In 1992 I learned to make glass beads after a disappointing trip to a bead shop. I was making a chain bracelet with different beads hanging off each link, charm bracelet-style. I had figured out exactly what I wanted the bracelet to look like, but unfortunately the bead store didn’t have what I wanted. I had particular shapes and styles in mind, and as I looked at the beads I’d purchased I wondered to myself: Who makes these beads? How do you make beads? And that’s how it all started—I wanted to make glass beads, but had no idea where to start.
For those of us old enough to remember, there was no Google in 1992. The only way to research something was using an old-fashioned telephone or mail, and I don’t mean email. So, I started making phone calls. The first place I found that worked with glass told me I needed a furnace that could melt hundreds of pounds of glass at a time and would need to run 24×7 at a cost of several hundred dollars a month. This was definitely not an option for me. The next people I found said I could learn glass fusing from them, but I didn’t want to make flat things like plates and tiles. I wanted colorful round beads with holes in them. After a long search I found the perfect class.
It was at Dan Fenton’s studio in Oakland, California, not far from where I live. There was a two day workshop with a glass bead maker named Brian Kirkvliet, and they had one spot left in class. So, I signed up. The first time I saw the teacher light the torch and melt glass, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. And twenty-four years later it is still a passion of mine. In the many years since I melted my first glass rod, I’ve made and sold hundreds, if not thousands, of beads and participated in many exhibitions and gallery shows. Working with glass beads has been a life-changing experience. In fact, it is such a part of who I am, I can’t imagine a life without glass bead making.
The process of creating glass beads is called lampworking or sometimes called flameworking. I’ve created a short video of me making a glass bead so you can see what it is all about.
Since the video doesn’t show me working at my torch, I thought I’d include this picture as well. It’s a little different than the mild-mannered author headshots of me you’ll see around the web these days.
When I first decided to write a murder mystery, I wanted to take the advice of many authors before me and “write what I know.” I knew glass bead making and knew many of the unusual and funny real-life characters that inhabit the bead world. I’ve always loved mysteries and have had a special fondness for cozy mysteries. So, it was easy to figure out what I wanted to write, and that’s how the Glass Bead Mysteries started. Two books—High Strung and A Bead in the Hand—and a short story—Be Still My Beading Heart—were published by Booktrope in the last few months. The books have been well received and are available in paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes. I’m busy working on the next book in the series—Off the Beadin’ Path—which will be released in Summer 2016.
I enjoy sharing my love of glass beads with everyone who reads my books and I hope you’ll join Jax O’Connell and her friends as they search for clues, one bead at a time.
Here’s the finished bead I made in my demo.
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Glass Artist and Author
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