Saturday, October 27, 2012

OK, so finally we have got to the stage where we're going to make a bead. Below are a some pics which hopefully demonstrate the series of steps you take. Here goes ...

Yesterday I showed you a pic but didn't explain what was happening, so we'll start there again. In this photo I have gently heated the end of the rod ready to apply it to the mendrel which I am holding in the other hand. The mandrel (with the bead release on the end) is heated in the flame until it is glowing orange (like the end of the glass rod) & then the end of the rod is touched to the heated mandrel & I start to wind the molten glass on.

This next picture shows me winding the glass around the mandrel, each time you complete a wrap around the mandrel the bead gets bigger, obviously! This pic was taken on about the third wrap, the glass on the mendrel is called the gather.

So, you continue to add glass to the mandrel until you get to the size you want. All the time you need to keep rotating the mandrel which is what shapes the bead - if you stop turning, your molten glass will end up on the table or the floor (or if you're really unlucky, your lap - which is not good! LOL).

Here I have the size gather that I want, so now I am shaping it by using heat & gravity. Glass tends to always want to round out so you can get a donut shape or a round shape fairly easily. You may have noticed that I have swapped hands, lots of people are ambidexterous & can work with the mandrel in the left hand but I'm not one of them! So I swap my mandrel to the other hand as soon as I have wound on enough glass. I'm still rotating the mandrel around & around.

And lastly, I am going to press the gather to make a button bead. The top of the press looks identical to the bottom part, except that it has a handle, unfortuunately it's not easy to get a pic of the glass when there is a brass press on top of it, this was taken just before I put the top on the press.

Hope you've enjoyed today's foray into the field of molten glass, next time we'll talk about pressing & annealing the beads.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So, here we are finally at the pointy end of the sequence (so to speak). Remember I told you yesterday that I would share with you the secret of getting a hole through the bead? Well it's not really a big secret, some of you may have already guessed & some might already know, but here we ago anyway.

These pictured above are rods of stainless steel called "mandrels" & to make a bead you simply dip the end of the mandrel into a thick sludgy stuff called bead release & then after it's dry, you melt your glass rod & wind it around & around until you get a bead. Sounds simple, huh?

The bead release is a silica based suspension (remember from yesterday's post, glass is silica too) that stops your beads from sticking to the metal, if there was no bead release you'd never get the beads off the mandrels!

So, now we are finally down to the nitty grity - we have our exhaust fan turned on to suck away all the nasties, our torch turned on, we have our mandrels which have been dipped in bead release & our rods of glass. So, ready to melt some glass? :)

Just a little sneak peek, more tomorrow :) .

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Of course the most important thing in lampworking after the torch is probably the glass. Glass comes in the form of rods which is basically a "stick" of glass (like a pencil or a straw)about 30cm long & anywhere from a couple of millimetres up to about 15mm thick. I use what is called "soft glass" or "soda lime glass" as compared to things like pyrex which is borosilicate & very hard to melt. Soft or soda lime glass contains soda, lime & other elements as well as silica & is used for many things like windows & bottles & of course making beads.

Here is my collection of glass (although I have to admit, it has grown even further since this pic was taken), glass ranges in price from $10 to $100+ per pound depending on what sort of glass it is & whether it has inclusions like silver or gold in it. I have my glass sorted by manufacturer, my silver glass (the most expensive glass) is in the top section (round holes) of the first pic.

Tomorrow I will show you the trick of how we get the hole through the middle of the bead :) .

Monday, October 22, 2012

I started off a short series of photos on my facebook on how I make my beads & I thought that I might do the same thing here. Firstly here is a pic of my workshop area (or Mummy's Playroom as hubby & the kids like to call it :) )

Pretty cool, huh? :) My kiln is just off to the right of the pic & my oxygen concentrator is the silver thing just under the bench to the left of where my chair is. The blue thing coming through the wall with the big long silver nose is my extractor fan which sucks out the nasties that are released when you melt glass & things like silver & other metals.

Taking a closer look at the things in the studio, firstly, here is a picture of my torch, both lit & unlit. I use a small torch from GTT (Glass Torch Technologies) called a Cricket, as you can see, its a pretty pink/purple colour.

The flame of the torch runs at around 5000°F (or around 2760°C) give or take a few hundred degrees either way, so it's pretty hot! Keep an eye out tomorrow for the next lot of pictures.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Earlier this week I was very excited to be mentioned on a very well known beading blog called Art Bead Scene. They featured a collection of beads from various Australian lampworkers & one of my beads was amongst them. Art Bead Scene is a collaborative blog effort between a number of very talented artists & has a huge following in the art bead & blogging world.

If you haven't checked out Art Bead Scene yet their blog is full of colour, creativity giveaways & challenges, you can go & check it out at

Thursday, October 18, 2012

So here are a couple of sets I have done recently, one thing that I find very strange is creating with the US market in mind (on Etsy mainly). Of course being in the opposite hemisphere they are heading into Autumn & Winter whereas we are in Spring, heading to Summer, so some of my beads reflect the colours of their seasons as well as our own.

You probably noticed the 2 sets of Autumn (Fall) leaves in my last 2 posts, these sets are more standard shapes but have a similar Autumn feel to the colours.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Well, it's only 10 weeks tomorrow until Christmas finally hits us, this year has definitely flown by. I have been trying to make more sets of beads lately, I have a few sets yet to photograph so look out for those pics tomorrow. Until then, here are a few more things I have been working on.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Well, I am certainly consistently bad at keeping this blog up to date, we're coming up to almost 3 years since I last posted, I doubt that anyone out there still knows or remembers me! But I will post this & try to remember to post more regularly (I bet you're thinking "Deja Vu?" LOL). As some of you know I have been sucked into a vortex of glass, flame & creativity that is lampworking. For those who don't know, lampworking is the art of melting glass in a (very hot) flame & shaping it into beads or other items. Here are a few of my latest creations, hopefully you'll enjoy seeing what I post & you'll come back to check out some of my future posts as well.