Lampwork is a craft that has existed for centuries, but as a home craft it has only become truly accessible in the last 20-30 years. I use Italian and American coloured glass rods which I melt with a propane/oxygen torch, shape and decorate before annealing them in a digitally controlled kiln for extra strength and durability.
Opening the kiln door in the morning to see if they have come out as I envisaged is one the highlights. The next best thing is when I wrap them in Sterling Silver to create jewellery that makes an elegant statement, a talking point.
How do you make the hole in the middle?
The beads are made on a steel rod which is coated in a clay substance to stop them sticking (usually). I then melt the glass and by turning the rod with one hand, can wrap the glass around to form a basic bead with the other hand.
How do you make the shapes?
A basic small round bead is made entirely by gravity, the constant turning of the rod, heating with the torch and then judging by eye when the shape is consistent.
The lentils, tabs and hearts are made using brass presses. The red hot glass is pressed between the two sides and shaped. It then has to be reheated to remove the wrinkles, decorated and adjusted until the shape is perfect. The tabs and hearts are by far the hardest to master.
How do you get the flowers in there?
When I started lampworking I wasn’t interested in the flowers, but it was a skill challenge I had to try and then became obsessed with conquering. Onto the basic round bead you add tiny dots of contrasting coloured glass. I generally make at least two layers. When those are all melted in, each set in turn is heated until molten and then poked with a steel prick until the dent draws the dots together. The whole bead is then encased in transparent glass which must be gently heated until gravity gradually brings it back to a round.
I hope you enjoy looking at my beads. If you would like to speak to me about creating a set of beads just for you I would be delighted to discuss a commission.