A Peek Inside My Studio

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog so I thought I’d invite you into my studio.  I live on a hill and my studio is located under the main part of the house, with two large windows that provide ample light. It’s only on the darkest of days that I need any lights on.  I had to work inside a dark cold garage at a previous house so this is a luxury.

My studio is divided into two sections: my fused glass area and my lampworking area. With my fusing area, I have two work benches where I cut glass and lay it out into patterns straight onto a moveable kiln shelf.

There’s storage under each bench, as well as the kiln table.  I also have a rack behind one of the benches which holds my molds and lots of jars of frit (crushed glass) in different colours and sizes. It doesn’t matter how much storage I have, I still seem to need more.

My benches tend towards very messy. Occasionally I’ll clean up my benches, taking off all the scrap glass etc, which isn’t easy or enjoyable.  Despite my efforts, the benches don’t stay clean for long.  Someone once told me that a messy work area is a sign of a messy mind.  I disagree.  I think a messy bench is a sign of a creative mind.  Often it is the scraps of glass laying around that trigger ideas for new projects.

Here’s my kiln.  It sits in the corner on a metal table. I’ve just finished a slumping cycle and the pieces are ready to be taken out of the kiln to be cleaned.  I actually slumped two items at the same time.  There is the large bowl that you can see clearly.  Below it, there’s a small square plate.  The largest item I can make is 40cm square and I can load two kiln shelves in there when I’m fusing pieces (the step you do before slumping where all the glass is melting into one piece).

Whilst there are many larger kilns available, this one suits my needs.  I did have to get an electrician to install a special powerpoint for the kiln.  I’m thankful that I don’t need three phase power.  The bottom shelf of my kiln actually pulls out a fair bit so I can load the kiln quite easily without anything getting in the way. This is the first kiln I bought and I’ve had it for over 10 years.  I did buy myself another kiln last year but that one is specifically for lampworking.

The other part of my studio is my lampworking area where I make glass beads.  Everything I need to work with is within arms length.  I deliberately placed the bench away from direct sunlight as sometimes when light streams in a window, I can’t see the flame.  If I can’t see the flame, then I don’t know where to work.  Where I hold the glass and mandrel (metal rod on which the bead is made) in the flame is very important. Depending on what type of detail I’m adding to a bead will determine the position within the flame. If I hold the bead directly in the centre of the flame when I’m adding fine detail, the glass will melt too quickly and ruin the design.

You can see my blue lampworking kiln in the foreground of the above photo with mandrels poking out of the kiln.  There are two little flaps on this type of kiln.  When I finish making a bead, the hot bead goes straight into the kiln.  The flap is quickly lifted and I then place the hot bead into the hot kiln to anneal (strengthen) it.

I love my studio and have spent many hours there.

Melbourne Bead Expo Handmade Bead Competition 2016

Every year, I participate as an exhibitor in the BSV’s Melbourne Bead Expo. In previous years, the Bead Expo has been held in Moorabbin.  This year, it was held at Box Hill Tafe.  I really liked the new venue as it had wonderful natural light and felt light and airy.  Unfortunately the Tafe is restructuring early next year and the space we used is being turned into offices.  The hunt is on for a new venue.


As a member of the Bead Society, I’m entitled to enter their beading competitions. For the first time, I decided to enter their handmade competition where you can make handmade beads in any medium (being a lampworker, of course my medium of choice was glass). This year the theme for a single bead was ‘Oceans’ and the theme for a set of five beads was ‘Astronomy’. Many of the entries in other categories featured exquisite work using seed beads. I really admire the dedication and creativity the seed beaders put into their work.

Winners for all the competition categories are announced on the Friday. As the names were called, I was pleasantly surprised to hear my own. I had won the ‘Ocean’ bead category! All of my entry pieces sold over the course of the expo. I also received some wonderful compliments from visitors to the expo.

Naturally I left making my lampwork beads to the last minute so was in a hurry to post my entries to the expo organisers.  I never expected to do so well so I only took quick snapshots that aren’t very good but you can still get the idea of what the beads looked like from the photos. I’ll means sure to take better photos next time.

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I can’t wait until next year. I wonder what the themes will be?

Melbourne Bead Expo 2015

lampwork beads

The Melbourne Bead Expo is over for another year.  I spent three days of showcasing my lampwork beads, dichroic pendants and cabochons.  The expo was held in Moorabbin at the Kingston Town Hall.  I’ve been part of the Bead Expo for a number of years now and always look forward to catching up with other exhibitors (many of whom are now friends), beaders that have previously bought my beads and new faces.  Normally I’m located in front of the stage but this year I was in the middle of the room.  Quite a few people did comment that I was in a different spot – it’s nice that people remember me and my work.

