Saturday, May 26, 2012

Some think totem-making is for crazy ladies.

I've been making garden totems with my friend, Glenda, for nearly three years. Is that crazy? Not as crazy as the addictive madness of finding "just the right piece." Scavenging yard sales, thrift stores and auctions is an obsession and our workshop is evidence of that.

It's funny. Others like to give us glass pieces, too. Unfortunately, most people don't realize how picky we have to be. Will it adhere to another piece? Scallops are hard to work with. Uneven surfaces create a challenge. We had a gal call one of our totems an "atrocity" because we had used depression glass-- something she felt should have been reserved for a Sunday dinner table.

Regardless of how others feel, we like making them. They are a creative release. And, we've had our totems bring $250+ at local non-profit auctions. So, I guess someone likes them. :-)



5 comments:

  1. HI. Love these totems. Do you have an "how to" anywhere? Thanks for sharing.

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  2. HI. Love these totems. Do you have an "how to" anywhere? Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I agree that you should not use depression glass,so many people collect it and use it. I love your totems though,just can't get over the depression glass thing ...

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  4. I agree that you should not use depression glass,so many people collect it and use it. I love your totems though,just can't get over the depression glass thing ...

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  5. I made similar pieces a few years back when I lived in San Francisco. Rather than making totems, I made birdbaths and cake-stands.
    Here's what I did:
    --Located several good sources for glass materials
    --Purchased a small level to make sure everything was square
    --Spent months figuring out how to adhere the glass pieces to one another.

    I would only purchase glass that was commercial made. Handmade glass tended to be thicker in some places and thinner in others; leaving your work leaning to one side.
    I never used glass that had been colored by paint or film. When you adhere glass pieces to one another, you want glass touching glass. That's where your strength is. If your glass is touching paint or film, your piece will very likely fall apart.
    I found that using "Two-Ton Epoxy" (clear) was the best adhesive. I started out by roughing up the parts of the glass where there would be connections. I used a cordless, battery powered Dremel with a variety of diamond tipped grinding bits to rough-up the areas where the glass would be attached to another piece of glass. This allows the epoxy to really seep in to the glass pieces, giving you a strong bond.
    I used acetone to clean my glass pieces (especially where they were going to be joined to one another) to clean any oils or dust particles left from grinding.
    I would squirt out a little of epoxy liquids onto a square of aluminum foil. I used bamboo skewers to mix the epoxy on the foil and transfer the liquid onto my plates, vases, bowls, etc.--where they were going to connect to one another.
    I always did a dry run (without epoxy) to make sure that there was adequate footing at the bottom so that once assembled, the piece wasn't in danger of tipping over. Plus, I wanted to make sure that the piece would look good with the various components.
    The acetone came in handy when I had put too much epoxy in one area. The epoxy thickens and dries pretty quickly. But if I had a bit of a mess on the glass, I could take a Q-Tip, dip it in a very small and shallow container (I usually used the lid of the acetone can) and clean up and blobs or smears.
    You want to clean up any messes as you go. Once the epoxy has cured (usually within a couple of hours), nothing can remove it.
    Just to be sure that my pieces had dried completely, I would usually assemble a piece and set it aside for 24 hours.
    I've seen that some people use silicone to adhere glass pieces to one another. But I never really had a lot of luck with silicone. I wasn't pleased with the large amount that comes out of the container tube. I liked having more control over the amount of adhesive I used.
    I always covered all connection points with epoxy. For example, if I was adhering the rim of a vase to a plate, I would grind the rim of the vase, then I would grind a circle on the platter where the rim was going to connect. I wanted a good, strong connection.
    I found that the "Two-Ton Epoxy" held up to the weather in San Francisco--which was mostly cool and damp. I have since moved back to Tennessee and have stopped working with glass. I'm not sure that the epoxy would hold up to weather extremes.
    However, anything you create for indoor use shouldn't be a problem. I've never washed a cake stand in a dishwasher. I prefer to hand-wash these pieces.
    Finally, in addition to using glass, I had a great deal of luck using ceramic bowls, vases, plates, etc. In fact, they seem to be easier to work with since glass can be unforgiving at times. Grinding ceramics to create connections is easy work and the porous nature of ceramics usually makes for a strong adhesion.
    I'm not sure how Sherma works with glass. It seems like everyone has their own preferences.
    Her pieces are beautiful and make me want to get back into working with glass.

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