Thursday, April 03, 2008

I've been making a lot of beads recently for specific projects and orders, and that is anathema to the way I most prefer to create. When I fire up the torch and just make something completely spontaneously, I usually am pleased and surprised with new (to me) ways of manipulating molten glass.
I decided to goof off Wednesday night and just make a few bubble beads (it's been years, actually) and play with colors.
The first pink one (click on the top photo for detail - sorry the light was so crap) was turning out so badly that I decided to leave it unfinished so I could show more of the process. I did a core of cranberry transparent glass, then encased it in a layer of clear glass, and then laid pale pink dots on, which I melted in flush with the surface of the bead. When the bead cools sufficiently that it is stable and fairly hard, I spot-heat a dot and then plunge a filament of glass (the dark red in the middle of the dimple) into the center of the dot. What's cool here is that you have to hold the filament still for a few seconds until the bead hardens around the tip, and then you snap it off like a teeny tiny twig. Finally I laid a blob of clear glass over the big pink dot, and the glass acts as a lens and magnifies the appearance of the bubbles, which are just trapped air in the glass. Nifty, eh?
Have you ever seen a glass paperweight or a vase with a field of symmetrically placed bubbles? Well, that is done the exact same way, only on a larger scale. They'll roll the molten glass over a pinboard, pocking a field of dimples onto the hot glass. Then they'll wrap on another layer of glass, trapping the bubbles in situ. Then they blow and shape the glass as they desire. Incidentally, if you work with bubbly glass long enough, the bubbles will work their way to the outer surface, pop and leave either a smooth or a slightly depressed surface on the glass.

Anyway, these beads are quite crap, but this is precision work which I'd need to spend hours reacquainting my hands with the process in order to achieve a finer finished product. It's funny how much a role muscle memory plays in processes like these. It's also amazing how shaky your hands can be when you're performing intricate movements. It's fine so long as you don't think about it, but then when you involve your conscious brain in the loop, it sort of plays havoc with your balance and precision. I wonder how surgeons do it?
Anyhoo, let me know if you get sick of bead posts. It's just that I find them endlessly fascinating...


Anonymous said...

I find them beautifully fascinating.

There's no way I could do it, I'm so clumsy I'd break them right off the bat.

Kizzy R. Hannah said...

You certainly have talent. I think they are wonderful.

Ann diPomazio said...

I find this process very interesting. Thanks for sharing it.
Both the Japanese and Chinese art students spend hours painting and recreating the same image. Asking a western art student to do the same is like asking him or her to paint by numbers. They don't ever want to create something someone else has done or that they have already done. I think there is something to be admired with the Eastern training. They are totally conditioning the muscle memory.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I bet there is a market for those "crap" cast offs. I actually prefer the idea of a necklace say made with the deformed and orphaned beads.

HollyB said...

"Muscle Memory" is a term I have heard again and again from experienced shooters. Those who have spent thousands of hours of practice on the range firing, dryfiring, aiming, drawing from concealment, and combination of all of the above.
Oh, and I think the beads are interesting, too.

Christina RN LMT said...

Will you be offended if I say that the beads remind me of hard candy?
They look delicious and I want to gobble them up!

Meg said...

Fascinating. I love to hear bead stories, especially how you make then in such details.

An educational blog, as well as entertaining and at times hilarious. What talent.

Lin said...

Wow, you're going to have to show me how to do that some day. They ARE delicious looking! I ADORE paperweights with the symmetric air bubbles in them although I only own one and presuming it made the move.

Matt G said...


We're making beads in our kiln, lateley, but havng some problems getting holes through them. Eperimenting with rods with kiln wash on 'em, and just gluing clasps on the back. (Which are ridiculously overcharged.)

phlegmfatale said...

lainy - thank ye, honey! Nah, you could totally do this. I'm a great teacher, and I could help you. :)

supermum - Aw, thank you, honey!

rocket girl - brilliant point! As for old-world disciplines, most of the great classic painters of from the 16th century forward were quite schooled in the disciplines of different styles. As a young student, Picasso was required to learn to paint in the classic styles of all the previous established schools. Once he has proven he can paint in a way which is respected, from there he can have a point of departure. By the way, some Japanese artists make tiny symphonies in glass. Beads which took many many hours to produce, and which sell for hundreds or into the thousands of dollars. I am awed by their discipline.

leazwell - More creative types (like myself) tend to prefer asymmetry. Every once in a while, I'll make a piece of jewelry for myself with my "fuglies," as I like to call them. Funny thing is those are the pieces of jewely I get the most compliments on.

holly - Thanks! Yeah, muscle memory plays a major role - it's like reverse-engineering a physical act into your limbic system

christina - offended? I'm deeply flattered!

aw, meg - you are sweet (and generous) to say so. Your weaving is a marvel to me!

lin - I'm sure it will turn up somewhere. Glad you like these!

matt g - Can you gently dremel a hole into the baked bead?

Anonymous said...

They are beautiful. I find it equally fascinating, as my 1st degree was in fine arts and I have always wanted to work with glass and never have. Beautiful!I admire your talent!