Thursday, December 7, 2017

Lampwork Glass Ornaments for the Blog Hop and How to Make Them

how to make an easy ornament from beads and headpinsAh, so, the other day I was inspired to make some glass bird beads. Yes, I've tried this before and not been completely pleased with the results. This time I came up with a couple of different styles that I rather liked. Some were turned into earrings, others into ornaments~ all ready for the ornament blog hop! Click here to see other wonderful artisan made ornaments.

Handmade lampwork glass ornamentLampwork glass bird ornament using beads and headpinThese are so easy to make~ you just need a rather heavy weight, long headpin and some complimentary beads. Line 'em up, make a loop and Bob's your uncle, you're ready to roll!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and enjoying making loads of cool things!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Handmade Lampwork Glass Pins! For scarves, shawls & sweaters

Handmade wet felted scarves from Laurie at Isinglass Design other day, while showing off a couple of felted scarves on facebook, someone showed me a nice pin that she'd made with her own lampwork beads, which got me thinking about the different types of pins I make with my beads and why.

First is the fibula pin, which your leg bone was named after, not the other way around (or so I've been told). Mine are made on 16 gauge brass wire, which is pretty thick~ so that it won't bend out of shape easily when used. Brass is nice because it doesn't patina like copper and it is cost effective. Because these pin wires are so thick, they should really only be used on loosely woven things like shawls or sweaters. Otherwise they might make big old holes in your lovely scarf! Fibula pins are rather time consuming and tetchy, so I've come up with two different options.

Next came the fork, which can also be used to hold hair back (mine works best when put in while my hair is still wet~ I have the thin, slippery kind of hair, so it will slide a bit as the day progresses otherwise). I was happy to find that these had two good uses. They are also quite thick as they are made on 14 gauge brass wire. So, again good for loosely woven items.

Then came the simple bent stick. Really cool because it is so simple and it works quite nicely! This is very similar to the hair stick option, but with just one wire to thread through the shawl. Another 14 gauge choice, so still not great for a scarf.

Handmade lampwork glass stick pins from Isinglass Design
Scarves made by Isinglass Design I started making felted scarves, I got serious about stick pins again. The pin part of these is quite slender and, after searching high and low, I found some hat pin blanks in stainless steel that were nice and strong. The bits and pieces to put these together come from about 4 different companies~ yikes! I find it easiest to insert the stick pin in and just leave it there, putting the scarf on and off over my head.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Making a Wet Felted 'Tulip' Bowl, A Quick Tutorial

Well, weeks ago I promised to write down directions for making this type of wet felted bowl. So, finally, here we go. I'm not going to give you detailed instructions for basic wet felting here- hopefully you've got that bit down. I refer to these as 'liriodendron' bowls, named after the tulip tree or yellow poplar.
This bowl began with a couple of layers of white wool, placed perpendicularly to each other for the base. Wool was added on each side in some pretty contrasting colors. Four layers of wool were used; more would make it even sturdier. Since both colors would be seen on the finished piece, I wanted something a bit showy~ the colors are so nice and vivid when wet! Colors were added to one side, some warm water and natural dish soap was sprayed on, then it was covered with plastic and rolled flat with a pool noodle until it was sticking together well. Then it was flipped over and colors were added to the second side, another quick roll with the noodle, and then it was all wrapped around the pool noodle with a towel around it and rolled about 100 times in each direction (Roll 100 times, unwrap, turn 90 degrees, wrap up, roll again, etc. Then flip over and do it all again). At this point things should be holding together pretty well.
When everything looks as if it is felting together and shrinking has begun, it's time to shrink it the rest of the way. This is done in different ways by different people. Here the piece was first rubbed all over and the edges were kind of rolled and rubbed to be sure they were fairly straight and well attached, then it was rinsed in very warm water, rung out and tossed against the bottom of the sink  100-150 times.
It was then rinsed in cold water with vinegar to neutralize the soap, then really hot water and then once more in really cold water. This shrinks things up a bit more.

While still wet, the corners were sewn to shape the bowl. The orange and pink side is meant to be the inside of this bowl, so the seam was sewn with that side out. Seems the inside of the bowl is what will be seen most most often, so it was bright side in! This will be flipped after sewing, but for a different look, it could be left with the sewn bits sticking out.

So here it is before the flip and after. With the corners to the inside, it kind of reminds me of a tulip.

Tutorial for making a folded wet felted bowl final step is to steam the bowl into shape. A heavy pottery bowl was placed inside this bowl to shape and weigh it down, then it was placed in a strainer over a bowl of steaming water, covered and allowed to steam for a couple of hours. After drying for a couple of days, it was ready to show off!

