As a fused glass jewelry artisan I have probably spent as much time on the look and feel of the backs of my pieces as the fronts. I have found that the feel of the glass on the skin is as much a selling point as the colors or design. Its the same conundrum fiber artists have been dealing with for ages: wool is an amazing fiber - easy to knit with and warm - but the majority of folks just cant stand that itchy feeling on bare skin. The same principle applies to glass. What you use on your kiln shelf can determine exactly how your pieces will feel on the skin - and in turn, can make for a happier customer.
After experimenting with various methods including kiln wash (produces a very rough feel) and thicker fiber papers/boards (again, too rough) I have settled down into a very happy marriage with a thin kiln shelf paper.
It wasnt such bliss in the beginning, though. Like most artisans, we tend to be cheap (not because we dont want quality, but because we want to stretch every last penny in order to buy more glass). There is nothing more unsatisfying than spending money on the accouterments instead of that glorious piece of glass youve been eyeballing for months. I would buy the thinnest, cheapest kiln shelf paper I could find, and though the feel after firing was semi-smooth, it still had too much texture. This was still not the result I needed for my pieces (which lie directly on the skin) and I realized that not all kiln shelf paper is created equal.
I finally ponied up the money and bought a roll of Bullseye Thinfire Shelf Paper.
Generally speaking, I am not a brand name kinda girl. If a product works consistently well, I will keep coming back regardless of the name on the package. But I have to admit, in this case, spending the extra money on top-of-the-line kiln paper saves time, hassle and bucket loads of scraps from the kiln. Not only can I cut it exactly to the size of my shelf, maximizing the number of pieces I can fire at one time, but if I am careful I can actually get two (sometimes three) firings out of the same piece. The Thinfire paper leaves an extremely smooth surface on the back of my pendants, which are comfortable against the skin.
Now, all of the above doesnt mean you need to go scrapping all the kiln wash or other shelf papers in your studio; I just suggest not using them with pieces of glass that will sit directly on the skin. Instead, I use those washes and papers for full kiln loads of suncatchers and other projects meant to use up all my scrap glass. Stay tuned for more on using up your scrap glass - there is no need to waste ANY of it (said like a true cheap glass artisan).
Maggi Blue is a glass artisan, designer and writer. You can read more about her and her art on her website.
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