Saturday 30 April 2016

Z is for ZigZag Razor

I have a razor tool that lets me create a ZigZag shape in the glass, it's a wavy razor that I use to "cut" into the glass whilst it's very soft, almost molten, to make patterns.

Razor tools are probably one of my favourite tools to use in glass, I have 3!

On this bead, I've used the zigzag tool to create one type of effect - a pattern beneath transparent glass that you can almost see through into the layers.  You can use the tool in a number of ways; but this is one of my favourites!

Well dear readers and A to Z visitors - this is the last of my A to Z posts on My Glass Beadmaking Journey - I hope you've enjoyed a peek into my own glassy world!

Mars xx

P.S. This is also the 400th post on Curling Stones for Lego People, at the 100ths I tend to mark the occasion by writing something a bit more personal or special in some way... so it feels very fitting that this one marks my story to you about my own glass journey from A to Z.

Now we are at the end of the A to Z challenge, and as always I'm off for some Zzzzz's... that is if I can get over my Beadsomnia...

What will you do next, now the A to Z Challenge is finished?

P.S. Don't forget to come back for the A to Z Reflections Post on 9th May!

Friday 29 April 2016

Y is for YouTube

When you're trying to teach yourself YouTube can be your friend, there are lots of glass beadmaking videos on YouTube, some more helpful than others, but in the absence of lessons every week it can be a great resource.

This is an hour long video so I'm not suggesting you watch it, it's just one that really interested me and goes into a LOT of detail!

The bead is quite spectacular, so after all my "simple" beads I thought I'd contrast this with one that takes a lot more time and skill to make!

What resources have you used to teach yourself a skill in the absence of a teacher?

Thursday 28 April 2016

X is for X-rated!

Actually not really but a few people thought these two beads bore a passing resemblance to something else... Things I didn't intend to make as part of My Glass Beadmaking Journey.

The pink bead came first, I was trying to recreate a drop pendant type bead and twisted the end to make a spiral of translucent purple colours, only it kept springing back to form a head...

The black bead started life as normal shaped bead that was going to have a silver star on it... only the star "sunk" into the glass and it's shape developed as I was trying to pull it off to release the star... the star is still buried in the bead somewhere, near the tip I think...

Have you ever accidentally created anything X-rated?

Wednesday 27 April 2016

W is for Website

When I started making beads, and had chosen a studio name to make under... I bought my Domain Name immediately - see N for that particular story, more to secure it rather than with any thought about doing something with it.

After all, I wasn't 100% sure about having a website; it's just me making some beads and would there really be any worthwhile content to justify it?

Very recently I randomly bumped into someone who I'd first met last Summer, we had had a fabulous conversation about art and creating things, and she had really inspired me at the time.  I haven't seen her since, until last month - when we continued with our conversation as if the intervening 7 months hadn't happened... that second conversation inspired me to come home and finish the website.

Now, whenever I chat with someone about making my own beads and they invariably ask the question "Do you have a Website?" now I can finally answer - Yes! it's here...

I wonder what will happen if I bump into her a third time?

Have you had a random meeting with someone
that's inspired you to do/finish something?

Tuesday 26 April 2016

V is for Ventilation

Lots of bead making processes create some nasty fumes and dangerous dusts.

Ventilation needs to be a bit more than just having a window open at the time, beadmakers can be like anyone else and be a bit naughty sometimes but there's quite a few nasties to consider when it comes to your lungs!

I have a big hood set up which sits behind my flame and is attached via tubing to a fan (like you'd find in your bathroom) and then more tubing which vents outside.  You need to make sure you have a fresh supply of air coming in, and that your ventilation system is removing what's inside to outside.

I certainly notice the difference if I don't vent when I'm working with silver, my chest gets tight and I can "feel" the difference after a relatively short session.

