Monday, March 10, 2014

Wisteria Hysteria

Today marks 56 years on this old farm.   You'd think I'd be sad about that number, wouldn't you, but to tell you the truth; I feel lucky to have made it this far.  After last summer's thyroid shenanigans, I was having my doubts.  We'll see what this year has in store.

In keeping with weather tradition for my birthday, today was very warm; well, what passes for warm in Wisconsin in March.  Having the temps in the upper 40's to low 50's was really nice.  I don't remember the last time the temperature was over 30.  Carl and I walked the dogs tonight for the first time since mid-December and they were both strutting their stuff happily.

 I was at the grocery store with my walking friend, Mary, after exercise class last week Thursday when Carl called my cellphone.  It was 11:15 in the morning, and the call was coming from our house, oh boy, that startled me.

 "I took a half a day off from work.  When will you be home?  I need some help putting the Wisteria shade back on the soldering stand.  And besides, it's your birthday weekend, too," Carl said cheerfully.

"You took vacation already?  That's a relief, I thought you might have gotten hurt at work," I said as I was unloading my cart at the checkout.

Carl always takes vacation on my birthday, but not his.  I always wondered why that was, but he always says his birthday isn't important.   I beg to differ, but he won't be swayed. I take his birthday off, wait, I don't work...but anyway, we do celebrate.

I came home with the groceries and helped him attach the Wisteria shade to the soldering stand so we can solder the inside of the shade.   Carl had finished soldering the outside on Wednesday and we went through the nerve-wracking process of releasing it from the mold. 

Removing a new lamp from the fiberglass mold is a tense procedure for me.   I know it is for Carl, too, but he won't admit it, he's a sunny optimist.  His workroom in the basement is tiny and cluttered and yet he somehow manages to work in the smallest of spaces.  The stained glass is attached to the fiberglass form with beeswax.  After the soldering on the outside is complete, the glass has to be heated enough to melt the wax which allows the lamp to fall off the form.  Ok, fall is a bad choice of words, we don't want it to fall...

Carl spins the soldering stand with one hand while holding the heat gun in the other, dispersing the heat all the way around the shade.  I ran upstairs to get my blow dryer and the camera and aimed the dryer into the bottom of the form to help speed the melting process.  In the rush of activity I forgot to put the camera on auto-focus, so the first few shots are blurry, as in 'what is happening here, I can't see a thing-blurry'.

Maybe it's a good thing the auto focus wasn't on, Carl does look rather alien-y here with his face mask on.  And dirty. 
The trick is to melt the wax without getting the glass too hot which might cause it to break.
I didn't set a timer, but at least twenty minutes of heat gun and blow dryer work went on before the shade suddenly slipped free.  (And yes, we caught it.)

 By this time, the shade was so hot Carl couldn't handle it with his bare hands.  Time for gloves.

 Ah, at last, I realized the camera was out of focus.  There, that's better.  We're both relieved, but the job is far from complete, Carl still has to solder the inside and add reinforcing wires to this massive beast.

But as we've done with all of the other shades, the Moment of Truth was upon us once again.  Even though it's not done and there is a massive buildup of wax and goo, let's grab a lightbulb and see what we have.

 Well, it's definitely blue.  But not what I expected.  It's not dreadful, but I was stumped.  I had chosen three slightly different shades of blue, each one a little darker than the other, and when I laid the pattern out on the light table before cutting glass, the differences were noticeable.  But this is pretty monochromatic.

There are five repeats of the pattern to make this shade and the look I was going for was subtle variation between the clusters.  I didn't want to go as crazy as I did on the Laburnum where the color variations are more abrupt:

 I wanted more subtle light and dark clusters on the Wisteria. 

But looking at the end result, I guess I erred too much on the side of caution.  All is not lost; Joel thinks it looks good.  I could have changed some of the clusters by melting the solder and removing sections and re-selecting new glass again but I wouldn't know where to start.  There are almost 2000 pieces of glass in total and I'd have to figure out which shade of blue to use and where, eh, it's a nightmare to contemplate.  Better to leave well enough alone I guess.

I'm consoling myself that with all the wax that is built up on the inside, things will look different when the shade is completed.  Maybe there is more definition between the clusters than shows up with one bare lightbulb held too close to the edge of the shade.  If not, I guess I can always make another one.  (What am I saying?? I must be delirious.)

I've run into this panicky feeling before, especially in sewing.  I would often sew a dress and try it on for alterations and be completely disenchanted with the garment.  Yuck, this sure doesn't look anything like the pattern envelope.  But after all the finishing touches are done and the hems are in place, some of my earlier optimism would return.  Nothing looks great when it's half-baked.

We'll see how it looks when Carl and I are done soldering the inside and it's had a nice bath and cleanup.  Maybe I'll like it better then. 

Once again, I've learned a lesson, like Goldilocks, my glass selection process can't be too bold or too tame, it has to be Just Right. 

