My Books

My Books
These books may be purchased from Schiffer Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target and in many other fine stores.

Check out my design on Zazzle!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Public Art In Arlington: The Pentagon Memorial---Minimalism At Its Finest

When a catastrophic national event and memorial is so successfully stripped down to its most fundamental elements and a feeling of hope and pride still remain, this is minimalist sculpture at its finest.

The Pentagon Memorial, with its 184 stainless steel memorial benches arranged in groups according to ages, forces one to reflect on more than a roster of 184 names on benches. It is very personal and you feel unique individuals and wonder what they were doing at that age in life. It becomes a frozen moment in time while you walk about each age grouping. You observe a bench for a three year old girl, barely more than a baby, and wonder if she was in nursery school in 2001. You think how today she might be looking forward to entering junior high.

You see individuals in their 30's and 40's who were parents, or maybe about to buy a home for the first time and working hard in their careers. Were they going on a business trip or a vacation? You see older individuals who were perhaps contemplating retirement and looking forward to visiting grandchildren in a few months for the holidays.

The loose gravel underfoot forces you to hear the crunch of your own footsteps and at times you feel a little annoyed by it. Maybe it is there to remind you that you are still here, and they are not, and then you feel almost guilty for a moment.

When you start to see the overall shape of the cantilevered benches, they look like wings, perhaps signifying the memories and journeys really have not ended for these 184 individuals. Whether one sees the benches as plane wings or angel wings or something else entirely, it does not matter and this is what works with great minimalist sculpture. Even children can relate and interpret such art while adults can see layer upon layer of possible but similar meanings.

The running water beneath the benches seems to unite all the individual benches and reminds one that life goes on or maybe of a destination to be traveled to eventually by all of us.

Just as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial set a new artistic standard with its minimalist design, the Pentagon Memorial goes even further and locks you into undulating emotions. While I think it purposefully takes you through this range of emotions, it still manages to leave you with a feeling of hope and pride as Americans and gratitude for these 184 patriots. And, like many Americans, I cannot understand how any of us could ever fail to be proud to be an American and to have this sculpture memorial in Arlington County.

Copyright 2009
Cindy Ann Coldiron

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Consumer Products Made From Recycled Glass

Besides artistic uses of recycled glass, more and more companies are inventing methods for using this type of glass.

Kitchen Countertops

Several companies are using mosaic type bits of broken recycled glass embedded in a concrete or resin mix for kitchen countertops. If you are looking for something besides granite, they are a colorful alternative. The Vetrazzo Company is one of the companies that carry this product.


Glass Tiles

Recycled glass in glass tiles is becoming very popular and I think they will eventually become the norm for backsplashes instead of the ceramic tiles. Glass tiles are just as strong and durable as ceramic and come in all shapes and sizes from pebble or stone shaped to conjoined circles to the traditional subway tile. The iridescent tiles, such as the ones carried by Oceanside Glass, can reflect multiple colors and they are stunning works of art. It is important to note that the recycled glass percentage can vary in all of these tiles depending on the manufacturer and the color of the tile.

See for a list of companies carrying these tiles.

Construction Aggregate

Crushed recycled glass is being used as a road base additive for asphalt, for drainage, highway fill, and even for landfill cover.

See for more ideas.

Recycled Garden Glass Mulch

Several companies sell a type of tumbled recycled glass that makes for a shiny accent to your landscaping. Since glass can take 1000 years to breakdown, this mulch is best used on walkways and as an accent. While biodegradable bark mulch will improve your soil as it breaks down, these glass rocks are a novel accent.

However, I am curious how much heat they would retain on a very hot day and whether it would be that easy to keep them clean. Installing some sort of landscape edging would likely be necessary to prevent the glass rocks from floating out of place during a rainstorm.

See for more information.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow Can Look Like Crystallized Glass

The Big Snow in Arlington, Virginia.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A PSA Announcement on Glass Recycling

The Use of Float Glass Frits vs. Powders

I originally started out using float glass compatible powders (vs. larger sized frit) in the bottom of my plaster/silica molds. Even though I allow my molds to dry out before firing, the powders seemed to stick more to the glass and created a film I did not like. The white powder (non-lead) created most of the problems. It required a lot of sanding to even out the finish. I switched to using small colored frit instead and the results are much better. This compatible frit can be purchased from companies like CRLOO and Sundance Art Center.

