Sunday, February 8, 2009


I call them PONGS. Why? Because of “pogs” which, due to a generational lapse, I thought were called “Pongs”...

And! I’ve done many over the years and they are all done differently. I will exhaust myself if I try to explain all the different ways I have done them. The simplest way is to cut a ton of glass, sandblast radial patterns onto them, mix and match and see what sort of magic you conjure up.

But here’s a basic way in detail.

First of all, they’re made in layers—usually two. Two layers of glass=four working surfaces. My experience is that three manipulated surfaces are optimal. After that information starts to get lost in darkness or murk.

Start by cutting out a whole ton of shapes, circles; flash glass (a combination of r/c (red/clear) and bl/cl (blue/clear) will net you the following colors when layered and combined with yellow silver stain and black paint: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purplish, sometimes almost black, “white”--meaning clear)

Decide how may points the pong will have. (Obviously, actual snowflakes have six. D’OH! But this is your world and if you want 7 pointed snow; well, it’s not a jailable offense. But it works better to pair 7 points with 7 points, five with five etc. Of course, you can also do halvsies: a five pointed star will pair nicely with a ten pointed all comes down to the mathematical rhythms of the universe and if you expect me to understand that, you've come to the wrong blog!

After cutting your shapes, you need a stencil. I have made stencils for pongs mostly handcut out of clear frosted contact paper and also photo stencils.
I have noticed some general trends for good results: one layer should have more solid color and one should be really lacy. The lacy ones I tend to do with Rayzist photo mask.

To generate the patterns I use Photoshop.
1. Draw a shape that is sort of petal like. Draw ANYthing... (preferably on its own layer.) The shape can be as simple as a solid petal shape or you can get complex but remember if you are hand cutting it can get complicated fast. If it’s for a photo resist, there are some limitations on how detailed and fine it can be but you really have to experiment to discern this.
2. Duplicate the shape and rotate it. (It’s 60 degrees for a six-pointed pong, 72 for a five pointed one. For any other number: its 360 ÷ that number= the number of degrees of rotation. See? I finally learned some only took 48 years.) Place the second petal radiating out from the center...
3. Keep duplicating and rotating and moving your shapes until you’ve made a “snowflake”.
For the pongs cut by hand out of contact paper you can trace the Photoshop images or just make the image by hand. Making photo stencils is another demo but they must be black and white only and nice and crispy line art. Then you can print a negative on acetate using your printer’s “best photo” setting.

Tip: make sure that your pongs are centered. If not, they will look wonky when you layer them.

Once the stencil is applied, then sandblast. I sandblast in two stages. Once to blast off all the color around the pattern and then I remove the resist and lightly blast the color. This is because I am preparing it for further manipulation.

Regarding “further manipulation”—I go into it with a flex shaft engrave to add more detail. I also use the diamond files as per the demo below. I also paint in he black parts. There are no rules or planning...I just diddle around...experiment and see where it goes.
The main thing is to make a bunch of material and then to mate the layers later. No preplanning! It’s way more fun to be surprised.
Check out the images....

...and feel free to ask questions!

Picutres--top to bottom:

1. These are various images made in Photoshop. The lacier ones I have done both by drawing directly in Photoshop or scanning a drawing.

2.This shows the stages of making the radial pattern plus several variations on the stencil.

3. This image shows, on top: five pongs I gave as gifts. On the bottom are the separated layers. The yellow and the pink are cold paint (TRANSPARENT oil paint in this case.) Use silverstain if its going to get sunlight. And if you need pink, make a third layer out of gp/cl (goldpink/clear) flash.

4 and 5. These images are pongs from the window I made for the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. On average, my pongs range from ½” to about 5”. In this case they went from ½” to 18”. The ones depicted here are all about 8”.

6. MAD window “Seeing Is Believing” 2008


Jx said...

Wawaweewah! Pongomania!

A thousand thanks for this, Judith. Looks like a great way of starting to work with layered flashed glass. It will be a good while before I'm skilled enough to tackle a face or drapery, - in fact, I might never get there - but I think I might be able to make a pong!

Anyroadup. Questions:

1. I'm on pic 3 section 2 (gift pongs blown apart), row 2 third pong from left. The skinny shadowy star - is it painted in black on the back? And did you paint the yellow on the back?

2. You put a link to transparent oil paints but it didn't work. Pray, what happens to them in sunlight - do they change colour or go brittle or what?

3. Do you fire polish the layers before you sandwich them?

4. If you were giving an individual pong as a gift, how would you hold it together? Lead came, foil or glue?

5. Where do you find the time to prepare these wonderful workshops as well as create works of beauty and genius? Have you worked out how to surf folds in space-time without falling down those pesky black holes?

You're too close! said...

Hello there Judith Schaechter. I just wanted to thank you for your blog. I'm a baby stained glass "artist" and your work has been an inspiration.

I was a year behind you at RISD...but didn't find out that glass was something I needed to fiddle with until a few years ago. I look forward to catching more glimpses of your techniques, as well as rants and raves to occasionally divert me from stumbling through teaching myself stuff.

Judith Schaechter said...

Hi all!
Jx questions:
1. Yes--I often sandblast stars on the clear side and wipe black paint in that area, then wipe it off and fire it. You are left with a grey image, which will hopefully add to your pong's intricacy!

2. The link--sorry! I use Schminke Mussini oil paint. Transparent, of course!!! And very high quality and archival...but putting it in direct sunlight is asking for trouble. Those colors will fade over time. So use silverstain for yellow. BTW: some oil paints fire on: notably cobalts.

3. Fire polish--sometimes! Yes, it depends on the effect you want. I have used acrylic varnish sue me!

4. I put the individual pongs together with copperfoil and put a border on it that is one layer so it fits a zinc came frame.

5. I write these things up when my studio work is going poorly and need a rest from it!! Plus, I have no social life!

Thank you for your continued kind words and support--I truly appreciate it!!

You're too close--I remember you!!! I have seen your glass--I forget how, but its wonderful work--I am so glad you "found" glass and let me know if you have any questions. Come take a class with me this summer!

Love, Judith

TaraTaraTara said...

I have to dig up my baby sized pongs I collected from the old studio house prior to your current home. You gave them to me to make a piece of jewelry. They are like a big thumbnail in size... just a few...

Karen Deets said...

Your pongs look like a fantasy of kaleidoscope images, and like doodles I did as a child. I am blown away by your work and very amused with your humor. I just closed a craft gallery to pursue making glass art. I am self taught and started painting and firing 2 months ago. I feel that I need to get set up with sand blasting and a torch - so much to learn and create - so little time. I found your link on the AGG site which I found from the Glass Eye Yahoo group. After 32 years of messing around with glass I am still obsessed with the media. I could learn a lot from you!

Kristin G said...