Glass Class 101:Making Lampwork Glass Beads

Soooo, how do you DO that???

This is the question I’m most frequently asked when i mention i make glass beads (after of course, we get past that initial stage of incomprehension where i explain that yes, a person can make their own glass beads if they so choose, and no, it’s not really like glassblowing). 

SO! in honour of that ever repeating question, i decided to make a video demonstrating that process.  Ha!  easier said than done.  Unfortunately life and the whims of a teenage schedule means that video never quite happened. 

Instead, thanks to the wonder of modern technology, the internet and lots of people with way more time and video talent than I will ever have, here are some YouTube videos (of other glass beadmakers) demonstrating how they make their glass beads.  I’ve explained the process and components on this page: My Glass Beads.  Any questions? let me know…

My beads are essentially made just like these – but bigger.  Enjoy!

Simple disc bead:

Encased floral:

Sculpted polar bear:

(Yes, someday i will get my own video made and posted… someday…)

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Tales from the Torch: May 19/08

It’s long weekend here so instead of gallivanting like i normally do,  i decided to stay home and make some beads.  I’ve been either sick with the flu or so busy for the past several weeks that i haven’t been able to enjoy much torch time.  This weekend has really made up for that though – just got all these out of the kiln and i’m pretty happy with the results.

First, some focals:  I’ve had a really positive response to my floral attempts so i’ve decided to practice some more (plus a couple other ideas)… all about 2″ long.  From left to right:

Swamp Daisies – (sold) this is a big bead and it really wanted to be made:  I ran out of fuel about halfway through, had to pop the bead in the kiln, wait for the torch to cool down so i could change the propane canister and then slowly reheat and finish it off.  It’s my ongoing attempt to develop a love for that finicky copper green glass – the verdigris colour is intriguing but i’m still struggling to control the amount of that dark residue it develops.  (and yes i know the name isn’t very sexy – if you have a better suggestion let me know)

Blue Lagoon – another encased floral, this time i added the flowers first then the encasing.  I had planned to add another layer of encased florals but frankly i ran out of patience.  It’s encased with Lauscha clear and while the optical clarity is truly magnificent that clear layer was so stiff it took bloody FOREVER to melt.  At several points i was ready to through the whole damn thing (burning molten glass and all) across the room.   

Part of the problem is the limits of my torch, part is due to the Lauscha clear being really quite stiff but the other though is just the process of encasing florals – you have to slowly heat the clear layer enough to smooth it out but at the same time not get everything so hot that you soften and distort the layer of flowers and the core just underneath.  So you’re constantly twirling and swooping the bead in and out of the flame and slowly, slowly, slowly melting smooth that clear layer – an incredibly tedious process.  Somewhat like toasting marshmallows to a delicate golden brown at a bonfire except that each marshmallow takes a freaking HOUR to roast.  (ok, i’m done venting.  perhaps i’ll just put the Lauscha clear aside until i get a hotter torch). I must say, I have now developed a new respect for the beadmakers who make encased florals for a living… (siiigh, i must really not have cooked it properly as it has slowly cracked in half over the last few weeks)

Summer Garden – This is me playing to create something cute and fun and completely unlike my usual stuff (do i even have a usual yet?).  The Teenager declared this one as his fave while making sure to gruffly add the qualifier that of course he “…doesn’t like flowers but it’s still nice.”

Buttercup Swirl– Again something a little different and summery with some encased stringer spirals.  Those spirals were supposed to be a pale pastel yellow but came out bright buttercup yellow instead.  Now i could go into a rant about paying a premium for an “odd lot” glass that looks soft and creamy in the store ad but then strikes to a colour pretty darned close to something i could have bought for a 1/3 the price but i won’t. cuz i’m done venting.  so there. 

ZigZag – this is a weird one.  i was inspired by a room in a decorating mag designed with these colours – it’s odd but i like it.

And here is a custom order i’m working on – pregnant goddesses.  These were too much fun to make.  As i was sculpting each one it reminded me of the last few months of my pregnancy and how alternately excited /scared /annoyed /exhausted I was as i heaved myself around with that huge belly. 

