Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Time Out!

Arrgggh I can't believe how long it has been since I last blogged.

Well I have good cause not to have blogged TBH - have gone back to uni and am now fully engrossed in a degree in Hot Glass. So I have been blowing glass instead of sitting at my torch and melting it into lovely delicate pretty beads.

But at the weekends I have been a secret squirrel making commissions for a few of my friends. Now I love my friends dearly but oh how I hate commissions! Why? Simply because you have to work to a defined end result and if you find that you can't actually produce what you first agreed upon then I feel a little awkward going back to them and saying that i'm really sorry but I just can't do it - I do always go back with an alternative that I know is manageable so all is not lost. But all the same I feel like I'm almost letting my friends down. My last "inability to produce" was due to a compatibility of glass issue (the chosen colour simply objected to being doused in bicarb of soda and then encased). But yes I find commissions slightly restrictive I guess.  Also there are the ones where you think "great I have some artistic freedom" and you think it will be easier.... but oh no don't be fooled. It is just as hard as I simply worry if they will like what I am producing to fulfill their brief.

And yes I get pinickity and fussy about the product and that is because I am having to produce to what I perceive to be their consumer expectations whereas when people buy my sets then they are buying the quality that I believe is good enough to sell. Does that make sense? Don't get me wrong - don't stop sending me commissions.... its just I find them a challenge - a good challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

Friday, 3 September 2010

By Fluke or By Design?

So you have a rod of glass in your hand, some frit and stringers and other bits and bobs littering your work bench and you have absolutely no idea what you are going to produce.... it's not that you haven't got inspiration - it is everywhere - it is more that you just haven't quite got a plan as to what you actually expect from your finished bead. So what do you do?

Well I know what I do and if in doubt then make a bead (normally with a transparent coloured core) and then roll it in copious amounts of frit. I will then just use whatever I have lying around and just fiddle - a twistie swirl here, a poked dot there, and then when I have run out of space then I will usually then encase it in clear for good measure! Then it goes into the fibre blanket to cool and I start again with perhaps a different colour and the same frit and varying decorations and repeat. I will perhaps make 10-12 small decorated beads with what could loosely be described as a common theme - be it picking up on a particular colour, or just using the same frit or style of decoration throughout the beads. I then normally stop and have a brew whilst waiting for my beads to cool enough for me to "admire" my hotch-potch handiwork and see what I've got.

Once they have cooled sufficiently (I normally allow about 20 mins per bead before I take them out of the fibre blanket) then I can see how the colours have cooled and worked together. Usually after this I will be able to identify what is, or isn't, going to work as a set. I like to find that the sets that emerge from my testing are almost happy accidents. I find that if I sit down with a very firm idea of what I want to produce I will usually get frustrated and become disappointed with what I am producing but if I just trial and error the odds and sods then I will normally just develop a design that I am happy with. It is all too easy to look across the web and see what others have done and think - hmmmm yes I can do that - but the last thing I want to do is finding myself replicating someone elses work - what I want to do is be inspired by colour combinations and compositions. I love colour and have mountains of choice in my studio and I am having to consciously drag myself away from using my "old faithfuls". However much I love them I really do not just want to constantly churn out pink, grey and purple spotty beads!

So what have I discovered during my trials and errors? I love the watery qualities of transparent glass. I love the endless possibilities of using frit. I must work harder on testing the qualities of silver and reactive glasses - I know that my Hot Head will produce the goods and goddammit I will find out how!

And finally I really really must use up all the glassy goodies that I have before I invest in more..... and pigs might fly!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

It's been a while....

So I have been moving house and having my summer holidays and so my glassy exploits have taken a backseat over recent months. But after a serious amount of procrastinating I have finally been at the torch and have started making glassy globes again. And today I have finally managed to list some new beads on Etsy. Wow it has been a few months since I had managed that - I had nearly forgotten how to do it! But I am also back off on the road again next week for another fortnight - so this year seems to be passing oh so quickly without a string of beads in sight!!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A new format for my blogging

Up till now I have had my blog as part of my website but then people would only find it if they came across my website and subscribed from there. I felt that in the interests of self promotion it was probably better to shift onto a widely available format and then just embed that into my site. So my previous archives are still available through my website but all future postings will be through here!

