Friday, 24 July 2009

Studio Update

This week has been one of those week which would typically shatter me, but it hasn't.

My period is with me, and for all of those of us who are trying for a baby, this indicates another cycle where our hopes have not been fulfilled.  Certainly since Christmas I have been devastated with the start of a period.   My DH also lost some contracts this week as the company he works for as a freelancer went into administration… hmmm must change side bar… Clearly that hits us financially, and causes me to worry – normally.  Oh and its his birthday today.

On Tuesday this all hit, my hormones and pain at its worst and Andy’s news… and I don't feel shaken by any of it.  I have been praying about the idea that I cant continue to live with this persistent sadness.  Regardless of whether I have a child or not, I need to be pain free,  I just can not live this life completely absorbed by the pain… and I guess it makes my blog a really hard read to consistently hear me say I’m struggling.

As I said last Friday I think I’m working out how to manage the pain, and given this week, I really think I’ve found something that works for me.

My plan is on Monday to write it up rather than a Bead Basic Tutorial as I feel that at the moment this is the most amazing thing I could share.  so please pop back then

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Wednesday Giveaway – Pink Fritties – the result


Good morning… well actually its not. I missed the morning teaching a guitar lesson which turned out to be a girly bonding over cups of tea. I like that.

Well done Sam for getting in there before the result, I included you in the draw. gave me the number 5 out of the 9 posts which is Natasha. I hope you pop back because I have no other way to contact you. Please give me your address and I’ll get the beadies out to you. Well done.

Monday, 20 July 2009

6 Steps to Great Lampwork Beads Using Bead Presses

Why Use a Bead Press?

There are many reasons to use bead presses.

  • You can ensure consistency in size
  • You can relatively easily create a good shape
  • Your buyers have a fairly good idea what the bead will be like and can design more easily
  • Buyers may prefer different shapes presses can provide
  • You can create shapes you would find difficult by hand

Guidelines for Using Any Press

The thing about presses is that they look easy but creating a good bead with them is not guaranteed.

1. Over filling

This creates little ridges around the seams which if the bead is meant to have a flat edge will seriously affect the quality of the bead. With lentils you end up with a very fine edge which kinda makes it look like a fried egg. They can be disguised or melted in or take some of the glass off the bead. Having said that melting them in doesn’t always work and you can still see the poor design.

2. Under filling

This will mean that the glass doesn’t get all the way to the extremities of a shape meaning you have duff corners or a lentil that doesn’t quite work. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of using a press

3. Unbalanced bead

This tends to be my speciality. These are the beads where the mandrel didn’t quite stay in the middle of the bead. Some buyers may like this as they can guarantee that the bead will hang that way, however if they are part of set it really isn’t going to help your reputation.

The bottom line is that wonky beads are not good beads although they might be sellable to the right person

4. Dimples

There is a huge debate about how dimples should look on pressed beads. It is however incredibly easy to make sharp pointy holes on beads using a press which is not good.

If it is a bead with a flat edge, normal indent dimple rules should apply. With lentils it is good to have a decent dimple that a spacer bead can fit in. The reason for this is that the glass is going to be very thin around the hole and with wear over time this can cause the glass to break, or at least become very rough which could cause the threading material to break. As a bead seller, not a great way to get repeat business.

5. Chill marks

Pressed beads are always going to get those little ridges across the surface of the bead. They really do need to be smoothed out and smoothing them out has an added benefit that you are adding heat which will help with the whole thermal shock thing.

6. Pressed beads are more likely to thermal shock

As the bead is thinner on one axis it will cool quicker here and will more prone to breaking. The way to work round this is to put pop the beads into a warm kiln and to heat the area nearest the mandrel so that the bead can cool more evenly.

Pressed beads make up a large number of the beads that we make as a community. With the whole practice practice practice idea you can get to a place where you can make great pressed beads that you will be proud of in a few years time.

Links to Tutorials for Specific Presses

I have presses from a number of places. Some of these links are to sites which sell presses. I’m not specifically endorsing them, just highlighting their tutorials

  • Cattwalk Tutorials They have tutorials including Bicones, Crunch, Emerald Cut, Lentil, Puffy Pillow, Triangle, Tabs (Round Emerald)

Friday, 17 July 2009

Friday already studio update

022 copy

My plan had been to show you my pictures I’ve finished this week which I am really proud of.  Unfortunately It’s been raining all day and all the pictures I have are just well… really duff. 

So what you have today is a picture of the cushion Jess made in our home schooling lesson over the last few weeks.  I’m so proud of her she worked really methodically and designed it herself.  Go Jess.

I want to thank you for the comments you have made both publicly and privately about my current struggles.  As it goes, today is a good day and I think I am beginning to work out how when my emotions get out of control I can get them back more quickly.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Wednesday Giveaway – Pink encased fritties

027Today's give away is a set of 5 encased fritties.  Each bead is encased in a light pink glass so that the whole bead is pink.  The giveaway is for all the beads you see in the picture.

