I recently went on a glass bead making course. Ultimately I would like to make glass animals but I had to learn how to make beads first. It was great fun and not just a little bit scary, after all, the flame varies between 800 and 1400 degrees!
The technique goes a little like this:
With the flame lit and adjusted properly (by the tutor) you take a mandrel (metal rod dipped in bead release) in your left hand, and a glass rod of your chosen colour in your right hand. You need to warm both up gently. Once the glass rod is hot enough and the end goes molten drop the glass onto the mandrel which you rotate away from you. Build up a catherine wheel of glass on the mandrel until it’s about and inch across. Take the mandrel in both hands on the right of the flame and put the glass in the flame whilst turning it gently. Ultimately the glass melts and forms a rounded bead on the mandrel. Once it’s round remove from the flame, continuing to turn it until the glass goes dark. Plunge into vermiculite and leave to cool. The beads should be annealed in a kiln to ensure that they don’t fall apart in the future.
Now, all of the above sounds straightforward, and, with the help of a great tutor it is. However, like all practical skills it takes a bit of time to get a round bead as even longer to get a matching set (not something I was trying to achieve, thank goodness).
The fun is in mixing colours together to make wonderful patterns. A crafting friend makes fantastic bead spiders which I use on my stall at craft fairs to draw people’s attention (you like them or hate them but it takes you attention) so I decided to make pairs of beads for spiders.
In just over two hours I made all of the above beads and am thoroughly delighted with them.
The detail in the yellow ones is fantastic and the larger one has a clear topping which gives the underneath detail some depth. They’ll make fantastic spiders!