Research – adding weight to my writing

March 12, 2016 in On Writing by Irulan Horner

I love research. I may be in a minority, but I like to get hands-on and really understand what I’m writing about. That’s why I spend so much time wandering around the English countryside taking photos, befriending butterflies, identifying flowers, insects and birds, laying in the grass and listening to the sound of nature and occasionally even climbing trees – all in the name of research.

Glass making 2One of my characters, Gentian, is a glass-maker. He makes droplet of glass which, when enchanted, stop humans from finding the faeries.
So in my usual exuberant researcher style, I went on a glass making course. Having just written the scene where Gentian teaches Rubia how to make glass – I know my research has paid off.

Because of the course I know how the heat from the furnace feels on my skin, I know why they wear one protective wrist band and what happens when you drop molten hot glass on the floor.

Glass making 1Clear glass is made from silica sand mixed with sodium carbonate and calcium oxide. You mix this with metals to turn it different colours. Iron
makes green, potassium makes purple and gold makes red. Gold was bit too pricey for my budget, so I chose blue and white glass – that’s copper and tin.
It takes three days for the glass to reach the required temperature, that’s 1079 degrees Celsius. When the sand mixture gets this hot it becomes a wonderful honey-coloured goo.

Using a heated iron rod, I dipped this into the molten glass and turned it three times, just enough to pick up a good dollop. Next I had to continue turning the rod to make the glass the right shape, at the same times as getting it out of the furnace, sitting on the bench and not burning anyone in the process. Very tricky.

Glass making 3I shaped the hot glass using tongs, snippers, a wooden block and a clump of wet newspaper. Pretty simple really, apart from the fact the glass is still so hot you need an obliging person to hold a paddle between your hand and the lump of glass to stop it from burning your skin.

And hey presto, 24 hours later and the glass has cooled down, I have a paper weight. It now lives on my desk weighing down my huge pile of research notes. I had it engraved – The Circle, Gentian and Rubia.Glass making 4