I’ve made a promise to myself that I will not miss a posting day since setting up a posting schedule.  Today was nearly the first day that I’ve missed it.  I would normally post at around 9 am it is now gone 9 pm and I’m just about getting ready to post.

I would love to come up with all sorts of reasons why but the truth is that today has been another step on our fertility journey.  I’ve had another hospital appointment today and I feel totally drained, not so much as by the appointment but by facing what I try and hide. 

I can genuinely say that following Friday's post when I really wasn't coping I have got to a place at the moment where I am coping with the pain I feel.  But facing the tests again today I feel like my energy has been sucked out of me. 

So why am I continuing with today's give away… because as I think I’ve said before it makes me happy.  Being able to give away something I have invested love in is something which makes a difference to me.

All you need to do to have a chance of winning today's beads is make a comment about what gives you energy, what makes a difference in your life.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Pricing Your Lampwork Beads

I have to be honest this is one of my bug bears.

Pricing is not just about you

Before I started making lampwork beads I genuinely could not understand how people could get away with charging as much as they did for a piece of glass.  As I’ve learned to make beads and learned to love our community of bead makers I’ve realised that this perception of the value of our own work seems to underpin a lot of what we do.

Charging appropriately for what we make is about respecting ourselves and the community of lamp workers we are part of and consequently represent. 

I was reading a thread over at LE - Lampwork Etc. where artists who had been making a living from lampwork were beginning not to be able to pay their bills (pre economic downturn).  The sense was when we as hobbyists and students undercharged for their work, the people who buy lampwork were not prepared to pay the prices they needed to earn a living from glass.  If I undercharge I am teaching people that these bits of glass are just that, bits of glass, rather than amazing works of art formed through this incredible process.

Under pricing could affect you in the future

I guess this is a bit of a warning. 

We all know of people who sell their beads for a lot of money.  I saw a bead going for over $300 a few weeks ago.  The truth is it was an amazing bead from someone with a reputation, but still wow that's amazing.  So there is money to be made.

My thoughts go something like by underselling, I damage the price that people are prepared to pay.  That means as I improve my skill and my reputation, people are prepared to pay less than they were prepared to pay before.  I therefore end up earning less.  Not good.  In this scenario the only way to earn the big money is to have an amazing reputation and make amazing and distinctive beads, and to be honest there are only a handful of names in this category.

So the formula

50p a minute or $1 a minute

Seriously it is that easy.  Due to the exchange rate the $1 a minute is quite different from 50p a minute so there is a price range you could go. It is what I was recommended when I was taught and what I see being recommended by people who have been lampworking for a while.

I also have a wholesale price.  Simply because if I sell to a local shop they have a mark up they need to put on.  If I sell at retail price, then I am charging less so why would people purchase from the local shop.  I’m to great a competition.

30p a minute or $0.60 a minute

I’ve never sold wholesale to the US so I don't know how that would work but I know with the UK shops it worked out at a price that the shop owners were willing to pay as were their customers.

But my beads aren't worth that much

So what if you don't think your beads are not worth that much?Seriously there could be a number of issues going on

  • The beads aren't good enough – have a look at the post 10 standards for selling good lampwork beads.  If they pass they are good enough to sell.  If not think about developing your skill a bit more, sell to family and friends, use them for yourself, fuse them, there are all sorts of options.
  • I’m new to lampwork - so you make your beads slower than some who has been doing it for years.  Why not estimate how long it would take them to make the beads and charge at that rate?
  • I’m a hobbyist I don't need to charge as much – you don't but others need you to charge that much.  You are unintentionally affecting others who earn their living by glass art.  Consider your community when you consider your pricing.
  • I just cant charge that much – when I initially stated this was one of my key thoughts.  For me it started to highlight something about not being good enough as a person and not being worthy enough to earn money through something I loved.  Truth I am good enough and I don't need to be a struggling artist.

I’m sure there are other reasons why we don't charge correctly.  Please hear my words as guidelines and recommendations and hopefully not a lecture. 

Go for it make fantastic beads and sell well.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Studio Update???

picture goes here

I am only writing today as Friday is supposed to be my studio update day.  I have no update as I haven't made anything all week. That feels really weird to me as normally I feel creative a lot of the time.  I feel at the moment that all I have the energy to do is cope with my paid job.

Where I am at emotionally has a lot to do with this.  During last weeks mini heat wave I found myself unusually attached to the persistent sadness I feel as a consequence of our fertility issues.  That has probably been brought into focus as we have finally got to see the right doctors… it too 3 1/2 years rather than 6 months to get to this stage, but that's another story.

Currently I feel incredibly drained and my head feels like cotton wool. All I know is that I need to find some way to deal with some of this pain independent of whether we have a child or not.  I need rid of this pain if I’m going to do something rather than just survive.

