Fine Dots....Lampwork Beads and Jewelry


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The Process

The Process
Glass beads have been made since 1400 B.C.  Lampworking gets its name from Italian who melted glass over oil lamps.  Now we use torches; however, the historic name, lampworking remains for the art.
When I first started making beads, I would sit at the torch, select glass, and do whatever came to mind.  It did not take long to realize that I was wasting a lot of time and glass.  So now I usually begin with an idea.  Those who know me well know that many of my ideas come from "fun" shoes or an outfit that just needs a little extra.  Drawing ideas and combinations of beads is usually the first step.  Then I try my "prototype" in glass to see how it works.  A new bead or color then sits on top of my computer for analysis.  After all of that,  the lampwork project is ready to begin.
Then comes the fun part:  selecting the right combination of glass colors.  The glass I use comes from Germany and Italy.  It is considered a soft glass compared to glass similar to pyrex.
Each bead is made on a stainless steel mandrel that has been coated with bead release.  The torch I use is a Minor Burner that combines propane and oxygen,the amount can be varied to get different effects.  Large beads, like my fish, can take 1 1/2 hours to melt over the flame.  The Flowing and Swirling Dot beads each take about 1/2 hour depending on the number of layers of glass.  It is not unusual for a detailed dot to have 6 layers of glass, each one individually applied and melted in.
When the bead is finished, it is put in the kiln to be annealed at 950 degrees.  Annealing strengthens the glass and makes it more durable.  It is amazing how strong many of these beads are.  When dropped on the concrete floor most of them keep on rolling.
Once cool, the bead is ready to be taken off the mandrel with pliers and then cleaned to remove the bead release in the hole.
Finally, I am ready to make your bead into jewelry or package it, "Fine Dots" style, and mail it. 
Warning: Lampworking can be addictive.  Because of that you can be assured that your lampwork beads and jewelry are made in my studio on Saint Simons Island.


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