Monday, July 5, 2010

Life of an Item with Glassali

Several months ago two fellow lampworkers and I began a group on Facebook called "Play on Words Lampwork Challenge." It's a group for lampworkers or word smiths or anyone who is interested (we're very picky) to suggest a word or term or phrase that is then used as the theme for the group for that week (or, as is the case for the summer months, the month).

Last month one of the words was "Love." Easy, right? My submission idea came to me as I was getting my teeth cleaned. I was reclined, mouth open, drool dripping down my chin, when I thought, "Hey, what about a rainbow of hearts on a large white bead?" Because who wouldn't be thinking about hearts and love while being tortured in a dental chair?

Lampwork bead making involves a lot of steps. Glass rods are bought, melted in a flame, and wrapped around a stainless steel mandrel that has been dipped in bead release. Each color you see on a bead is a different rod of glass. Sometimes the glass rod has to be heated and then pulled into a smaller rod called stringer in order to make smaller lines and dots on the surface of the bead. Sometimes colors are mixed to make a totally different color. Once all of the elements have been combined into a bead that you're satisfied with, the bead should go into a kiln to be properly annealed. Lampwork beads have been around for 400 years or so, but properly annealed beads will ensure that your beads are less likely to break. I'll spare you the science, but take my word for it.

After forming the base bead of white, I made a rainbow bead. However, rather than being Roy G. Biv, I forgot/didn't-have-room-for the green, so this bead actually is Roy Biv. The second try was the bead with the outlined hearts, and the third try led to my favorite, the one with the black curlicue details.

Once baked in the kiln, usually overnight, I open the kiln and it's like Christmas: who knows what I will find. Or it can be like Halloween and I'm scared. This time I was happy with the results, removed the beads from their mandrels, cleaned the holes, photographed them. Photographed them again, edited the pictures by cropping and adjusting the colors, and then listed my favorite.

After listing on Etsy, I usually post a link on my Facebook fan page:

Then I cross my fingers and hope for a sale!


  1. This is such a cool art. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It sure makes you appreciate all the work that goes into your craft! Thank you for sharing that!

  3. This was amazing! Beautiful work :)

  4. Thanks, everyone! In real life I'm much funnier. And thinner. :)

  5. 人生的「三部曲」應該是無愧的昨天,充實的今天,與充滿希望的明天。..................................................

  6. Alison, I love this article! It is neat to see and learn more about the people and how they create the items in their shop. Look at all those glass rods waiting to become something special.