Children and grandchildren have helped me understand my worth. Not much beats watching your kids and grand kids become happy and prosperous.
One of the sweetest memories I have is of doing arts and crafts with my children. And now that I have grandchildren, I can relive the days of those memories. The activity I'll describe has a number of steps for preparation. What better time to engage the grand kids than the Christmas holidays?
The activity I will describe has a few preparatory steps. If you have young grandchildren, you will want to take care of all the “hot” steps so little hands don't get scorched.
Small Microwave Kiln
The first thing I do is fuse some glass. We are going to make tree ornaments and they look great with shiny tree lights behind them. All of the patterns used come from clip art traced on bake clay (polymer clay). You can choose whatever patterns you or the grand kids like.
Our first pattern is a happy little bear. And on his belly we will epoxy glue the fused glass. You will need a fused glass microwave kiln. In this case a small one is sufficient. You can get one on Amazon for about $25 - $35 dollars. You also will need kiln paper – 10 sheets will run around $5 and you need one sheet per piece of fused glass. The kilns aren't cheap, but you can use them over and over again. I have fused over 50 glass baubles and it looks no the worse for wear.
There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.
— Walt Streightiff
Glass Costs You Nothing
I collect broken glass that has good color, so it doesn't cost me a thing. You can buy frit (crushed glass) online for a variety of prices. For my purposes clear, green, and blue work best.
Once you line the kiln with kiln paper (which keeps the glass from sticking to the kiln), put the glass shards in the center of the kiln. Put the lid on and place it in the microwave. My microwave can produce up to 1100 watts. To get a nice melt I microwave on timed cook for 5 minutes. I let it rest in the microwave for a couple minutes and then cook it for 4 more.
Since there are so many brands of microwaves, you will probably need to experiment a bit, but this will give you a starting point. If the shards have not melted completely on the paper toward the center of the kiln, increase the time another minute. You'll find the right combination through trial and error. The reason I cook the glass in two runs is because I saw the glass had small bubbles if I cooked it for 9 minutes straight. Resting the piece seemed to eliminate that, although you might want small bubbles.
Just so you have a bit of a reference for this project, I put in 6 pieces about 1/2" to 3/4" in diameter. You will still have to do some hit and miss, but this gives a bit of reference.
Hot Glass Cautions
Of course, you have to let the glass cool once your timer has finished. You need a pair of heavy leather gloves to pull a hot kiln out - if you do, you must have a place to set it that will not burn (for instance, a piece of ceramic tile or concrete block). I just leave it in the microwave to cool, which is what I recommend.
This type of glass is called full-fused glass. Each piece melts together with a smooth surface and no texture. You could cook it a little less if you want texture. For a great brief lesson about this, see https://theartofeducation.edu/2017/02/17/fire-glass-kiln/
I take the lid off the small kiln after cooling and let my hand hover over it. When I think the kiln is cool enough I pull it out and turn it upside down over my leather glove and tap the bottom. The glass will fall out. With your other hand you can hover the glass to see if it feels too hot. It takes a little practice but no worries with welding gloves or something rated for doing kiln work. There are many available. If the glass is still warm, I set it on a metal shelf I have to finish cooling to room temp.
Wear glasses for safety. For small pieces like this, I leave them to cool in the microwave for 35 - 40 minutes. I avoid opening the door during this period just to make sure the glass doesn't crack from too rapid a cooling.
Bake Clay Tips
You can buy bake clay at Walmart in the craft section or any craft store.
Knead the amount of clay you need to use and roll it out. I use a rolling pin but anything that gives a flat smooth surface will do. Some people gently roll a tumbler over it. Then, place your picture on top of the clay and cut around the image edges with a knife. It's like making cookies with a cutter. Peel the excess away and trim the edges of your bear (or whatever figure you want to make.)
Then it's time to cook the bear in an oven. Place the figure on a cookie tray or anything flat. I even use a piece of 2 x 4. Cook at 275 degrees for 30 minutes. I use Sculpey brand, but there are many brands you can choose from. I have used pounds of this for activities with my grandchildren and to make things for the house. It is great for making ornaments. I just finished an Easter centerpiece.
It's Really an Activity for The Kids!
When the polymer clay has cooled, you drill some holes in the bear's belly and place one at the top of the ornament. That is for a clasp for the tree hook.
You have reached the point when you can turn it over to the kids (pretty much!)
So far, it seems that you are doing all the work! The pieces will come together for the children to finish.
Santa Packs His Bag!
I take the clay ornaments and fused glass, along with acrylic paints, brushes, and glue to the grand kids home. Let them paint the figures whatever colors they like. When the paint dries, show them how to tie a string loop through the hole in the bear's forehead. Depending on how old they are, they may need some help.
Next, mix a bit of epoxy glue on a piece of paper. I show the kids how to do it with two-part epoxy and then let them. Warn them to keep the fingers out of the glue. With a small stirring stick, we apply the glue to the back of the fused glass (the rougher side) and drop it on top of the holes. The glue dries clear and will grasp the painted surface running a little into the holes for a tight grip. Let it dry overnight.
The kids can make a great ornament hook out of a paper clip.
What's nice about making ornaments is that the memories and ornaments themselves will stay with the children into adulthood. We all have memories of trimming the tree. Mine is of the fireplace burning and the silver 60's tree aglow with lots of ornaments. Likewise, your kids will remember all that was about them when they made the ornaments and trimmed their own trees (green these days.)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 John R Wilsdon
John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on October 07, 2020:
Thank you for your kind comment. When it comes to glass, you cannot include enough photos. Be well.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on October 04, 2020:
Very interesting. Well illustrated.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 26, 2019:
What an interesting craft. I've used polymer clay, but I've never used fused glass. Your grandchildren must have had a lot of fun as they created the ornaments!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 26, 2019:
What a fun activity for kids and adults to share. The memories will last a lifetime.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 26, 2019:
This sounds like fun way to make ornaments. They would be sturdy and last longer than some homemade ornaments, too. Thanks for sharing!