So if you have just found me then i hope that you will enjoy my ramblings and musings of my molten glass adventure - and if you are a converted follower then welcome back!


Friday, 4 June 2010

We're all going on a summer holiday....

Just a quick note to my trusty followers.... I am about o go on my hols for a few weeks, then I am moving house 2 weeks later!

As a result my blog may not be updated for a little while - please don’t lose faith as I will be back (sometime in July I reckon)!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Bloomin' Marvellous

Spring has finally and most definitely sprung during May (and has seemingly jumped straight to summer based on this past weekend) and all the flowers are now out in the garden so what better to thing to practice this week than florals.

I have been mulling over the pros and cons of encased florals over raised florals and plumped for making the raised ones this week. I found what looked to be a really good tutorial at but inevitably it was going to cost money and as I am moving house in July then I am saving the pennies. So I looked around a bit more on the web and found that the author had put a very condensed version of the tutorial on something called “AngryMandrel”. I have trimmed it out a bit and put it into a readable and more user-friendly format and have been working off that to make my raised floral beads and is available through my website on the links page. I am dead chuffed with my efforts as the author said it took her a year of working on them to be happy with them - perhaps I am just not that much of a perfectionist! I found it really useful as all my previous attempts had become encased florals as my blobs basically sank before I could shape the petals!

And a good trick that I discovered was that between each “press” of the petals if I dipped my tungsten pick (my tool of choice for shaping the petals) into the water before moving on to the next petal then it would cool the pick enough to prevent the next petal sticking to it and possibly ruining the bead.

So now I am going to go outside and water my plants so that they look as lush of the ones I have made this afternoon!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Shardly Worth It?

I have seen from time to time people using glass shards as decoration on their beads - the silver glasses have a spectacular effect when used in this way - and I have been thinking about trying to make my own. Surely it can’t be that hard.....

.....and it wasn’t!

However, it was quite fiddly and time consuming (perhaps I’m not doing it right) for just a few shards. I guess there are several ways of making them but I’m going to tell you what I did..... now there’s a surprise!

I figured that the glass needs to be as fine as you can get it so I got some hollow mandrels which have little blow holes in them. I made a bead over the area with the holes; ensuring that glass didn’t actually cover the holes so I made two discs and then joined them together like a conventional hollow bead. I then heated it up evenly and then blew gently down the mandrels. I found very quickly that if you blow too hard then it has a hubba-bubba bubblegum type effect as the bubble pops and you have to start from scratch. Once I’d got my “bubble” and consequently some quite fine glass I tried two methods to get the shards.

No.1. I plunged it into cold water and allowed it to shatter on its own. This gave me a result halfway between every grade of frit and some fine shards. Sadly it also contained quite a lot of granules of bead release. I have spent two days now dissolving and sifting out this bead release but now have some interesting fritty shards to use.

No.2. I removed the coolish bead from the mandrel and cleaned out the bead release, placed it between some clean tissue paper and crushed it gently (or not quite so for some of my less refined efforts). I didn’t want the shards too small so I broke it down slowly and bit by bit. These shards were thus clear of bead release and as they are naturally convex in shape they placed quite easily over beads. I didn’t bother putting the initial blown bead in vermiculite or fibre blanket because the glass is fine and therefore less likely to shatter and even if it did you are about to take a hammer to it anyway!

I then just made some round beads and placed shards over the beads in a random fashion - some large, some small - to create ragged and irregular bits of decoration on my nice bright blue beads. It was pretty easy once I figured it out and eventually made enough shards from 4 blown beads to provide probably 50% coverage of 10 round beads (approx 14mm). So it is fairly time consuming to do but you could make the shards out of any of the glasses that you have. I used aurae simply because I have magpie tendencies (ooooooohhhh shiiiiiiinnnney) but I guess you could experiment with frits and all sorts to make multi layers of shard decoration. If you can’t be bothered to make the shards, or you haven’t really found a need to invest in some hollow mandrels then there are suppliers who sell ready made shards - but where’s the fun in that!?!