I also have been adding a secret "ingredient" to my castings that will be revealed nearer to the time of the final park installation.

I will be sandblasting a lot of the castings in the next several weeks and will post photos of that process.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Inspired by Red Dragonflies

During my research, I discovered there are several species of red dragonflies in the United States. So,I decided to use the last of my donated Noguchi table top glass for these special dragonflies. I had just enough glass leftover from this broken table top to make two good sized castings (see one of these castings in the upper left corner of the photo above). This plate glass turned a white color during firing, so I thought that would contrast nicely with the trace of red color for the body. I only use the crushed frit on the top of all the castings since I want the primary focus to be on the original color of the recycled glass.

The other day, I was able to use my new wet tile saw (that cuts to a depth of 2.25 inches) to trim off the excess glass for about twelve castings. This is just the first step in coldworking. I also did an initial sanding of all the edges with a belt sander and a wire cup brush drill attachment. I still have a lot more work to do on these. I hope to have close to 18-20 completed by the end of December. When they are finished, I plan to spray the bodies of the dragonflies with a non-toxic gloss spray and the wings will be sprayed with a matte finish.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Public Art in Arlington

Arlington County has updated and expanded their cultural affairs website and it is worth a visit. The site provides a great overview of public art in the county.

There are photos of both completed and ongoing projects. Two of my favorites are the glass mosaic "Downstream" in Shirlington Plaza by artist Martha Jackson Jarvis and "Flame" by artist Ray King on North Glebe Road.

"Arlington County was originally part of the ten-mile square parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation's Capital. Then known as Alexandria County of the District of Columbia, it included what is now Arlington County plus part of the neighboring City of Alexandria. Congress returned that portion of land to the Commonwealth of Virginia following a referendum among its citizens. The City of Alexandria and Arlington separated their jurisdictions in 1870, and in 1920 the name Arlington County was adopted."

"Arlington, the second smallest county in the U.S., encompasses 25.9 square miles with an estimated residential population of 208,000 (in 2008) and an estimated daytime workforce population of 300,000 (in 2008). There are no incorporated cities or towns with Arlington. It is five miles from Washington, D.C.

* Arlington's Public Art Program is administered by the Community and Public Art Section of the Cultural Affairs Division, Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
* The Arlington County Board approved a Public Art Policy in September, 2000.
* The Public Art Master Plan was approved in December, 2004. Program guidelines for county-initiated projects were approved in 2005 and guidelines for developer and community-initiated projects are currently in development.
* Arlington has a long history of developer-initiated public art projects beginning in 1979 with the commission of Nancy Holt's Dark Star Park.
* Arlington is currently home to 56 permanent public art projects, with many more underway.
* Arlington has hosted over 40 temporary public art projects since 1987.
* Arlington's Public Art Program typically has around 35 developer-initiated projects underway at any given time. In December, 2008, just under $3 million is designated for upcoming public art projects through developer contributions.
* Many of Arlington's public art projects focus on the following areas due to the high density and visibility of these corridors:
1. Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, particularly those that support larger urban design goals;
2. Four Mile Run Corridor, both in parkland and areas such as Shirlington, the Trades Center campus and Four Mile Run/Nauck area;
3. Columbia Pike Corridor, to unify the streetscape of this major road and integrate into transit;
4. Jefferson Davis Corridor, development of various centers including Four Mile Run restoration, Potomac Yards, Crystal City and Pentagon City."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Technical Question #2: Your newly cast plaster/silica mold cracked as you were moving it. Can it be saved?

Larger molds can crack more easily if you move them before they are fully dried. I usually leave them in place for at least one full day. I do flip most molds right side up and remove the clay as soon as the plaster sets in less than an hour but larger molds (16 inches or more) can be trickier. If you leave the large mold as is (do not flip) for 24 hours, the clay will not dry out since the plaster will keep it pliable.

