April 02, 2008

Lamp-Working For The Weekend

My first beads. Lookie what I made!

If you are an 80's music fan and remember Loverboy, then the title of this blog entry title might actually be kind of clever.

It's been a while since I blogged, but I was away in Auckland doing some really fun stuff this last weekend. I took my very first lesson in "lampworking"...that is making beads from molten glass using a torch.

I took a class from Lisa-Jane Harvey of 'Born to Bead.' She has been creating beads and jewelery for about 3 years, but has just opened a beautiful studio perfect for teaching.

She and her husband are originally from South Africa. On the way from the airport, she stopped by a South African butchery and we picked up some Biltong, a spiced, dried meat and Droewors, a similar dried meat snack formed in long ropes...similar to beef jerky, but made using a different process and spiced uniquely. Really tasty!

In no time, I was at the studio and taking a look around. The beads are made from glass rods in a luscious array of colors. Ooooo, pretty!

This is me on the first day of the class getting used to working with the torch. It's an interesting mix of fear and coordination. The flame is extremely hot (well, it melts glass after all) and so there is a natural fear of getting burned.

Then with one hand you have to continually rotate the 'mandrel,' the metal rod that you make the bead on. It has to be rotated back and forth, at least 360 degrees, and perfectly horizontal (or the beads go lopsided). With the other hand, you manipulate the glass rod in the flame which wants to melt and flow away from you. See the white hot blob of glass on the end of the blue rod.

Now I'm not trying to make some sort of retro-uber-geek statement with my outfit here, but I had to wear these special UV-blocking safety glasses when working with the flame.

Once we got the hang of making a basic bead shape, Lisa taught us how to make different types of beads...ones with spots, little nubs called dots, spirals, and how to trap a bubble of air inside a spot (far right bead in both photos has a tiny bubble in the center of the spot).

Then we made a rectangular free-form bead. I didn't intend it, but this one just looks Antarctic to me. I see Ob Hill or Mt. Discovery at the top with clouds in front and some ice and stuff on the bottom.

Then we learned how to use silver leaf in beads, giving it a nice sparkle.

This one also has some silver in it. I particularly like the way the blue seems to glow on this bead.

The class was 2 days long, but I stayed for an extra day to get some individual tutoring on using dichroic glass on beads. For those that don't know what dichroic glass is, go here.

Dichroic glass is a bit challenging to work with. You can't put it directly in the flame and have to be careful not to overheat it. It has to be 'encased' in clear glass (in other words has a layer of clear glass over the top) to protect it. As a beginner, I had a tough time with it and after ruining three beads, I decided to stick with the basics, as least for now.

But I did manage to get one decent dichroic bead. I think it's lovely!

A few more lovelies...

The day of my flight, we had some time so Lisa took me into the city of Auckland. We had lunch at a terrific Italian place where every dish was $12, then we had some amazing gelato for dessert, then and took the ferry to Devonport for a bit of a look around at some shops.

It was a lovely weekend! I can't say for sure if I am hooked on lampwork, but I certainly want to do some more of it and we'll see where that leads.

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