My Journey to Beadmaking
Updated: May 30, 2021
About twenty years ago, I found myself living in Stourbridge in the West Midlands. I wasn't in a good place and was looking for a new direction in my life. I decided to start making jewellery using gemstone beads. Traditionally, Stourbridge was the World's foremost centre of glass making throughout the 19th and much of the 20th centuries and I found myself in the company of some of the UK's greatest glass artists.
Their skill and artistry was a true inspiration to me and somehow I found myself learning how to make glass beads. I had my first shop at the Red House glass cone - the best preserved old glass making centre in Stourbridge.
I was initially taught how to make glass beads by Neil Harris, a highly skilled glass artist specialising in crafting glass animals out of fine glass using a hot torch - check out his amazing work. https://www.nharrisandson.com .
Watching him work glass into beautiful figurines, was a little like watching a wizard and soon I was making beautiful beads out of the finest Venetian soda glass.
The glass I use is made on the renowned Venetian island of Murano where they have been creating fine glass for at least 1500 years. This comes to me in the form of different coloured glass rods which I then form into beads using a hot torch at temperatures of 1250 degrees centigrade. I layer the colours and manage the heat to create all sorts of beads with different designs and all sorts of shapes.
To see my lampworked bead earrings click here.
I found out the hard way, that you need to respect glass when working it with a hot torch. Put a rod of glass into the heat too quickly and it will expode, showering you with molten blobs. Take your eye off your work for a single second and your molten bead will drip to the floor or, even worse onto your lap! It is also important to anneal your finished beads. This is the process of letting your finished bead cool down in a gradual and steady way. Fail to anneal, and you will end up with a bead which looks good, but which is flawed, full of internal stresses and likely to break spectacularly at a time of its choosing.
Once I got to grips with the basics of making beads, I sought training by the late and great UK bead artist, Diana East - one of the UK's finest bead makers until her untimely death in 2017. She taught me how to do wonderful things to my beads such as coating them with gold, including bubbles and much more.
I love making jewellery with my own lampworked beads, but I also love making teardrops. To do this, I create my design and heat the glass in a controlled way and then let it drip slowly so that it cools in mid-drip, creating a teardrop. Since learning to do this, I have never viewed glass in the same way. I no longer see glass as a hard and fragile material, but as a lovely honey-like fluid which has been frozen in a moment of time.
If you ever get the chance to learn how to lampwork glass, I suggest you take it, but beware! Lampworking glass is horribly addictive.
To see all of of my lampworked teardrop earrings click here.
Fortunaearrings is a handmade jewellery store featuring a wide range of unique earrings made of gemstones and sterling silver. As well as gemstone earrings which will appeal to the gemstone collector, you will also find a range of earrings made of Venetian glass lampworked at my Devon workshop. See my full handmade jewellery portfolio by clicking the shop link at the top of this page.