Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Silica Serendipity

Our choice to study the periodic table of the elements in school this year was largely guided by our participation in the group exchange of LTCs on Atlas Quest (ATCs to the rest of you). Receiving 118 miniature works of incredible art gives you a very strong desire to display them. And if we are going to take up all the space to display that many trading cards, we might as well use them in our homeschool. Thus began a wonderful story. Here is how the rest of it goes:
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which is only a mere 75 minute drive from us, is hosting an exhibit called The Glass Experience (sadly ending in 4 days). Purchasing a museum membership was already in the field trip plans for school this year and I wanted the girls to see the glass exhibit. Glass is made from silicon, right? What better way to start our exploration of the elements! So last Thursday we packed some snacks, the camera, the kids, and a couple of grandparents into the van and headed to Chicago. Part of the exhibit is called "You design it, we make it!". Anyone can draw a picture, and if they pick your picture they will make it out of glass during one of their demonstrations. To shorten the story, I'll tell you what you've already guessed: They picked J's picture! And not only did they pick it out of hundreds of pictures, but they ended up picking it at the demonstration that we were at!! She drew a blue cat on a green rug. This is a brief explanation of how the glass lampworking process goes:
To start the process, a "glob" (yes, that was the technical term they used) of molten glass on a metal rod is shaped using various tools. Some were made of fruit wood soaked in water for a softer effect and because they don't draw as much heat from the glass.
Different companies have different "recipes" for glass, but this glass is made from silica, soda ash, limestone, and lithium. Other elements are added to create the colors.

This is the body being shaped. The gaffer forms a narrow break off point (sorry, I don't remember that technical term) so that they can separate the sculpture from the metal rod when they are finished.

Glass is best worked around 1500-1800 degrees, so it went in and out the furnace (2100 degrees) many times.

Here Rae (sorry if it's not spelled right) works on the green rug the cat is sitting on.

Now the head and facial features are added.
The completed piece is placed in an annealling oven to cool slowly over night, at about 100 degree an hour, to make the glass stable.
What a priviledge it was to get to see J's cat being made by two very talented artists! The hot glass portion of the exhibit was by the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.
Here is her drawing and "Siam", her blue Siamese glass cat.

I do have pictures that relate more to the elements, but that is for another post.
Some people would call this coincidence, luck, or fortune. But as someone who believes in the absolute sovereignty of God, I see the hand of a gracious Heavenly Father who takes an interest in the smallest details of the lives of His children.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
"Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence rests in the
flowers. All other things-our powers, our desires, our food-are necessary
for our existence. But the rose is an extra. It's smell and it's
color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only
goodness which gives extras, and so we have much to hope from the flowers."
Or glass cats.


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