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)!