I have seen it happen over and over again.
Someone casually walks by, and takes a look. As they are still moving forward, they look at me, and say~nice... wait, you made those beads?
The whole bead?
How do you do that?
I am past the point where the fact that I get to stick things into an open flame and watch them get all melty stops me in my tracks. Now it's more of an overwhelming desire to get to the torch. To see what I can make happen in concert with the glass. What will it teach me today?
It's like a dance with the glass leading, and me following along. It whispers~ it calls.
I work on Bobcat torch that runs on oxygen and propane.
I use soft glass primarily from Italy, Germany and America. For the style of beads I most often make, much of the work is done before I ever start the actual bead. I often spend one morning of my week just making parts to use in my work.
I make thin glass "stringers" which are sized from threads to about 3mm, from all the colors of glass I have at my disposal. Tree trunks and flowers, stones and lizards all need custom coloring made to complete the designs. These are my tiny "paintbrushes".Once I have all the components ready, I start to make a bead.
The base is built up on a metal rod called a mandrel which is coated to prevent the glass from sticking to it. Beads are actually built from the hole out!
Once I am satisfied with the shape, color and design of my base bead, I carefully work with my pre made stringers and "paint" my designs with tiny dots and swipes of molten glass.
As the designs are applied, the rest of the bead must be kept warm in the flame or it will crack, so there is a dance I do ~ applying molten glass, then rolling the bead back in the flame, then back to the painting. Never too hot, never too cool. Like anything practiced for a long time, for me it is second nature, but to most, it's akin to rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time.
When I am lucky, everything just clicks, and it is a very meditative focused event. There is nothing but me the fire and the glass.
When I am lucky...
Once I am satisfied with my bead, it goes into a digitally controlled kiln and it slowly cools down overnight. The bead is then removed from the mandrel and the bead release is cleaned out .
With the proper heating and cooling cycles a glass bead can last lifetimes.