Thursday, November 14, 2013

Glass Totems and Photography

It's Thursday already and I am on a plane for a quick family trip.  There has been a lot of "real life stuff" taking up my time so I haven't been able to share many craft projects lately.  I recently ran across something interesting that was "new to me" that I want to share with you.

Our church has an Antiques Fair every November.  The proceeds are used for mission projects.  I try to help out with some volunteer time in the kitchen each year and we also do some shopping.  This year, one of the dealers had some interesting glass pieces that were created by assembling various vases, bowls, plates, candlesticks and other figures into interesting shapes.  The piece in the center of the photo above has eight items and is quite tall.

I wasn't sure where I could use the tall tower but I found this smaller one irresistible (my husband just shakes his head!).  When I got it home, I did a little research and found out that these are called glass totems and are frequently used in gardens.  If you search for "glass totem" or "glass garden totem" you will find lots of images and examples.  I have started  Pinterest board to save some of my favorites.

I thought this size would be nice to use on a tabletop.  I can even add some holiday decorations to it.  The bird on the top is a candle holder.  I wanted to take some photos to share this with you and I found that it is quite challenging to photograph something like this.  You want the bright sunlight to show off the sparkle but that results in not-so-attractive shadows.

 I set up two large pieces of white paper on the rug and the couch in our sunroom.  The light is good in that room but, as you see in the first photo of the set up - it doesn't work well with direct sun.  In the second photo, a bit later in the day, the room is still bright but there is not a strong light shining on the glass.

This photo was taken in the strong sunlight.  The base is not showing and the contrast of sun and shadow is distracting.

Cropping the image near the shadow line makes the background consistent and less distracting.

The sparkle from the sunlight is nice in this photo but the shadows make it difficult to see the shape of the piece.

In this shot, the light was coming from the left side and it was brighter at the base than the top.  If I edit to lighten the image the detail in the base is hard to see.

This angle from the top shows the full piece fairly well but there is still too much contrast in the light.

By taking lots of shots, in varying light conditions, and doing some careful cropping and editing, I finally got an image that I am happy with!

While I was experimenting with all of these photos, I noticed that from certain angles the green glass was reflected in the facets of the top plate making a diamond design.

When I cropped the photo to show this area the section at the top looks like two colors of glass fused together.

Have you seen these garden totems or heard about them?  I am inspired to take some of the bits and pieces I have around here and start building!  You can often find stray plates, vases and bowls at thrift shops or rummage sales for very little money.

I have seen several suggestions for the adhesive - the most popular seems to be an outdoor clear silicone caulk. When I try making one I'll test a few adhesives and let you know what works best.

We had a tiny bit of snow here Tuesday morning - winter is not far away!

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  1. That is a beautiful piece, great for the upcoming holidays. I have seen some around, and thought, how ingenious. I love your photography, thank you for the tips.

    1. Thanks so much for the nice compliment on my photography. I am planning to add to this totem to make it a holiday decoration - maybe some greens and red bead garland...I'll post a photo when I figure it out!

  2. I have seen these before but didn't know they were called totems. They have been displayed at the local Art Guild's art show for the past few years. I always find them fascinating but have not tried to make one. I mean - where would I put it? I'm not a glass kind of girl. Good luck with yours. Your patience with and knowledge of photography is to be commended.

    1. Hi Bobby, I guess they have been around a while - I just hadn't seen them before. My sister and her husband do a bottle garden with colorful bottles supported on iron posts. I agree, even if it isn't something you would do or use it is always fun to look at different things - I admire a lot of things that I would never attempt to make or have a place to use!

  3. I would be afraid that the glass would get broken outside.( hail, wind). I have 2 pieces of green depression glass candy dishes of my grandmothers. They are totally 2 different pieces but they are similar enough that I can put the one w the pedestal in the flatter candy dish and it looks like it is 2 tier. Colors match.

    1. Hi Mary, The depression glass combination sounds really pretty. I wouldn't do the totem with special family pieces but it would be fun to make with junk shop finds. I suppose you could put the totems in the garden for the summer and then store them. Maybe they are more commonly used in warmer climates. I think them would be great indoor decorations for the holidays.

  4. Love these! I know I will be making one or two for my garden. Thank you for sharing your photography knowledge.

    1. Hi Cathy, Lots of trail and error on the photography - it's all in the lighting! I'd love to see what you make. I can't wait to try some with my bits and pieces of glass!


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