I have been wanting to write up the testing notes for Cirrus for a while now, but I didn’t have any beads on hand made with the colour. CiM Cirrus was an on release glass in 2006 when Creation is Messy first began crafting COE104 rods for lampworkers. Back then it was very exciting to have a glass like Cirrus; a true moonstone glass. I don’t recall another glass like it at the time, Vetrofond Silk was perhaps the closest. After all these years, I am still in love with Cirrus. Even though it is a glass that is mostly overlooked these days, I hope you will find renewed delight in its simplicity after reading through these testing notes. This is a longer than usual testing blog post as I go into a lot of detail about how Cirrus is used and what it can be used for.
There is a very fine blog on Cirrus written for the Frantz Newsletter in 2009. This is a good start but the secrets to Cirrus are beyond this starting point. As this blog suggests; Cirrus is a translucent cloudy glass. Unlike other cloudy glasses that only reflect the present colour back, Cirrus reflects a blue tint (depending on the light it can throw peach tints as well) in addition to its milky whiteness, just like moonstone. This is very useful for making beads as it adds depth to your existing colour palette. I use Cirrus a lot in place of clear glass. Instead of encasing with clear, I will encase with Cirrus for a soft dream like bead. It is particularly beautiful when used in small amounts over dots, as the blue translucence catches the light and adds depth in a new way. I cannot say that Cirrus always lightens opaque colours when used over the top, that is greatly determined by the depth of the encasement, how it’s left to melt in and if you managed to keep the moonstone effect. What I can say is, that a simple three colour palette using Cirrus becomes more, as layering Cirrus can achieve different tones in your opaque glass.
It is possible to burn Cirrus. In fact, I find it very easy to scum if dropped too low in my flame or heated too quickly. You must definitely work Cirrus cool otherwise it will develop dark striations on the surface of the glass. On my Minor, I found the best working zone to melt Cirrus is the upper part of the middle heat zone. The best zone to keep Cirrus warm whilst decorating is about a half inch up (this is also where you should be applying Cirrus stringer decoration). If you work in those zones Cirrus will keep it’s moonstone effect. It is very important not to overheat Cirrus, do not zap it quickly in very high heat, even if you don’t get the black scum developing you will burn it out to clear. You can resurrect some of it’s moonstone effect by letting it cool right down and heating it gently in a reduction rich blue flame, but it’s not always salvageable and the bead might just look like a slightly blue clear glass. The best way to get a strong moonstone effect is to work cold and build the bead up in layers, basically think of it as “encasing” Cirrus with layers of itself.
Cirrus responds to being cooled down outside of the flame then reduction striking (long blue flame by turning up your propane) as a means of drawing out more of it’s cloudiness. Although a great deal of that is determined by how you heated the bead in the first place. One of my tricks to getting a very moonstone looking bead is to create a small base bead, working it cold and slow to maintain as much of the cloudy blue colour as I can, then I encase the Cirrus base bead with Cirrus and gently melt in. I will do this as many times as I need to get the bead to the size I want, rather than melting a big gather.
I’m not particularly scientific but I think what is happening by building up a bead like this; is that the optic quality of Cirrus is increased through reflection as each encased layer is reflected through all the other layers. Cirrus will also look cloudier the longer and slower you work it, so if you’re beavering away on a complex surface design, expect your Cirrus bead to look very hazy and translucent by the time you’re finished.
To my mind, the best thing about Cirrus isn’t when it’s used as a base bead. For me, Cirrus is like valuable paint. You can mix it with other opaque colours to radically change those opaques into semi translucent versions of themselves. I hand blend a lot of stringer so that I can get new colours for beads and one of my tricks has been to use Cirrus as a modifier. A long time ago Vetrofond produced a colour called Silk, it is very similar to Cirrus but without the moonstone appearance. Sadly, Silk is no longer in production and I used to use it for all my blending. Cirrus replaced Silk for me to an extent. My particular favourite is to blend 60% Cirrus with 40% Effetre Dark Turquoise in the flame and pull a thick stringer. I adore how Dark Turquoise takes on a new dimension, it’s not quite opaque anymore nor is it a transparent. For the purpose of this blog I decided to blend Cirrus with Effetre Sunny Mango and the result was the same as for Dark Turquoise, a new colour that wasn’t quite opaque and not quite transparent. Once you get started blending Cirrus with opaque colours you can’t stop (at least I can’t). However a word of advice on the blending, err on the side of caution when mixing Cirrus with any orange and yellow glass. I found with the Sunny Mango blend that the stringer wanted to bubble up and scum in the flame, although the bubbles aren’t visible in the finished bead. Also, a 50/50 mix is a good starting point, but if you want more ethereal “smokey” colours add more Cirrus and pull your stringer out with the blend just mixed in. Streaky stringer leaves a wonderful “coloured smoke” appearance. If you check out my Instagram feed you will see video of the stringer pulled with Effetre Dark Tuquoise and Cirrus and Effetre Sunny Mango and Cirrus.
