Saturday, December 13, 2008

Flying corn, craft sales, etc.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of having a booth at the Arkansas Craft Guild Christmas Showcase. It's a lovely craft show with folks from all over Arkansas participating. It got me thinking a bit about the attitudes of artisans at shows. And about those special orders we all have from time to time.

First, my special order from that show was from another craftsperson- flying corn. Sounds kind of odd, yes? But when I talked to her and she looked around my table to get an idea of what might work, I got kind of excited. She saw a bead that resembled a conceptual ear of corn. My sculptural beads tend to get a bit too realistic, so that is something I was interested in pursuing. You can see what happened from the picture. The one on the bottom was the conceptual corn, the other two more realistic. I love the one on the bottom, but was not convinced it looked enough like corn to please my customer. So I made a couple of more realistic ones. We'll see what she likes. And what will I do with the leftovers??? Corn chowder for dinner, I guess!

OK, and a couple of things about working these shows. It is a lot of work to get ready- at least for me. I take the opportunity to beef up my whole display, as well as making a lot of new product. Actually, I am lucky enough to have a partner for this- he takes care of revamping the display while I make product. Keeps me from being totally worn out before we even get started. Otherwise, I'd have to start on everything a lot sooner. So, it's new fabric where needed, checking the old stuff and washing it, new signage, re-covering anything that's covered in fabric, etc. Then the house is torn apart to find what will work best for display- I need the board from under my bed, tables that we eat and work on, all available folding chairs, the little table from the kitchen, the clamp that holds my torch in place, the list goes on and on. Obviously, those of you who have a whole extra set of everything for display don't have to worry with that!

Then it's off to the show- a rug on the floor of the booth makes it look more finished, especially in a semi-industrial setting with concrete floors. I am fortunate enough to live quite close to the show site, so I bring extra stuff, even some display choices, just in case. I go to set up as soon as we're allowed, just in case there are problems or emergencies. Again, my partner helps make this all go much quicker and smoother. We try different options until we find the look we want, then figure out how to make it work. As you can see from the photo, it's nothing fancy, just a basic black and white background to, hopefully, make the beads visible.

It's show time! The best advice I can give here is, I think, act like you're working for someone else- a good job that you'd like to keep! Dress neatly, try to be rested when you arrive, be good to the customers, stay within spitting distance of your booth, and be on time. I've worked craft shows for others, and I wouldn't want to give myself less energy than I give them. Ok, I think I'm done for now, unless I think of something else I think is helpful!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chasing beads!!!

I thought it was about time I did a quick little something on one of my lovely customers, and what she's done with a couple of my (well they're hers now) fish.
It's Gina of Chasing Beads! She's got two shops on etsy where she sells her handmade jewelry pieces. You've got to check out all her original styles. What an honor that she used some of the beads I've made:
Here's a little blurb from her etsy profile:
Hello, Welcome to Chasing Beads! I sell handmade, homemade jewelry. Each item is named with a female's name. I think it lends a more personal touch to each one. So go find your name! If you don't see your name; convo me and I'll make a new necklace with the name you'd like to see! Flickr:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Well, I was chosen as designer of the week on the Artbeadscene blog. Here's the link:
Artbeadscene is a wonderful place to find out about jewelry designs and designers. They have a flickr page where you can enter your own designs, and will send you their new blog entry every day. All you have to do is ask! It's a wonderful resource. Thanks so much to them for choosing this necklace for the "Dark and Stormy Night" theme.
And here are a few of my more recent masks. Have a great Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Making Sculptural Lampwork Beads- tips and tricks

OK, it's time for a few sculptural tips. I never thought for a minute, when I first started making lampwork beads, that I would make so many different kinds of animals out of glass, not to mention bottles and masks. Frankly, I thought they were kind of kitschy, and not my thing. It must have been when I made my first cat, or maybe my first fish, that I realized what fun it could be. And how much practice and skill it actually took. These days, I even take special requests, like the rhino and beagles. I'll find some pictures on the internet so I don't forget something useful, and get to work. Here are a few things I've learned over the years:

