Father Christmas, aka my husband Bernard, gave me a lampworking beginners kit for Christmas. He then helped me to set it all up in my lovely studio. If you don’t know what is involved….well listen in.
To make beads from glass you need a torch (like a flame thrower), in my case I have a Nortel Minor (irrelevant detail but hey ho). This needs to have a supply of propane gas – cylinder outside the studio, and an oxygen supply – oxygen concentrator inside the studio. This last is a refurbished medical oxygen machine which is no longer good enough for medical purposes. The result of this gassy mix is a flame that is about 1400C, hot enough to make glass rods go soft.
Then you need some metal mandrels to form your bead on, a few tools and then glass rods……this is where it gets yummy. My supplier sells them as individual colours or in mixed bundles. This is very exciting ‘cos you never know which colours are coming and I haven’t been doing it long enough to get discerning. Mine have all come from Italy so far but there are other options too.
So, I light the torch (carefully) and sit down and make beads. Sometimes they go right, and sometimes they go wrong. When I get good enough to make big beads (if I get that far) it can take hours to make just one….look on websites for some real beauties. After the bead is made they have to be cooled slowly and then annealed. This means that they are put in a kiln (I have one handy!) to be gently reheated and cooled very slowly. This allows the glass to settle within it self and toughens it for making into jewellery. I choose to batch anneal my beads once a week. I will be demonstrating bead making during Art Weeks and you will get to take the bead away with you as a reminder.
As with other practical skills it takes time to get good at it. The experts reckon about 500 beads, well I’m on about 150 and some are OK. Ultimately I want to make glass animals and I have a good dragon and a turtle / tortoise so far. I will be going on a couple of courses to improve these techniques.
These are a few of my first ones. They are not perfectly formed as yet but I love trying different techniques.
And here are some creatures I mentioned. The one in the middle is just a creature….I like quirky as you may have gathered.
Meanwhile, back to have a go at some more – the design possibilities are endless, just need lots and lots of practice.