marshmallow “peep” bunnies

I haven’t been too active in the studio lately but got a sudden urge to try this idea.  I thought of this last year just before Easter but it seemed too late for it at that time.  I don’t really like doing much seasonal stuff but this idea to use some fine pastel frit about the consistency of sugar to make a “peep” bunny bead needed to be tried…

peep bunnies

aventurine dream lampwork at holiday show/sale in Minneapolis


For those in the Minneapolis area, I’ll be at this new Lynnhurst holiday boutique and sale in SW Minneapolis on Dec.8.  I’ve been making a lot of new lampwork cat earrings, flower earrings and bird earrings and I’ll have some Pandora-style big hole beads as well as lampwork pendants and glass rings.  Great gifts for cat-lovers or those who like bright colorful jewelry.  The new stuff will make its way to my etsy shop in Dec. as well.

custom lampwork necklace project

I haven’t posted in a while but I haven’t been idle.   I’ve been beavering away on a custom necklace project.

I’ve long enjoyed making macrame beaded bracelets as described by Stephanie Sersich in her book Designing Jewelry with Glass Beads and I’ve long wanted to make myself a necklace but hadn’t gotten around to working out a design.  Well, this custom request finally prodded me into it.  It’s a flower garden theme with one of my lampwork bird beads as well as a couple of lampwork scarabs and a bumblebee (as well as various flowers, leaves and other miscellanous lampwork beads handmade by me).

One issue with these bracelets is that you need to get the size just right.  They are really comfortable if they are just snug but don’t flop around.  You can move it up or down your wrist a bit but the size needs to be in a fairly tight range for it to fit well.  I did one for my mom and she really wanted it to be elastic but I just didn’t have a good idea about that at the time.

There’s a beautiful necklace in the book as well but I didn’t want something that long.  I wanted something lighter that would not flop around.  So with this design I put buttons on either end of a longish segment like used to make the bracelets and then I made a separate back piece with loops on either end.  Easy to make multiple back pieces so the size can be adjustable.  Allows for different color back pieces as well.


The two necklaces that I’ve done so far in this design both have some really large flowers on them and overall I added more beads than I would have on a bracelet and let them stick out a lot more so they really aren’t suitable for a bracelet  However,  I think this design could work as a convertible piece with the beaded segment wearable as a bracelet (with an elastic of some sort connecting the two buttons making the size a little more flexible)  or as a necklace (by attaching a back to it).  I’m going to work on one with more bracelet-scale beads and a shorter front section to try that idea out.  I also like for comfort that the beaded part isn’t really up around the neck but stays down on your chest.

Here’s the other one I did so far – for me! I didn’t make a back piece for this one yet, it was just a trial run on how it would lay, especially with the big lampwork flowers.

ISGB Gathering 2012 – metalworking, wearability

hmmm, I see it’s been a while since I posted anything. I haven’t been totally idle – I’ve been making components for a custom necklace project and maybe I’ll post some pics from that before too long.  However, I still have some notes from the 2012 ISGB Gathering I want to consolidate, as much for my own benefit as anything.

On the Sunday there were two metalworking talks that I really enjoyed:  guest speaker Nancy Megan Corwin and Anne Mitchell.

Nancy Megan Corwin is an expert on chasing and repousse and has a book out about it.  It was very interesting to learn about these techniques even though there is little likelihood of my pursuing them.  However, the main reason her talk stands out for me is that I enjoyed looking at her work (which you can see many examples of on her website).  She does wonderful abstractions from nature.  I love that and wish I were better at it.  My work is very representational and I have trouble making anything that isn’t “something”.   Her work also has so many interesting textures.

Though most of her work does appear to be inspired by the natural world I was also very interested in one piece that was a really detailed pocket watch with a scene of the moon landing.  I think mainly because the size and form factor were so bead-like.  That strikes me as an interesting theme for a lentil-shaped bead, the allusion to a pocket watch.

I was most particularly struck by several pieces she showed that are hair ornaments.  For example, this piece that is a vessel for scented oil with various hairpins arranged in it.  The idea is that the wearer will be wearing the scent as well as the ornament.  This resonated with me because I have long hair and have long been toying with the idea of some sort of hair ornaments using lampwork.  Interestingly though, she noted that the buyers for these tend to be women with very short hair who have no intention to actually wear them, they just want it as a scuplture.

She has other pieces where she has thought about practical mechanics:  like this one where the clasp of a necklace can be used separately as a pendant.

One thing I love about the Gathering is that with so many different presentations and classes and so much work on display there is a lot of opportunity to make connections between ideas.  Individual tidbits of information that are unremarkable in themselves take on new meaning or just strike one differently in the context of other tidbits.  Often I feel like there are informal themes running through my personal experience of the conference. I feel like creativity is often not so much having a great idea but putting ideas together in different ways.  This time wearability was on my mind.  I like the way this hairpin piece above is wearable at the same time as being a work of art – not primarily aimed at what someone will wear or designed around a standard form for a wearable object but still potentially wearable.