All of the beadmaking techniques you have learned can be used to make sculptural beads. The biggest challenge to making these beads is keeping your bead evenly heated, as the bead will not be the same thickness throughout. The designing of sculptural beads is limited only by your imagination.
  • Look at pictures to get a good idea of what you want to make. Pay attention to the details, like basic body shape, poses that are natural for the animal, coloration, etc.
  • You may want to draw the shape of the bead, analyzing the shape of the sculpture using bead shapes you are familiar with, like round beads, cone, or tubes. This will help you with making your first bead and with repeating the form in the future. I have to admit, I rarely do this, but it was pretty helpful in the beginning to break it down on paper.
  • Decide what you will do when. You don't want the smaller details to melt into the large bead while you're working on something else. Pay attention to where your heat is at all times! If I'm making a cat, for instance, I start with the body, and get it well formed before moving on to the head. Once I've got a nice round head attached, I move on to the tail and legs, and finally the smaller details like ears and face. The final step is to pull the tail and legs out a bit and into the position I want, then even out the heat before putting it away in the kiln.
  • Remember to think about the balance of the bead- how will it hang on a cord? The bead will need to have more weight on the bottom if it is to hang upright. If the bead is to be placed on a shelf, it will need to sit evenly.
  • When you are attaching glass to your bead, spot heat the attachment point. Push the glass you are adding gently onto the bead, pull back slightly, then wait for a slight skin to form before pulling the glass into the desired shape and size and burning it off the rod. If you don’t pause before pulling on the rod, you will probably end up with less glass attached than you wanted. You can always build the glass up a bit at a time, or build using dots of glass on top of one another, but this is slower, and therefore more risky. I rarely end up with the right amount of glass the first time, so I'm always adding a bit here and there!
  • Sculptural beads are, by nature, time consuming and therefore subject to breaking. Always remember to reheat often, and keep all the small attachments you add hot- without, of course, melting them into the rest of the bead. Remember that these small parts will cool fastest, so concentrate more of the heat there. Bring them to a slight glow from time to time- just below the point where they will begin to melt and distort.
  • If you are planning on flattening the bead, remember that the glass must be at least as thick on each side as the mandrel you are using.
  • If you are making a large sculptural bead, you may want to use some pre-made parts that you keep warm in the kiln. Think about what kinds of twisties, murrinis, etc. you may need, and make these in advance.
  • It is often useful to use a glass rod to manipulate the glass, rather than a tool. Though this may leave a bit of glass on the bead, there is the advantage that there will be no tool mark to melt out.
  • Heat resistant scissors are a useful tool for sculptural beads. They can be used to pinch, stretch or cut the glass instead of tweezers, which would leave a tool mark. Since all tools pull heat out of the glass, any areas where a tool is used must be reheated.
  • Remember that you can, as with any bead, adjust your torch flame while you work. If you need to melt out tools marks, or spot heat one area of the bead, you may need to reduce your flame to a point temporarily. Remember to return your flame to normal intensity and mix after only a short time, and reheat the whole bead.
  • When you have finished sculpting the bead, slow cool it in the flame, keeping the outside hot while heat from the center dissipates, before putting it in your annealer or vermiculite to cool. Due to the nature of these beads, I would recommend placing them in the kiln immediately rather than using vermiculite or batch annealing later.
I hope these tips are helpful!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hollow Lampwork Glass Beads

A hollow bead is made on a regular mandrel by joining two disks of glass. The hot air, which gets trapped inside the glass will make the bead expand. Hollow beads take a bit more concentration than some other types of beads; the more careful you are in each step, the easier it will be to keep your bead shaped well in the end. Always remember to read the heat base and reheat often- the glass in hollow beads is very thin and subject to shocking easily.

There are two ways that hollow beads are generally made. You can build two straight disks, or you can build two conical disks. Generally straight disks seem to be preferred, as it is difficult to keep cones from touching the mandrel, and straight disks can be more easily shaped, manipulated and flattened with tools as you go.

Start by making a small spacer bead at what will eventually be each end of your hollow bead. For your first try, you might place these starter beads about 1/2 to 3/4 inch apart on your mandrel. As you make more hollow beads, you will gain a feel for how far apart to place your disks. Be sure the ends of these spacer beads are nice and even where they touch the mandrel. This will make it easier to have a nicely puckered end on the hollow bead when you are done. Making a spacer bead to start will also help to ensure that your hollow bead adheres well to your mandrel.

Be sure each layer of glass you add adheres well to the layer below it. The glass must be wrapped firmly on the previous layer as you spin the bead. When wrapping the glass, your bead should be slightly behind the flame, while the glass rod is in the flame. Make sure the glass rod is heated all the way through, not just on the bottom, so that you don’t pull the bead around and break the bead release. You may be able to wrap and spin as you go, or you may want to pull a bit of glass off the melting rod and attach it to your disk at regular small intervals. Make sure the layers of glass are adhering all the way around, and there are no gaps between the layers. Continue wrapping the first end until you have a disk about ¼ to ½ inch tall. Then move to the second spacer bead and start your disk the same way.

Remember to keep flashing your whole bead in the flame frequently so that it will not cool too much and break apart.

It can be helpful to use your tweezers or another tool such as flatteners to straighten the disks as you go. You can even out globs, and even make the disks somewhat narrower with your tools. Again, be sure your glass stays warm- reheat immediately after using any tools. Move from the second disk back to the first disk, and build it up some more; then go back to the second disk. Continue in this way until your disks are about ½ to ¾ of an inch tall.

