Handmade barrel bead

January 2014 magically spun me into a tornado of fun in so many ways, and in this article I share a little of the latest “by-product and process”, if that is anyway possible from the reality of enjoying an atelier!

For me, the lampworking studio is never the same environment from one day to the next. The varying temperatures, the attitude of the machines (yes, they do have personalities!), the temperament of the glass, the conviction of the flame, the companionship of the huge spider near my kiln, not to mention my own state of being and fluidity of creative energy … so many variables at play!

Aesthetically, my atelier is a feast for my eyes. Anyone feeling a ‘creative block’ has only to let their eyes rest up the gorgeous coloured rods, or let their fingers play with the tungsten picks and forceps, or gaze into the warm orange glow through the kiln window. Ideas, imagination, joy, passion… all start to flow to shake up the chakras!

Hand-pulled stringers, ready for molten painting action!

I’m in the midst of playing with stringers this month (these are handmade thin lengths of glass which make ‘painting’ with molten glass more fluid and controlled). Stringers come in many many forms, which I’ll write about later when I have better examples! Here, I prepared some to create the red and orange beads you see below.

These are applied once you’ve created the core bead on the mandrel. (A mandrel is a coated metal stick used in lampworking to enable you to wind molten glass from the glass rod). Painting with these is quite an art, and there are some amazing glass artists out there whose work is incredible (another article perhaps!?). I can’t really describe the experience of painting with these, but suffice to say that it goes way beyond illustration using technical pens for me (and I LOVE these!).

Below, you won’t find the most delicate examples of stringer application, but you could create these with simple stringers on your first few days lampworking. I hope this inspires you to take a few lessons or hang out with a lampworking buddy!

Handmade beads made with love!

More handmade beads made with love!

Testing the lampworking environment

Test bead… by-product of checking the atelier processes

I’m extremely diligent when it comes to “order” in my working environment, which is a nice contrast and complement to the artistic expression which often demands a little chaos! Testing and validation is integral to many things around us and the lampworking process is no different. From the moment you enter an atelier to begin your work, the process begins: safety checks, equipment checks, tool checks, environmental checks, etc.  All this takes place before my kiln is power cycled, before my torch is lit and before the beautiful glass rod graces my fingers!

The testing and validation process includes some of the following notable points (for me anyway!). See my article on additional factors regarding the atelier setup:

  • Awareness of the temperature in the atelier, the weather outside, my clothing … Glass is sensitive to temperature, as is the human body when stood at the torch for several hours!  The flame is sensitive to draughts!
  • Check the gas connections; for me, this is the propane and the oxygen connectivity, from source  to torch. There must be NO leaks and the gas flow must be controlled and steady!
  • Test beads… by-products of checking the atelier processes

    Glass rods and stringers, and other supplies for decoration like frit, metallic foils, etc. are all ready for use on the workstation, along with the metal bucket for glass shards and a Pyrex jug with cold water for hot pieces

  • Tools needed for session are at the workstation
  • The ventilation;  fume extractor working in tandem with the natural air replacement (window/door open) and not distorting the flame
  • “Am I from this planet?” bead!

    The flame’s consistency of oxygen and propane

  • The temperature of the glass in the flame and how it’s handled throughout, including the journey to the kiln (where it is held at a controlled temperature until batch annealing commences at the end of the working session)
  • The glass behaviour (varies between opaque, transparent, special colours, stringers, frit …)
  • Metallic foils boiled in glass

    The kiln schedule (which should be programmed into the kiln in advance, and each segment reviewed for the required glass type, i.e. the COE value).  The kiln will be used to hold finished torch-worked glass art pieces (for the duration of the lampworking session) and then used to seamlessly proceed to the annealing process (in my kiln this takes about 6-7 hours to room temperature). I used the SKIP segment command to move from the holding segment to the annealing segment. See my article for details on the Evenheat Kingpin kiln.

The glass cold working environment

In the practice of glass fusing, I learned a lot in the preparation of glass art pieces after the hot glass processes were completed. Once the glass piece is cool enough to handle, you can determine if anything further needs to be done – this can be anything from a quick polish to an extensive filing, polish and possible re-firing!

Cold-working in itself is a subject worth learning about and can make quite a difference to the final outcome. I sometimes use Cerium Oxide Polishing Powder with special glass cloths, and on occasion make use of 3M’s Diamond Hand Pads of different grades.

My sister bought me a wonderful present a few years ago – a Dremel 8200! Besides all the amazing things this tool can do, it is just perfect for removing the bead release from inside the hole of beads very quickly. (Bead release is the coating applied to the mandrel to enable molten glass to stick to the metal rod for creating beads, etc.)

My new bestfriend – the trusty Dremel for bead holes!

Selection of drill diamond files and diamond file pad

Diamond drill files close up


For the barrel bead, glass rods use include: opaque Deep Yellow (#1408), and transparents Dark Emerald (#1030), Medium Amber (#1014) and Dark Aqua (#1036).

For the 1st photo of round beads, glass rods use include: opaques Dark Ivory (#1276), Dark Red (#1436), Light Red (#1428), Translucent Orange (#1422), Pastel White (#1204), Medium Red (#1432), Ivory (#1264) and Anise White (#1208), and, transparents Pale Amber (#1012), Dark Amber (#1016), Black (#1064), Quartz Rose (#1067), Clear (#1004), Clear Special (#1006) and Yellow (#1008).

For the 2nd photo of round beads, glass rods use include: opaques Dark Ivory, Translucent Orange, Light Red, Anise White, Ivory and Dark Red, and, transparents Clear, Clear Special, Yellow, Black, Straw Yellow (#1049).

For the test beads, glass rods used include some of the above, plus opaque Nile Green (#1214) and transparent Pale Emerald (#1031).

Originally published: Monday, January 20th, 2014 at 19:54 in Atelier, Inspiration


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4 Responses to “Warming up the kevlar gloves!”

  1. Mick says:

    Nice one Bunny!

  2. SvenL says:

    Wow, great post and even greater art! You’re having the fun of your life there, that’s clear 🙂 And that’s the goal to reach for! Good luck with all the creativity and discoverings you will sure make whilst playing with glass art.


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