update: i spoke with Big Apple Lights, the vendor of the venetiian blind pattern. they said all "gobo" patterns eventually melt, especially the venetian blind patterns, because they block so much light that there's a big heat buildup.

i spoke with a sales rep at GAM, the manufacturer. he acted as if this was the first time in the history of the world that this had happened. he said that GAM uses thicker stainless steel than the competition and that their patterns can take 2000 deg F. but, he said if i mailed it back to them and they decided it was a manufacturing defect, they would send me a new one.

i wound up calling Rosco regarding their glass patterns, which can take higher temperatures than stainless steel ones (but they cost $85!).

a techie there told me that the stainless steel patterns emit some smoke the first time they're used because their enamel coating is burning off, they turn brown because of oxidation (a fancy word for burning), and that some stainless steel patterns last for many months with hours of daily usage, and some don't, depending upon a number of factors.

he also suggested that perhaps my Source Four Leko's light field wasn't flat, and that instead of focusing on the subject to be illuminated, it was focusing on the pattern, thus not only shortening the life of the pattern, but the life of the bulb as well.

i then called ETC to find out how to flatten the field of the Leko. i was directed to this page on their website:
http://www.etcconnect.com/docs/docs_...&%20Tuning.pdf

the tuning of the light field was simple. i'm kind of annoyed that the "User Manual" that came with the Source Four didn't include this information, or at least a reference to the web page.