This sort of translucent “milk” glass has always had compatibility issues no matter who manufactures it. Vetrofond Silk had a lot of incompatibility issues, which is why they created “Silk 2” and now neither glass is for sale. Cirrus is the same, I’m still discovering what it can and won’t work with, every time new glass is released. The biggest issue occurs with Effetre Opaque White and CiM Celadon. Absolutely under no circumstances should you use Effetre Opaque White with Cirrus. Just don’t. Not even as a layer underneath another layer of glass. My habit is to use Effetre White as a core for really big beads and I get incompatibility cracks all too often when I pick up a rod of Cirrus to encase with instead of clear. It will incompatibility crack either in the flame or days later depending on how little or much you’ve used. I’ve had beads go into the kiln fine and come out with incompatibility cracks. I’ve spent a few hours making beads today so that you can see how they crack when used with Effetre Opaque White, check the photos. Another incompatibility test is Cirrus and CiM Celadon, but here’s the thing; this combination doesn’t always crack. There seems to be no problem when Celadon dots are encased or when Celadon is thinly encased in Cirrus. The problems arise with deep encasement. You can clearly see a colour shift in Celadon encased in Cirrus. If the colour washes out to pale blue green, its too deeply encased and your bead will crack. If the colour stays a more true sea green, it’s thinly encased and your bead will not crack. Unless you can linear encase evenly, do not encase Celadon in Cirrus, there will be trauma and I think it is Celadon that is the culprit.
Perhaps the last secret with Cirrus is the best. On dark opaque glass (particularly Effetre purples) trails of Cirrus melted in will spread out and look just like water has been spattered over watercolour paint. To my mind it is such a cool effect, that this alone makes Cirrus a useful colour to have on hand. (See the photo above). I use this trick a lot in my beads and you can be guaranteed that somewhere in the background of an sgraffito design is a generous smattering of Cirrus. I have a few favourites that I like to do this with particularly and in a later blog post I will create a “cheat sheet” of watercolour effect for Cirrus. Like Peacock Green, Cirrus does not etch very well and you can use it as a “mask” to bring out certain effects. This is particularly good if you have blended it with another colour and created stringer or dot decoration but want the base bead etched.
Cirrus looks surprisingly good when stamped or pressed into faceted beads. Cirrus works well with Thompson Enamels, although I find they tend to sit on top and not melt in but that could be because I work Cirrus beads fairly cool. Cirrus is a spreading glass, this is evident by the watercolour effect but it’s also really handy to know for creating dot bead effects. The usefulness of a soft “almost transparent” glass is that you can use it as an intermediate layer to push dots into geometric patterns easily. It’s also helpful in maintaining lines between your dots. Sure you can use Effetre clear to do that, but why would you not mix it up a bit with a cloudy transparent glass?
Cirrus is good for pushing dots around in layered bead effects. It is particularly useful as most transparent glass is very stiff and does not want to move across a base bead enough to merge into geometric dot patterns. Cirrus creates subtle colour shifting and colour changes when layered over colours. Its helpful in creating depth in dots because of it’s nature to reflect a blue tint, so it looks excellent on purple, blue and green glass. The bubble dot bead in the picture is a base of Effetre Lavender, dots of CiM Celadon, dots of Reichenbach Raspberry (96), Dots of CiM Cirrus over the top. The dots melted and moved into a geometric position with the final layer of Cirrus. Some of my Cirrus dot placement is not perfect and it has overlapped the Reichenbach Raspberry and Celadon causing a bit of a colour merge between those two colours and a colour shift; Celadon appears lighter. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your beads, you might welcome that Cirrus is a good blender or colour shifter and use it to great effect in your own glass beads.
Edit: I’ve been asked to explain the beads in the cover photo that I don’t mention in this blog. The middle bead with the over twisted swirls is a blend of CiM Cirrus and Effetre Pearl Grey pulled into stringer than used as decoration. The big bead with the “belly” is encased in Cirrus, but I overheated it and burned out the lovely moonstone colour. The unfortunate thing with this bead is that I had a central core of Effetre White and it incompatibility cracked in the kiln. I repaired it back in the flame, but the same thing happened; incompatibility cracks. This is how I know that Effetre White and CiM Cirrus do not mix even when layered under another colour.
So there you have it, all the reasons why I think Cirrus is a remarkable addition to the lampworking colour palette.