Puddle Melting

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I've just completed four firings in 3 days, and two of those firings were to create some awesome puddle melt pendants.  Every time a firing is finished, I'm stoked to open up the kiln, but this last run was especially cool because I really didn't know what I'd find.

 

Step 1:  Making the Puddles

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First step was to make the puddles that would later be broken up to make the pendants (and other things - I have reserve puddle chunks for another day!).  I stacked up 6 3"x3" squares of glass, and put them in the kiln.  I made two piles, one with blues/green/white/grey, and another with pinks/purples/white.  I put them in the kiln on top of some shelf paper, and left plenty of room around them so they could spread out.  

 

When the glass is fired, it spreads out - the photo above shows the bottom of the resulting puddle - each layer flowed over the edge of the one below.  Size of the final puddle was about 5"x5" and 7/16" thick in the middle.  I used a full fuse firing schedule, holding at 1500F for 30 minutes.  This fire took about 6 hours.

Step 2:  Puddle Smash

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To turn the puddles into usable chunks, they need broken up.  I tried score-and-snap, but it was way too thick for that.  I read people had luck scoring and hitting with a hammer, but for me that didn't break nicely and just shattered the puddle into 8-10 pieces.  That was fine though since it gave chunks I could start working with - but wouldn't be optimal if I was trying to get a lot of nice slices. 

 
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I also ran the pink square thru the Taurus ring-saw, and the saw cut it like a champ.  But I don't want to use up my blade on these, so I probably won't try that again.  We do have a tile saw so I think I'll give that a go on some of the leftover puddle chunks.  

Anyways.  Use a hammer to break, or then I found that my mosaic tile-nippers worked well to break off the pieces for the pendants.  Whatever you do, wear your safety glasses!

I made a bunch of smallish pieces to fire as pendants.  It was hard to tell from the chunks how big the pendants would be so I weighed them as I broke them off - tried to aim for 6-15 grams in weight to get a variety of sizes.  I think I broke up about half of each puddle and I have other plans for the rest.

 

Step 3:  Second Firing

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I put shelf paper on the bottom of the kiln, and on top of that, placed the chunks up on end (so the stripes are visible from above, and fired again to a full fuse.  I wasn't sure how close to place them to each other so I left some space around them. 

Over on the left-hand side, I tried some other ideas with pieces of sheet glass topped off with dots or some of the skinny shards that came off the puddles when I was smashing them up.

 

I read on someone's page that it would be better to use shelf primer instead of paper since they'd round better - but I wanted to make max use of my kiln space and just put paper directly on the kiln floor (my shelf is a smaller area so I could only have made about 2/3 of this number).  And I like the irregular shapes!

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The above 2 pictures were taken before pulling these out of the kiln so I can see how the different pieces melted - it was about like you'd expect, if the piece was on an angle then the top color is the primary one in the final pendant.  I might add decals to the ones that are more solid colored than the others.

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This was a fun project and I'm really happy with the results!  A couple of links that I referenced for making these are below:

And of course the possibilities are endless here - these will be necklaces or I think I'll try turning a couple of the smaller ones into pairs of earrings.  You could also use them in mosaics, stained glass, etc.  And I plan to make some more even slices out of the rest of my puddles to use in a plate project.

First Fused Glass Projects

I learned to make stained glass by taking a class, but I'm figuring out the basics of fusing glass on my own with books and websites.  I'd like to take a class at some point, but for now I think there's enough info out there to pick up the basics.

Project 1:  Square Pendants

After getting the kiln and new controller board all hooked up, I thought I'd start with something simple to make sure everything worked.  I have a "offset square pendant mold" that I got as a birthday present, and had bought 5 colors of frit to try.  I had bought fine frit almost at random for the colors and also had gotten a jar of medium clear frit.  I guess I didn't read up ahead of time to see that the firing schedules for the different grits are different, and so I'm assuming they shouldn't be mixed in the same piece?  Something to look into...

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I followed the mold instructions, and applied 4 coats of Primo Primer, drying it with a hairdryer between each coat.  I definitely mixed up too much primer, so will use less next time (can you save it once it's mixed??).  This must have worked, because after firing, one of the pendants came right out, the second came out when I turned it upside down, and the last just needed a nudge from my fingernail to pop out.  

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I had a few colors of frit, and wanted to try all of them to see their fired colors - Kevin made the blue striped pendant and I made the other two.  We finished up the mold prep and pouring in the frit around 7pm on a Sunday evening.  We were feeling paranoid about leaving the kiln on its own in the basement, so one of us sat with it for the first couple of hours.  When it became clear that it wasn't going to spontaneously combust, and that the temperature around the kiln wasn't getting very high, we progressed to hourly check-ins (I started napping on the couch in between!).  Max temperature for this fire was 1420F, and I found that the hottest the surface of the kiln got was around 320F.

