2015 -  September 16


Little Fat Birds - Nita Van Til



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Nita Van Til showed us how she makes her darling little fat birds,

and she also gave us tips for making the wired feet and pendant component. 


Photos and brief descriptions below, then more specific notes follow(Photos by Fred Fuerst)


Nita first prepares some decorative frit.



She pulls stringer for the eyes and beak. 


She creates a tube bead, adds a bit extra at the bottom, and rounds the body.  She adds a bit extra for the belly, melts in & adds frit for the speckles. 


Nita adds a large dot of glass near the base of the back to begin creating the tail.  Remember to keep the bead warm!!



Between the belly and tail, Nita puts a dot of glass at the shoulder, then sweeps down and toward the back and flame-cuts the glass to create each wing.

She uses a knife to adjust the wings and cut in lines for a feathered effect. 


Then she goes back and heats the whole tail.  She uses tweezers or a knife to make several shaped indentations like tail feathers.   


When she's almost through, Nita spots heats a small area for each eye, and adds dots of stringer.  


Of course, she also added a cute little beak, warms him up, and pops him in the kiln. 


Once the bird is out of the kiln and cleaned, Nita creates a wire pull-through  bail / legs / feet combo.  


She uses several loops of wire.  


The assembly is ready to pull through the bead before final forming. 



Here's a cute little completed bird.


Here's another!


And here's a tree full of birds.



Nita Van Til’s “Little Fat Birds”

    By Martha Fuerst & Nita Van Til


Before you make the bird:

Pull a stringer of transparent cobalt for the eyes (not super-thin or fat). Transparent, rather than opaque cobalt, will give a bit of reflective sparkle to the eyes.

Pull a small stringer of some color for the bird’s little nose.

Set up a marver with a little frit (preferably small-sized) to use on the bird’s belly.


For the demo, Nita uses Creation is Messy glass in “Stone Ground” and a 3/16th inch mandrel with Fusion bead release.


Start with a barrel shape.

[Tip: To repair an irregular end, Nita tilts the mandrel with the end upward, using heat and gravity until there is a “pointy” end, then adds a wrap of glass around the point. Melt in the ring to create a good end.]


Add some more glass to the belly, then place a large dot on the bottom of the opposite side to begin making the tail. One observer said at this stage it looks like an “eggplant”. Nita pointed out that the shape has rounded curves which are created by heat and gravity – rather than by using a marver (which would flatten the sides of the bird). The resulting back is heavier and longer, while the front is shorter and flatter.


Warm the belly, then place it in a tiny bit of frit (already on your marver). Nita uses GG Glass’ “Sweet Sun” (COE 104).


Remember to keep the head warm while working on the opposite end of the bead.


Place a big gathered dot on the bird’s tushie to make its tail, and heat well to ensure that there are no lines between the tail and the body and there is no undercut on the tail. Add a couple of swoops of glass around the bottom of the dot to the length you want. Use heat and gravity to lengthen the tail, but don’t work too hot because the tail can accidentally touch the mandrel.

You can use mini mashers to help shape the tail (Nita forgot to bring hers but they can help).

Use a marver to slightly flatten the tail slightly.


Nita suggests that both 1) the tail and 2) frit on the belly side will help you determine where the wings will go. Nita suggests holding the mandrel vertically while locating the correct placement of the wings. Also, if you are “right-handed” you should begin with the wing on the left side, so that when you make the wing on the right side you are not over-heating the other wing. Also, the result will be better if you do the more difficult side first.


Nita makes the wing by putting a dot of glass on the bird’s shoulder and then sweeping downward and toward the bird’s back and then flame-cutting the tip.


Both wings should match, and a knife can be used to help shape the wing. Also, use your knife to create a few curved indentations onto the warmed wing. These curves give the wing the appearance of movement.


Also, a nice feature of the color “Stone Ground” is that the use of tools give it added color, so the curved indentations made with your knife will give the look of feathers.


After warming the entire bead, heat up the bird’s whole tail and use your tweezers to make several shaped indentations like tail feathers.  

 You may want to extend them up the bird's back with your knife. Heat the area where the tail is connected to the bird’s back, and try using the back of one side of a small tweezer (or your knife) to give movement to the tail.


[Tip: The eyes are important: Do the eye away from you first. If you are right-handed, do the left eye first so the right eye is not melting while you make the left eye.]

The center of the bird’s face can be located by holding the mandrel vertically, and using the mandrel as a guideline. To create the left eye, warm the face, then plunge in the stringer just left of the center. Hold it and – after blowing on the connection to cool the stringer -  break off the stringer. Create the right eye by doing the same just right of the center of the face.

To make a beak: Warm the bead area just below the eyes and place a tiny dot on the center. Heat the dot to ensure a good connection. Then touch the stringer to the nose, pull it very slightly and create a pointy beak. If the beak is a bit too pointy, heat the beak a bit so it doesn’t “catch” on fibers when the bead is being worn.

Lastly, warm up the entire bead before placing it in the kiln.



If you've made some sweet Little Fat Birds using Nita's techniques, please send your photos and notes

to your Web Mama, and they'll be posted here for you!! 


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