Whilst numbers through the door seemed to be down this year, it was still a great show.  I think numbers may have been down as the workshops (which are usually held at another location in the building) were held off-site.  Normally workshop participants pop into the expo either before or after their workshops.  That just wasn’t possible this year.
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Many people commented on my rice and why I used the rice as part of my display.  It’s really quite simple.  The rice is white and it makes the colours of my lampwork beads stand out more.  The other reason is that I have two beautiful labradors at home.  Whilst they aren’t allowed near my beads, their fur gets into everything.  Fur on a black background is very hard to remove.  So I just pop some rice into the display tray and that problem is solved.  One young girl thought it was cooked rice and wondered if it would go mouldy!  When I get home from an expo, the rice just gets poured into a container and stored away for the next event.

The Bead Expo is run by volunteers and they do a great job.  Each year they also run beading competitions and the entries are all on display.  You can find more information about bead society happenings here.

The big news for the Bead Expo is that in 2016 it will be held at Box Hill Tafe – Elgar Rd campus.  Dates for next year are November 4 to 6.  In the words of Arnie – I’ll be back…..

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Borneo International Bead Conference 2015

Between October 9th to 11th, I was lucky enough to attend the Borneo International Bead Conference.  Held at the Old Courthouse in Kuching, this is the fourth time the conference has been held. front of old courthouse

My friend Lara Le Reveur is an extremely talented contemporary clay artist and was invited to the conference as a keynote speaker to talk about polymer clay and various techniques to use when working with it.  Lara also ran two workshops.  Lara kindly invited me along to assist in looking after her trade table and generously let me bring some of my lampwork glass beads along.  We had a very simple table set up as it’s hard to bring many display props over in a suitcase.

shared trade table1

Each morning began with presentations by various speakers from all over the world.  Workshops were held in the afternoon.  Trade tables were set up in the quadrangle of the courthouse.  It was extremely humid and my ankles swelled up horribly.  Our tables were sheltered by large veranda’s which kept the sun at bay and sheltered us from the downpours of rain that happened during the afternoons.

quadrangle of courthouse

As the trade tables were so large, we also shared with Margaret Mueller who is the president of the Melbourne branch of the Bead Society of Victoria.  Margaret also facilitated a workshop on using recycled objects in jewellery.

Part of being there for me was educating the local people about lampwork beads.  Many had not heard of the term before and were quite fascinated with my beads.  I explained numerous times how the beads were made.  I just wish I’d taken some books or photos to show how the lampwork beads are made.  I was even asked by several people if I was running a workshop.  Unfortunately the equipment for making lampwork beads would have been very difficult to take with me and I doubt they could have been sourced locally.

Polymer clay beads were also a new concept to many participants.  Lara’s workshops were very popular.  I’m sure some of the workshop participants will continue on with making polymer clay beads. The tools and equipment for polymer clay are a little easier to source.

One of the other workshops that ran was a stringing workshop.  I sold one lampwork bead to the lovely girl below (sorry but I can’t remember your name). She discovered that another focal bead was required so she came back and bought another bead in similar colour scheme.  The necklace was proudly worn to our gala dinner and looked gorgeous.

simple stringing using my lampwork beads

Below is a photo shoot that took place before our gala dinner on Saturday evening.  I’m the shorter one.  We had to wear a necklace made out of plastic beads for the photo.

borneo banner

During the conference, we were very well looked after.  There was morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.  Each meal had several different dishes on offer and you helped yourself.  As Lara was a speaker, we also went to a welcome dinner which was held at the Sarawak Club and a farewell dinner which was held at a seafood restaurant.  The food was delicious and extremely fresh.

After the conference and before flying home, I managed a visit to an orangutan sanctuary and a long house so I did get a glimpse of the countryside.  Never having been to Asia before, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely people and the great food.  I could do without the swollen ankles though.  If given the chance, I would definitely do a return visit and see a bit more of what nature has to offer.

The Bead Show 2015

It’s almost that time of year again where Melbourne has a mid year bead show. The Bead Show is a relatively new show only starting out last year and expertly run by Jo and Prue who have many years of experience running this type of event. This year, it’s being held from Friday June 19 to Sunday June 21 at Box Hill Town Hall.

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I exhibited my lampwork beads last year and met quite a few new beading enthusiasts. A big banner advertising The Bead Show had been set up outside the Box Hill Town Hall prior to the event and this attracted many people that had never been to a bead show before. They found lots of stalls full of beads and findings, in fact most things you need to make jewellery. Some workshops were offered in various techniques too.

Over the last few months, I’ve been busy in my studio melting glass and making lampwork beads. Making the beads is the fun part as I really enjoy working with molten glass to create a miniature work of art. They have to be cleaned before being sold though and this is quite tedious, and like housework, one of those jobs I put off until absolutely necessary.

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As well as focal beads, I will have lots of bowls of smaller beads available. I find that people like to fossick through the bowls to find treasures.

The Bead Show is also a chance to catch up with previous customers, friends and other stall holders. Spending time chatting about beads is always enjoyable. Even better when they share the creations they have made using my beads.