Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Bead Making Process

I make glass beads.  I started way back in March of '98.  How did this whole thing begin you ask?  You asked yourself that, right?  It would have gone something like this:  "I wonder just how the heck it is that Ellen got started in this whole bead thing?"  How close was I?
So, since you've been nagging me I'll answer.  It was my mom's fault.  She saw someone making beads and thought it looked like something she'd like to try.  She must have mentioned it to my dad who, in turn, called me and told me to look into it and order whatever she needed.  I did.
Once everything was in place mom was a bit nervous about lighting up the torch by herself so my husband went to her rescue.  He, too, was soon making glass beads and bugged me to come take a look.  I stood behind him and watched.  The second he finished and turned off the flame I gently shoved him from the chair and took over.  Ok, maybe not so gently.
Here is a picture of some of my glass.  It comes in 13" long rods from Italy.
And here's a picture of my torch and some tools.  The torch is called a Hothead.  It's thought of as a "beginner" torch but it suits my needs.  I'm very happy with it.
One of the coolest things about working with hot glass is you can poke it, squish it, add things to it, etc.
As a glass rod is introduced (technical glassy term, hehe) to the flame it begins to melt.  As it melts it is wound around a stainless steel rod coated in a clay based substance which keeps the hot glass from sticking to the steel rod.
Adding surface decoration is one of my favorite things to do.  I use "stringers" which are also glass.  The tip of another glass rod is heated and then pulled with my fingers - Not! just checking to see if you're still reading - with a tweezers into a thin long piece of glass; looks like a string, hence the name.  Get it?
The stringer cools quickly and you can then go back to your base bead and add it to the surface.
Once the bead is finished it is slow cooled to prevent cracking, it's removed from the steel rod and the hole is cleaned out - remember that clay based substance?  It's still in the hole - we in the bead world call it "bead poop."  Hey, we get our laughs where we can.
Have I burned myself?  Plenty of times but only once in the flame.  The other times were when I  accidentally picked up a hot glass rod  before I got more organized on my work bench.  Kowabunga, baby, that smarts!
I love melting glass.  It came along at a perfect time in my life.  I needed it.


  1. Thanks for sharing these photos. I am a fan of your work!

  2. Hey Lady....great explanation! Now I know what I have been doing all these years! LOL You might inspire me to go light up! I will always be thankful that the glass introduced me to so many wonderful glassy people! Of course you being one of them at the top of my list!!!