OK, there’s a sculpture in here some place. (Taken on the PSU campus)

You measure the quality of a conference by deltas. That’s delta as in change, not large-muddy-lump-guarding-the-Mississippi.

The delta between your pre- and post-conference who/what/which/how knowledge should be at least as great as the trouble and expense you’ve invested in going.

As far as I’m concerned, BEcon’s day two deltas pretty much paid for the trip. (And you can also read about the first day)

Delta #1: I think I found my foot. (and no, I haven’t been inhaling illicit substances) Awhile back I tried to cast the foot from hell, a relatively simple reservoir casting that nonetheless cost months to produce a transparent glass foot of the wrong color. I  backburnered the project (in exhaustion).

Gee…Bullseye’s tech display includes a whole bunch of test colors in casting billets, with a request that attendees vote on the ones they’d like to use. Lo and behold, there’s just about exactly the warm manila folder transparent I need for Maria’s Cinderella foot.

Delta #2: Kilns are more like molds than I thought. There’s a kind of moldmaking journey that most new glass casters travel: Your first molds enclose the model in a cylinder of investment. Then you learn to shape your mold to the model, ensuring even heating. After that you work to make the mold walls thinner, stronger, more efficient and faster to produce.

becon2claymanMaybe casting kilns follow the same route.

The brilliant Dan Clayman discussed a modular kiln design that allows him to build a kiln around a large, unwieldy mold, develop zones (separately controlled areas in the kiln), and maximize firing efficiency.

He showed a segmented kiln lid that lets you lift just one small part of a toploader’s lid instead of the whole thing.

Clayman also showed his gorgeous kiln control setup, which uses Digitry GB5 controllers to manage a bank of a dozen 50-amp circuits.

Instead of dedicating a single massive circuit to the kiln, he gives each zone in the kiln its own circuit, in effect becoming a series of mini kilns within the big kiln.

It’s far cheaper and more flexible than the standard system and I can see where it could come in handy even in a tiny studio like mine.

becon2sawyer(In fact, I’m thinking I need to take Oliver Wendell Kiln apart a bit and see if I can retrofit some of this stuff.)

Delta #3: Think outside the (kiln) box. “It’s much easier to put heat into the kiln than to take it out. It’s best to overpower and underinsulate the kiln,” said Ted Sawyer (BE’s Research & Education director), in the same session.

He also showed a perfectly brilliant dual-kiln casting solution that puts the mold in one kiln and the reservoir of glass in another, smaller kiln on top of the first. A hole in the kiln lid streams molten glass down into the mold, letting you keep the mold cooler than the reservoir, giving you more headroom in the mold kiln, saving energy (since you can shut the upper kiln off when the glass has flowed in) and keeping burnoff mold vapors from damaging your glass.

Delta #4: There may be an alternative to molds for wax. Jaqueline Cooley and Marshall Hyde mentioned a UK product, Gelflex, which appears to be a microwave-meltable PVC. They say you can pour it into molds, carve it, shape it. Given that I woke up with victory brown wax in my HAIR the other night, this might be worth exploring.

ADDENDUM: Marshall graciously posted a comment with further info about Gelflex, which is NOT carvable and shapeable. Please see below.

becon2cooleyThey also did a cute take on modern tech; Cooley did most of the session from what looked like a Skype videoconference from the UK when she was actually in the next room.

Delta #5: Art critics are powerful and meaningless. Artist Chick Butcher presented his diary, replete with thoughtful photographs and even a video interview with his wife, artist Cobi Cockburn. I wondered, as Butcher detailed weeks of torture and determination, how he’d fare with yesterday’s art critic. Then I thought, “who cares?”

becon2windowDelta #6: There’s more than one way to cast a cat. I eagerly awaited Melanie Hunter, casting technician for Nicholas Africano, toe-tapped past a lengthy introduction and glued my ears to the good stuff: Casting large figurative sculpture.

becon2hunterFound that Ms. Hunter’s component cast method is diametrically opposed to mine. I start with the small components and cast UP. She starts with the large and casts DOWN. I see the merits of her approach, so this needs more investigation, too.

And everybody but me seems to cast in a leveling bed (or saggar) of sand. I build legs into my molds to get them off the kilnshelf so air can circulate. Is there a right way to do this? Also need more detail on securing a core mold with steel rod. I do wish she’d had more time to discuss process–maybe a class is in order?

Delta #7: New perspective on grog and stuff. I nearly skipped the last session to head over to Portland Art–there’s a tattoo exhibit and (apparently) a Nicholas Africano piece over there I’d love to see. At the last minute I walked back in and sat down, and was glad I did.  Four RIT students discussed getting to use the Bullseye R&E center as their own personal casting playground, with some notably nice results.

Their excitement was refreshing and fun, their ideas were interesting, and they imparted a surprising number of tips on making molds that could almost become a cheat sheet for complex casting. And having been a victim of the “prevent mold cracks with a near-impenetrable outer shell” myself, I could sympathize deeply with Mr. Caryl’s use of a saw to get his glass out of the mold.

Delta #8: Other people read this blog. OK, I get the stats on readership and subscriptions for this blog and I see comments (obviously), so this shouldn’t be a revelation. But I’m still not quite sure what to say when people quote me to me at BEcon, or when someone says, “You’re Morganica? I read your blog!!” I suspect my response is somewhere along the lines of “You’re kidding” which is not exactly savoir faire.

But there sure are a lot of sweet people out there. Thanks.

PS. If you want to read the whole BEcon report, here are the links:

  • BEcon, Day 0.5
  • BEcon, second day (this post)
  • BEcon, finis
  • Winding down a week of glass