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!