Earlier this month I wrote about how I started making glass beads. If you missed that post, here’s a link: https://theselfrescueprincess.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/glass-bead-making-with-janice-peacock/
Today I want to write about the glass beads that I’ve been making in recent years, most of which look like small masks. If you’ve not watched the video on how to make a glass bead, here it is: link
When I make a glass bead, I melt long slender rods of colored glass in my torch, which runs on oxygen and propane and achieves temperatures in excess of 2000 degrees. Since I can’t touch the glass while it’s molten, I use tools to sculpt it in the flame. Many of the tool are things you’d find around your house (especially if you like scrapbooking): an Xacto knife, scissors, and tweezers. People often ask me if I get burned when I work in my studio making beads. Yes, I do, but usually those burns are mild—about what you’d expect if you touched a hot pan in the oven.
I’ve written and published two murder mysteries about a glass beadmaker named Jax O’Connell. The first is High Strung (Booktrope, 2015) and the second is A Bead in the Hand (Booktrope, 2015), both of which are available at all the major retailers. In the first book Jax becomes an amateur sleuth after she finds a dead body behind a bead store in Seattle.
Jax and I have some things in common—we are both glass beadmakers and are women of a certain age. But in most other ways we are different—for instance, Jax is fictional and I am not. Jax’s beads are made with bright colors and happy patterns. My beads, on the other hand, are fairly somber in color and look like they are old—like relics from an archeological dig or flotsam that has washed ashore. Jax is a relative newbie to the world of beads. Me? I’ve been creating lampworked beads for nearly 25 years.
In case you are curious: The word “lampworking” comes from a few hundred years ago when beadmakers didn’t have high tech torches and fuels like oxygen and propane. Instead, artisans used oil lamps and bellows to create flames that were hot enough to melt glass.
A lot of the beads I make look like small masks or stylized faces. I have several books about African masks that I like to look at for inspiration as well as a collection of masks from around the world. The faces I create are both human and animal forms. Typically, the eyes on the masks are closed. The closed eyes give these beads a peaceful feeling, and these days we can all use a little peace and tranquility in our lives.
I love making beads, and even though my time is now split between glass beadmaking and writing about a fictional glass beadmaker, I know that I’ll never give up the fun and excitement of lighting up my torch and melting glass.
Glass Artist and Author