important piece of advice I can give you is to keep doing something.  Once you are in motion, things will happen, rarely the things you had planned, but always something! 

Cell Panel by Jodi McRaney-Rusho - 30" x 24" x 3/8" recycled pate de verre panel. This panel was created by grinding hundreds of bottles down to frit, separating the frit into 4 sizes and then using one size of frit in multiple colors to build a panel directly on the kiln shelf in a bordering frame.  After firing, the panel was polished on both sides, the edges trimmed and polished and then the entire thing was fired again to fire polish.

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pick the Right Glass Cutter for You

The Score is all about glass. But a score is also a very basic step for most glass techniques. A good score means you get a good cut. So how do you get a good score? First, start with quality tools.

You'll need a glass cutter and running pliers for the very basic cuts. Beyond those, you may consider groziers, breaking pliers, wheeled nippers (mosaic cutters), a grinder, and possibly a wet saw ($$).

I'm going to stick to covering manual glass cutters in this post. A quality glass cutter will make a big difference in your work.

The cheapest glass cutters are dry, steel wheel cutters.
They run from $3 to $5 and are available at any hardware or craft store. These will get the job done, but the steel wheel wears out after a few projects. The dry wheel needs to be dipped into cutting oil before each score. This will keep the wheel lubricated, which will help it last longer and perform better. The cutting head is fixed, so curved cuts are very difficult. You will also find that these cutters require much more pressure to get a good score than the carbide wheel types. 

The next step up is the dry, carbide wheel cutter. These cost $25 to $30, but worth the investment.
Because the wheel is dry, it needs to be dipped into cutting oil before each score. The carbide wheel will last for years, it's replaceable, and it swivels for curved cuts. Stained glass specialty stores and online suppliers are the best places to buy this type of cutter. 

Glass cutters with oil wells are very useful. They come in the pencil style and a pistol grip style.

They each have the same functionality of the dry cutter, but because the oil can be poured into the grip part of the cutter, there's no need to dip the wheel into oil before each score. The pistol grip style is especially helpful for people who have repetitive motion pain in their hands or wrists. The pencil style starts around $18 and can be as expensive as $30. The pistol grip style can cost between $20 and  $40.

The last type of cutter I'll share is a custom grip cutter.
This model has the same quality cutting head and wheel, but no oil well. It's much shorter than the other models (about 4.5"), but features a "saddle" that you "sit" in between the forefinger and thumb. It's another cutter for control and comfort.

If you are just starting out, it would be a really good idea to take a class where you can try out different types of cutters to see which works best for you. Then buy the best quality you can afford. I still have my very first dry carbide glass cutter from 15 years ago, and it still works fine!

Bonus! Here's a link to a beginners guide to hand-cutting glass by Lou Ann Weeks:

May all your scores run true!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fusing Recycled Glass, Part I

How can you keep your glass supply costs down and still create exciting work?

Face it. Glass is expensive. Whether you are a full-time artist, a hobbyist, or you sell your work to make money so you can buy more supplies, your on-going cost is glass. So I'm going to explore ways to keep your costs down with alternative sources and creative projects in a series of blog posts. Today I'm going to cover "trash glass", aka, anything thrown out. That could be bottles, window (float) glass, tempered glass, decorative glass, beach glass, and your own scrap glass.

Your approach to using discarded glass will be slightly different depending on your preferred technique. If you are a mosaic artist, you won't have to worry about the compatibility of the glass. But if you primarily work in fused glass, you will be very concerned about what and how you fire the glass you find.

All sources of glass need to be clean and separated. If you find a treasure of shattered tempered glass, sweep it up, put it in to a heavy duty plastic bag or paper bag, and then rinse the glass in a wire mesh sieve. Lay it out on paper or towels to dry. Then store your stash in a plastic container. It wouldn't hurt to date the glass, either. Once you've started a collection of this kind and you are concerned with compatibility, store each "find" separately.

Bottles make great sources of cheap glass. Lovely colors of light blue, cobalt blue, green and gold can be broken and tumbled to make beach glass. For fusing, in general if the bottles are from the same label (like Perrier), it should be safe to fuse those together. However, don't mix up a Perrier bottle with another bottle from another brand. There's no way to know what COE the glass might be. After soaking the labels off and drying the bottles COMPLETELY, store the bottles/glass you think you will fuse together in the same container. I will go over lots of neat ways to reuse wine, water, and beer bottles in a more detailed post later.
Molded wine bottle, P. MacLeod

My favorite recycled glass website is by Jodi McRaney. She specializes in kiln-carving and shares tutorials. I will interview her for a later post!

My new favorite way to reuse glass is to fuse scrap glass in a pot melt. If you are not familiar with this technique, it is very exciting! The mold has holes in the bottom, so you fill the mold with scrap glass, set the mold on posts, and fire. The glass drips through the holes and each firing can be completely different! Here's the mold:

And here's the mold "in action":

And here's a project I created from a pot melt:

We're just getting started! I hope this has opened some new avenues for you and your work.

May all your scores run true!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Organize! Best Studio Designs

Your own studio space. It's your slice of heaven. Until you can't find anything.

What's best in studio design? The first consideration is storage. Glass panels and sheets are best stored in vertical shelving such as these:

Smaller pieces are easily organized in plastic bins such as the ones on top of these shelves.