Monday, 3 May 2010

A Pressing Matter

Since purchasing a cube press at Flame Off from Maria Louisa at Beadpress I have also taken delivery of my Bavarian Beads lentil trio and also my CG Beadrollers from Frit en Glass (technically they are marvers but they kind of nearly count as presses). My mum, JaySpangles, has also taken delivery of her Bavarian Beads cube trio and 3D heart trio presses and I have been playing with those today. I remember when i first started beading I assured myself that I wouldn’t be venturing into the word of presses and marvers as I was content with focusing on the more “donut” shaped beads with good dimples but I have realised recently that presses open up so many more design options for you. A marble/spherical spotty bead is aesthetically poles apart from a donut in the same colour combination the design!

The hearts are quite “big” at the moment on FH forum and I am really chuffed that the press was so easy to use - I was a bit worried that I may have to make an uneven shaped blob of glass to ensure that it would press right but a fairly simple round seems to be absolutely fine. The heart press is certainly easier to use than attempting a freehand heart - although if you like a challenge it is a good skill to learn. My first hearts were made from the tutorial in Passing the Flame and are quite successful in their own right but using a press is the way to go if you want to create them in any numbers and also in a uniform and usable size!

I have really liked my Bavarian Bead presses so far - they are really quite sleek and light compared to zoozi presses and they are really comfortable and uncomplicated to use. I have a zoozi slim tab trio that I love but it is really weighty by comparison to the BB presses. My Beadpress cube trio is also good to use and produces great cubes - the great thing about cubes is that you can always sharpen the edges on your normal marvers once it has come out of the press.

I have found it quite a leap into the dark buying presses online - you can never really be sure that the press you are buying is going to produce exactly the shape of beads that you like because there is no substitute from actually handling the actual end results. I know that sounds quite a silly thing to say because the shape of a lentil or a tab is exactly that isn’t it? Well some are slim and sleek, some are dense and chunky, some have “pointy” edges and some may have rounded edges and everybody’s preferences are slightly different - I personally like the slim and sleek profiles but I know that others favour the thicker chubbier ones. The great thing about presses is that if you get one and decide its not quite right for you then there is always a market for them on FH and you may lose a fiver or tenner on what you originally paid for them but it’s never much of a loss - or you could go for a swap!

At the mo I have a BB lentil trio, Bead Press cube trio, Zoozi marble duo and Zoozi slim tab trio and after today am resisting the temptation to invest in a BB 3D heart press - but they are gorgeous.... and don’t get me started on the CG bead rollers (I’ll save that for the next blog). So if you are contemplating investing £40 something pounds into a press and are not sure which you want then just take the plunge because if you find you don’t like it then there is always the opportunity to trade it on on FH so you don’t stand to lose very much at all. People are also sometimes willing to loan out their presses in case you want to try them before you buy a similar one. Quite often you see a post on the forum asking if anyone is willing to loan out a press before they take the quite expensive plunge.

Remember that presses are lampworkers’ friends and if at first you don’t succeed with one then press on, persevere and all will be right in the end (oooh I make myself chuckle sometimes)!

Friday, 23 April 2010

When the Frit Hits the Fan

I have been consistently buying frits for months now - just building up a little stash so that I can make lovely luscious beads with pretty colours and swirls and swathes of spots. But then I actually started using it and kept producing oodles of beads with pretty coloured spots and blobs on them and suddenly I began to wonder why I had bothered to buy all these sachets of potential wonderment when I just seem to produce the same old “frit”?

I am attracted to frit and what can be done with it - and I see other folk using it in there beads but I am floored when it comes to doing anything other than roling my bead around in it and now, courtesy of last week’s exercise, encasing it. I shouldn’t complain that much about my lack of fritty inspiration and success as I posted the pictured fritted beads on Etsy last night and they sold an hour later so there must be a market for what I produce its just that I’m not too enamoured by my efforts. I have been digging around on t’internet (Yorkshire for “the internet”) and have found some yummy pages of fritted beads mainly from america where they put a lot of silver on the base bead and they must mix their own frits as some of them are fab. I am reluctant to just use the frits as a background for other beads, such as florals, as I am convinced there is a direction for frit in its own right in my bead making. I just haven’t found it yet.

