New Glass Lampwork Beads. Get them While they’re Here!

This is what I’ve been working on lately.  These are the first round and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with myself.  Not impressed like these are perfect but impressed like they were experiments, first-try-and-they-don’t-look-like-cr@p, which most of my experiments do and they never see the light of the camera.

They were made with the Zoozii Cone Drop.  I don’t have the top part that makes the bicone but I probably should get it because it would make things go a lot faster!  I just love this shape.  There is something about it that speaks to me. The colors aren’t too shabby either.

These individuals are on sale on my site.  I know I’ve been remiss about selling on here lately and I do need to get back to it.  I have so many irons in the fire that I can’t choose which ones to focus on or what direction to go because they all hold my interest strongly.  From of course, a book, a new opportunity to make and sell more art pieces that barely include glass (can you believe it?), some jewelry shop and museum gift shop opportunities and travel.

But you see, then that thing called life comes in. And that takes precedence.  And all of those other things have to wait.  So, I guess I’m saying, get ’em while you can because I don’t know where I’m going to be pulled next week!

How to Make A Hollow Glass Bead on a Mandrel

When I’m messing around with new colors I love to make hollows. There is something soothing about them and you can see the opacity and transparency of a color and how the light plays through it. Hollows can be frustrating to make but once you get the hang of it you won’t be able to stop.

The following tutorial is a method I use when making larger hollow beads. If you have attempted that you might have realized that your bead release may want to give out since there is such little surface area contact in contrast with how much glass you are adding to your mandrel. The second benefit is that the beads are easier to clean and thirdly, they’re easier to string, if that’s what you’re doing with them.

It’s not a new technique but it’s pretty basic and straightforward. So, let’s get to it:

Step 1
Wind a footprint of glass as wide as you will want your bead to be. To keep down on weight (another joy of hollows) keep this footprint thin.

Step 2
Begin to build up disks on each end of the initial footprint. Make sure the disks are right on the edges of the footprint. This will help to create nice ends around the hole of your bead. Be sure, especially on bigger beads, to keep wafting the entire mass through your flame. The disks you’re working with are thin and cool quicker and are therefore more prone to cracking. This could take some practice.

Step 3
Continue adding on more bands of glass on top of your disks. Alternate between sides and make sure you’re keeping everything hot enough not to crack from cooling, but cool enough that they don’t start to droop in. As you build up your disks, start to work your bands of glass in towards the center. You can also alternate rod colors for different bands and different effects.

Step 4
As your disks start t build up, if you notice that they’re more straight up and down rather than going towards each other nicely you can gently use a tool to coax them that way. Graphite is best because there is no drag and it won’t distort the fragile molten disks. You can also use a flat marver. Whatever you use, be gentle since disks move more quickly than a molten mass of glass. You’ll see what I mean when you try it!

Step 5
Once your bands are close enough together that one band of glass from the rod can fill the gap, close up the hole. If there are areas that are too wide for the width of the rod to span it, continue going around your bead and come back and fill in that hole.

Step 6
Work until there are no holes or gaps. It will look lumpy and bumpy but that’s ok. Now is time to gently heat and let the bead come into round.

Step 7

If you find that your holes are becoming pointy, heat only the glass around the hole and slant your mandrel so that the glass moves towards it. Be careful in this last step since it will be easy for your glass to get out of control. It takes practice and patience…don’t try to work too fast.

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How to Make Odd Shaped Beads.

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At least, this is my version. It’s fun to layer different colors of transparent glass in odd, off balance ways and then press flat, letting the glass go where it may. This technique certainly works with opaque glass too, however, the layering of opaque colors will provide a more vivid, striated design, rather than a watery surface color.

First, lay down a light transparent color about 3/4″ long x 3/8″ diameter. I used clear because I like the stiffness of it and it also helps to water down subsequent colors.

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Next, wind or dot on on another transparent color, but don’t cover the whole surface of the clear. Use any method you’d like.

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Cover the rest of the bead with a complementary color that will blend in with the other colored transparent. You can overlap the first color or fill in between. Get creative! Melt the glass so the colors blend together.

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Next, take one of the transparent colors and place two large dots, one on the top and one at the bottom of the bead. If you don’t get enough on the first time, flatten the dot into a pad and add more of the same color on top of the first layer.

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Next, flatten both dots into pads in preparation for the next step.

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Place large dots of the other transparent color on top of the pads. I alternated colors is to keep the watery theme throughout the whole bead, not just the base portion.

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At this point, melt the entire bead until there are no sharp edges. Rounding up all corners and crevices, but not so much that it turns into a round bead.

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While it is hot enough to press, use parallel mashers or another method to press the glass flat.

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Be careful not to press too flat. The thinner the bead the less glass there is above and below the mandrel. The thinner the glass, the more chance that it could crack later. A general rule of thumb is to allow as much glass above the mandrel and below it, as the actual thickness of the mandrel.

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The surprise is what shape your beads end up being after you pressing. Experiment with different positions of the dots and the sizes as well as the different colors you layer as well as where you layer them. Soon you will be able to predict the resulting shape and you will learn a lot about what different colors of glass do together.

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