If the mold cracks and the breaks are clean (2-3 sections), you may be able to repair it. Remove the clay and allow the mold to dry in place for several days to a week. Next, clean the clay residue from the inside of the mold using a damp towel. Take each mold section and place it in the kiln and reassemble your mold. If you have high temperature wire, you can wrap it around the outer edge of the mold to secure the sections from moving.

Next, you can mix up a few tablespoons of the plaster/silica mix and smooth it on (or pour gently) over the cracks. This mixture dries instantaneously so you have to work quickly. In an hour, you can then gently sandpaper any bumps or unevenness on the repaired areas.

Finally, you can then place your glass in the mold but should monitor it when it the glass reaches melting temperatures in case the mold does not hold and allows spillage of the glass. I have used this technique a few times but it is not guaranteed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Technical Question #1: You underestimated the amount of glass needed for your casting. Can this be fixed?

With some of the dragonfly castings, it has been difficult to stack the glass high enough in the mold so that it fully sinks into the mold and fills it out during one kiln firing. So I have been able to reuse my molds one more time if there are no major cracks. I first dust off any residue on the glass in the mold and stack more glass on top of the existing glass casting. Do not touch or move the mold since it is very breakable at this point and it will simply crumble away if moved.

Since I am adding glass to an existing casting, I need to fire the second time around more slowly and anneal longer. I do not use the same firing schedule I used previously. While I hesitate to give a firing schedule since kilns vary and so do sizes of the work and the type of recycled glass, I would add at least 2 hours to the firing schedule per 0.25 inch of glass (based on the depth of the mold depression needed to be filled with more glass).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What does a casting look like after firing? Removing the plaster and excess glass.

As I mentioned earlier, the recycled glass is kiln-cast in plaster and silica molds. After firing and cooling, the plaster will easily crumble away from the casting. Sharp glass edges may remain on some of the casting so wear gloves.

Most castings do not come out perfect and a lot of cold working must be done. I first use use my glass grozier pliers which is a hand tool for removing away small excess bits of glass. Since you have to estimate how much glass to stack in your mold, excess glass can flow around the edges of the mold and this glass can be nipped away. If the glass is too thick, it will have to be cut off with a wet tile saw or glass saw (electric).

The casting has to be wet scrubbed with a variety of brushes to remove the plaster bits embedded in the glass. Any pointed tool will also work in picking out bits of plaster. There will still be some pinpoint plaster bits remaining so the casting can be soaked in a variety of substances. I have had some luck with Coca-cola which acts to fizzle the plaster out of crevices. Lime-Away can be used as well but since this is a toxic chemical, wear gloves and do not leave it unattended where children or pets may have access to it. Some chemicals can create an etched effect so be cautious in testing different chemicals if you do not want to achieve that effect.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Freecycle: A large donation of four bags of bottles!

One source of recycled glass and other materials is You can go to the website at www. and sign up for the freecycle in your area. I think Freecycle limits you to two cities/areas so choose wisely. People post unwanted items that include everything from sofas to toys to even glass bottles or a broken glass table top on occasion. The only requirement is that you have to pick it up (assuming you email back your interest and you are selected by the poster). You can also post requests for items you are seeking. While large quantities of glass do not pop up every day, I usually come across something I need monthly.

Someone recently posted that they were giving away multiple bags of wine bottles. I asked if they were from varied products or one to two identical products. The bottles were huge and came from 2 identical sources. While this is no guarantee of compatibility kiln-wise, it does increase the likelihood a bit. I did some pretesting and the large set of 16 plus identical green bottles seem very compatible. The smaller set of about 8 smaller brighter green smaller bottles did not seem as compatible between bottles so they will not be mixed together in kiln-castings.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mold Making 101

I cast a lot of my glass works in plaster/silica molds. I make a model in clay first and this model must have flat bottom. I take a sheet or two of very heavy duty plastic and place it on a flat board and then set the clay model firmly on top of it. I then make a circle using bendable aluminum flashing (taped or clipped into a circle shape) and pull the plastic up though the top edge of the aluminum. I make certain the plastic is flat and even at the bottom of the circle. The aluminum circle must be a good inch or inch and a half larger than the clay mold. These steps should prevent leaks of the plaster/silica mix. I know some artists simply build clay dams around their models vs. using flashing and plastic but it can be time consuming and it is prone to leaking.