The idea for this type of bowl came from Lark Books '500 Felted Objects'. Sadly, I don't own this book so cannot tell you the artisan's name.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pink and purple lampwork memory bottles

Lampwork glass memory bottles from Isinglass Design recently had a request from my daughter for a friend of hers for a 'memory bottle' in pink and purple. I love making things in this color combo, so I jumped right in. Made three before it was all over (and I could have kept going with this for a while)! This is why, when someone asks me to do something in a particular color combo, I ask them to look through the beads I have to see if something looks about right. Or send me pictures of something in the right color, or something fas a reference point.

Because there are a lot of colors out there and many of them are swirling about in my brain all the time~ whether I have them in the form of glass rods or not...

Hope one of these is just right.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Making a Felted Bowl

Well, there are not photos of many of the steps taken to make this felted bowl, but let's see if I can explain how it all happened.

A few things gathered for use
*  Lay down a piece of plastic (like a bit of drop cloth) that is large enough to wrap completely around the finished piece.

*  Cut a piece of flexible plastic stuff to act as a resist between the two sides and to build the pieces on. This was built flat and shaped into a bowl later.

* Add wool layers to the first side.
       Begin with two layers of white for the background. This helps colors that will be added onto the final surface to pop.
       A couple of wide lines of color that would contrast nicely with the final surface were added.  (A piece of thin foam will be placed over those areas to keep them from felting to the outer surface~ a cut will be made through one layer to the next later.)
       This was all wet down, soaped and prefelted and then flipped to the other side before the final surface colors were added so that the under colors and finished design could be carried from one side to the other more effectively.

The first layer and bit of the other side
* Flip over, wrap the edges of the wool around the resist and then repeat the same process on the other side of the resist- 2 layers of white, some contrasting color and prefelt. Finish this side out by covering the contrasting color bits with a flexible resist, then add the final layer of color.

* Back to the first side to add the final layer, covering the inside colors with flexible foam and then adding the final layer of colors, trying to somewhat match up the colors from one side to the next. The decision about which side would be the top of the bowl would be made later.
         These layers were then soaped, wet down and lightly prefelted (covered in plastic and rolled flat with a pool noodle) before the final layer of colors was added. I found in a subsequent bowl that four layers of wool on each side creates a nice, thick, sturdy bowl.
         Add the final layer of colors and a little 'confetti'- random bits of stuff!

The second side

* Wet down everything by spraying with soapy   water and lightly felt by wrapping in plastic and rolling flat with the pool noodle about 50 times, covering the entire surface.

* Once all the colors are added, it's time to felt! Wrap everything carefully in plastic, keeping out wrinkles, and roll around a pool noodle, then roll a towel around the whole thing (you can also roll the towel up with the bowl for more felting friction; just be sure it will wrap all around the outside at the end).

Ready to felt!

* Felt by wrapping completely in plastic and a towel and then wrapping the whole mess around a pool noodle and rolling about 100 times in each direction. i.e. roll 100 times, unwrap, turn, wrap and roll, repeat until it has been rolled in every direction- NSEW, and then flipped and rolled all four directions again.

* Check the felting progress as you go. When the felt is pulling on the resist, it's time to remove it. Cut a small hole (about 1 inch in diameter) out of the top center. Rub around the hole to expand and strengthen it, then carefully pull (manhandle) the resist out.

* Continue felting until everything is getting nice and firm. This can be done by wrapping and rolling for a bit longer. A piece of thin plastic (like a bag) can be placed inside just to ensure that things don't stick together where they should not. Cut carefully through the upper layer and remove the mini resists before finishing and fulling.

* Begin shaping into a bowl shape by felting with one hand on the inside. Finish the felting process in your usual manner. This was rinsed in cold water, then really hot water, then thrown down in the sink about 100 times, then rinsed in cold water with vinegar to remove all the soap, then really hot water, then cold again until it felt really well felted.

A different bowl
* Put a plastic bag inside and stuff hard with newspaper, shaping the bowl as you go. Make a few ridges and clamp with clothespins or binder clips. Take this whole conglomeration and steam over boiling water for an hour or so.

* Leave the newspaper inside and clothespins on while the bowl begins to dry. Once it is mostly dry (overnight or longer), remove everything and let it finish the drying process.

Whew! That's a lot of instructions! Hope I didn't miss anything essential.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Lampwork Glass Agates From Murrini Ends

Here's the cut murrini rod on a clear background

So, time for more experiments in glass! I am beginning to learn to make murrini. Who know what fun that would be? As my studio space slowly fills up with little plastic ziplocks full of glass slices, my mind is slowly working on new ideas. Two things can happen with my murrini pulls- they can be too thin and they can be wonky (or possibly just plain ugly). What to do with all those rod bits that you don't want to cut up into murrini?