Now it is time to start moving the disks together. Use your marver paddle or brass tool to gently push the two disks towards each other. Make sure the disks are hot at the outside, but cooler near the mandrel- i.e. concentrate your heat more towards the outside of the disks. You want to be able to push the disks so that the outer edges meet, or come fairly close, without moving the glass near the mandrel around. There are several ways make the disks meet. You can get the disks close and bridge them using a hot rod, use tweezers to bring them together, or just push the outer edges of the disks until they’re nearly together. To help to stabilize the disks and keep them from collapsing onto the mandrel, bridging in at least four evenly spaced places around the bead is extremely helpful. In any case, you will need to run a bit of hot glass around the seam between the disks. This will help ensure that you don’t have any thin spots that can blow out later.

Slowly heat the whole bead until it’s glowing. Turn the hot bead in all directions to check for holes. You will need to put a glass patch over any holes you see. You are now ready to round the bead up. Use the heat of the torch and gravity to round up the bead, marvering only lightly as needed. The bead may seem to collapse at first, and then the air trapped inside will puff it up a little.

To gain nice puckered ends on your hollow bead, focus the heat on one half of the bead. Allow the glass to cool and droop down on the mandrel. Let the glass harden somewhat before you move on to the other end and repeat the process.

The hollow bead can now be decorated like any other bead- with dots, lines, raking, even plunging. It can also be shaped, keeping in mind that you don’t want the bead to touch the mandrel other than at the ends. Just remember to reheat often.

When these beads are ready to be taken off the mandrel, I prefer not to soak them. Just pull them off of the mandrel dry and blow out the bead release before cleaning. Once the bead release gets wet, it is much harder to get out of the bead. Be careful not to breathe in the sludge dust as you do this- you should wear a mask. If you'd rather get the sludge wet, you can clean out the excess by blocking one end, filling with water, putting your fingers over both holes, shaking and then blowing it out kind of like an easter egg. Take care not to ingest any of the sludge (yuck).

And now, a a quick look at a hollow in the making:

The oh-so-important footprint and building the disks up on each end, a bit at a time. If necessary, use some tweezers or a flattener to even out these disks. Be sure not to leave holes between the wraps.

See how they start out parallel, and then start getting nudged towards the middle. Your paddle or a brass shaper will help with this. Make sure they don't touch the mandrel!

The bridging begins. And what a mess this one is! Check it for holes, or all your work will be for nothing.

Here it is after just a little bit of time with the paddle. The hot air on the inside helps to blow it out into a nice orb. Keep it moving (but not TOO fast) and gravity will also help with the shape. You can decorate it in any way you like, even plunging works (as long as you don't push too hard with your pick). I started the turtle decoration on this bead by rolling it in a bit of white enamel. One side was flattened somewhat- taking care not to flatten too much, so it didn't touch the mandrel. The rest of the decoration was added, a bit of flame annealing was done to even out the temperature, I annealed it in the kiln, and voila:

A finished hollow sea turtle.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gelato fish

Well, I just have to show my new style of fish. Not so different than my older fish, after all, but I'm loving my new ultra clear glass. Why gelato? I can't really say- it's just that icy, airy feel that I get when I have the pleasure of eating some really good Italian gelato. And of course the glass is mostly Italian, so it just seems to fit.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Gone Fishin'!!!!!

I don’t know what it is about glass fish that makes them so appealing. I’ve been making them for years, and they’ve gotten more and more complicated as time has gone by. They are probably the bead I have the most fun making, and are also one of my best sellers. Lucky me!
Why do I enjoy them so much? Hard to say, but the color play is definitely a draw. It’s fun to mess around with the colors and see what happens. It’s also a lot of fun to shape the fins and tail, though it often seems they have little minds of their own! At this point, I make three basic kinds of fish:
Little earring fish, which are the least complicated
Medium fish, which don’t have side fins, and rarely include silver
Large fish which, when I’m thinking, are a bit twisted to give them a real feel of movement, and almost always include some silver foil in the background. I know this make it sound like I have some kind of formula, but the reality is that there are rarely two that are similar, much less alike. And woe be to me if someone wants one like another they’ve seen or have. Because I rarely write down anything I’ve done, it can take me a number of tries to even get close. Recently I wanted to match an earring fish I’d already made- I ended up with another whole pair of earrings, and three others that didn’t quite match, but not the one I wanted. The pair I made sold quickly, so, while I still understood what I would need to do to match the original, I finally made the one I’d started out to make. Now I have a pair of earrings that match a fish I made a couple of weeks ago. Whew!
But the real question for me is why do other people seem to like fish so much? I have one customer who has eight or ten, and another who’s well on her way. They just can’t seem to walk by the table without seeing what’s going on in the fish department. And in my etsy shop, they are far and away my best seller. I talked to another friend, and she said she can’t keep fish in her shop. So what’s that about? Anyway, here are some pictures of a fish being made for your viewing pleasure!

