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Born in Fire

by Lyn Foley on November 3, 2014

I attended the International Quilt Festival in Houston this past weekend (WOW! What a show!). As usual, I wore my glass jewelry. Quite a few other shoppers stopped me to comment on my jewelry. (If you own one of my necklaces, I know you are familiar with this happening.) Anyway, I was asked, “What kind of stones are those?”

The questioners seem surprised to learn the jewelry was not of stone, but handmade glass beads, created in a torch flame.  When I first learned lampworking, I was amazed too – and even frightened of the flame. Now,  11 years later, the flame is my friend and familiar partner.  In tune with my process, I forget that many people don’t understand the process of lampworking.

Here’s a glimpse into the beginning steps of making lampworked beads.

I use glass rods that are made especially for lampworkers, and imported from Italy.
After my kiln (which is used to anneal or soak the completed beads) is up to 970 degrees by around 9:30,I begin to make beads. I turn on my torch and oxygen concentrator, grab a mandrel, a rod of glass, and start melting glass.

Some of my glass rods, waiting to be used to make beads. Mandrels prepared with bead release, waiting to be wound with molten glass for a bead. Melting glass to make a bead by winding the molten glass onto a mandrel. The torch has a graphite pad attached so I can use it to shape beads. The red knob allows me to adjust my flame.

These photos show only the beginning. I shape the glass, add colors, “draw” with skinny bits of glass called “stringers”, mash it, pull it, cut it, – and at the end of each workday end up with a large handful of beads in the kiln, soaking overnight at a controlled temperature to make them strong. Lots of steps go into the process, and I enjoy them all. Something about lampworking called (and still calls) to me like a siren. I love what I do, and bring that love to you, bead by bead – born in fire.

See me at my next show, Las Artistas Art and Fine Crafts, in El Paso, November 22-23.
Meanwhile, some beads I made Friday. I’ll use them in a necklace, and bring it to the show along with many more.
Questions? Need it now? Leave me a comment or e-mail me.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joan Nicholl November 3, 2014 at 4:59 pm

These beads are like little paintings. I’ll bet they would make beautiful pins. I always love your work and usually cannot resist adding something to my collection when I have the chance. (Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t get to see it more often. )

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