I've avoided working with enamels as the set up I have doesn't really allow for using fine powders regularly - as the studio spaces have other people working in them and fine powder really is nasty for your lungs (definite mask on at ALL times as well as ventilation), such a shame as I saw some great beads made at Flame Off using enamels... one day!

Is there anything you'd like to try,
but haven't because of Health and Safety?

Monday 25 April 2016

U is for Uttoxeter

Told you I'd manage to get Flame Off somewhere else in the alphabet apart from F!

I spent a very wonderful 4 days in Uttoxeter from the 14th to the 17th of this month... and managed to keep up with the A to Z Challenge - I hope you're all suitably impressed!

I've wanted to attend for a while but I've had blogger clashes in previous years - so this time I was determined I'd be there!

Hotel booked, car packed and off I set, with a stop off on the way for a coffee to keep me awake, also because it's a favourite stop off in our bus on the way to a certain festival.

Once arrived I went for a wander around and took some pics, it was a lovely sunny evening and I settled in with a glass of wine ready for the first day.


On the Friday there were classes going on, and the event was just for those attending the classes, there were 3 different lampworking classes, 1 beginners glass blowing class and a beginners ceramics class.

Flame Off Classes

Saturday and Sunday were 2 full days of shopping, demos, having a go at glass blowing and lampworking and meeting lots and lots of lovely glass artists, traders and interesting people.

Flame Off - Saturday & Sunday

I had an amazing time, and for regular readers, I will be writing about this in a lot more detail after the A to Z is over, this is just your taster blog post!

I cannot recommend Flame Off highly enough, it's a great event and well worth a visit!

If you had the opportunity to attend, would you chat, watch, shop or have a go?

Saturday 23 April 2016

T is for Torch (and how to POOP)

Well if you're making glass beads you need something HOT to melt the glass... I use a Nortel Minor Burner which is a fairly standard entry torch.

Propane and oxygen are mixed at the surface of the torch to produce a hot flame, one that is hot enough to melt glass so I can make my beads.

The torch has two valves, so I can control how much propane (red valve on the top) and how much oxygen (silver valve on the side) are fed into the flame at any given time.

When you make glass beads it's not only how much heat and how it's applied that you need to think about but also the ratio of the gasses you use to produce certain effects, most of the time you work with a Neutral flame, but sometimes you need to add more propane (or reduce the oxygen) to make a Reducing flame or vice versa to produce an Oxygen rich flame.

I did worry I was going to blow myself up or set fire to everything when I first started... however I always remember it's Propane on 1st, Oxygen on 2nd, Oxygen off 1st, Propane off last.... and that is how you POOP safely!

What important info do you need to remember for your hobbies?

Friday 22 April 2016

S is for Silver

When you mention silver and beads, most people will automatically think of beads made out of silver.

I love using Silver in my glass beads.  I mostly work with silver wire or foil, but I do have an experiment on the go with silver shavings.

The first bead on the left on my bangle is one I made for myself early on with silver wire in, and the bead on the right uses silver foil to give that beautiful stone/organic effect to the background, it's one of my favourite beads to make!

You can also use the silver in the foreground of a pattern, above left I used silver foil to help make those galaxy type swirls... the bead on the right is silver simply encased in glass which is an effect I love in transparent glass.

For my regular readers, silver was the main "ingredient" in the glass bead set I made to go with my Elements Set by Alex Cramariuc.

Silver is definitely one of my favourite decorations to use as it's so versatile!

What silver effect do you prefer out of the ones I've shown here?

Thursday 21 April 2016

R is for Rod Storage

The main glass for beadmaking comes in rod form, you usually buy the rods by weight in a certain colour.

Sometimes with expensive glass I buy it by the single rod, it's not the cheapest way to buy glass but as I'm a part time beadmaker I don't get through enough glass to justify having lots of expensive glass stock sitting around.

In between bead making sessions I use a test tube rack to store rods that I'm currently using so they are to hand, as my test tubes are plastic I need to make sure the rods have cooled down before I store them like this!