In the meantime I shall keep going with my nice pretty plain fritted encased beads and giving them pretty names until I find the magic template for my fritty exploits.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Just "Encase" You're Gettng frustrated

I have been making some lovely little beads recently and have often thought “ooh how lovely that would look if it were encased” and then I have immediately thought “ but if I do it then I will inevitably ruin it”.

Why? (I can hear you all asking in hushed and quizzical tones)

Because I am truly naff at encasing. I have tried every way I have found and have had the odd success but more through chance than by design. I have tried spiralling, splurging, splodging, dolloping and every other type of you can imagine. As a general rule I end up with a gigantic and lumpy bead whose core has blodged and bled and gone wonky and so it ends up in the dreaded fugly jar! So quite simply I haven’t really been encasing any of my nice beads and they just seem to lack a certain zing as a result. So this week I have set myself a challenge - well more of a promise to myself really; the challenge is to encase every bead I make (well 9/10 isn’t too bad a success rate).

I have found myself a good tutorial that I like and know works (because my mum used it and she is now great at lovely thin encasing) and have started off by making a series of plain beads, progressing onto gravity beads using frit so if I smudge it then it won’t matter too much, and also the colours won’t bleed too much into the clear if I over heat it. Also I have found with the gravity beads you can make them quite small and round as base beads so you aren’t left with a wonky leviathon of an end result!

I have been heating up a little nub of glass at the end of the rod and then “splodging” it onto the cool bead and then squishing it on to the bead with the graphite marver whilst it is still hot. Once I have enough clear on the bead then I warm up the outer skin and manipulate the thicker bits of glass around the edges of the bead with a chisel ended red hot poker (from Carl Martin). I then work slowly around the bead squishing the glass with the marver and spreading it evenly and uniformly over the bead. I have found that by trying to nudge a little bit of glass at a time means that the central core never gets too hot and thus doesn’t distort too much. Finally I have then heated the entire bead as much as I dare to ensure a round smooth finish.

To date I am really quite chuffed with my progress and have produced some really nice shiny beads as a result. I am really glad that I decided to commit to this challenge otherwise I could have just pottered along making pretty beads that would never reach their full potential because I was too scared of ruining them with a bad encasing job.

I am now proud to announce that I can confidently encase my beads and nothing can stop me now. I will point out that I chose the shortest week that I could with the nicest ending to it possible (Flame Off) just in case it all went horribly wrong and I needed some serious cheering up at the end of the week!!

The tutorial that I used as a basis for my encasing is by Charmaine Jackson (Encircle Designs) and is available via Etsy

Friday, 2 April 2010

Going Up in the World

So its been rather quiet for the pst few weeks in terms of me making beadies and trying anything new. But it is now easter and I have made the trek up north to visit my parents and now I have the chance to work in my mother’s studio where she has a Nortel Minor and Oxycon setup. I normally work on a hothead on bulk propane; I didn’t realise just quite how noisy it actually was until this week!!

So the Minor has this supremely quiet flame that is overly adjustable - and I just keep twiddling with it and tweaking it. I am finding that my beads very quickly disintegrate into molten blobs of uncontrollable goo without a moment’s notice and as yet I have not achieved anything much worthwhile (although I did got to Tuffnells yesterday to cure my hangover and picked up lots of nice new glass - its like a sweetie shop but far more expensive)! Mum asked me this morning if I thought I would upgrade my HH after playing in her studio. I said that I thought I might if I ever just happened to have a spare £400 lying around but actually at the mo I am quite happy with my HH. Yes the peace and quiet of the Minor was audio bliss - and I could listen to the radio and have a conversation at the same time as beading, but perhaps I actually enjoy the slower and bushier flame of my HH. Now I know people often get frustrated with the lack of heat, and subsequent “speed”, of making large beads and I can quite understand that.... but the idea of forking out a considerable amount more for a torch that just is too fast for how I am currently working is just not cost effective at this time.