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I waited until the next morning to open her up, here is what I found!  This was basically the easiest project that could be done - pour frit in mold, turn on kiln - but it was still really fun to open up the kiln and find pretty pendants.  Will try some more exciting designs next time!

 
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After I popped them out of the mold, they did need a little sanding to remove some rough edges, then I strung them on lanyards and have worn two of them.  Will be fun to try this mold again with some different colors and designs.

 

Project 2:  Coasters

For second project, I wanted something more creative, so I made four different 3" square coasters.  I tried a few different ideas just to see how they looked after.  

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Glass wants to be about 1/4" thick, and my sheet glass is closer to 1/8".  If I'd made my coasters one layer thick, then the glass would pull in and "shrink" to make the a thicker piece.  I wanted this to stay truer to size, so for the sailboat coaster, I cut two blue squares and then put the decoration pieces on top.  The bottom square is slightly smaller than the top, so the glass will flow over the sides and make a nice rounded edge.

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The only other one that was 2 pieces thick all the way around is the transparent green/yellow/blue wavy lines - the lines are all cut and put on top of a clear square.  The hearts were just put on one square of white (should have used 2 since the edges did indeed pull in), and then the vertical stripes were also placed on a single white square.  These are mostly cut glass, with some stringers and then the inner part of the dark blue heart is frit.  I did use Bullsye glasstac to hold the pieces in place for transfer to the kiln and then for firing.

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Final results above!  I'm happy with how they came out and that I got to see how the different glass and ideas looked after firing, but I'd make a few changes next time.  

1.  I'd make everything at least 2 layers thick.

2. The wavy lines one - the lines are a little separated if you look closely.  After making it, I learned I should have had the clear glass as the top layer to have everything flow together.

3.  There is still some sharpie residue from where I outlined the pieces to cut :(  Thought I did a good job cleaning the glass but will try harder next time.

4. Vertical lines one - A tip from the woman that runs the glass shop I go to - since I wanted more separation between them, I could have put clear frit in between the lines to give more separation.

I think that's it!  Oh, and for these I used a full fuse schedule and it is indeed a full fuse - the sailboat is at the same level as the blue glass post-fire!

New Resources Page and Recent Projects

Hi, I know I've been offline for a little while, but I'm back with a couple of updates to the site!  

Resources Page - Essential Supplies for Stained Glass Artists

Check out my new Resources page!!  I made a list of most of the tools and supplies I use with each stained glass project.  I probably have a few more things to add here, but I hit all the major items.  I'll keep it up-to-date, and all the links on that page are to items I use frequently and with which I have personal experience.  

I'll also try to note which tools are ones I consider essential vs nice-to-haves.  I certainly don't want anyone to feel overwhelmed by the amount of Stuff needed to get started, since stained glass already requires more tools than for many other hobbies.   

There are a bunch of tools on my "wish list" that I don't really NEED (or really have the space for either):  a circle cutter, glass saw, an engraving setup, I'd like to try etching or sandblasting... on and on and on!   But the reality is that you can have a pretty good initial setup in place for about $250-300.  Also keep your eye out on Craigslist; I've seen an occasional ad for the whole setup from a person who is getting out of the hobby and selling everything.

Recent Stained Glass Projects

I'm also adding three new photos of finished projects to my Gallery page, one is the colorful geometric piece I finished a few weeks ago, and the other two were commissions for friends.  Next up, I'll be working on another request from a friend; that one is still in design stages and I'm hoping to start on it in the next few days.

This one is hanging up at work right now, along with my small Lemonade panel.  The photo doesn't quite capture the colors, and there are 5 or 6 different textures of clear glass used for the background.  This was a lot of fun to make, and I got to use up some smaller scrap pieces too.

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This small panel is for a ballerina of course, and I'll need to do a whole post on this one sometime.  I wanted to use the perfect pink for the slippers, but couldn't find just the right shade in the stained glass section.  I ended up choosing a sheet of Bullseye Fusible COE 90 glass since it was a solid color and the shade I wanted.  I'd been warned that it is harder to work with, and that was no lie.  I'll tell the whole story another time, but it ends happy, and I love how the piece came out.

