Over the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, Woodend holds its annual Winter Arts Festival. As part of the festival, The Gallery Mt Macedon (an arts collective of which I’m a member) has a pop up gallery in the Neighbourhood House at Woodend. Artists from the collective demonstrate their craft during the weekend. I always take my lampwork equipment along to demonstrate how glass beads are made.
People are fascinated by the flame. Some stand and watch for ages. I explain the basic process of making a bead whilst they watch. I’m asked lots of questions including:
Do you ever get burnt? – yes, I occasionally burn myself though usually not my fingers. Most burns happen when you introduce a rod of glass into the heat and it sometimes shatters, hurling bits of hot glass all over the place, including onto me
How long does it take to make a bead? – That really depends on how big and complicated the bead is. Small simple beads take minutes. Large sculptural beads take a lot longer, sometimes as long as an hour. I don’t really time how long a bead takes.
How hot is the flame? – I’m really not sure but would hazard a guess at around 800-900 degrees Celsius.
Are you melting plastic knitting needles? – No, I’m melting rods of glass. If I was melting plastic knitting needles, the smell would be horrendous
What are you making the beads on? – The beads are made on a mandrel which is a stainless steel welding rod. The end of it has been dipped in bead release. If I added the glass straight onto the mandrel where it hadn’t been dipped in bead release, it would stick and I wouldn’t be able to remove the bead. Once the bead is cold, I’ll remove it from the mandrel which creates the hole in the bead. The hole is then cleaned to remove residual bead release
Where do you get your glass from? – I primarily use two brands of glass. One of them is Effetre (sometimes called Moretti) and this glass is made in Murano. The other glass I use is called CIM (stands for Creation is Messy – just love that name) and it’s made in China. The two brands of glass offer different colour palettes.
Why are you putting the beads in a slow cooker? – Normally a hot bead goes into a hot kiln to anneal the bead (strengthen it) but as I don’t have a kiln where I’m demonstrating, I use a slow cooker filled with vermiculite to cool the bead down slowly. If I just left the hot bead on my bench, it would shatter due to thermal shock. Later, when I’m at home, I’ll put all the cold beads into a cold kiln and take them up to annealing temperature, this is also known as batch annealing.
And the list goes on. A lot of people have never heard of lampworking before so I’m doing my little bit in educating them. At the end of the weekend, I’m all talked out.
These are the beads I made during demonstrations. They have been annealed and the holes cleaned out and ready to find new homes.