Less for getting anything much out of Magic, Multi and a few of the DH colours there actually isn’t much that I can’t do on the HH that can be done on the Minor and suchlike (its just it might be safer and you would get less burns from trying to create a reducing flame). And there is some stunning work being produced by us simple HH users so why should I change? I am quite content (ish), but then Flame Off is just around the corner and who knows what I will feel when I see all those lovely torches lined up just waiting to be tried, tested and taken home! Unitl then I will just have to turn the volume up on the ipod under the ear muffs!

Friday, 19 March 2010

We're in Business

So last week I bit the bullet and set up an Etsy shop and linked it to my website. I have been very keenly watching the traffic on my site and have been very excited as I’ve reached lots of mini milestones with visitors and questions and really little things like that (I kind of make the milestones up as I go along therefore I am never disappointed). But today I have hit the first biggest milestone that I actually had set without just “happening” upon it...... I have had my first sale of my beadies!!!!!!!


How excited am I? That’ll be VERY! Oh wow - people actually want to buy my beads and stuff that I make. What a buzz and a headrush! Can you tell that I’m excited? I want to run around and scream at the top of my voice that I am successful [sic]!

So the hard work and the prattling around trying to get my sites up and running has paid off. It is surprisingly time consuming setting up each item for sale - taking the photos, tweaking the pics so that they are straight and in focus etc, and the writing up and making sure the details are correct. It is like ebay but perhaps with more pride because I’m not selling stuff I don’t need/want anymore; rather I’m selling lots of things that I would love to keep (magpie syndrome) but know I must try and “dispose” of them in the prettiest way possible.

It took a lot of courage to start selling my beads and jewellery. I had a lot of worries and self doubt especially if I sell something that the buyer isn’t satisfied with. To that end I have almost put disclaimers on my beads (but not quite) but then I have realised that the people who are buying my beads are likely to be people who make their own jewellery and are buying handmade beads exactly because they don’t want the precision machine made chinese beads that flood the general market. I am going to have to keep reminding myself of this and have faith in my creative abilities. So to all you newbies who are wavering on the edge of to sell or not to sell..... just do it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Etch-a-Sketch....Shake to Erase

So everyone says that encasing beads makes them gloriously shiny and gets the colours to “pop” and gives them I have been breaking myself learning to encase. Now I can kinda encase I want to have a go at etching to make them look really matt and dull. So I bought some etch-all the other week when I was at the Essex bead fair and have just had a go.

When I first read about etching the was a lot of talk about having to neutralise the etched beads with bicarb of soda, and various other procedures which all sounded quite dangerous and, to be honest, a bit too faffy to bother with. But this etch-all is just so easy to use as you just rinse the solution off the beads in running water once you have etched them enough (although you should still neutralise with with a solution of water and bicarb of soda to prevent residual acid burns). And also you can then return the used etching solution back into the pot for re-use (good job as it isn’t particularly cheap).

The instructions said that you only need to leave the beads in for a minute but I have found that doesn’t take much of the shine off thus I leave mine in the etching fluid for about 10 minutes which gives them a good matt finish. They don’t seem to take on the etched appearance until they are rinsed, neutralised and dried. Etching is very effective on transparent - the pic has CIM and Reichenbach opaques, transparent and opals in wrapped in SIS. And I also stir them in the pot using bamboo BBQ skewers continuously - if you just let them sit there then they come out with shiny bottoms where they have sat - and nobody wants a shiny bottom!

P.S. it does also take the shine of the inside of the little ceramic ramekin I use for my etching so I dread to think what it would do to a plastic or metal container - be warned!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Silver - It's Tarnished me

I have been trying for weeks to get my Double Helix glass to do anything other than turn out colours akin to baby poo. I got a mixed bundle of DH from Tuffnell Glass in January and was so excited that I would be able to produce these magic striking and reducing colours. I did my research and began to work my rather expensive rods of glass eagerly awaiting mystic pinks and swirling purples and metallic sheen galore on my little hot head.... and I got baby poo rather consistently.