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This was also done for a friend.  She requested a cabin in the woods, with mountains and a purple-blue sky.  I of course hit up Google Image search for pix of cabins that I could turn into a pattern, and this is the finished product.  I really love when people request specific designs since it gives me a chance to create something I wouldn't have thought of on my own!  Again the colors don't look quite right, I'm much happier with them in person.   

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So one theme here is that I need to find a better method of taking pictures of my work.  Currently, I am using a lightbox and a point-and-shoot camera - I think my problems come from the LED light in the lightbox - some glass is more opaque than others, so that comes out extra dark on the box, and also the solder lines just look black with the backlighting.

We went to a photo salon at a friend's house a couple of weeks ago, so I had a chance to ask some professionals for advice.  One suggestion I need to try is to hang a white sheet outside and then hang the piece in front of that.  I just need to figure out the logistics of this and then find a nice sunny day to practice.

If you have any other ideas for great photos, please let me know in the comments!

Latest Project In-Progress - Geometric Design

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This one will be a short post; it's 9pm Sunday night and I just finished soldering my latest project.  The design was inspired by a postcard I bought once at the Hirshhorn Museum in D.C. (that was a loonggg time ago, I can't even remember when I was there last).  I tend to pick up a lot of postcards of images I like, then they sit in a drawer - I came across the stack recently and pulled this one out to turn into a design for a glass project.  

The artist is Stanton Macdonald-Wright; the painting is called Conception Symphony.  I didn't set out to copy it, but just make something with a similar color scheme and geometric design.  I used a compass, circle stencil, and straight edge to come up with my design.

When I picked colors, I wanted to use up some half- and quarter-sheets of some bright colors I have, so I used lots of different shades.  And for the background, I have lots of clear textured glass, so used different textures in different parts of the background.  Here it is after the foiling step:

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Yesterday evening, I started soldering, and got about halfway through the front.  I wanted to finish it up today so I could wash off all the flux.  It's now completely soldered, flux is washed, and next step will be to frame it:

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It's important not to let the flux sit on the glass too long since it can stain the glass, and damage any copper foil that is fluxed but not soldered.  I use CJ's flux remover to clean the piece after soldering.  You don't need much, a little bit goes a long way; I put a little puddle on the piece and then use a brush to clean in all the crevices; then rinse it in the sink.

Next time I show a pic of this one, it will be framed!  I'm really happy with how the cheerful colors look!

Beginnings - My First Glass Projects

There was a very specific reason I decided to learn stained glass, and I get to see it every day.  I had been enjoying making mosaics for a few years, and stained glass looked to be much more complicated and to require many more tools and more space.  (Turns out it isn't as complicated as I thought- and I have another post planned to talk about required tools and supplies.)

 my mosaic entryway

my mosaic entryway

My husband and I had moved into our Baltimore City rowhouse (complete with a mosaic entry floor I made), and had a plain glass transom above both the front and backdoor.  Many rowhouses in the city have a colorful stained glass transom with the house number in the glass above the door, and we wanted our house to have one too.

 

Off to Glass School

My husband suggested that I should take a class to learn how to make a transom with our house number for us - so a few months after moving in, I did.  I found an introductory copper foil class at The Glass Key, which met one evening a week for 6 weeks.  We completed a basic project in that time and gained the skills needed to do more projects.  

As part of the class, I bought a basic toolkit and bought my grinder the night we learned to grind.  I loved the class!  We had "homework" each week to complete the step we had just learned so we could move on as a group together the next week. Now I'm the type of student who always does her homework, plus I was motivated to learn so I could work on my transom project.  I'm not sure why all the other students were there, but let's just say they weren't as conscientious...  the second week, I was made fun of by the others since I was the only one who completed the assignment!  Sigh.  

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Here it is, my very first ever project, in all it's uneven-lines,, badly-cut, bumpy-lumpy-solder glory.  This was our practice piece, and at each step, we'd make a mess out of this sad little square before continuing on to our 'real' project.

 

Here are the two 'real' projects I completed during the class.  These patterns were both pretty easy for a beginner:

 
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I don't really know what to DO with these projects now; they're not pretty enough to hang up (tons of flaws when you see them up close, the Koi one even has a broken piece where I let the hot soldering iron sit too long, and the heat caused a crack), but I don't want to get rid of them, so they sit in the basement wrapped up under my work table.  I learned a ton making them though and had the confidence to continue on to my...

Transom Project

I couldn't decide what our transom design should be.  I looked online at pictures of others that I liked, and ultimately drew a simple geometric design that I hoped wouldn't be too hard for my third real project.  

