Friday 5 July 2013

Torch Talk - Don't set yourself on fire!

The start of the new month, a few days booked off work and time to treat myself to something new... a class in lampworking!

I'd booked 2 hours of 1-1 tuition, the minimum recommended for a complete beginner and my aim was to not set myself on fire, anything else was a bonus!

The Studio was about an hour's drive away in a lovely rural setting and I was made to feel immediately welcome when I eventually arrived, as my Sat Nav decided I really wanted to go to the Vicarage instead!  Luckily knowing how quirky my Sat Nav and village postcodes can be I'd set off early so I wasn't actually late.  I'm told that the Vicarage are quite used to directing folk up to the Studio!  Cup of tea in hand and safety glasses on (after throwing them under the bench, I hoped I wouldn't remain this clumsy for the rest of the session) we got straight to work!

The session was organised so a bead would be demonstrated with my lovely tutor explaining what she was doing stage by stage.  Then it was my turn to either replicate this or do something very similar, we started off with just the basics of wrapping the glass around a mandrel.  This is akin to rubbing your tummy and patting your head... as you have a mandrel that you're turning in one hand, and a rod of glass you're melting in the other whilst trying to remember which bits need to be in the flame, and when, and also where... it was GREAT!

The 2 hours just whizzed by and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, time to clean the beads off and see what I'd made - for this session we cooled them in cooling bubbles so I could get some instant feedback on how they turned out.

The results?  Well you can see for yourself below, mine are on the bottom row...

The neat beads on the top row are my tutor's, the slightly messy ones on the bottom row are mine!

The first two beads on the bottom row are actually the last two that I made and I'm so pleased with how they turned out.  They both have larger holes so will fit on my troll bracelets, although they are not cored yet and have been flame annealed rather than kiln annealed but I had to try them out to see how they would look!

I definitely want to do this again, not only was it fun, but working with the glass and the flame was incredibly relaxing.  If you get a chance to ever have a go yourself or watch it being done I'd definitely recommend you try lampworking!

I did intend on taking some photos as I went along as I've always intended to blog about this experience... however I did book the class primarily for the pleasure of learning something new.  When I arrived, I realised I didn't want to lose any of my tuition time taking photos, or indeed miss anything my tutor was showing me because I was too busy taking a photo!  Maybe next time...


  1. Hi Mars,

    How marvellous! Really enjoyed reading this article and congratulations on your first attempts at bead making.

    If you don't mind sharing, how much did you pay for the lesson please?

    Debbie xx

    1. Hi Debbie

      Thanks for your comments, it really was a fab experience!

      I paid £25 per hour for private 1-1 tuition, that's all materials included and the freedom to have it tailored to me and how I got on the day, so we started off with the basics of making a bead, but the session was very organic and very much followed a "what would you like to try next?" with the tutor making suggestions/guiding me so that the lesson flowed quite nicely at my pace and introducing techniques as they came up... rather than a structured we are going to make x and y followed by z - so I learnt some basic techniques, tried out a few different styles and then had a go at one I really like (the blue bead on the bangle).

      I'd taken along 9 beads plus the 3 I was wearing on my bangle to show her the kind of things I was quite interested in learning how to do, I'd chosen some simpler designs so I'd weeded out some that I thought would be far too advanced, but it was a good start to the session and gave the tutor an idea of what type of thing I liked to wear/buy.

      I've seen classes at various prices in different locations in the UK and some appear more structured than others - I think the best thing to do is contact the person/studio and ask about them about it in more detail, and choose the option you think you'll be most comfortable with.

      The Studio I visited has the option of "renting a torch/space" so once you're comfortable/proficient enough you pay a rental fee which covers the torch, access to the kiln and use of the equipment - you just buy/bring your own materials etc.

      I plan on having some more lessons, as and when I can afford it but probably sandwiching the lesson with some rental time to practice previous techniques beforehand and then the new ones after. I've just come back from attending a Bead Fair this weekend so have seen lots to inspire me!

      Kind regards
      Mars xx

  2. I've always fancied a go at this! I've been so tempted in the past to take a class and then buy stuff for home but it's one of those things I've never gotten around to.

    I've heard before that it's terribly addictive so I'm also a little loathe in case I end up with another time consuming hobby ;) Aside from the horses and pole dancing I like soap making and my free time just gets munched away.

    I wonder if you can get mini-breaks that offer intensive sessions. How awesome would it be to go with a few Troll friends and have a really intensive course!

    Kind Regards

    1. I think anything is possible, I'm sure most studios would consider it if they had free days in their calendar but likely you'd have to do all the arranging yourself but that would be a fab idea!

      The friend who told me about it really wanted to come as well, but she's expecting her 2nd child and bump no.2 would get in the way at the moment! We definitely plan to car share in the future, she's very skilled in Jewellery making just hadn't tried lampworking beads before.

      I've had a look at some of the longer courses but most of them are more aimed at a level beyond complete beginner with a purpose in mind... I have to say after attending the Bead Fair this weekend it's given me even more ideas...

      All the lampworkers there said it's very addictive, at the moment I'm not in a position to have stuff at home but I think that's a VERY GOOD thing right now :D

  3. Ooooh a Troll friends intensive course would be fab!

    Thanks for the comprehensive response Mars. I think I might have a search for someone in my area as I'd really like to see experience glass being made.

    I too don't have room for stuff at home so even if it's addictive I'm fairly safe!

    Debbie xx

    1. You're very welcome Debbie, let me know how you get on, it would be great to hear about how others find it... maybe that Troll friends course should be a thing!

      I do keep sizing up spots in the house to see if it would work but we'd need to seriously declutter at the moment to make it work!


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P.s. If you use an iPad/iPhone and are having trouble leaving a comment on Blogger, you might have better luck using a browser that's not the default iPad one... Then from the "Comment as" drop down menu choose Name/Url (you can leave URL field blank or add your web address) or Anonymous and (hopefully) away you go! Mars xx