Lampwork beads come in all shapes and sizes and designs are only limited by the imagination!
I often use them in my jewellery creations as I just love them… they are so beautiful!
I love their amazing colours and how the translucency of the glass catches the light…
What is lampworking?
Lampworking is a type of glasswork where a torch or lamp is primarily used to melt the glass. Once in a molten state, the glass is formed by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements. Lampworking is used to create artwork, including beads, figurines, marbles, small vessels, Christmas tree ornaments, and much more. It is also used to create scientific instruments as well as glass models of animal and botanical subjects.
Lampworked beads (with the exception of Asian and African beadmaking) have generally been the provenance of Italian, and, later, Bohemian lampworkers for the last four hundred years or so who kept the techniques secret. Thirty or so years ago, some American artists started experimenting with the form.
After designing a piece, a lampworker must plan how to construct it. Once ready to begin, the lampworker slowly introduces glass rod or tubing into the flame to prevent cracking from thermal shock. The glass is heated until molten, wound around a specially coated steel mandrel, forming the base bead. The coating is an anti-fluxing bead release agent that will allow the bead to be easily removed from the mandrel, either a clay based substance or Boron nitride. It can then be embellished or decorated using a variety of techniques and materials. All parts of the workpiece must be kept at similar temperatures lest they shatter. Once finished the piece must be annealed in an kiln to prevent cracking or shattering.
Annealing, in glass terms, is heating a piece until its temperature reaches a stress-relief point, that is, a temperature at which the glass is still too hard to deform, but is soft enough for internal stresses to ease. The piece is then allowed to heat-soak until its temperature is uniform throughout. The time necessary for this depends on the type of glass and thickness of the thickest section. The piece is then slowly cooled at a predetermined rate until its temperature is below a critical point, at which it can’t generate internal stresses, and then can safely be dropped to room temperature. This relieves the internal stresses, resulting in a piece which should last for many years. Glass which has not been annealed may crack or shatter due to a seemingly minor temperature change or other shock.
(extracted from Wikipidia)
Lampworking is truly an art… and I speak from experience when I say it requires talent and a lot of practice! Many years ago, I studied how to make lampwork beads and was all set up to make them in my studio for a while.
I made some lovely beads but I soon realised how much time and effort they required and because I didn’t have access to a special oven to anneal the beads, many of them unfortunately cracked before I could use them, breaking my heart one at time 😉
I made the 2 bracelets below using my own lampwork beads…
I was very proud of them at the time but they do look crude compared to the ones made by professionals 😉
I now import my lampwork beads to ensure I get the best quality so you can rest assured that they will look gorgeous and will never crack!
See for yourself!
Watch the video below which shows you in real time how a bead is formed. Note that the video is almost 10 minutes long because that’s how long each bead takes to make! Actually, it was cut short and does not take into account the annealing time so on average each bead takes several hours of work (without counting the many years of experience the artisans have)…
if you don’t watch the whole thing, make sure you at least check out the result right at the end 🙂