As an admitted bead-a-holic, i am obsessed with beads. Big beads, small beads, beads of all shapes and colors. I buy my beads from talented artists across the country and around the world. And yet, to be honest, I don’t know much about how these beads are made.
I asked one of my favorite lampwork artists to clue me in. Heather Behrendt started playing with fire, literally, her senior year of high school. In her words, ” I was taking an art workshop glass, mostly stained glass and fusing, but there was a demonstration of a lampwork fish bead done on a little hothead torch. At the time all I could think was, “there’s no way I’m getting near that torch!”
I kept with the less hazardous hobbies for a while, until randomly I decided to invest in a 100 dollar hot head kit in my first apartment. I was hooked, but soon realized that this was not safe to do in the spare bedroom of my apartment. I put my torch away for two years until I bought my first house.
Now I have a much nicer (and safer!) setup in my basement, where I happily make beads and goodies.”
So what’s the scoop Heather? How does all that stuff in your basement studio work together to become a bead? And, she was nice enough to explain (without using big technical terms) so that even I could understand….
“Each bead starts with a rod of glass and a mandrel covered in bead release. The glass is heated in the torch and slowly wound around the mandrel. The bead is carefully balanced and shaped before decorations are added. When the bead is done being created it goes into a kiln to be annealed at 960 degrees before being slowly ramped down to room temperature. This process is very important as it makes the bead much more durable. Without the annealing process a bead could crack easily.
After annealing, the bead gets taken off the mandrel and cleaned of any bead release. It’s ready to be used in jewelry designs
These handmade beads take anywhere from 5 minutes to several hours based on the size and complexity of the design. Spacers are fairly quick and can be made several on a mandrel. I’ve made focal beads that take over an hour and even then I sometime use a lapidary machine after the bead is made.”
To see more of these amazing beads, check out:
And if you would like to learn more about the process feel free to check out her site and facebook