 (I just finished laying out an Allamanda shade today.  I sure hope this ol' Graydilocks got it right this time.)


Missy said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY. The lamp looks great to me. Maybe not exactly what you predicted but still very beautiful (sort of like a garden can be sometimes).

Stephen Andrew said...

Happy birthday! And don't call defeat until you are defeated! I think the yellow in the beeswax has neutralized some of the blue. I'm sure it will look different once the wax is gone. It's gorgeous! The form removal would give me an ulcer.

Junebug said...

Happy Birthday!! I love, love the lamp and I'm not a blue fan. I see all different shade of blue in the pic. I think you've been looking at it too long. It's gong to be beautiful. Oh, just in case you still don't like it I will take if off you hands, LOL!!!!

sharon malueg said...

Happy Birthday Karen, you were right, God gave you a beautiful day to enjoy!! Sure melted a lot of that white stuff. I love the lamp and think you did a great job with the colors. PS Carl you did great too and it was so nice of you to take off for Karen's day!!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Belated Happy Birthday dearest Karen

I think your wisteria shade is beautiful!

I look forward to seeing the alamanda next. Your stained glass pieces are always beautiful and so colorful to me. What a LOT of work. I love my heart with rose piece. Thank you all again for that.

I hope you have a great bday week.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Alison said...

Happy Birthday Karen! Like others, I think the shade will look different when it's been cleaned up. Am I correct in thinking that part of the problem is that the clusters of flowers just all meld into each other now, without any definition between them? If, Big If, cleaning it up doesn't fix it, can you do something with solder, maybe thicker lines of it or something, to differentiate the clusters of blooms? BTW, it is still very pretty.

Peonies & Magnolias said...

The lamp is gorgeous! I hope you had a great Birthday too and have many many more.


Garden Fancy said...

Happy Birthday, Karen -- I'm glad you had such a beautiful, sunny day to celebrate it. And the shade looks incredibly magnificent to me, not that I know anything about such things. Hope you had lots of cake presents and fun things on your birthday! -Beth

Pamela Gordon said...

A belated Happy Birthday to you Karen! I think it's nice that Carl takes the day off to honour you. Well, this wisteria shade is pretty gorgeous if you ask me. Wow. It's amazing! So much work. I love it. Enjoy your warmer days. Blessings, Pam

africanaussie said...

Happy Birthday! Every lamp you make is better than the last one - I wouldnt change a thing.... you hadnt posted about a lamp this winter (or maybe I missed those posts) so I am pleased to see the unveiling.

Larry said...

Karen... for what my opinion is worth, these pictures lead me to saying this may be one of your best shades color-wise! I love the use of the bubblegum tones or pink... computers sometimes tell a different story as you well know but mine says it's great... anxious to see this one in real time. I am so anxious to do a lamp that I can hardly stand it, but I do have more windows to complete. On top of that, my bad shoulder has led to the trapezius feeling like it's on fire so I had that and other points in my body injected with cortisone yesterday ... hopefully it will do the trick... repetitive motion I'm sure and I never did fully recover from the five rotator cuff surgeries. Finally... that daffodil (Banded ) that I've been having fits trying photograph came off the form and I was shocked... it has since become one of my favorites! Had to stretch my comfort zone and be a bit more bold, and when I did it about scared me away!
Happy Birthday! Larry

Indie said...

I think the lamp shade is gorgeous!! I like it with the subtle shades of blue and how you have some pink/purple color in there as well. I'm sure when you have it all cleaned up it will look even better! Happy Birthday!!

Toni said...

Happy belated birthday, Karen! I think the lamp looks amazing, and I see all different shades of blue! I agree that you are "too close" to it, blind to its true beauty. You will see it. Wanted to mentioned that I had read your earlier posts regarding some of your childhood struggles and my heart went out to you. So sad that you had to experience all of that. Carl sounds like quite the guy :-) I think I'd keep him if I were you :-)

Lona said...

Belated Birthday my friend. I am so in love with the Wisteria shade. It has become my favorite of all the ones I have seen you make I think. It is just gorgeous. Take care and have a wonderful weekend, Spring is getting closer!!!!

Karen said...

Thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes and for the compliments on the shade. We're still hard at work on the project.

Randy Emmitt said...

Karen, Happy Birthday. I love the new lamp you did great with the colors.

PlantPostings said...

Happy Belated Birthday, Karen! Yes, we've had some amazingly nice March days, haven't we? But not too far off "normal" so that's good. All I can say is that shade looks perfect to me! Love, love it! But that shade of blue and Wisteria are two of my favorite things, so...

Cathy Wiechert said...

Happy Belated Birthday! Wow..what beautiful work. You two are so wonderfully talented--I need to stop by and visit more often. :) Here's to continued good health for you and warmer weather for all of us!

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