Then 2 months on I discovered Triton and Aurae and my faith was restored in my abilities to reduce glass. I have burnt my fingers covering holes in the torch to get a reducing flame (yes half of you will say “tut tut” for not using tinfoil and the other half will say it because it is a little risky messing blocking essential oxygen intake in to the flame). I have found that Triton, Aurae and Pysche work really well on a HH and silvered reduction effects can be achieved by bringing the bead into the blue cone, without actually having to cover the holes - but a better effect can be achieved by actually reducing. It has been great fun to have a play with - if not a little frustrating and expensive at times).

I’ve done a bit more research and am going to have a more constructive and realistic attempt at the striking glasses such as Gaia and Luna; and if I’m feeling brave then I will have a go at the kiln strikers. I have to say thanks to all of the good advice and lessons learnt from the guys at Frit Happens - it would have been an unmitigated disaster without such essential intelligence!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Spring is in the Air

Bicarbonate of Soda is amazing isn’t it....

Need I say more?

Friday, 26 February 2010

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

Oh Wow!

I made these little beauties today. It is the first time for incorporating metal into my beads and for this I used brass mesh (60 count). When the brass gets hot it releases a gas (from the zinc content of the brass) and these bubbles can be caught in the covering layer of glass. If they break the surface of the outer glass then they burst and the glass goes scummy and pitted and scorched. I addition the highly toxic fumes escape and these can actually kill you!

But don’t they look fab? There are plenty ways of creating bubbles in your glass beads and I am going to try the baking soda technique next time. I have also seen people put brass wire into their beads which looks nice when its not superheated - but if it were to be superheated then you might get a very fine string of bubbles.... or one large blobby bubble. Might be worth a try!

You can get mesh in varying different sizes and the bigger the mesh the bigger and more spaced-out the bubbles. These beads had relatively tight knit mesh and thus the bubbles are tiny and compact. You can also use copper mesh to give a good effect but it doesn’t produce bubbles but you can get glass to bulge through the holes, as they use in chaos beads.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Bead on a Wire

Its always a challenge trying to find some original way of presenting your beads (or bead). I saw this in a magazine and thought I would give it a go. The only wire work I have ever done in the past is some viking knitting (courtesy of Dizzy Di) and doing basic links for my jewellery but I thought this looked kind of cool. Sadly mine doesn’t quite match the standard of that shown in the magazine. But I am rightly impressed with my newbie efforts! When I can perfect it it will be a great way of showcasing a focal bead in a pendant.

Apart from it hurting your fingers a bit (I’m probably doing it wrong) and chipping my french manicure badly, it is really good fun and my mind is spinning with what I can achieve in the future with these techniques. I’m going to have to look for a workshop that I can go to to develop some basic skills. I saw a lovely wirework bail the other week when I was at Kate Sullivan’s (Sublime Beads) and then saw this article and once again there is another skill I want in my toolbag.

Does it ever end?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Flash Bang Wallop ooooh What a Picture....

You know when you make a really lovely bead and you want to put a picture up on your favourite forum, or on your website even, but you just cant capture the depth or the colour or the sparkle? Well I suffer from this routinely so last night I built a light box and have been playing with the light and various camera settings to get good pics of my beads and jewellery. It has made such a difference to the standard of pictures - I am so over the moon and for the sake of a fiver and and hour it is very much worth the effort.

I followed the instructions at this link:

Monday, 22 February 2010

Creative Space

So for the past few months I have been out in France and been working in the basement of my parent’s house. It is in the Alps and were it not for the fact I was in the basement the views from my torch would have been lovely - but mostly it was snow drifts! I have now come back to the UK (and reality) and set up in my house and ..... Ta Daaaahh! This is my new “studio”. Its a bit chilly in there - but nothing that a 1000 degree torch and a kiln can’t warm up over a beadie session! It does have a window that opens too so I shouldn’t be overcome by fumes from Silver glass.

I work on a Hothead (HH) torch using bulk propane supply and most of my glass is Effetra and CIM. I do have a little bit of Double Helix and the fancy stuff ,but I find it quite difficult to get the spectacular colours from the HH due to the nature of the flame, but not much. Over the coming weeks I am going to have a go with fine silver wire and also some various wire meshes - well if you decide to follow me then I guess you will see first hand!

In fact, just by writing this little entry I am now inspired to go and have a little play with some molten glass. Ax