Anatomy and Physiology of the Lampwork Bead

Don't let the title scare you off. This has to be way more interesting than that cat I had to dissect in college...right?
On every lampworker's table should be a cup/can/pot/non meltable container of some sort filled with water. This is basic safety (along with a fire extinguisher close by!) but also serves a practical purpose. Sometimes beads turn out so ugly, even my mother would hate them and there is no saving such ugliness. Why bother annealing the monstrosity? Dunk it into the water and listen to the satisfying sizzle and pop and all proof that I ever made an ugly bead shatter to pieces.
Over the weekend I decided to clean the cup of the 50 or so mandrels that had collected in there over the course of several months. Most were empty of beads. However, this bead clung onto the mandrel for dear life:
Just the day before, I had a long conversation about fat mandrels and bead release on my facebook page with beady friends and non beady friends. The non beady friends were confused as to what a fat mandrel was...a band? Another name to call someone driving like a jerk?

The conversation was still fresh in my mind when I removed this bead from the mandrel (the steel rod the hot molton glass is wound around and leaves a hole. See below:

This particular bead wasn't a rejected fugly. It was actually a bead I was making for a friend to give to a friend and had almost completed when I let it get a little too cold. When I reintroduced it to the flame, all hell broke loose and it cracked in half. Sometimes you can save those. This one couldn't because the end popped off and took half the bead release.
Bead release is the white stuff you see on the steel mandrel. It is what keeps the bead from being permanently fused to the mandrel and a nice ornament for your plants. It is also the white stuff you see in what was supposed to be the hole in the cracked bead.

Lampwork beads generally crack for two reasons. The first is thermal cracking. It cools too quickly and the molecules are unable to align properly and it causes stress for the glass. The bead usually cracks in half. This is why it's important for you to buy beads that have been annealed (cooled very slowly in a controlled manner) in a kiln. If a bead has been properly annealed, it should bounce on tile or concrete, but not crack apart. It WILL have little chips of glass break off where it landed, because it IS glass after all...

The 2nd reason beads crack is because the glass in incompatible with another glass used. This results in spider web breaks where the incompatible glass meets. This is why lampworkers and fusers talk about using COE compatible tested glass.

So, back to the bead. I thought it might be interesting to all of you to see the middle. It's clear. Why? There are 3 main reasons lampworkers use clear in the middle and encase it with other colors. It just so happens I used clear as the core for all 3 of those reasons.

#1-the lampworker plans on using a premium (meaning expensive) color on the exterior. Making a clear core is a way to stretch the premium glass to last longer and cost less. The opaque pale yellow on this bead is the premium color. I don't want to waste any of it in the core where you won't even see it.

#2-the lampworker wants to use dense transparent colors and needs to lighten it up with a clear core. This bead I used a violet, intense blue and turquoise (not shown). If I had just done those colors solid, it would have looked black...or at least close to black

#3-opaque colors get very runny and soupy when super heated. Using a transparent core prevents the opaque color from dripping onto the table. The technique used in this bead to create the surface color requires a super hot flame.

Here was the second try bead where I made sure to pay better attention to keeping it nice and toasty.

Hope this was at least a little better than dissection a cat...


There are few things in the art world that get people's panties all twisted in a wad as much as the dreaded 4 letter "C" word. Yes, THAT naughty 4 letter swear word: COPY.
One of the cool things about the internet is even if you live in the middle of nowhere with a population of 5 and the other 4 people think you are insane, you can get online and find a community of like minded people to chat with, bounce ideas off of, problem solve with and show what projects you are currently working on. This is all great until someone thinks you have a splendid idea and decides to replicate that idea. Then, to add insult to injury, they decide to sell it. You do not want to be THAT person who copies and gets everyone mad.
I try to find my inspiration OUTSIDE of the lampworking world. I got to play around on the torch a bit this weekend and made two focals that were the direct result of inspiration from someone else, yet bear very little resemblance to the original.
First inspiration is this shank button by Lisa Peters, who is an incredibly talented ceramic artist.
After asking if she minded if I "copied" it in glass (she gave her permission), I came up with this:
Yeah, it pretty much doesn't look anything like the original. I had an idea when I sat down to make it, but it evolved as I worked. Her button was definitely the starting point of this bead. The other side of my bead has a turquoise colored murrini that you can see here: The Gorgons Focal Bead
The second inspiration source is a photo Carol Dean Sharpe took of the first sign of spring...a single dandelion coming up (in her part of the the snow melting is the only sign I have personally witnessed)
Here's the bead I made from the photo. It doesn't really look much like it, but the photo was the starting point for this bead.
You can see more photos here: Dandelions in Spring
Some favorite sources of inspiration are coffee table books, National Geographic magazine, catalogs, fabric, scrapbook papers and pantone color charts. What are some of the things that inspire you?

