A couple of months ago I was approached by fellow glass artist Melanie Graham (Mind Melt Blog and Melanie Grahamn Studios). She asked if I would be interested in testing her new frit line Fritty Bits (available on her website and on Etsy)
Melanie knew what most people who are familiar with my work know - I don't use a lot of frit in my beads. I mean, next to none. Other than making stringer out of crushed aventurine, the last time I used frit was probably 8-10 years ago. Her question was - is it because I hate frit, or because there isn't a great deal of frit available in my preferred coe or color lines?
The answer to that question is that there are a combination of reasons, some of which are artistic and some of which are more technical. I'll go into that later in this post.
I wasn't sure if I would be the best person for the job - mostly because of my inexperience with frit, and because I wasn't sure that my reviewing it would give her what she needs. However, after discussing it, we agreed that having someone new-ish to frit test her product might be beneficial, and I think would help bring a more objective view of it to the blog.
Ultimately, Melanie and I agreed that I would test a few of her frits on a trial basis and see how that goes before testing more.
The first thing you should know about Fritty Bits is that it's all 104 COE and tested for compatability. That's a big deal for me, because one reason I stayed away from a lot of the other frit blends out there is because they incorporated other COEs, and I was always afraid of cracking.
Now on to the tough stuff. The majority of my opinions about frit in general are artistic in nature. That means that they are mostly based on my own personal preferences and my own creative voice. It doesn't mean at all that I think others will have the same opinions - and it doesn't mean that I hope to dissuade anyone from trying any frit and judging for themselves what they like. I hope that makes sense. :)
Now onto specifics! Melanie sent me four frit blends to try, and I will be reviewing the first one in this post.
Jabberwock is the name of the frit blend that I picked to try first - mostly because it's autumn
and I thought the colors looked pretty seasonal. And let's face it - the name is intriguing. Something named after a weird monster in a nonsensical poem just calls out to be tried. :)
This frit is a blend of greens and browns and mauves, made up of transparent and opaque glass, some of which is a tad reactive.
Because I am not a frit expert, I wasn't sure what to expect, other than what Melanie wrote in the notes she sent with the package - that Jabberwock was pretty on White or Opal Yellow bases, and could strike when worked.
So basically, I was just flying by the seat of my pants! :)
The grain of this frit is pretty small, I think - which is good because I work small. I started with a small base bead of white and lightly rolled it in the frit and melted in. Some of the pieces were too large (for me anyway) so they didn't stick to the bead. I used tweezers to manually stick pieces where I liked.
Here's where we come to the biggest reason I don't use frit a lot - it's visually chaotic. I'm the kind of artist who loves order - symmetry and precision are a hallmark of my designs. Color harmony and crispness are things I really like. I very rarely use organic, random design and color in my beads - which is just a personal preference. I typically am not drawn to a chaotic, random color arrangement, and the more colors I see, the more chaotic it looks to me.The random nature of the shapes and sizes of the grains is also visually unappealing to me, usually.
When testing, I tried to ignore that and just focus on the technical aspect of the frit - does it work as intended? Yes, I think so.
One thing about this frit (and I think most frits will have this issue, because of the sharp edges in the glass) is that it can cause a little scumming or bubbling when encased. It's not that noticable, especially when you manipulate it, but I am picky about such things.
Here are some pics of my test beads, and some more info about each bead.
|L-R 1.Opal Yellow base, not encased, twisted. 2. White base, twisted. 3. Periwinkle base, encased. 4. White base, raked, encased. 5. White base, encased.|
I then did two more beads with white bases, and did twisting on one and raking on the other. The raked bead was most appealing to me, as the colors blended a little and reacted with the DH Aether somewhat.
The most reaction came when I rolled the frit onto an Opal Yellow base and then twisted the spots. The frit spreads a little on Opal Yellow. The Periwinkle based bead also reacted a little but with darker lines around the frit spots.
To be honest, I would probably not use this frit in my designs, because I find the colors a bit muddy, and I don't really like the interplay of the deep opaque and the softer transparents. But again, that is a matter of personal preference. I am sure there are lots of beadmakers who could really make this color blend sing! The sample beads on the Etsy page for Jabberwock are quite nice.
I will test the rest of the colors Melanie sent and do a review of each one separately.
Next up is Blue Jeans!