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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday I attended the annual Melbourne Bead Expo, which is run by The Bead Society of Victoria. I have been an exhibitor for quite a few years now. It’s an enjoyable event full of beads and findings.
Several past customers came and bought more beads and some even showed me the beautiful jewellery they had made with my beads. I met several new people and had some interesting discussions. I also caught up with some of my fellow lampworking buddies.
I’ve been experimenting with blowing glass shards. Basically you get a hollow stainless steel mandrel (or blowpipe) and build a layer of glass on the end of it and then blow through the pipe to expand the glass until you have a very thin bubble of glass. As with anything, there’s a few different techniques to blow a glass shard and it does take some practice. I built up layers of glass on the end of the mandrel, making sure that there are no holes in the glass otherwise the technique won’t work. Also, you attach the glass directly onto the mandrel, no need for bead release.