Sunday, 17 November 2013

Elephant No. 76: Glass Canes

I bought a bag of something called "glass gems" for my original Elephant a Day blog and never used them, so I thought I'd finally try making something with them today.

They looked interesting enough in the package, but when I poured them out, I realized it was going to be difficult to make an elephant out of them. Aside from a few slightly rounded pieces, most of the glass was sticklike, meaning that making an elephant was going to be about as much fun as making an elephant from popsicle sticks. Sigh.

I used clear marine silicone to glue things together, as I figured it would be the most likely thing to form a permanent bond with glass. I think this is what I used to make an elephant from marbles in the original Elephant a Day blog.

I started by gluing two pieces together for the elephant's back. So far, so good. The silicone takes about a half-hour to form a bond strong enough to allow you to move on, so I worked on different parts of the elephant concurrently.

I worked on the head next, which was a bit of a pain. The head itself is made up of three layers of glass, surrounded by three ear "sticks" on each side. The head sandwich was easy enough, but keeping the ears together required me to do one side at a time, propped up with other bits of glass to keep it from collapsing while it set. The trunk, on the other hand, was a breeze.

While the head was sorting itself out, I added a pair of glass curves to the lower body, along with some legs. The legs were also a huge pain, and had to be detached and reattached so often that I nearly gave up on them. And, although I tried to splay them enough to allow the elephant to stand up, they didn't stay that way, no matter what I did.

I attached the body and head next, which required a great deal of propping up and binding together while it set. It collapsed so many times that this whole thing almost ended up as a pile of colourful powdered glass.

To finish the elephant, I stuck on a broken bit for a tail. This was probably the easiest part of the entire exercise.

It looked interesting when it was all put together, but it was incredibly messy. There was a film of silicone over everything—and once silicone is stuck to glass, it wants to stay stuck. I must have spent at least two hours scraping away errant bits of silicone so that the glass would be shiny again, and so that it didn't end up with raggedy blobs of silicone all over the place.

In the end, I like the way it turned out as an object, but I would be very reluctant to try this again. It took too much propping up, fell apart too often, and took too long to clean up. And it doesn't stand up.

Then again, it looks pretty in a window—and I still have almost an entire bag of glass left to play with—so I suppose never say never.

Elephant Lore of the Day
In Chartres Cathedral in France, elephants are among the few exotic animals featured in the stained-glass window depicting the story of Noah.

Seen approaching the ark from the righthand side, about a third of the way up the window, the elephants have tiny mouse-like ears, and are primarily recognizable by their tusks and long noses.

Given that Chartres Cathedral was built between A.D. 1194 and 1250, the artists who produced the stained-glass windows would likely never have seen an actual elephant, and would have had only anecdotal descriptions and other equally erroneous depictions to go by.

That being said, I love this pair of elephants. Who knows: it may even inspire me to finally try my hand at stained glass.

Animals approaching the ark, two by two.
Noah Window, Chartres Cathedral, France, ca. A.D. 1205–1235

To Support Elephant Welfare

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