Last week my granddaughter and I attended the John C. Campbell Folk School’s Intergenerational week for the third time. The first time, we took a course in wood carving, the second year was enameling and this year was creating lamp-work beads. Unfortunately, all my pictures of the class and the process are on my granddaughter’s phone and she is in a WiFi and cell free zone for another week. You’ll have to be satisfied with a few pictures of the finished products for this blog.
The process of making beads requires concentration and coordination. A few seconds distraction can produce a lump of molten glass on the bench rather than a bead on the stainless steel stick (mandrel). Unlike the torch fire enameling I did last year with a hand-held torch, the smaller torch used in lampwork is fastened to the bench and both hands are used to make the bead. That’s where the coordination comes in. One hand holds the glass rod that is being melted to form the bead. This hand is moving constantly to make a blob or “gather” of melting glass at the end of the rod as well as moving the glass in and out of the flame to keep it at the desired temperature.
The other hand holds the mandrel, where the bead will be formed. Once a gather is the correct size, it is carefully attached to the mandrel. From then on the mandrel is constantly rotated to keep the bead even . This is just for a plain bead! Adding colors, dots, lines and other embellishments requires careful judgement and movement. If a bead is heated or cooled too quickly it will crack or even explode. Good depth perception is also useful to keep everything just where you want it in relation to the flame as bead and the rod need to be cooled slightly at times and heated at others.
My granddaughter and the rest of the class were able to coordinate all the movements well by the second day. I had trouble keeping the right hand rocking back and forth while the left hand was rolling clockwise. My beads tended to become oval as the left hand rocked instead of rolled.
Glass rods come in a myriad of colors, both opaque and transparent. It was great fun playing with the colors and especially the combination of clear and solid. Some of my favorite designs were on beads that broke in the annealing process. I’d love to have the luxury of just spending hours by myself honing the techniques and really developing a fluency in the art. In reality, I have paper to marble, boxes to design and books to make. Maybe some time …
In the meantime, here at home things were growing and growing. Here are some new pictures of my garden and herb patch.
Herbs are a bit overgrown and need edging, but they are lush due to all our rain. Tomatoes are slowly ripening – haven’t had enough sun, but the cherry tomatoes are beginning to come on. Delicious! I’m not doing pickles this year so there aren’t many cucumbers, just enough to eat.
I’ve ordered a batch of paper and paints for some special orders and am planning to get back on track with marbling next week! If it happens, I’ll be blogging my progress.