Here’s a side view – they’re not just a little bit pregnant – these babes are nine plus months and ready to deliver at any moment! (i think that grey goddess is having triplets…)

And finally a rear view – cuz no pregnancy ever passes without this extremely important question:  “Honey, does my butt look big?”

Tales from the Torch: Feb. & March (part deux)

I’m back on the Teenager’s computer again as the kitten Busta finally finished chewing through my laptop’s power cable.  Now doesn’t having a cat usually mean no pets chewing random valuables around the house??? i might as well have a dog.

Soooo… until i decide whether to replace the power cable and harddrive on my laptop vs buying a new one, i’m trapped in that teenage hellhole again… damn cat.  Anyhoo, i did manage to backup most of my pics from the last meltdown so found a few more from February and March. (I didn’t torch much in April/May as I had the flu.)

These random beads were for a long bead exchange on LE.  They’re all about 2-2.5″ long (except the purple one) which isn’t huge for me at all – my beads are normally 1.5-2.5″ long.  I think the winner made a bead something like 11″ long.  not sure what one would do with a massive (and fragile!) piece of glass like that…  I wanted to try bigger but about 4″ is my max. anything larger seems to be beyond the limits of my current torch – i can get there but it takes forever to melt all that glass and the results are seriously ugly.

 

This Chocolate Goddess was part of a gift package for Valentine’s Day… 

 

My sister snapped up this Winter Garden pendant as soon as it came out of the kiln… Note my improved stringer control – that Corina stringer DVD has really helped.

I’ve been torching all weekend and have some new beadies cooling in the kiln right now.  I’ll try to post them tomorrow…

Tales from the torch: Feb & March

Here are some of the things i’ve worked on over the last couple months:

Verdigris Swirl: This was a custom order for a green pendant.  Took me forever because i had the hardest time developing a great design in green (other than lime and olive, it’s not one of my fave colours).  I finally won my battle with that quirky hand-pulled glass colour copper green and this was the happy result.  The verdigris finish is a natural reaction of this glass.  (sold)

Modern Ethnic: This pendant is based on a designer room i saw in a home decorating magazine.  I really love the contrast between the smooth modernity of the red glass vs. the rustic look and feel of the ivory.    (sold)

Tribal: This pendant was an experiment in black and white – the white glass stripes reacted heavily with the silver laden black and developed a lovely antique patina.  A very cool and completely unexpected reaction. (sold)

Some additional ideas in development…

The first two were efforts to work with my Kalera long and lean bead press.  I have a bunch of presses i never use, so i figured it’s time i tried them out.  I’m sort of on the fence about pressed beads.  On the one hand (once you figure out how to use them), they offer the opportunity to make consistently formed and sized beads in shapes that are near impossible to create by hand.  On the other hand i feel like the design is a bit constricted by the shape.  Now is that my fault or the limitations of press?  hmmm…

i think i’ll etch them… a frosted finish might highlight the shape better…

That last one on the right is my usual handshaping with a 23k gold stringer decoration (love this and will have to make more!)… i think i’ll always have a preference for hand-shaped beads.  What do you think?

These organic look beads are copper green with fine silver wire, raku and/or green adventurine frit – which sure spreads a lot on copper green.  This is one of those cases where less is much, much, more. They’re small (for me) and feel just great in the hand… like smooth brightly coloured pebbles.

A recent custom order…

Tusk: this order was fun – the client wanted a different and personal take on the (currently very trendy) ivory tusk/bone/horn pendant thing.  It’s about 2″ long.

Took me a few rather comical tries before i finally figured out how to make a tusk in glass…  Quite impressed with myself actually as this is not only my first tusk but also my first successful bead with a horizontal (as opposed to vertical) hole.   

ivory tusk

I was asked to give the pendant the look of antique ivory – i think i accomplished that quite nicely.  The ivory base reacted beautifully to the silvered stringer by crackling and turning a bit golden…

Here’s the back view:

tusk back view