(Please note that if you work in stained glass and/or mosaics and also warm or hot glass, you will need separate storage for each type of glass based on its COE, or coefficient of expansion.)

Tool storage and organization will help you keep your best tools at your finger tips. For every day glass cutting tools a storage system such as this is useful:

For grinders and wet saws, set up in an area where the mess created won't be a problem is an advantage. Also consider storage for accessories such as grinding heads, allen wrenches and the like will be very helpful. Here's an example:

Lighting is crucial. If you don't have natural light, consider a day light table lamp that clamps on to the table and is adjustable, such as this:
I like having two large work tables so that I can work on projects in different stages. I may use one table for kiln-washing molds and the other for sketching and mosaic work one week. The following week, I may use the table where I was prepping molds for assembling jewelry.

Where ever you choose to have a studio, avoid carpet of any kind. Glass gets into the fibers of carpet and will not come out. Vacuuming will not remove any glass that is trapped in the fibers. 

A studio is an artist's haven. An organized studio is your secret assistant!

May all of your scores run true.


Friday, February 13, 2015

How to Tell if You Have a "Glass Problem"

I recently polled the very active, fun, supportive, and talented FB group, Fused Glass Fanatics, to find out what they considered the "symptoms" of glass obsession to be. I got 81 responses! They were all great--big thanks to you all!

In general they fell into categories of:

  • injuries
  • material "stow away"
  • hoarding supplies, lusting for equipment
  • time management
So I have assembled a list from these. Here they are:

You might be a Glass-A-Holic if. . .
  • after you have finished working for the day, you have glass in your bra.
  • you plan your family vacations around stops to visit glass stores or shows.
  • you run out of space for your supplies, but can still justify buying more glass!
  • after a cut, you continue to work until the blood drops on the project.
  • you plan where you live based on ideal conditions for your kiln.
To these I'd like to add a mosaic twist:
  • you've walked into a store with grout smears on your face.
And if you have some of your own to add, please make a comment!

Here are my favorite personal comments from the poll:

From Ruth Grimes--"Neighbor wondered why I was looking into his house with binoculars...had to explain I was actually reading the temperature on the kiln in the garage from the deck. Too many times on the stairs already."

From Carol McMahon Rasmussen--"Few years back when I worked In stained glass, had to get an X-ray of a sore shoulder. Tec can into the room and asked if I had ever been shot. I said NO--she asked "are you sure?" Of course I'm sure! So she removed my gown and there stuck to my arm ( don't ask me how) is a piece lead came."

And here is a very cool suggestion from Billy Mack: 
"Better than bandaids---White Athletic Tape---before a big project, I would wrap my thumb and 3 fingers, but only the tips, I could cut,grind,lead all day long and not have to change them at all."

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and comments!

May all of your scores run true. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Glass working techniques: Cold, Warm and Hot

Cold, Warm or Hot?

If you are just getting started working with glass, there are a few things that are helpful to know. I always started off my beginning fused glass and mosaic classes with a quick overview of techniques and terms. I found that most people don't know the different ways of working with glass, and sharing this information helped them understand how different glass art is created. 

I'd like to share that information here, too. I organize this information in three broad categories: cold work, warm glass, and hot glass. I also describe different techniques within each category.

First, there's cold work. Cold work is when the glass is cut and laid without changing the form of the glass, as in heating it to change the shape or color of the glass. Cold work techniques include glass mosaics, copper foil stained glass, and lead came stained glass, etching and sandblasting. Cold working techniques are more WYSWYG than warm or hot techniques. This is a short video of how to solder a lead glass came from Inland: (Inland is a company that makes glass tools and equipment.)

Next is warm glass, or fused glass. Warm glass artwork is created using layers of glass heated in a kiln. There is a wide variety of heating schedules or firings that glass artists use to create different final effects. Often warm glass projects take more than one firing before the project is finished. For instance, a bowl will start off with two layers of glass that are full fused in one firing, meaning that both layers of glass (and any embellishments) are completed incorporated in a flat state and the edges are smooth. In the next firing, the flat full-fused piece is placed either in or on a mold and the piece is fired again. Two firings are necessary because the amount of heat it takes for a full fuse is much higher than the amount of heat it takes for the glass to become soft enough that it takes the shape of the mold. Glass fusing is very popular, and new products and techniques are constantly being developed. 

Drape mold vase, P. MacLeod

Hot glass techniques are the most dramatic. Hot glass work is done when the glass is in its most liquid state and is the most exciting technique to watch. Glass blowing, Murrini pulls or canes, and torch work (bead making) are all hot glass techniques. Working with hot glass requires specialized tools, equipment and safety precautions. This is a good example of what working with hot glass is like with a torch from Woodstock Art Glass: (Pets should not be allowed where people are working with glass--hot or cold.)

I found that after reviewing this basic information, people not only knew more about the categories of glass work, but they had a better idea of what we would be doing in class. My long-term goal was to educate people who love glass so that they appreciate the art work and support glass artists.

May your scores always run true.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Introducing: The Score

The Score is my new blog where I am going to expound on the beauties of glass art and craft across all techniques. My expertise is in mosaics and fused glass. I will review products for glass artists, share techniques, favorite artists and their work.

You can see some of my work at

Lotus II, by Paula MacLeod, 2009, 10" x 8", Stained and Byzantinne glass mosaic

Please join me and post comments!