I then fill up a container with warm water and mix an equal volume of a 50/50 pottery plaster and silica mix to the water. It is best to keep a separate bin where you have already premixed the dry plaster/silica mix. To do so, I take a large bin and mix in a cup of each powder at a time. So I always have premixed dry mix on hand to make molds.

The plaster/silica powder is then dumped a cup at a time into the water until it begins to not sink into the water. The volume is typically 50% water and 50% dry mix and when in doubt, add more powder, not less. I next mix the lumps with my hands until the mixture is very creamy. I then begin to pour the mixture over the clay model until is about an inch higher than the model. It is good to sometimes agitate the mixture for a minute or two by tapping the sides gently to get rid of any air bubbles. Depending on the size of the mold, the plaster/silica should be set up in an hour to so.

I then remove the aluminum edging and flip the mold over. The clay must then be carefully removed from the mold. The clay can be saved for reuse later. After the clay is removed, I take a damp towel and further eliminate all clay residues. While you can now place crushed glass into the mold right away, I prefer to let my molds set for several days or more to eliminate additional water content.

When you decide to place your crushed glass into the mold, you have to stack it about a third or more beyond the height of the mold. The molds can only be used once in kiln-casting and after they cool, they easily crumble away from the cast glass.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to post questions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Experimenting with Enamels and Frits

Since there can be a limited range of colors of recycled glass (shades of green, clear glass that turns a pale mint green, blue and a few tinted colors like black), I wanted to add a splash of color to my cast dragonflies. A few companies make compatible frit (crushed glass) for float glass and enamels (Thompson enamels). Since cast recycled glass in not clear, you are not able to see colors interspersed through it (as one would see in a clear paperweight for example).

I placed cobalt blue frit in the bottom of the plaster mold (along the body core) and sprinkled black frit along the wings. The glass was then stacked into the mold and cast.

After cooling, I then mixed water and white powdered enamel to create a paint and painted this enamel on the wings and slowly heated it up in the kiln to about 1450 degrees. This temperature is not high enough to change or alter the shape of the dragonfly but it does melt the enamel paint. You can see the effects below and the amount of work required for just one of the small dragonflies (and we have not even covered coldworking!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Donated Glass--Green Recycling Network

I have been asked from where am I getting all of my glass for my sculptural works. First, I have been building up sources of glass (table tops mostly) via the Freecycle donation network. Secondly, an occasional auto glass place will give me a donation or two. Thirdly, I go through several neighborhood recycle bins on recycle day and have found quite a few green bottles (specific ones) that way.

Recently, the Green Recycling Network graciously donated two large bins of glass to my public art project. This private company serves a critical role in our community by specializing in the deconstruction of whole buildings and interiors such that the maximum amount of material is diverted from land disposal at a competitive cost to traditional demolition. They also have items for sale on their website. Please visit their website for further information.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What am I Creating for My Grant Project?

I will be creating a series of large 3-D cast recycled glass dragonflies (and a few smaller ones) with a few surprise features that will be installed in an Arlington county area park next spring. As it now stands, it is likely to be Barcroft Park which is my favorite park. All the sculptural pieces of the public installation will work together to create a positive message not only about the uses of recycled glass but also about the theme of "destination." These dragonflies will have a shared "surprise" destination that will also signify goal setting, activities, busyness and persistence. Dragonflies also have a positive symbolism in several cultures relating to harmony, good luck, prosperity, hope and joy.

I am using plate, window or bottle glass for each of the dragonflies and will be adding special frits or enamels to bring additional colors and dimension to each cast piece. I have been working on a 16-17 inch test size for the large dragonfly and it looks about half of them will weigh over 10 lbs and require over 2 and 1/2 days of kiln firing, annealing and controlled cooling.