Rather than pitch them, I thought I'd try using them with a technique I figured out a number of years ago. Simply? Lay them across the hot bead, stick them on in the flame, cut them, push them on to the bead surface and melt flush.
Some surprising results ensue. Mostly they seem to end up looking a bit like agates. Or turtle shells. So far, it seems the designs show up best on a simple clear background.

Time for pictures!

I started with some murrini end pulls- pieces that are 4mm or more in diameter will work well.
I made a long bead, slightly wider in the center than at the ends, then rolled one end in silver foil and everything in raku frit, just for a bit of 'background noise'.
A piece of murrini rod was laid diagonally from end to end. Don't stretch it out, just lay it on.

Bead and rod were melted together just until the rod was attached; then the attached rod piece was melted slowly and snipped with scissors all along the length. Heat a small section and make a few cuts, then heat another section, all the way up the bead.

There are a couple of different ways to approach the cut bits- either push them onto the bead as you go or cut all the way up, then remelt and push. I use a small knife, place it into the cut and then pivot the knife sideways to open up the center of the murrini rod. It will not look like a regular murrini, but will have an interesting design.

 Another line from a different murrini end was added parallel to the first line and treated in the same way. I added a line of clear between the cut lines, a few dots of aqua here and there, melted everything together and called it done.

My feeling about this bead is that it turned out a wee bit murky. I've made a few leaves on a simple clear background, and the design shows up much more vividly on that background. It makes a pretty cool turtle shell, I think, though next time I will try it on a clear or color encased in clear as the background.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


My murrini is on the purple, Kaz's on the blue and orange
Oh my! I've gone on a murrini making binge. I bought a few from Kaz Baildon in England, but couldn't wait for them to arrive, so I got a rod nipper and began making a few of my own. Still working on making them turn out as I have envisioned them- right now, some come out quite nice and others, well, not so much. But, because I'm making them, I must also learn to use them. I have resisted this whole silly thing for more than 15 years! Now? Well, I may be getting just a wee bit addicted....

If you are not a bead maker or glass afficianado, you may wonder what the heck a murrini is. For your edification, I must, as usual, point you to the wiki about such things. One builds a tube shaped blob of glass using a lot of different colors, pulls it into a rod and then cuts thin bits off of it. These cross section pieces have sweet designs in them that get placed onto the hot bead. They can look like just about anything- the classic use is in a millefiori (thousand flowers) design, where piles of flowery-looking murrini are placed all over a piece. But a murrini doesn't have to look like a flower- it can be a fish, a heart, a star, your initials- anything, really!

So now on to the small touch of something I think I've learned. First, in the purple fish pictured- the murrini at the bottom is encased, while the ones at the top of the bead are placed on the surface and melted in. The encased murrini was an extremely thin slice which I simply laid on my marver and picked up with the hot bead. Because it was so thin, there was no worry about it shocking and breaking. And it was easy to melt smooth and encase. A nice use of those bits that are simply too thin to pick up, and it really shows off the design nicely.

Another cool thing is the 'barnacle effect' as seen on the tree bead. As best I can remember, I did not melt these murrini all the way down, but got them about 1/2 way melted in and then  put a blob of clear on top. Not exactly what I was going for- it looks a barnacle or eye-leafed tree, but it's a fairly fun idea that could be used effectively somewhere, I'm sure! Those wee murrini next to the tree are the ones I used on it, and my favorite pull so far- modeled after peacock tail eyes.

If you are interested in learning the art of murrini making, I can highly recommend the October 2013 issue of the Soda Lime Times. I read through all the different instructions there and ended up sort of combining things together. John Rizzi did a particularly nice job with his tut! The magazine also has murrini recipes from a whole bunch of different people. I have not attempted to follow any of those, but it was great to see see what folks do!

I use just regular tweezers ('cause that's what I've got!), but I have heard that it is helpful to have either tungsten tipped tweezers (so they won't stick) or some pipe and tube or universal cylinder tweezers from Micro-Mark. I have not tried these, but folks were pretty excited about them on facebook.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My daughter's blog- 'The Red Queen's Garden' on wordpress

My wee gal is all grown up and has begun a blog of her own filled with thoughts on life, creativity and the world around us as seen by Tashi. Baring her soul to the world as she sets off on a new kind of creative journey with short and thoughtful observations, she'd love for folks to give it a read and make comments. So far they are short blips of thought, but who knows where they may lead???

Here is 'The Red Queen's Garden' blog with the subtitle: Show me a man whose eyes see in the dark, and I'll show you a blind man who fears it.

Written by the lovely little one (now all grown up) in the photograph.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Testing 1,2... Support Spindle Bowls, Diz or Worry Stone Beads????

   Well, I had an idea. But I don't know if it was a good idea, or one of those ones I should have ignored. Ha, too late, I already got involved. But I have questions and plenty of them! All of these are also beads, so they can be worn or hung when not in use.