...... .....
Make a cylinder and roll in pre-cut silver foil, Burnish it on, Encase in clear
Add transparent colors, Roll in raku, Shape nicely
At this point, I've changed beads- my gas started running out, so this bit ended up as a silvery pendant. Onward!

.... .
Shape and flatten, Add fins, Tail colors, Side fins too
I add multiple layers of color to the fins and tail, so I kind of go round and round with the colors at this point.

Eyes and mouth added in layers and plunged, Get out those scissors to shape and pull fins and tail, Flame anneal and check everything out. Finito!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Featured on handicrafts blog

Just a quick note for anyone who's looking, I have been interviewed on this blog. Go take a look, she did a great job!
And what lovely photos Jen takes. Here's a link to her shop on etsy:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Synchronicity and lampwork

First inspiration and two new wearable bottles

Just a quick post about my new wearable bottles. It's the kind of thing where a number of ideas come together at once and you end up with a new creation on your hands!
First was a request to make a double sided wearable bottle for a friend. I was pretty pleased with it, and it got me thinking I needed to try and make some wearable bottles to sell. But I really wanted them to have a nice, larger empty area to store things in. That was a couple of weeks ago.
Next I went to the library and checked out Contemporary Lampworking books one and two, and started looking at the pictures and reading techniques (again). This was just for general inspiration and further training, not specifically for bottles.
Then there was a discussion about making twisties in the cgge tips and techniques forum on etsy. And I thought- well, I really should practice my twistie again.
And last was the fortuitous delivery of some Moretti ultra clear glass at the local glass shop- Glass Concepts in Sherwood, AR. And I loved it! I haven't been using much clear. I just couldn't find any that was 'perfect'. Now maybe this will fill the bill.
The end result is some new, clear, twistie decorated bottles, built OFF the end of the mandrel rather than ON the end of the mandrel. And they're made to wear- flatter backs, and a nice long pointed end. Hope ya'll like them!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Metamorphosis of a bead

Thought you might enjoy seeing one of my beads go from inspiration and idea to finished product. I have a bulletin board in my studio area with pictures that I find interesting or inspiring- sometimes it's just a color combination, or a picture that will help me get the shape of sculptural beads right. But sometimes I really want to imitate a pattern. This is the metamorphosis of one of those beads. First I'm showing you the final finished bead next to the picture I started with.:

I began with a picture of a clam mantle that was in National Geographic- here’s part of it:

And these are all of the finished beads. You can see that number one and two are way too yellow. It's a bit hard to see the yellow in the original picture, but it's there. Number three is as close as I came- it looks a bit more like in real life, but anyway here goes! And number four is my bit of fun after I figured out what I wanted to know.

I began with a Vetrofond yellow cylinder as a base, rolled in white enamel, then oxford blue, randomly dotted with intense black.

Next came alabaster blue, a little oxford blue enamel, and two transparents blues over that. Dots were then melted down, distorted a bit. Then the whole bead was shaped and finished in the kiln.

Now, I was not so happy with this- too yellow and not yellow enough at the same time, and the colors just didn’t pop. So here I went again; this time I’ll just show the highlights:

Black base. Roll in yellow enamel, then white, then oxford blue Intense black dots again, dotted with a bit of a solid periwinkle Oxford enamel Transparent blue Shape and finish in the kiln.

And still I wasn’t pleased. I need to get some of that yellow out of there, and the dot color is still not vivid enough. Now normally about now I would move on to a new color combination ‘cause I think I know what I need to do, and I’m getting a bit tired of these being so much the same, but for you I pressed on- one more time, this one without pictures (‘cause my camera ran out of space). Now let’s see if I remember!
Again the black background A smattering of yellow enamel, then a bit of white, and last of all oxford blue (I may have dipped into the white enamel again too)- all of these were very light applications as I wanted some of the colors to show through from below. The some intense black frit before I added the intense black blobs. Then came some solid periwinkle with transparent light aqua over it, and just a little sapphire blue on top of that- this gave me the depth and color brightness I was looking for. Shape, pop in the kiln, and wait. I think I’ve pretty much got it now!
In the meantime, I’m gonna use what I think I’ve learned and bring out some purple- I should have kept a bit of that yellow enamel out for this one, but I didn’t. Maybe next time…..
And remember, if you’re using enamels, make sure your studio is properly vented and that you are using the recommended respirator to keep from breathing in bits of glass.