For a few years now I’ve been in search of the perfect, plump, heart press tool. I haven’t found it. So, I finally sat down to figure out just how to make one and I have to say, I think I like it much better than it might be from a press. There is something about a bead shaped naturally in the flame that has a sensuality to it. Curves and, for lack of a better term, juiciness. Juicy-ness? You can feel the life in it.
But anyway, this may already be out there somewhere but here’s what I came up with. (If you like this tutorial, be sure to subscribe, maybe even receive updates directly to your email, so you don’t miss a thing).
1. Of course, lay down an initial footprint of how big you will want your heart to be when finished. It may end up being a bit bigger, but not any smaller than this footprint. For this heart the hole will be running top to bottom.
2. Next, build up a cone shaped mass of glass on top of the footprint.
3. Press flat with mashers or between two marvers. Make sure to leave at least one mandrel-thickness worth of glass above and below the mandrel to help avoid thermal cracking. (cracking that happens when the glass is thin and cools faster than the rest of the bead).
4. Use a razor or other sharp knife tool to press in the start of your bead cleavage. Start at the top of the mandrel and press any glass not attached to the mandrel around the hole downward. Be gentle and careful not to break your bead release. Do this to both sides.
5. Begin to build up glass for the ‘humps’ of the heart. It is better to do this in steps until you get the desired plumpness. If you try to add all of the glass at once it will be hard to manage while melting it.
6. Re-establish your crease/cleavage lines with your razor tool being careful to not let the rest of your heart sag.
7. Now the tricky but exciting part. The part where you learn how to use heat and gravity! They don’t call me Bead Nerd for nothing…it really is exciting for me. Start to melt the bands of glass that you just added. I have found that it is best to turn your mandrel quickly back and forth while this glass melts in. Do not spin so quickly that centrifical force changes the shape of your heart. If you only turn one way, your heart will start to sag and droop rather than staying in a flat plane. Although, that could be a cool effect to experiment with.
At the same time you are doing this, every once in a while tilt your mandrel (while still turning back and forth) with the ‘humps’ in the downward position, as shown in the picture, so that they can travel a little up the mandrel and start to round out.
Re-establish your crease marks when necessary. This is important in order to achieve the plump effect of the heart. Don’t worry about the narrow end of the heart. Chances are it will start to get pointy and start to draw towards the top, we’ll fix that later.
8. You can stop here and go to step 10 to finish the bottom or you can add more glass as you did in step 5. This is where the plumping will really start to happen.
9. Repeat the steps of melting in the glass while turning the mandrel back and forth and reinforcing the crease lines. Tilt your mandrel with the bottom of the heart pointing up as necessary to allow the ‘humps’ to travel downward until nice and rounded.
10. When you get the humps to where you’d like them it is time to fix the other end. Add a band of glass to the end of the heart.
11. With the side of a flat marver, roll the end of the bead along it to narrow it to your liking. You can exaggerate this length to make a more stylized heart or work it at more of an angle for a more traditional heart. There are many variations you can explore.
12. Proceed to decorate as you choose but be careful not to distort the shape of your heart. It will be hard to re-shape without disrupting your embellishment. Here is a picture where I made a purple heart with enamels . You can see the finished shape.
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