Friday, July 31, 2015

Bubble Plates

This weekend my daughter was playing with bubbles in the backyard. Earlier this year at CORE Gallery, another artist, Keunae Song, had an exhibition of bubbles on glass. Her exhibition included glass objects with evidence of bubbles on them and videos of the bubbles popping on the glass.

iron bubble plate

I assume her bubble mixture included enamel or frits or paint because the result was a permanent record of the bubbles on the glass object.  After seeing Song's work, I wanted to try recording bubbles too. I've done bubble paint projects with kids before, including my own (this stuff is unbelievably messy--stay away).

bubble plate production set up

When I taught kids art classes for the Ambroz Center in Cedar Rapids, we put paint and bubble solution in old film canisters, inserted a straw into the film canister and popped a hole in the top of the lid. The kids blew into the straws and bubbles poured out of the top of the canister. The kids caught the colored bubbles on paper and traded papers to capture a rainbow of bubbles.

first bubbles popped

Initially, I tried mixing some underglaze into a small canister of bubbles, but it was grainy and wouldn't stay mixed. Once my daughter got involved, I added some iron oxide to a small cup of bubble mix and just kept stirring. I blew a few bubbles but my control of the bubble cup was quickly usurped. I was relegated to bringing more plates out to the bubble blower.

more bubbles falling

This process was fun to watch. I tried to take some pictures to capture the fun of the bubbles landing, then popping. It seemed that big bubbles that stayed on the surface for a while before popping yielded the darkest circles of color. (Perhaps because the color had time to settle to the bottom of the bubble, rather than being sent up into the air with the force of the early pop?)

bubbles landing

The plates collected their fair share of extra splatter from the iron and bubble mixture. We tried some cups but they tended to have lines running down the sides when drips landed on the surface and weren't able to dry quickly.

the one in the middle popped

What I don't know about this project is whether there was enough iron oxide in the mixture to show up well after firing. I have a few plates in the kiln now, being bisqued. I assume the iron will be visible without a glaze, but to make the plates useful, I plan to add a clear glaze over the top. It may be that the iron is too faint to show up through the clear glaze, but I plan to try anyway.

the set on the top popped

This process could conceivably work with other colorants, but I would question the inclusion of a kid once the colorants became more potent. This kid was old enough to know not to suck on the bubbles, but there was still airborne iron/bubble mix in the air when they popped and knees and hands still needed to be washed afterwards. Iron speckles are almost indistinguishable from freckles, by the way.

iron bubble wand in action

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