   Are either of these styles good for a support spindle bowl? I showed them to some spinning friends and they seemed to like the smaller, deeper indentation that's in the wee fishie~ it's about 3/8 in. in diameter; the tip of my pinkie fits it perfectly. That's a little easier for me to do, so that would be a good thing. The larger indentations tend to have concentric circle impressions inside them- chill marks from the cool tool touching the warm glass. Does that make them a 'no' for support spindles? I have seen a couple of folks making similar pieces; I wonder what they're using to indent the glass!

   Also, they all need to be on a no skid surface. And they are on the small side- about 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches. The spindles spin on the fish particularly nicely, but when you actually attempt to use them as support spindle bowls, will they stay in place or not? Boy do I need a tester!

   Does it make sense to add a wee diz to them, or is the diz bit too smooth to work? The diz holes are about 1/4 inch- is that a sensible size?

   If nothing else, they are great to use as worry stones!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Reflections: the Diary of Glass Beadmaker

For the last few months, I have been hard at work writing and putting together a book. It's called 'Reflections: the Diary of a Glass Beadmaker' and is available on etsy here. 
I've added a subtitle: 'tutorials, tips and information for beginning and intermediate lampwork glass beadmakers' because it is really full of short (but complete) tutorials and loads of other stuff. There are nine tutorials included, from making a basic disk or hollow bead to encased silver fish and raked and twirled beads. There are also tips on making matched pairs, basic sculptural bead instruction and how to repair damaged beads among many other things. Kind of a view inside the beadmaking portion of my brain!

      What a surprise, and what a surprisingly large amount of work was involved! My original idea was to take a bunch of blog posts about making beads that I'd written over the years and put them all in one place. I think of it as kind of a 7 year diary of ideas about glass beadmaking. But that's not exactly what happened....

     First, I saw that I would need to re-make a lot of beads so that there would be much better photos. And then I realized that there was a lot of other information floating around in my head, notebooks and computer that folks might find useful. So the book kept growing. It ended up clocking in at about 78 pages. And I learned plenty about using 'Word' while I was at it.

Next, I sent it out to a few friends to look through and see what they thought. And to see if I made any terrible errors! Here a couple of quick assessments from them:

" I enjoyed reading it, thought it had quite a few good tips, with your personality and wit apparent."

"Got your book downloaded and speed-read through it. The following is my impression: 1) It is a very nice compilation of useful details and information; 2) You covered a lot of basics, like cleaning the rods, frit making, shards blowing, etc., etc. It would be a great text book for persons "starting" on the hobby."

" For anyone just starting out it is a wealth of information. A good resource for where to find answers to questions they might have. While at the same time it is a wonderful reference for anyone who has been torching for a while and needs a refresher for something they haven't done in a long time. I also like that you put in info for folks who have been just hobbyists and want to get a little deeper into the craft for teaching and doing shows."

"The last part of the book (almost 15 pages) is about managing schedules, set up for bead shows as well as some of your thoughts on designing of a bead, which is more than any beginner would be able to appreciate or be interested in."
" Your book certainly covers a wide range of the topics that all bead instructors should address."
"This book is AMAZING - you make me want to get back into beadmaking!!"
So, here's an outtake from the introduction explaining a little about the book.

      Because much of this information comes from my blog, it is available publicly. Blog publication dates are included here for general interest, but things have been reorganized in a more sensible order. There are many updates, lots of new photos and information; things like how to make masked patterns and twirly bits on the side of a bead. Also included is a short treatise on inspiration called ‘Keep Your Mojo Workin’ as well as notes for giving demonstrations and classes for those ready to move out of their studios and into the public arena.

      This is not a beginner’s instruction book for making beads, but rather a book for advanced beginners and mid-range lampworkers. It includes ‘beyond basics’ ideas and mini tuts to teach technique rather than how to make a specific bead. There is no list of colors used; you will choose those yourself. This is meant as, hopefully, helpful information to help bring your beads to a new level. Have trouble with sculptural beads? There are general tips as well as instructions and photo tutorials to make butterflies, fish, leaves and hollow beads.

      It all begins with a few basics, which you may already know- an intro to lampwork, a glossary and primer to help you find the things you need to start your own beadmaking journey. Tips on making a first bead,  good for both students and teachers, cleaning your glass, making shards and frit are included in the ‘basics’. Then there are some more difficult techniques, such as rescuing beads that have broken bits and using rubino oro.

      In the ‘Rambling Thought on Beads, Art and Business’ section near the end, there is general information about things as varied as bead wear-ability, the theory behind deliberate mistakes and button technology. In the standard blog style, there are outside links for further reading on many of these subjects. Most of these missives are simply things I think I’ve learned during the many years of my beadmaking journey. A little window into my thought patterns will be opened to you.