Spring artisan glass blown beads

What are Lampwork Beads?

Roslyn Our Journey beads, Designing Jewelry

What are Lampwork Beads?

Imagine putting rods of glass through a flame and melting the glass. Maybe you saw this process at a craft fair where the artist produced glass figurines. That was my introduction to handblown glass until I became a beader.

After a few years of designing with Czech glass, Swarovski crystals and semi-precious gemstones, I met a gal at a craft fair who told me she made her own lampwork glass beads. What are lampwork beads? She explained that simply put, what she did involved rods of colorful glass melted by the heat of a torch. She then wraps the molten glass around a steel mandrel (a little metal stick or rod) that she  covers with a bought bead release so the bead would slide off. Once the glass is in a molten state, she shapes the glass and forms the bead using hand movements and tools. I asked her why it was called lampwork and she laughed a bit and said, “A long time ago, the heat source was from a table lamp”. Today, a gas flame torch is used and an artist must work very slowly not to crack the glass as it heats and turns. A great amount of skill and hand coordination is needed just to make one bead. The process of crafting handblown glass is centuries old.

Fascinated with HandBlown Glass

I was intrigued and on a trip to Italy visited a Murano glass factory. There I watched artisans create amazing glass bowls, vases and works of art. I resolved to spend some time searching out lampwork artists using the internet. It didn’t take long before I was mesmorized by the glass beads of one particular artisan. I discovered Judith Billig on Facebook and my love affair and multiple purchases began. In an interview Judith Billig gave last year, she was asked why she choose glass as her medium. Judith replied, “I was never as fascinated with any other medium as I am with glass. It is difficult for me to explain what exactly it is – but I can completely relax while melting glass, and I always call it my ‘Zen’.”

Perhaps I am most drawn to Judith’s artistry because we share some similarities: our inspiration comes from nature, we seek intriguing color combinations and we are both always looking for something new and exciting to create. Here are two examples of Judith’s inspiration and expression.

Judith Billig, beads 2Judith Billig, beads 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over time I have become interested in different types of lampwork beads and found other artisans. Sometimes I want to use every bead in a necklace while other blown glass beads have so much personality and special interest, I can only use a few in one design or as a focal point as in “Arbor” and “Gustav”. Initially I am drawn to the smoothness of a bead visualizing it laying flat and gliding onto flesh or a sweater, like “Merle”. I also like the way some of these beads seem to bring the essence of nature to you as in “Marshland”.

 

[products skus=” 13f36, 13f92, 14W21, 13f72″ columns=”4″ orderby=”date” order=”desc”]

When working with beads with a matte finish, as in “Persian Princess” or “Hang 10”,  it is as if I am beading with chalky dried clay or stringing stones and they remind me of my pottery collection. The ultimate beads are the ones that resemble paperweights and snow globes, especially when held up to the light. These beads have anywhere from 3 – 10 different colors to coordinate with an outfit. They also need very little combining with other materials like “Cotton Candy” and “Berryland”. One thing all lampwork beads have in common, no matter who creates them, is that their colors are magnificent.

[products skus=”14S01, 15S02, 14W10, 14S07″ columns=”4″ orderby=”date” order=”desc”]

Spring Lampwork beads collage

Lampwork beads for spring collection

The excitement is in deciding which other materials to combine with the lampwork beads for contrast or to emphasize their texture. I don’t think I will ever tire of creating with lampwork beads. I can’t wait to begin designing our spring collection using these new lampwork beads. The top two are from my all time favorite designer Judith Billig of Icarus, and through an online auction I am delighted to have found a new glass blower, Kim Quigley who made ‘Caribbean Splash’ and ‘Plum Valley’.

Visit us at  Earth and Moon Design to see more of our designs.

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Roslyn
I loved going to work each day for 30 years as a professional career counselor. When I retired, I explored my creativity and regard for crafts until I discovered beading. At age 68 I turned my new found passion- jewelry design, into a business. At age 72 I took on learning about social media marketing and developing my computer skills. I am sharing my journey from inception, to frustration, to elation -in the hope of inspiring others that 'it is not too late to start again'. Welcome to my re-invention!

Comments 51

  1. Roz, the first thing that came to mind as weird as it sounds is that those pieces are like mouth watering! They are so stunning I have no words. No really…beyond!

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  2. These are all gorgeous, Roz. I love the two examples of Judith’s inspiration and expression. I can see where she got it.. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing a little history on hand blown glass. As usual, all your pieces are beautiful but I always have a favorite. Today, it is “Marshland.”

