watercolorplateTook a casting class and in the course of it one of the other students, a gifted metal and jewelry-maker named Carla Fox, started experimenting with tinted frits. When I saw the results I was hooked.

SGfrittinttestunfiredFrit tinting is essentially mixing small amounts of deeply colored glass powder (normally opal, i.e., opaque, glass) with crushed clear or neutral-colored base glass. Bullseye discusses it–without a lot of detail–in its 2006 catalog.

Usually frit-tinting is done with clear, but you can get some great effects with white, creme and transparent amber glass as well. The neat thing about frit-tinting is that it takes a relatively limited palette of glass colors and throws it wide open.

You can mix multiple powders almost the way you would watercolors for amazingly fine color control, take advantage of weird reactions due to different glass chemistries and vary the texture of the result by your choice of glass particle sizes. Somebody’s probably already done the math but by my calculations there are probably 100 to the 99th power different colors in this palette (compare it with the straight Bullseye palette of 100-odd frits).

SGfrittinttestfiredHere’s an example, working with different percentages of Spring Green Opal (BE 0126) powder, testing different base glasses and particle sizes. (unfired and fired)

That’s just with one glass powder color–things become considerably more interesting when you start playing around with combining powders. It’s also a good (and inexpensive) way to gain firsthand knowledge of color compatibility between glasses.

Bullseye has a new white I just adore (Lighting White, now called Translucent White) which gives you enough white to background well with color, without losing translucency–about like a frosted glass. Add BE Red or Red Orange, though, and it goes dark brown, as below:

Anyway, making samples is long and tedious but fun when they come out of the kiln and endlessly useful when you’re picking colors. What I’m discovering about frit tinting is that you loosen up the color enough to build in layers, like watercolors, and the layers give a depth and reality to glass that is far more seductive than works with sheet. (at least to me)

I started playing with layers of tinted frit, figuring that I’d make myself (and some marrying types) some cool dinnerware. The resulting plate is at the top of this page.

In a roundabout way a couple of galleries saw the plates and asked if I’d be interested in developing them into a series of wall panels, so I’m working on that now. You can see the results in my Watercolor Fritteries post.