Do you use any raw materials in your work or hobby?
If so, how do you store them?

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Q is for Quality Control

Quality control can be quite subjective, you have the obvious issues... like the bead is actually in two pieces!

Broken Bead

This one was made at the end of a session - I was renting a bench so I had a set time limit for making and there wasn't enough time to flame anneal this properly at the end of the session... this was the result.

There are other things wrong with this bead aside from it being broken, but I did like the colours I'd used.

Below are some obvious rejects that aren't broken in two but suffer with quality control issues.

A range of quality control issues!

Left to right - bad shape, dot pattern not quite right, horrible smeared pattern (looks like a dirty protest), bad shape/not quite sure what happened or what I was going for with the last one!

The next set contains some classics; horrible jagged edges (not a nice pucker), uneven width and in the foreground a slanted end (not deliberate).

Jagged edges and uneven beads

These were all quite early examples, so the next one is a very recent one for balance and a problem I have with my encasing sometimes.

Sometimes it can be a clear bald spot, where the clear encasing has pushed the patterned glass inwards... in the pic below, the bead off the bracelet has a bald spot!

Bald spot on the bead off the bracelet
(the ones on the bracelet are fine,
I just didn't have a pic of the other bead on it's own)

But sometimes a flaw can work in your favour, they're not all bad.  Here is a bead that is uneven, there is more glass on one side than the other, it's not quite round and the ends are not particularly puckered; it's a definite reject bead - but it works beautifully on a bangle - the less glass on one side means it sits just perfect on your wrist!

Uneven glass distribution around the core can
make for a "great" bangle bead

Who knew wonky beads had such a great use!

Any stories of quality control - the good, the bad or the ugly?

Tuesday 19 April 2016

P is for Passing The Flame

Passing the Flame is a glass bead making book by Corina Tettinger and is pretty much regarded as if you only buy one beadmaking book, you get this one!

It was quite the investment as the book is not something you can pick up on sale at your local bookshop but it was worth every penny.

It's full of great illustrations, large colour photographs and it will take you through the basics of how you can hold rods and mandrels, through to much more complex topics.

I love Corina's style of writing, she has a very dry sense of humour and if you are ever going to indulge yourself with an expensive coffee table book this is well worth the money; it also comes in handy for me to flatten my roles of kiln paper after I've cut them to size... but shhh don't tell anyone as it's probably against the law to use it for such a trivial purpose!

What is the most expensive book you have ever bought?

Monday 18 April 2016

O is for Oxygen Concentrator

Mine is called Glow and was adopted by me in August last year!

I need to use Oxygen for my torch and this is the safest (and cheapest) way for me to do so, rather than using an oxygen tank.

Glow is a 5L refurbished medical oxygen concentrator that uses air and coverts it into oxygen to feed into my torch.  He makes a noise when he's working, so he's not a quiet bead making companion by any stretch of the imagination but it's a noise you get used to!

He has a pressure guage so I can check that he's breathing properly, and much like getting a torch it was all a bit overwhelming to start with, but now he's my trusty beadmaking buddy.

When I brought him home I even strapped him into the seatbelt of my car to make sure he didn't get hurt on the journey home... any sane person would have just have had him delivered rather than chauffer him door to door, but who wants to be sane?

Do you have a non-human trusty companion whilst you work?

Saturday 16 April 2016

N is for Naming

Choosing a name almost made me give up... I could make beads, I mastered coring, got over my fear of showing people what I'd made without apologising but finding a name to live with? Almost impossible!

Talking with other people it seems it's a common theme, apparently I'm not the only one who struggled with this.

The name I make beads under is Born of Fire, I'd got to the stage where I was running out of time to choose my trading name as I had to register this within 3 months of starting to sell beads.  Now it's chosen I am learning to not only live with it but to love it.

All the other names that I'd come up with, were often already taken, or were too narrow in definition of what I might make, or too silly to live with forever once the novelty wore off.

