Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Faux Roman Glass Experiments...

I love ancient Roman glass.  I remember walking down the dimly lit corridors of the Metropolitan Museum, moving from one illuminated case to the next.  Several contained unearthed glass vessels, glowing with a certain timelessness.  There's something magical about the iridescent finish and crusty beauty.

But there's a couple of factors that inhibit me from working with it more.  Firstly, it can get pretty pricey.  Since it has an ancient source, the material is finite.  It is currently excavated in Roman glass bottle dumps in Afghanistan.  Another thing that keeps me from using it more is that it is very fragile.  And while I love the beauty of fragile things, I like things that can take a heavy beating.  Sure, it has survived for thousands of years, but that was under layers of protective earth and not dangling from the human body.  The iridescent finish is also pretty delicate and experiments with clear coating it have been less than awesome.   ("Less than awesome" translates as disasters that ate up all the rainbowy flash in a few sprays.)

So I set out to work on my own experiments to create similar looking pieces in polymer clay!  I'm getting there, little by little.

In my first experiment, I made texture sheets and used those to texturize some nuggets that I made.  I shaped them to look like river stones.  I was happy with the texture and I was happy with the iridescent finish.  I used a variety of opalescent paints with fine interference pigments.  I was also happy with the alternative shape.  Usually it comes in curved elongated ovals.

My problem was opacity.

They didn't look like glass.  They were still very cool looking and I'm sure I'll use them in some project, but they just weren't "right" yet.


I figured that since I wanted more translucency, I should make thinner pieces.  When you get translucent polymer clay too thick, it's a little milky.  I also experimented with tinting the clay with other methods to retain as much clarity as possible.  This round was better!  
One of the other restrictions of using real ancient Roman glass is that there's a limited color palette.  It's a lovely color palette, but if you want to work with something else, you're sort of out of luck.  With this experiment, I played around with a peachy, pink color.  I'm going to hit it with some gold accents and I think it'll really make them luscious.  It's still not as transparent as I would like, but it is getting closer.  I've ordered some other clay and I am excited to try it out.

I'm sure that I could have looked up various recipes online with how to fake Roman glass, but there's something nice about doing it myself.  I like the process of experimenting and figuring it out.  I also like that along the way, I learn more about the materials and processes and can then translate what I've learned into other applications.

2 comments:

Lynne Suprock said...

Very true about experimentation and self discovery about design process! Your faux Roman glass pieces are charming!

Kristen Stevens said...

I do love the first ones that look like stones! I do see how you are trying to recreate the glass and you in my opinion nailed it!