It's no coincidence that I work with glass paints and enamels from the stained glass tradition. That stuff can last for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. If a material can't last that long, I don't want to be bothered with it. Long after Damien's shark has resisted the final taxidermist's attempts to save it and Tracey's bed has driven conservators to despair, my pieces should be able to sit comfortably glowing in the corner -- needing only a change of lights every so often.
However, I care about the environment, and it pains me that some of the materials I need to use to achieve this permanence are, let's face it, toxic. Lead, cadmium, chromium. (Though they are safe in my pieces once the glass has been fired.) So, I want to minimise the amount of these materials I release into the environment.
(I'm also cheap and hate waste.)
In my studio the primary source of enamel waste is the result of washing brushes. Here's how I minimise the amount of enamel I waste and wash down the drain. The core of these ideas came to me from the lovely man and teacher Mark Angus, and have been built upon and adapted to my way of working. I work almost exclusively with water, vinegar, propylene glycol, gum arabic and other water-soluble media. If you work with oils, you'll need to devise your own methods.
What to do with all that sediment?
For the smaller, color specific tubs, I gently pour the clear water into the large settlement tub by my sink. I can then scrape this untainted paint back onto the appropriate palette and use it as normal.
I don't like to leave this clear water sitting around too long. Once all the toxic stuff starts to settle out, things start to grow in it.
So, I gently pour the clear water out of the large tub, leaving the mixed colour enamel sediment at the bottom.
I usually let this set out for a day to dry out somewhat, then I scrape the sediment out of the bottom and into a tub marked ‘Settlement.' I don't worry if I'm not able to scrape every last bit out; it can always stay in the bottom of the tubs for the next lot. I refill the large tub with water and set it back beside the sink.
What methods do you have for reducing the waste from your glass enamels?