Random Sunday

I am having a random kind of day and wanted to share random things over the last week or so. Some of these may have been a post by themselves. But let's face it. I stink at blogging every day due to time constraints. So, you lucky people get it all. at. once. Commentary will be short because I have things I want to get done before the big game the Colts are going to win tonight.
This sign was created by my 8 year old daughter because she noticed blue card stock in the pile while we made Valentines the other day and it is impossible for her to leave craft supplies alone. Oh, and because if she wasn't rooting for the Colts, we would probably have to disown her.
Arts United in Fort Wayne kicked off a fund drive by having a community mosaic. Meaning, people in the community could sign up for a 3'x3' wall space and create a piece of art with the theme of Arts Unite Us. It was free to participate and the kids did this for Art class. My son...he is very technical. He complained about having to do this because he claims he is not creative or artsy. This resulted in a pep talk about how map making is very artistic, his idea for Ft. Wayne having a subway is a way to unite the community due to ease of transportation, and probably the mayor (and possibly even the city council) would see it on display. He was on board after that.
Here they are at the Opening in front of their creations:
Jennifer Ledford of Tocadora Leather is a friend I met online and featured on Open Studio Friday. We did a trade. I sent her some beads, she made a cuff with one of my beads. Isn't it super awesome?
I've been working on knitting a pouch for my Kindle this week. I got the idea when my friend Carol Dean Sharpe mentioned she was sewing a pouch for hers. I loved the idea, but don't sew. I pretty much winged the design. It's mostly done now except for weaving in the the 5000 ends. Ugh! I am going to then felt it and sew a Lisa Peters button to it-assuming it shrinks to the right size because I didn't actually do a test swatch. If my engineer brother is reading this, he's probably about to have a fit. haha!
I finally added the button eyes to my the frog bag I knitted for my daughter. I started this bag December 30, and finished knitting it about two weeks ago. This is the most difficult thing I've ever knitted. Actually, it's the ONLY difficult thing I've ever knitted.
One day, I got a package from UPS I wasn't expecting, and this was in it! WhooHOOO! I won GLITTER!!!!
We got sproutage! We should be eating corn, peas, and sunflower seeds in no time! haha! See the puzzle pieces peeking out? They are growing these on top of the puzzle we've been working on. Guess that's put on hold for a while.
Making valentines for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We got the addresses from the Any Soldier website. See the large pink heart? It is actually a scratch off made with 2 parts acrylic paint to 1 part liquid dish soap on the non sticky side of clear contact paper. Cool, right? You can find the project here.
Nothing says "let's go ride our scooters" like blowing snow!
I got a new lens Friday night that my sister in law recommended. I took a bunch of random photos trying to figure it out. I liked this one of my favorite child (yes, I have favorites. Whichever one lets me sleep the latest, talks back the least, and chews up less stuff. Oscar wins.)
Yesterday my husband got called in at 4am and didn't get home until 9pm. I got to shovel the driveway. Actually, I don't even care if our driveway gets shoveled because I drive a Suburban. A little bit of snow doesn't bother me! But I think it might be frowned upon by everyone else. So, while I shoveled about 3 tons of snow, all the male neighbors were out with their snowblowers. Hey! Thanks for the help, guys!
Here was the bright spot in all that. My daughter wrote "MOM" with her feet. I took a break to get the camera and take a photo.
I took some other snow day photos, and when I turned around, she was working on "I love you" awww!
Here's my least favorite child. She's as sweet as can be, but dumber than a box of rocks. Plus she's a kleptomaniac-she steals all our dirty clothes. The good news is we can find them easily because she piles them in the great room. The bad news is it's the great room, and the first room you see when you walk into our house. I took some pictures of her looking really pretty and regal. But this one is my favorite from yesterday:
The frog prince is buried!
While my son was skiing with the boys scouts yesterday in Michigan, the girl child and I went to my favorite place in Fort Wayne. DeBrand. Best chocolate in the entire world. Really. I should know because I eat a lot of it ;o)
The family wants to get me the "I Have OCD" shirt. OCD stands for Obsessive Chocolate Desire.
The look I get about 500 times a day. This time I got it because I took a camera out of my bag. bwahahaha!
This is why we had a mother daughter trip to DeBrand-vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate fudge, raspberry sauce, dark chocolate bowl and pure bliss:
Hope you all have a great week!

Birds and Nests and Eggs, Oh My!