I thought it wouldn't be hard, but it turns out I didn't plan it very well- my design involved having to cut half-circles into several pieces of glass, and this was not easy for a beginner!  I kept breaking the glass in bad spots and having to start over again.  I ended up ruining enough of the clear pieces that I had to go back to the store for more glass. ..  but eventually,  through a combination of careful cutting and more grinding than anyone should ever do, I got them done.  However, the clear glass I was using was textured, and the texture had a orientation.   But since I had to repeat so many of these pieces, somewhere along the way I screwed up and turned one 90 degrees.   But I didn't notice until I was almost done, so it is still in there!  You can't tell unless you get up close though.

The very last step was to install my framed piece in the transom.  But I must have gotten a measurement wrong, and it was just barely too big!  My husband ended up sanding down the zinc frame on the bottom where it would be least visible, and got it installed.

This is the actual picture; its hard to get a pic from the front.

 ...and here's the flipped pic; this is how it looks from the front of the house.

...and here's the flipped pic; this is how it looks from the front of the house.

After I completed this project, I went on to make another transom window for our backdoor, and a variety of other panels for gifts or just for fun.  

 Backdoor Transom

Backdoor Transom

It's been 6 years since that first class, and I've acquired a bunch of new tools, have tons of ideas for future projects, and most excitingly, I am going to get into fusing and slumping soon!

Just last week, I found a used kiln on Craigslist and brought her home!  I named her EsmereldaI need some supplies and we need to rearrange some things in the basement for her, but she'll soon be helping me out with a bunch of new and exciting projects.  As an aside, she led to this conversation w/my husband:

K:   You named your kiln?

Me:  Of course, wouldn't you?

K:  Um, no.  The lathe is just called "the lathe".  

Share your first project or why you decided to learn stained glass in the comments!

Creating Stained Glass Masterpiece from a Photograph

The last post covered some design tips; today, I want to post about turning a photograph into a stained glass panel.  This same technique would work for a mosaic or another craft too - it's all about turning a photo into a simple line drawing that you can work from.

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For this project, I'm going to work with this photo that I took this on vacation in Greece, on the island of Kos.  We were on a guided tour, and stopped in Zia to see the town and have lemonade.  The photo is of my glass of lemonade, with the Aegean Sea and Turkey in the background.  I love the colors in this picture, and it always reminds me of such a great day; I have been wanting to turn this photo into a glass project for a while!

Step 1:  Transform Photo into Line Drawing

  Here's my black-and-white, borrrrrring picture!  time to turn that into shiny colorful glass !!

Here's my black-and-white, borrrrrring picture!  time to turn that into shiny colorful glass !!

In your photo editor of choice (I used Picasa), turn the photo into a line drawing - it is the "Pencil Sketch" option in Picasa. Here's my transformed photo:  

 

Step 2:  Trace Significant Features of Your Photo 

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Now, print out that line drawing, and trace the significant features onto a new sheet of paper. I used my light box, shown in the photo to make the tracing easier.  If you don't have a light box, just outline the significant features of your photo with a Sharpie and then you should be able to trace it without the backlighting.

Here's where you get to take some creative license!  Want to move a background element to a different position?  Add a lemon slice on the rim of that glass of lemonade?  (I see a mint leaf on the bottom of that glass, but I wasn't about to attempt turning that into glass - it might end up looking unappetizing! But I still thought it needed a little something-something, so I added a lemon slice!)  Go crazy here!  Pencils have erasers for a reason, you can always 'undo' your changes. 

 

So here is the design I turned my photo into, after some trial and error (this is the final copy, and doesn't show all the eraser marks!).  I moved the glass to the left, deleted Turkey (sorry, Turkey...) from the background, changed/simplified the colors, added my lemon slice, etc.  Now it is an 88-piece stained glass panel.

 

 

Step 3: Choose Glass Colors and Make Your Panel!

For this image, it was really easy for me to choose colors - given the photo, I knew I wanted bright yellow lemonade, a sunny sky, and a red tabletop.  

So, here it is, turned into glass (cut and ground, not yet foiled and soldered).  What do you think?  What would you have done differently?  Would you have changed some of the coloring, kept the background islands, added a flower vase??  The possibilities are endless!  I think it would be awesome if one of my readers reinterpreted this photo for themselves - if you give it a try, please post a pic or link in the comments!

 

And here is the finished piece!  This one went pretty fast, from photo to framed piece ready to hang.

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That Time I Made 25 Turtles

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A few years ago, I had an idea to make a bunch of small turtles for my coworkers, to commemorate wrapping up a big project.  
 

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I found an example of something close to what I was envisioning on Pinterest, and modified it a little.  I had a bunch of green glass leftover from other projects, so I started out by making one as an example - and once I was happy with the design I turned on some music and set up my turtle assembly line.

