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The Design Process by Kate Francis

Hi and welcome. I thought it would be a good idea to have a section on the website where you can see how and where its all made with some explanations about things and some of the terms un-ravelled.

Lets start with why I do it.

I’ve been making jewellery with glass beads for many years now and got to the stage where I couldn’t find what I wanted for my designs. Fed up with the same old glass beads that everyone uses I decided I had to start making my own. I started having a go making Fimo beads but to be honest I was rubbish at it. So after a while and having read a few books on the subject of glass bead making and design my parents brought me a Hothead torch for Christmas. I never looked back from that first wonky glass bead. Totally self taught from books and a handfull of tutorials and friends from a lampwork forum I consider myself on the way to being not bad at it.

So What is Lampworking

Lampworking is a type of glasswork that uses a gas fuelled torch to melt rods of clear and opaque glass. Once in a molten state the glass is shaped either by blowing or manipulating with tools. When making glass beads the molton glass is wrapped around a wire or mandrel to form a bead. The bead can have any number of other colours added to it and can be manipulated with tools or squashed flat or pressed into a shaped mould.

Simply by adding more glass the bead can be made into many shapes without any tools at all. Small beads can take just a few minutes to make in the flame but larger pendants and more intricate beads can take up to an hour and a half.

Frit which consists of tiny chips of coloured glass can be added by rolling the molten glass into it and melting it. I also use pure silver leave and foil layed onto the molten glass then covered in clear glass for beautiful silvered beads or they can be rolled in ground lead crystal like sugar to give a sugared effect like sweets in a sweet shop. Wrapping pure silver wire around at bead and putting it back I the flame melts the silver onto the glass giving it a very beautiful effect.

People ask if my hands get hot, do I often burn myself. No and yes occasionally. The torch is very hot in front but at the sides you can put your hands fairly close to the flame without too much heat, the burns come from touching the actual brass torch by accident and picking up glass rods at the wrong end, forgetting they still have hot tips to them. Its not very often that I burn myself on the actual flame.

The Kiln

Ask any lamp worker and they will agree that all beads should be annealed. But why? Annealing is the method of making the bead uniformly hot enough so that it reduces the stresses within the glass. By cooling it down very very slowly the stresses do not return making the bead stronger and more durable and less likely to crack due to thermal shock and stress. Because glass is such a poor conductor of heat the outside of a bead cools much quicker than the inside and beads that are not annealed often crack due to internal stresses. You should never buy lampwork beads that have not been annealed.

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