I've kept some of my notes as I'm going to get some of them in somewhere; probably as the name of a bead or a collection in the future - hence not telling you all the names I did consider just in case that contains a future spoiler!

What have you had to name, and how did you choose?

Friday 15 April 2016

M is for Mandrels

In beadmaking Mandrels are the things you wrap glass around to make beads.  Below are some basic bead mandrels and 2 bigger mandrels that I use to make glass rings.

They are stainless steel and the grey coating you see on the top of them is a chemical release that's coated on otherwise the hot glass would weld itself to the metal and you would have some glass decorated metal sticks!

Beads on Mandrels

The grey stuff is called "bead release" and it does what it says on the bottle!

Finished Tube Beads on Mandrels

You can see that I've just cleaned off the bead release around the beads, but they are still attached as you can see the bead release near the bead holes!

Actually these were pretty stuck at the time - but I'm happy to report they all eventually came off!

If I couldn't get a bead off the mandrel...
What could I do with it?
(Let your imagination run riot!)

Thursday 14 April 2016

L is for Lessons

I've learnt many lessons in my glass beadmaking journey; like not picking up stringers (thin rods of glass) you've just pulled as they're still hot and will give you blisters!

Ice doesn't always end up in my drink!

As for proper lessons, I've had 2 so far, my first was when I very first started, and my second was a LONG time after - just before I bought my own kit.

The 1st beads I ever made!

Both were 1-1 tuition and absolutely brilliant, I'm saving up for my 3rd and I've also booked a weekend class in something I have no prior skills in, so lesson no.3 will probably be before that class!

As you can see there's quite a difference between Lessons 1 & 2!

Beads from my 2nd lesson.

I'm lucky where I live as I'm about an hours drive away from a great Glass Studio that has visiting teachers - the only thing  that holds me back is the money to spend on classes.  That and the fact that I'm quite a slow maker, group classes are often aimed at the more experienced beadmaker so I have a bit of a way to go before I would get the most use out of these, and indeed not hold the class up!

It's one of the reasons I've chosen a beginners class at Flame Off, whilst I'd love to do the glass glasses I'd be worried that I can't keep up at the moment, or don't have enough skills, but group classes are definitely on my to-do list!

In the meantime it's tutorials, books, YouTube for me!

How did you learn to do the things you do?

Wednesday 13 April 2016

K is for Kiln

Glass needs to be annealed, not so much the size of the beads I usually make, but if you are selling to the public, or making bigger beads it becomes a bit of a necessity.

If I made a bead and just left it out on the side it would crack in two as it rapidly cooled.  You can cool it slower by a variety of methods, so that small beads do not crack... but this does not anneal the glass, it can still contain internal stresses that may fracture later on.

To anneal beads you need a kiln.

Kilns come in many shapes and sizes, mine is a small table top kiln and because I knew I also wanted to try my hand at glass fusing, I chose a kiln that can be used for both.

Test firing - reject beads ready to be annealed

Annealing strengthens the glass and makes it less prone to breaking, once glass has been annealed it can last for many years.  You do this by using a kiln to basically "soak" the glass at the correct high temperature for the glass you're working with and then cool the glass VERY slowly in a controlled manner, so that so that the stresses and strains are removed, for this you need a programmable controller so you can set the speed at which the kiln heats and cools (ramp).

Programmer built in to the bottom of the kiln

Temperature wise when I'm annealing beads my kiln doesn't usually run hotter than 520oC, however when I'm fusing I typically take it up to temperatures of 805oC.

Full door with integral bead door

Due to wanting to fuse I chose a kiln that has a square interior space and more height, and mine has a "full door" as well as a "bead door" which is essentially a smaller slot door within the main door, so I can put beads in as I'm working.

What surprises people is how long this all takes, if I start a programme to anneal my beads, I won't see what I've made until the following day!

Would you be able to wait a day to see what you've made?