Each turtle required 5 pieces of glass (body and 4 legs), so first I cut the shapes out of paper for tracing.  For the heads, I used little glass gems.

 

The way I divided up the steps was as follows:


1.  Tracing:  I cut out one design and traced the outlines of the pieces using a Sharpie on the glass.

2.  Cutting:  I cut all 125 pieces, and made little piles of body parts for assembly.

3. Grinding:  I ground all the glass and used the grinder to scuff the edges of the gems so the foil tape would stick.

4. Foiling:  Definitely needed a podcast to alleviate the boredom of this step.

5. Wire:  I added a wire spiral to the front of each turtle body, so next step was to bend a piece of wire into a spiral,  and make a second smaller piece to use as the hanger on the backs.  So 50 cut and shaped wires.

6. Soldering:  I set up about 8 turtles at a time, fluxed, and tack-soldered them together.   Then I fully soldered them, using a vise to hold them to complete the edges.  I also made 2 drips of solder on the top of each head to represent the eyes.

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I really should have kept track of how long all of this took, but since it was easy to put in 30-60 minutes at a time when I could, I didn't track it.  It didn't feel too tedious though since the steps moved pretty quickly.  Soldering was the exception to this - this seemed to take forever,  especially the edges since I had to keep moving the pieces around in the vise, being sure not to touch the hot area I'd just finished.

But they were done in plenty of time to hand them out, and I tied a little ribbon and name tag to each wire hanger.   Sometimes now I see them on people's desks when I go visit my coworkers from that time- and of course I made an extra one for me to keep for posterity!

Have you ever mass-produced an item for gifts to a group?

Finishing Steps (and getting in my own way)

Alien Encounter is done!  The last steps I needed to complete, Sunday, were to add the frame and hanging materials.  I wanted to finish this one so I can bring it in to work this week, along with three other pieces, for hanging in our employee art show.  Now, I didn't HAVE to finish it today, there will be another show in a few months.  But I was so close so I wanted to get it done.

I almost got in my own way of finishing it though - I didn't have quite enough of the zinc came to frame it, so I stopped by the supply store I like earlier in the week to buy another piece.  Yesterday, I was happily framing along, and had 3 of the 4 sides cut from the zinc I had on hand when I had to move to the new piece.  Turns out though that I accidentally bought the wrong size!  (3/8" instead of 1/4")  My first reaction was disappointment that I wouldn't get the project done since it would involve another trip to the store - which is closed on Sundays and Mondays.  But then I realized that I could just start over with the larger piece and make all 4 sides again from the wider material.  I had re-doing things, and I don't like wasting materials, but it was the only thing standing in my way of getting this piece completed, so I went with it.

Another part of my mental block with starting over was that it felt like it took SO LONG to cut the first three sides.  But I had a feeling the saw blade might be getting dull, so I went ahead and changed it before I started up again.  Wow, what a difference!  I hadn't realized it but the old blade was pretty dull - and the new blade went through the zinc like butter!  I was cackling away while I zipped through that came and got the new frame cut and taped into place.

So that's my story, but here are the details of the actual framing steps:

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First, I cut the zinc came on a 45 degree angle and taped it into place with masking tape.  

 
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Next, in each corner, I used masking tape to block off the square where I would solder the zinc pieces together - this keeps the solder contained to that square area and it looks neater.

 
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Then I fluxed and soldered each corner, and each place where a solder joint met the frame.  One area I'd like to improve on is to be a neater solder-er, it's hard to get it flowing just right!  To get the square nice and flat, I held the soldering iron nearly horizontally to flatten it out.

 
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Repeat on each corner, and, ta-da, she is complete!  I just added two steel rings on either side of the frame for the hanging wire, and it is all done.  I'm including two pictures, because I had a really hard time getting a good photo of this one.  The one to the right is on my light box, and the one below is without the back-lighting, but neither really show the true colors.  Add improving at photography to my list of goals for this site!

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Does anyone have any tips for getting good photos of stained glass work?  If so, please share in the comments!

First Post - Current Project

My first post, how exciting!  I figured a good topic for a first post would be the project I'm currently working on (and nearly done!).

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I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided on a friendly alien.  In the picture, she has been completed up through the copper foiling step.  

I used little white glass nuggets for the eyes, and later realized that if I had planned the design better, I could have used larger nuggets for the antennae and middle of her belt, which would have added a cool touch.  I'll have to remember that if I make a similar design again..

 

 

What are you working on right now?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments!