Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ignition: My First Beads

Well, I've not participated in a blog hop before, but this sounded like too much fun to pass up! So here, I am participating in the Art Jewelry Elements Blog Hop - follow the link at the bottom of this post to see all the other great blogs!

Everyone, no matter what they make, had to start somewhere. And often it seems we don't get much beyond the start- frustration, lack of time, no matter the reason, I can't even remember all of the things I have started to learn and just never gotten anywhere with.

But lampwork beads- that's another story. Like so many others who have tried out this wonderful craft, it seemed from the start that I couldn't get enough. First I think it was the pure determination of trying to make a bead that was- well, sort of round. And then there were so many other shapes to try. I actually gave the kit to my daughter for Christmas when she was 16- about 13 years ago- but when she went off to college a little over a year later, it was mine, all mine! For some strange reason, they didn't allow torches in dorm rooms- who knew! I had a book, a torch, some tools, some glass and some time; add an empty nest to all those supplies and what else was I to do?!

Anyway, these are some of my early beads- I don't remember how long I had been making beads, but I know these were from my first year. The only reason I still have them is because I gave them to my mother when she was first falling into dementia. She used to worry them and restring them all the time. Now they have sentimental value. These beads have been well loved- covered with food, licked, worn- I like to think my mother understood that they were made by her wacky daughter even after she could no longer speak.

The mask is from a year or two later. They have progressed a lot since then, but this one has a little something that still makes it dear to me.

And today's beads? Well, I would be mortified if I made beads that were so wonky with jagged ends these days. Those babies generally get tossed into the nearest body of water for some later archaeological midden fun!
Here's a 'modern' mask and a pendant.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wing-y Earrings

 After the winglet I posted in my etsy shop the other day got such nice comments, I decided to try making a pair of mini winglets for earrings. But my mind is spinning with questions.
First- Should the hole be this size or should it be a lot bigger? In other words, should the hole be more a part of the design of the bead? The holes on these are much larger than on a regular bead, but I get the feeling that they could be even larger.
Second- How should these be bailed? Just a jump ring through the hole, or more like these leaf earrings? Doing them like the leaves leads me to the next question.
Third- Which way are earrings like this supposed to face? I've always bailed them so that they face the front- parallel to the front of the face. But I have seen earrings that face the side- perpendicular to the face. Which is correct?
Fourth- these are a little bit different in size. One is a bit wider. I'm passing them, but wonder what others think.

I'm open to ideas and suggestions about how to make these babies work!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Confessions of a Lampwork Bead Maker

This one has a wonky hole, but I couldn't bear to trash it!
At the torch today, while I had a mandrel with a hot bead on one end in my mouth, I got to wondering- what kind of bad things do we lampworkers do in the privacy of our studios? I know I do things that I would never want anyone to see me do (so I'm gonna tell you about them, right?). And just fyi- NONE of these things are recommended- I am NOT telling you to try any of this at home- or anywhere else for that matter.

Here's the first- and possibly the most dangerous- thing I do: As mentioned in the first paragraph, I will put a mandrel between my lips with a hot bead on the the other end when needed. And when is that? Well, when I forgot to cut a piece of silver in advance, or cut it to the wrong size. I make sure the bead is good and hot, though not drippy, so it will be okay out of the flame while I find and cut a piece of silver. That's usually the reason for that faux pas. And I try to remember to suck in a little bit so that I won't just drop it on the floor by mistake.

This Bead had a bit of 'Mouth Time' While I cut the silver
What else, you ask? If a bead is 3/4 of the way done and it detaches from the mandrel, moving about freely, do I trash it? Nope, not if I can help it (unless it is just plain ugly..). Making sure the mandrel is not pointing in such a way that the bead can fall down it and burn my hand, I continue to finish it off if possible. This may mean that something I intended to do has to be forgotten about, it may make for a weird bead hole that my poor reaming buddy has to fix for me, but sometimes it is so worth it!

Some of my other poor ideas? Straightening and finding the end of the silver wire I am adding to the bead with my lips ( I use my mouth like a third hand, it seems!). I always have to remind myself not to do this while the wire is still hot. After I twirl designs together- as in the bead at the right- I often blow on the point where the twirler attaches to the bead to cool it. My lips are about an inch from the bead at that point- one false move and --- Ouch!

Then there is the balancing act, where I have picked up a rod to add a new color and decide that the bead needs a little more help before that happens. Back goes the mandrel into my right hand while I continue to hold the new color in the same hand. I'm not even really sure how I manage to do this- it just kind of happens. Still not a particularly good idea!

Wearing flip-flops is another one of my poor ideas. Invariably a piece of glass flies off the end of a rod and gets trapped between my foot and the flop, which is rather alarming. At this point I shake my foot around, trying to dislodge the shoe so that the glass will fall away. Bad news, yet I keep doing it. Pavlov would be alarmed!

And while I'm on the subject of clothing, I laugh at the idea of  wearing long sleeves to protect my arms. Those little scars running up the insides of both my arms are a point of pride! But yes, I do wear protective glasses, though they seem to slide down my nose when I 'glisten' (hence a piece of hot glass managed to find its way into the corner of my eye).

For more bad ideas, check this out!