Fact: birds and bird nests are all the rage for crafters and being used on just about 50% of online banners. I don't know why the obsession with birds and nests, but I admit to liking the trend too.I have seen a few bird nest pendants made out of wire while perusing Etsy and thought about trying a nest myself. I mean, how hard can it be, right? In December, Stampington posted a how to project similar to designs I've seen on Etsy. The one thing I loved about the project on Stampington is the two birds flying in opposite directions away from the nest.The big difference between other designs and my own is I used lampwork beads instead of pearls most everyone else uses. In fact, I sat down to torch specifically to create beads for this design. That pretty much never happens. Usually I make whatever beads I feel like making and leave it up to other designers or my own whims for how to use the beads.I did change a few other minor things, but the design is basically the same with a few personal touches and preferences. I am keeping this one for myself. But I see all kinds of lampwork "eggs" in my future (when it isn't so cold outside!).

HOT Video

No, I'm not spamming with suggestive blog posts. I came across this super awesome video called Glass is Liquid. It really is a visual delight and the music is really good too.

Glass Is Liquid. from Mike Call on Vimeo.

I'm just jealous I don't look this hot while making beads ;o)

Skeletons in the Studio-Special Edition Open Studio Friday

I am completely obsessed with organization. I will share the secret of why. See this photo? This is what the jewelry making area of my workspace looked like a couple weeks ago when I decided to clean it. (by the way, my "use the muse" piece was in the shot if you notice the weird white blurry spot. I wanted to make sure no one could see the muse.)Here's the routine. I organize everying. I make sure everything is labeled. Then I work on a piece or two or ten. Then I add a kitchen towel or paper towel on top of the previous mess and work on top of that. This may continue several layers deep until I can't find a single thing I need to complete a piece. Or it continues until I completely avoid the jewelry making area altogether. See the pile on the far left of the photo? The rectifier I use for electroforming is buried under that mess. Hmmm...wonder why I haven't electroformed anything?Here's a photo inside the cabinet directly above the rectifier with all my electroforming supplies on the top shelf, ready to be used. By the way, I am 5'2". I can't even reach the electroforming supply shelf. No wonder I don't bother to dig the rectifier out.Here's the cabinet directly underneath the jewely workspace with all my non lampwork beads and findings boxes. Nicely stacked and labled. I should have taken a before shot. This was after I put them away. This cabinet was completely empty, boxes open and scattered all over the floor, other counter tops, chair, etc. The thing to keep in mind is this photo was taken after I started making more jewelry again. It should have a few more boxes in there...
Another reason I was compelled to clean was my 8 year old daughter wanted to play with polymer clay while I was working in the studio. That would require me taking a shovel to the area where I play with PMC. Yes, I never clean up after myself. I am worse than a kid. I didn't take a before photo of that either.
However, I did take a photo of a couple (no, not all of them...that would just be plain embarrasing!) of the drawers where I store my pmc toys. I don't actually do scrapbooking, but they have some of the most awesome toys ever! I have a serious rubber stamp addiction, but don't actually use them with ink...except on VERY special occasions.
A 2nd drawer overflowing with texture sheets, clear rubber stamps, cutters, and so many goodies I don't even know what I have! Most of these stamps and cutters were laying out on the counter when I promised my daughter I would clear a spot for her. That was an ALL DAY project...
Here is my jewelry workspace today. I just took this photo and am still on the first layer in spite of making a few things since cleaning up.
I was tumbling some finished pieces in our family room yesterday. My husband asks me why the tumbler isn't in my studio. was in the same area as my former PMC area which has been taken over by our daughter's polymer clay. Here is her workspace. Apparently the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Look what a Customer made with my beads!

I have the honor of showing off what a customer made with this set of beads:
Look at these fun and funky earrings created by Jaclyn using 2 of the 6 beads from the set:
Jaclyn also has a blog called Snap, Crackle, Pop in which she told an entertaining tale of how these earrings finally came to be. You really must read it. I totally sympathize with the trials and tribulations of jewelry design and getting it "right"