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      I now look forward to your favorite selection Alexandra McAllister. I recently reworked this necklace to add more blur giving it a spring like feeling.

  3. Hey Roslyn!
    It’s great to learn about lampwork beads. I find the concept really fun and fantastic. The bead work looks amazing! Thank you for sharing.

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      I used half of Plum Valley beads to make a petite spring necklace. The photo image makes the beads look much larger than reality. The reason is to better see the glass work and color patterns, but to an untrained eye, the size and scale needs to be adjusted.

  4. This blog immediately brought to mind a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘Nature always wears the colours of the Spirit’ and I can see why you are totally inspired by nature’s colour to create such stunning jewelry. It gets better each week! Thank you Roslyn for sharing your unique gift to the world. x

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      Beth Niebuhr, it enables our pieces to not look alike one another. Even when I divide a strand and create 2 designs, I will combine with other beads and colors to remain unique.

  5. It’s wonderful that two artists can work together to support each others’ success. While I’ve always loved blown glass, I never knew about lampwork beads. I can imagine how the process is so slow and exact, bringing about that zen space. That “zen” is what enables the creation of beautiful pieces! The two beads next to the species in nature are spot on! It’s wonderful to see the artists inspiration behind her work. Beautiful jewelry– as always.

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      Thanks so much Holly Jean. There is a huge group of lampwork artists who have moved away from selling their beads elsewhere and instead are doing it through groups as auctions. Sometimes the price gets driven up astronomically and takes so much time to stay on top of the auctions but they are fun. What we are unaware of is how even buying methods change with the times, just as you have seen technology impact your realty market.

  6. As a long time lover of glass, I was fascinated to read about the process of making the beads and also your attraction to them as well. Coloured glass has such a rich and inviting look to it and I’m also a big fan of Murano glass and would love to have the opportunity to visit the factories there some day as well. Because I collect elephants, several of my favourites are made from Murano glass and the energy and colours in them is quite amazing. The same thing I see in the jewelry pieces that you design using the LampWork beads. Being inspired by nature’s colours always shows in your designs and invites us all to take a look at the world around us through more “colour-filled” eyes.

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      So love reading your comments as they always add value to the piece. Thank you for appreciating art, beauty, words, glass, jewelry, music, nature- did I get it all?

  7. Love them! I’m a lover of glass work as well. I love the dynamics and uniqueness of the art. I have a number of handmade glass necklace, I don’t think any of them are Lampwork beads but I’ll have to go look closer. I love watch artist work with glass, it is such an interesting transformation. I really like Gostav.

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  8. I love anything glass so visiting Murano about 10 years ago was such a treat for me too. Your use of the beads is fabulous…LOVE!!!!

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  9. Every single one of these beads is so beautiful and unique! My eye tends to go toward the “beachy” matte beads. It’s great that you have found your Zen 🙂

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  10. Re-looking at these beads and the pieces you’ve made, I realized that I do see glass as art. I have glass everywhere in my house, in my elephant collection, some depression glass, vases, bowls, even a stained glass window I made in a class long ago. I believe there is something very magical about coloured glass and I see the magic in your necklaces. Each time you look at them, something else catches your eye. This comment is in addition to all the other things I said in my earlier one.

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      Appreciate the additional contribution of your comments Beverley. I know you are not on Pinterest, but I have a board I call ‘Glass Art as Inspiration’ and the work shown are magnificent. I agree with you that there is something magical about colored glass which is why we love using it in our designs.

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  11. I once saw someone create figurines out of glass. The talent is extraordinary. I really enjoyed reading your story about how you became involved with lampwork. Your jewelry is stunning.

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  12. I don’t have a creative bone in my body, I find this all so integrating, I have no idea about your world. Your creations are stunning.

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  13. Roz, thank you for sharing your interest in handblown glass. About 2 hours away from my home is the Corning Museum of Glass and they have demonstrations of the glasss blowers and how they come to design pieces such as vases, etc. I actually made a pendant in one of their “add-on” experiences. It is fascinating how the piece is formed and how they get it just right with the melted glass on the rod in the fire. My favorite piece here is the Marshland piece; and I have always admired how you find the essence of nature and pull it into your jewelry. Beautiful pieces once again.

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      Many, many years ago I too Tamara MacDuff, went to Corning Museum of Glass. I started a per weight collection shortly after marriage and was always thrilled by the process. Never dreamt that someday I would be working with handblown glass.Thanks so much for your contribution to the blog.

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