Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Why are your lampwork beads "so expensive"? Creative process behind the creation of lampwork bead making (May 3, 2018)

Hello beautiful souls,

I am really excited to be writing this blog for you finally. I feel like it's way overdue and I am honestly surprised it took me this many years to create this for you all. What I have noticed while creating my work is that the general public is not informed about what it is I do along with the process and the other artists that are part of my creations. So the purpose of this blog is to inform you about just what goes into my jewelry creations, beads, and the other art beads I use created by other artists. Often times people will view my work and ask me "Why is it so expensive"? Here I will be breaking it down for you so you will go away with a better understanding of all of the love, creativity, work, and creative energy that goes into my work and other artists work. 

Glass Rods for lampwork bead makingXL
 Photo by Parigo Studios

So let's start out with my handmade lampwork beads.  All beads start out as colored glass rods like the photo above. Glass rods vary in price from about $12 lb to over $100 lb depending on color, and chemical makeup. Rods heavily laden with silver are up in the $100 range since this is a precious metal and as we know, precious metals are expensive. Certain colors are more expensive as well like pinks because they are made with gold. 

stainless steel mandrels dipped in bead releaseM
 In order to make beads we need a "handle" to hold the hot glass while we create the bead. We use stainless steel because it is not a conductor of heat. Using this metal allows us to hold the mandrel without burning our fingers. The metal will only retain the heat where it is heated. We use a bead release made from clay and graphite to allow our bead to "stick" to the mandrel while we create, but allow it to be removed when we are done making a bead. If you melt metal to glass it will be bonded for life. We call these flops "plant decorations" since they will remain stuck the the mandrel for life and pretty much have no other use than as a friend for our plants.

lampwork studio with torch and ventilation systemXL
 I am a lampworker so that means I create beads using a torch like this with a ventilation system so that the chemicals that are produced by heating the glass are safely removed from my work space. 

making a lampwork beadXL
 Photo by Parigo Studios

So before before there is even a bead to decorate we as lampworkers need to create the surface on which to put the designs, which is making a round bead. I create a round bead by melting the glass on a stainless steel mandrel dipped in bead release. 

pulling a stringer from a glass rodXL
 Photo by Parigo Studios

Next comes decorating the surface. There are many different applications for designing the surface of a bead. One method is pulling a "stringer" which is a tiny piece of glass used to create fine details on the surface of a bead.

"Happy Candy" lampwork bead set by Third Eye Gypsy(Genea Beads)XL
 Stringers can be raised on the surface or melted flat  like you see here in my  "Happy Candy" lampwork bead set.

 Other materials can be used on the surface of the bead to create different effects like: (from left to right) Baking soda(for rustic lampwork beads), Raku frit(a very colorful heat changing glass), silver leaf( to create a metallic look on glass or create an organic "frazzled" design), a lentil bead press(to shape the glass into a lentil shape).

Rustic lampwork beads spiral coin with rakuXL
 Beads I created with baking soda and raku frit. 

Lentil lampwork bead with raku spirals and dotsM
 Bead created using heat changing raku glass, and stringers.

"Ancient Tablet" lampwork bead focals with raku and silver leafXL
Beads created using raku, and silver leaf(see the "frazzly" glass). A respirator rated for fumes is used while making beads with silver as it is highly toxic when heated and breathed in.

Rainbow lentil beads and rainbow socksXL
Lentil beads created with a bead press. Yay, they match my socks! 

 Once the beads are created they go into a kiln to stabilize the glass. When we melt the glass we disrupt the molecular structure and put hairline fractures in the glass. Annealing the beads in a kiln removes this stress from the glass and "hardens" them making them durable. The beads anneal at about 950 degrees F and are slowly cooled to room temperature over the course of about 8 hours. 

Lampwork beads soaking in a bowl of waterXL
Once the beads are cooled to room temperature they are soaked in water to loosen the bead release and remove them from the mandrel. 

etching and soaking lampwork beadsXL
Beads  can be put in an etching solution at this point which is an acid that makes the glass matte. Gloves are used while using etching solution because the acid can burn your skin.  

scrubbing lampwork beads with a soapy toothbrushXL
 Once I am done etching my beads I scrub them with soapy water and a toothbrush to remove any residue. 

cleaning lampwork beads with a dremelXL
 Once the beads are removed from the mandrel I use an electric dremel to remove any remaining bead release from the hole of the bead. When bead release is in dry powder form it is toxic to breathe into your lungs.

broken bead in side a bead hollow lampwork beadsL
 Did you know that not all bead designs turn out? *SHOCKER* As artists not everything we create turns out. In fact I have had many sessions when the magic just isn't happening so I decide to create another day. Here is a pile of flopped "Bead-inside-a-bead" hollow beads.

Floral and swirl bead inside a bead hollow lampwork beadXL
Here is one of my "bead-inside-a-bead" hollow beads that did turn out. Pretty, amazeballs, huh?!

genea beads bucket beads flopped beadsXL
 This is bead boxes full of my "bucket beads". These are all bead flops. These beads are not sold and were gifted to my mother since they were not "perfect" enough to sell. You can read more about these beads and see more photos on this blog post. 

 Here are some of my Wing Ding beads which have been some of my most popular signature beads. I discovered them by mistake when I got frustrated with a bead that didn't turn out.  These beads also produced a lot of flop beads and I talk more about the cost of beads and flopped beads in this post. 

genea beads lampwork beads  from 2004L
 Here are some of my beads from my humble beginnings in 2004. Did you know that I was not instantly good at making lampwork beads? It was the first artistic talent I had to really "work for". It has taken me YEARS of practice to get where I am not. Those years of successes and failures have made me into the artist you see before you now. I have learned to so much in my many years of glass and I continue to learn each time I light the torch. It is my teacher and my mediation.

Seahorse heart lampwork focalXL
 After 15 years of making glass beads I have create some of the most breath taking pieces of art to date. Here is one of my "Seahorse Heart" focals. This bead was a huge feat in glass as the bead is very big and thick and all areas need to be spot heated to avoid cracks and breakage from the glass cooling too quickly. 

I hope this blog has  informed you and helped you to find value in the process of the lampwork beads myself and other artists create. 

Love, light, and highest vibrations,

xoxo Genea


Michelle said...

Fascinating! I had no idea how lampwork beads are made. Thank you.

Genea Crivello said...

So glad you enjoyed this post and that you understand more of the process, Michelle :) xo Genea

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