On this subject the international presenter Ronit Dagan was also interesting.  She has recently done some exciting and dramatic pieces that aren’t really wearable but are artworks nevertheless based on traditional wearable forms like a necklace or shaw and she spoke about feeling free to create art and not worry about it being a wearable article (though she does wearable jewelry as well).  I’m not finding a good link to the kind of thing I mean – like the necklace she had in the Indelible show.

The other metalworker I wanted to mention is Anne E. Mitchell.  She demonstrated some fine silver metalworking specifically to complement lampwork beads.   This was on the very practical end of the spectrum:  how to make lampwork beads very wearable while showing them to best advantage using relatively easy techniques.  She showed many beautiful examples but in particular her collaboration with Terri Caspary Schmidt, whose work I’ve always admired.

This talk whacked me over the head with something that I already knew:  that you can fuse fine silver to itself without soldering.  I knew this but never translated that into doing fairly traditional simple metalworking techniques using fine silver and avoiding soldering.  I have the gear for soldering and learned to do various metalworking in a course some years ago but I don’t keep it set up and generally feel like it’s too big of a pain to drag that out.  And I also know that fine silver is less tarnishable. Why haven’t I made use of this more to do more metalworking to complement my beads?!  And the fine silver can be combined with PMC fine silver as well which I’m working on making more use of…  She taught one of the workshops – another I regret not taking – but in any case this talk was one of the ones that I believe will prod me, however slowly, to actually get around to trying some new things.

more experimentation – drawing with enamel on cover slips

While I’m on the topic of experiments, here’s another….

Last month my nephew visited us and got a chance to try beadmaking with me.  He wanted to make a lion. Well, that’s a tall order for a beginning student and I had the idea to crack out the enamel painting kit I bought from Bronwen Heilman at the 2010 Gathering and had never yet opened. (She gave a great presentation there).  Anyway, I thought we could maybe paint or draw a lion with enamels and fire it onto a bead.

Well, we didn’t have a lot of time to invest in it but we did succeed in drawing (with a calligraphy pen-an-ink type pen), both firing the enamel onto beads directly and firing it onto pieces of clear sheet glass, picking that up and putting it onto a bead.  He made a cool angler fish – his lure wraps onto the back.


The left was drawn on clear sheet glass and picked up after firing and the right was drawn right on the bead and fired in the flame. (I overlooked that the pick up method would reverse the image – oops! –  I reversed this photo so the signature would look right!).

Anyway, the clear pickup method had me wondering about possibly using some cover slips that I happened to have on the other side of the studio as part of my metal clay play area. My 104 sheet glass is almost 3mm thick.  Nice for giving a thick encasing over the enamel for some depth but I thought it might be nice to have something thinner.  But I didn’t go anywhere with that idea.

However,  I thought the enamel drawing would be a fun activity for our Star of the North meeting a week and a half ago.  Sure enough, someone suggested it would be better on thinner glass like cover slips.  Great minds think alike so I dragged some out and drew some doodles on them.

So that’s the experiment from yesterday – I finally fired those and then picked them up onto 104 COE beads.

As the kiln was heating up I started searching the internet about what kind of glass cover slips are made of (these are the thin glass covers used with microscope slides, the thickness is around 0.15mm).  Well, I can see they are sometimes soda lime glass, sometimes boro and sometimes zinc titanium glass (?!).  Eventually though I found a picture of a box of coverslips with the same logo as on mine and a description of them as soda lime glass.  So far so good.  The whole idea of this possibly working was that they are so thin that maybe you can get away with some incompatibility in thermal coefficient of expansion, just like how you can use a bit of 96COE frit or case 104 stringers with a thin layer of 96.

Anyway, it appears to have worked.  I didn’t draw anything specially nice and there’s a bubble/wrinkle where I didn’t get it on there smooth but the cover slip edges are practically invisible on 2 opaque 104 COE beads that I tried it on.









The cat face is only about 5mm wide.

Why risk compatibility issues to use these cover slips?  Why not use 104 clear shards?  After all, I’d really like to do multiple layers and I didn’t test that, it may well be where you get into trouble.   Well, the main thing is that I’ve tried to make shards and just made a mess.  It didn’t result in nice flat pieces of uniform but very thin thickness.  But it’s a fair point and so I just ordered some from Etsy from someone who appears to know what they are doing.  If they prove really useful maybe I’ll work on learning to do it myself.

Meanwhile, bits of cover slip might have some interesting uses.  Could be a way to make a very small, unobtrusive  ”signature” to add to beads.  Or they might be a way to have a super thin isolation layer between colors that will otherwise react – this was so thin that the opaque bead looked unchanged but if it was on a yellow bead you could then put blue dots on it and avoid that black reaction line.    Of course this last idea would mean adding more glass on top and that might induce some issues that I didn’t test for in this simple experiment…