Monday, 23 August 2010

Derix Glass Studios - Continued Pt. 2.

While I was at Derix the painting department also had me replace some of their broken test pieces. They had a large box of colours and first I had to go through this and make sure none of them were duplicates of the broken ones. A few were so I could use these as replacements without painting new ones. Of the new ones I did paint they wanted a flat matt wash of colour over the glass with the name, serial number and firing temperature at the bottom painted with black trace.

I also learned how to mix up paint for spraying, something they did a lot of. On large sheets of architectural glass the paint tends to be sprayed on rather than painted by hand with a brush. The spraying allows a completely even matt finish or a completely even gradient to occur something that would be really hard to do on such a scale with brushes. How the paint is mixed for this is important because it determines how smooth the finish will be. Obviously if it is mixed badly there could be grains or lumps in it and this would be disastrous.

The first thing you are to do is to empty the powdered glass paint onto a smooth glass surface, like a table top or a palette. A lot of powder is used and a hole is made in the middle, like when baking, so the oil can be poured in. The powder is then folded in with a scraper, turpentine is added when needed to thin it out. Once it is a little runny it is poured into a sieve. The sieve is compiled of a plastic carton/bottle cut in half. The end with the lid is taken and the lid has a hole cut in the middle which is then sanded down so the edge isn't sharp.

(Fig, 33. Mixing paint for spraying.)

A mesh is stretched over this so that when the lid goes on the mesh is stretched and trapped tight between the bottle and the lid. The mesh is so fine you cannot visibly see any holes, it is the same type used in printing. This bottle with the mesh lid is then placed lid side down into the top of a glass jar. The mixed paint is scooped off the table and scraped into the upside down bottle where it is mixed with more turpentine. This mix is then gently pressed through the mesh in a circular motion with a tough stippling brush. Once it is all pressed through it should be 50/50 paint to turpentine. When left the paint will settle and the turpentine will float so it will be clear if it is or not. At this point extra turpentine can be added or easily scooped off as required. This is now mixed enough to spray with. When mixing in this fashion be careful not to press too hard with the brush because it can tear the mesh and then you will have to start again. An oil mix is always used for spraying, never water. To clean up use turpentine then white spirit, then to really clean brushes you can use 'nitro' which I think stands for nitro glycerine but may not. It was very toxic and throughout all of this I wore gloves, a mask and an apron.

The final piece of work I did at Derix was my own and it was inspired by my experience there. I designed five red flashed glass panels depicting a narrative concerning wasps. When I arrived at Derix I was moved into accommodation above the studios that had not been stayed in for some time and the window had been left open. The room I had to sleep in was inhabited by the beginnings of three wasp colonies which I had to sleep with the first night and was left alone to deal with. I did tackle these myself rather bravely I might add but the experience was a little traumatic for me and although I am not someone who particularly minds insects, staying with wasps was a nightmare. The obvious nests were small enough still to trap in jars and leave outside but there was one behind the wooden panelling on the walls which had to be sealed with silicone glue. It was swelteringly hot but as soon as doors or windows were opened the wasps would come back, even starting a new nest in the kitchen. It was not a fun experience. I used this as inspiration for my art which is designed to look like a children's fairy tale or a graphic comic. Each panel has an ornate border, like there used to be in old story books, and the art work inside tells a story which is also written in verse. The poem talks about a queen wasp moving in above the antagonists bed and how she kills her. I used red flash glass because I wanted to do some etching in the design because this I suspected would be the last chance I would get to use such facilities and I had to take advantage of them.

First I masked off the back of the glass with vinyl then the front. I cut the border out of the front but left the centre masked. I then painted on a red resist, this was the same as the green resist I mentioned before that I used in Peters. I painted this around the borders tracing the pattern I had designed on paper. I dried this out on a heated matt then painted a black substance mixed with turpentine that is used for asphalt and roofing on top. This is the same stuff I used at Lincoln Cathedral when I did etching there. At Lincoln they said it was very important to also paint the edges of the glass so the acid doesn't eat them away and your glass doesn't end up smaller. At Derix however they said not to worry about this at all, so I didn't bother.

(Fig. 34. Red resist painted in swirly patterns on the border.)

Once the asphalt paint had dried on the matt I used a knife to flick up the edge of the red underneath paint , which dries like a plastic, and I could then peel this pattern completely off. This means when etched it is the pattern and not the empty space around it that is etched. The asphalt paint protects those other areas. This same process was later repeated on the internal design, with the border vinyled instead. Once all the etching was complete I painted the rest of my design with tracing paint and oil called siebdruck-oldirekt', fired it and added some highlights of silverstain. The stain was applied very differently from how I have done it before. It was premixed with oil and sat in a large tub. The paint was very thick and needed to be thinned down with turpentine. It was a little reddy and it was hard for me to gauge how thick the paint was and therefore how strong the colour would be as I had not mixed it myself.

(Fig. 35.Top panel shows the asphalt after it has just been painted on. The lower shows the same design after the pink Abdecklack has been peeled of.)

As it turned out I was quite unhappy with the colour. I had expected a stronger yellow and the colour was a little muddy and not very clear. I think I wanted a bright primary colour but that is not what I got. Overall though I was very happy with my work and did manage to get them back in one piece successfully.

(Fig. 36. My completed wasp design.)

I was grateful for being allowed to do so much of my own work while I was there and definitely learned a lot from the projects I had the pleasure of working on. The lamination process especially taught me a lot because I had never used any of the techniques before. The people were friendly but again I did find the language barrier a problem. I was sad to have never really got to meet any of the Derix family and unfortunately the wasps did put a bit of a downer on my experience. It was really great to have been able to go there, because I had wanted to see their studios for some time and now I have. It was also really useful to be able to compare their practice to Peters Glasmalerie and see how they were run differently. One major difference is that Peters takes on apprentices that it trains up, Derix on the other hand does not. It employs people who are already trained, maybe people from other studios or sometimes people from a glass technical college not too far away called Hadamar. Whereas people at Peters said it was relatively easy to get an apprenticeship if you wanted one and to stay on after if you were not incompetent, the staff at Derix told me it was hard to get work there, or that they were surprised to get their jobs. The environment felt different because of this. If I am ever back in that part of Germany I would love to visit Hadamar as it was supposed to be very worth seeing, but I didn't have the time or the transport so it was not to be.


  1. Hi Roz,
    Great to find your blog after meeting you at Derix! Your piece turned out great. I mentioned that I am the Education Chair of the American Glass Guild. Please keep up your blog with your adventures in glass - it will be inspiring for other students. You can find my research on silver stain here:

  2. That truly amazes me. Worth seeing your works.

  3. Nice and detailed account of work.
    Just to clarify one item: all staff at Derix or Peters or any German studio rise through the ranks via apprenticeships. This must have been one of those misunderstandings resulting from the language barrier. As I know the Derix studio quite well, there are always several apprentices concurrently educated. Apprentices must also go to school, which in the Derix case is Hadamar. Maybe at Derix they are made to feel more special and hence feel more lucky ;-)