Process-wise, I first make a 3-D model of the dragonfly in clay and then build a dam (using clay or other materials) around it and pour a plaster and silica mix on top of it. After this plaster/silica mix sets, I carefully dig out the clay which can be reused. After cleaning the mold, I then have a final mold to place the broken glass pieces into for firing. After cooling, the mold is broken away from the cast dragonfly. Additional coldworking with sanders, dremel bits, etc. is done to further clean and refine the glass casting. So, it is important to note that each dragonfly is cast in a one time use original mold and the mold is not reused since it must be broken to remove the cast dragonfly. The molds are about 20 inches across and weigh over 35 lbs.

The photos below demonstrate this process.

Clay model of dragonfly

Plaster/silica mix poured on top of the clay mold

The mold has set and is flipped over to show the clay dragonfly

After the clay is removed, glass is placed into the mold.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What is an Art Grant and how can one apply?

This information is available at

The Arlington Commission for the Arts administers the grants program for Arlington County's artists and art organizations. Grants are available for non-profit arts organizations that are headquartered in Arlington and for individual practicing artists producing, composing, writing, presenting or supporting dance, literary arts, media arts, theater, visual arts or related arts, who are legal residents of Arlington.

Every year, the county awards up to three individual art spotlight grants ($5000 each) for visual, media, literary and performing arts. The deadline for the application package is in January and one has to attend a short grant seminar before applying for a grant.

While not everyone is familiar with art grant writing, myself included, I found the county contacts to be very supportive and patient in giving feedback on a draft application (prepared well in advance of the deadline of course).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Article on My Art Grant Project in Bourgeon Magazine for the Arts

Bourgeon is the online Arts Magazine written by artists. Bourgeon approaches art from the perspective of not what already has happened but focuses on the artistic process instead.

Thanks to Editor Rob Bettmann for his assistance in this article. I would encourage all artists to take the time to submit a piece for this interesting magazine! The magazine has a lot of great content for all levels of interest in the arts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Art Grant Project is mentioned in the Fairlington News

Thanks to Neel for the mention of my art grant in And I am always on the lookout for those cobalt blue bottles!

Neel has an interesting website that also covers issues for Arlington county.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What is Kiln-Cast Recycled Glass?

Most glass artists that do glass casting in a kiln, work with various types of fusible art glass as opposed to recycled glass. Fusible art glass is pretested for melting temperatures and coefficients of expansion (COE) and is consistent between colors in its results and predictability. Fusible art glass comes in sheets or billets in various colors and they are all compatible kiln-wise. In order for glass to be able to mixed with other glass, the COEs must be the same (or very close) or the glass will expand and contract at different rates. If the COE's are different, the glass will likely crack. The coefficients of expansion for art glass is typically 90 or 96.

Recycled glass comes from everyday window glass, table tops and bottles. Since the manufacturers of such glass are simply creating a fast setting/stiff glass as a consumer product (i.e, a bottle to hold soda pop, etc), they are understandably not concerned about small changes in the glass manufacturing formula. Therefore, the COE's between even bottles from an identical product or sheets of window glass can vary typically from the 70's to 80's. However, if you use glass all from the same piece (i.e., a broken glass table top), that glass is always compatible with glass from the same exact piece. If you want to mix glass from various sources, you have to do pretesting with several pieces in a small kiln and examine the cooled pieces for stress cracks.

Recycled glass takes on a fascinating stone like appearance after several kiln firings. It has to be fired at higher temperatures than art glass (over 1550) and one only gets about 2-3 firings before the glass stiffens up so much it will not flow any longer in a kiln. If you look closely at a glass table top or a clear bottle, you will often see a greenish tint which becomes very pronounced after the glass is kiln-fired.

The second photo above (Glass Flower Reborn, Copyright 2008) shows a sculpture I created using clear bottle glass for the top/flower (with copper foil inclusions), bottle glass for the stem and window glass for the base. The first photo (Glass Flower Reborn, Copyright 2009) shows a sculpture using various shades of green bottles.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

This is my art studio. I have a large Jen Ken kiln and also a smaller kiln. I use a varity of handtools for cleaning and shaping the glass ("cold working") and you can see my wet belt sander and a ring saw on the work table. I went with a theme of red and white for the studio.