March of Dimes Fundraiser

Last week was the Fort Wayne March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction. My husband was the chairman for the event this year and I was so nervous for him! However, there was no need to be nervous. It was a huge success! The location was perfect and decorated beautifully, the food delicious, the silent auction packages the best I've ever seen (I've been to a few of these now), the auctioneer hilarious and so much more.The highlight of the entire thing for me was getting to have some of my family members there with me while James was off running around being a good host. Another highlight was Tanya Hand, the director of the March of Dimes Indiana Chapter and her husband Jon, the former Indianapolis Colts player sitting at our table. Both were incredibly wonderful people and Jon so patient with making the trip to all 11 of these events in Indiana with Tanya. That must get a bit tiresome. However, he was gracious and pleasant about it. I told him it was good for his wife to have him as arm candy for these things ;o)Speaking of the silent auction packages, I offered two. The first was a bracelet and earrings set. I chose purple because that is the color for the March of Dimes (notice the one bead with murrini applied? LOVE that stuff! It's Lady Slipper by Lori and Kim if you want some for yourself). I got two more orders for these after the silent auction closed and they lost. My step mom bid on these a couple times and I don't think anyone wanted to bid against her. LOL!
The second auction package I donated was this necklace designed specifically for the event. I am offering this same necklace on a made to order basis with a $5 donation going to the March of Dimes for every one of these necklaces I sell. I am also offering free worldwide shipping.
After making the original, I decided I wanted to also offer a simpler version for those that don't want the extra beads or just prefer a more sleek, modern look. So I am offering a hammered and a non hammered variation in my etsy shop. These are also on a made to order basis, $5 donation to the March of Dimes, and free shipping. These would make excellent Christmas gifts too! I will even throw in free gift wrapping. Your shopping and wrapping would be finished in a couple quick clicks and you would be helping the March of Dimes.


I have an addiction. Ok, yes, I know you know I am addicted to glass. That one is obvious. However, this addiction is new. I am not admitting this as part of some 12 step program because it's an addiction I am not ready to let go of just quite yet. The addictions is murrini. Not martini, but MURRINI. I am not going to go into a big long explanation of that it is, but will tell you it's glass, created with different colors of glass being layered together into a cane and then cut into usable pieces. These pieces are then used to decorate other glass beads! Because of this new addiction, I have been buying lots of murrini in just about every color combo I can get my hands on. Theoretically, I could make it myself. However, my time at the torch is limited. murrini are time intensive, and there are others that make and sell fun color combos that I am more than happy to buy from. A couple of the sellers I have personally purchased from are Lori and Kim and Feng Frit Factory. Both have fast shipping and gorgeous selections. One thing to keep in mind is half of the Feng Frit Factory duo lives in the Netherlands. The murrini she creates ships directly from there. However, the portion of the order from the Netherlands arrived more quickly than I thought it would. One of the other issues of collecting lots of different colors of murrini is organization and storage. I am obsessed with organization. I think mostly because I am so unorganized myself and don't like it. Here is what I came up with for the murrini: Using my 40% off coupon at Michael's I purchased this bead organizer. And look at that! I have room to expand! I LOVE it when I have extra space to fill! Because I am so anal retentive about stuff, I also peeled the labels off the baggies the murrini came in and attached them to the jar where they were relocated. Some labels did not peel off very well, so I will need to make labels for those jars. This will help me with reordering in the future.
For those of you who do not work with glass, you may not realize that the type of glass I work with is called "soft glass" and it shocks more easily than borosilicate (aka pyrex). See the photo below for proof with all the bits and pieces of glass on my bench in front of my torch from shocking. The worst is when a tiny piece shocks off and lands on the arm, or down the shirt....
The murrini likes to shock, even with gentle heat introduction (hold it far out in the coolest part of the flame, wave it in and out of the flame). So I solved this problem by placing a candle warmer next to my torch. I plug it in and turn it on when I start ramping up the kiln for the day. I haven't had a single murrini shock since using this candle warmer. Perhaps I should start using it for all my glass rods!
The bead shown at the top of this post was created using murrini and completely melting it flat. This next one the murrini were melted in, but left slightly raised, then a blob of clear added on top to magnify. A very cool effect! Both beads can be found in my etsy shop.

Look what a customer made with my beads!

Kristen Latimer makes GORGEOUS jewelry utilizing lampwork in her designs. You may remember when her studio and work were featured on Open Studio Friday. I really appreciate Kristen for buying her lampwork beads from artisans rather than from mega craft sellers that sell cheap, poorly made import lampwork.
Kristen bought this focal from me a couple months ago and I have been waiting very (im)patiently to see what she does with it. A couple days ago my (im)patience paid off when she unveiled this beauty! She really made that focal look awesome. She might list it in her etsy shop, so keep an eye out and while you're there, check out what other jewels she has available for personal adornment or gift giving.
Also, if you are on Facebook, I highly recommend you become a fan of her page because you will get to see Kristen's designs there before anywhere else and she sometimes has contests just for her fans. In fact, I won the pendant below from her last summer. I meant to show it off here, and totally forgot. I know...I totally dropped the ball on that one! It is so fun to wear, I just love it!
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