So where do I start, the honest answer is I’m not really sure.  The obvious answer is I need to spend more time meditating and just being with God and its true that will make a huge difference.  But what else is it that I’m needing, because it feels like there is a lesson I need to learn but I’m just not comprehending what it is.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Tree Bead Necklace Winner

I’ve had posts of both my blog and facebook so I’ve decided to combine the numbers… First the blog posts, then the facebook comments…

14 comments in total… and the random generator gave number 8 which was Kitsch Kitty, UK Beaders founder.

E-mail me your contact details and I’ll get the necklace out in the post to you


Monday, 6 July 2009

10 Standards For Selling Good Lampwork Beads

In the excitement of starting to make lampwork beads is the amazement that other people like our beads and are wanting to buy them. So when are we ready to sell our beads.

1. Good holes.

The holes of your beads need to be neat, to not have any sharp points. Quite simply if your beads have sharp points they could cut the stringing material a bead worker is using damaging your buyers jewellery and potentially affecting their reputation.

You are also selling something with a sharp point, which after all is glass and so could cut the buyer.

People recommend that you should have good puckers, what that means is that there are nice dimples so the whole thing is smooth. There different recommendations for different shapes and different personal preferences, but I would recommend that the holes always go in a little.

I do know that some people “drill out” the holes to get rid of the sharp points. This will leave an etched look on the bead and a rough surface. There is no harm in doing this for beads you intend to keep but it is best to avoid on beads you intend to sell.

2. Shape of the bead

The bottom line is that most people who are buying our beads are buying them to make jewellery and generally they need the bead to hang right in the design.

S13aIt is fairly obvious when beads are off centred and don't hang right. One of the surprises for me was with my signature peacock beads. With the way that the glass is place to form the body, it causes the beads to be unbalanced and turn meaning that designers have needed to be careful how they have used them. I have subsequently changed the orientation of the design which makes a huge difference.

There is no problem in making an off centred design if that is how it is intended to be. You just need to let your buyer know, you don't want buyers returning your beads.

3. Structurally sound – No cracks or defects

In my mind it goes without saying that beads should be structurally sound. What has scared me when I have looked at beads the number of people who sell damaged beads. I even found some at a bead show on a lamp workers stall and they were telling me how wonderful their work was. Unfortunately my thoughts were you are unintentionally affecting me by selling stuff which is substandard

4. Stringer design well attached

It is so exciting when you begin to get design on beads. It is really important however that it is well attached. The bottom line is if the dots or stringer are under cut and not flush to the bead, the glass will come off at some point. Not great if you’ve already shipped the bead and someone is wearing the bead as it can lead to sharp glass … ouch.

5. Annealed.

It is strongly recommended that you anneal your beads in a kiln before you sell them. This is often the main difference between mass produced beads.

The basic science is that cooling the bead at a slow rate allows the bead molecules to line up rather than being random. Having random molecules means that the glass is more likely to break or crack at some point in the future.

Annealing your beads means that in the future it could be your beads that archaeologists dig up because they have survived years. It also more practically means you will have happy customers.

6. Cleaned.

One of the things about mass produced beads is that often they are not cleaned properly. From a designer point of view this leads to a yucky white substance coming from the beads. What I didn't realise for a long time is that this powder can be cancerous if breathed in. Frankly any fine dust breathed in is bad for your lungs.

Look after your customers by cleaning your beads and look after yourself by cleaning your beads underwater.

7. Chill marks.

These are little rings and ridges which appear on your beads when you use tools or press your beads. They appear because different bits of the glass cool at different rates. The bead need to be warmed to clean these marks off to create a nice smooth surface.

Having said all this I have seen a friend create lollipop beads where she deliberately left the marks as part of the design. Some people just have to be different hey.

8. Bubbles

Bubbles are the curse of clear or transparent glass especially when you are encasing the bead. The aim is to create a bead free of bubbles. Some people like bubbles in beads and my understanding is that they don't affect the structure of the bead but a good bead is bubble free.

9. Pricing.

This is a hugely touchy subject but the bottom line is if as a designer you sell a handmade bead for a cheep price you are teaching the guys who buy beads that lampwork beads are not worth much. This then affects the other lampwork bead makers.

You may only be making as a hobby, you may no feel you are good enough but the recommendation is that you charge 50p a minute whilst making the bead. That will cover the cost of the making the bead and promotion. If you feel a better lamp worker would make the bead faster then charge for the time you think it would take them.

10. Insurance.

The unfortunate reality of selling is that it makes sense to have Public Liability Insurance. Should the glass you sell harm someone, it makes sense to be able to protect you and your family financially.

Enjoy melting glass, it is the most amazing thing you can do. Hopefully this article should give you an idea of when it is a good time to start selling your precious orbs of glass.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Stoicism = So Happy I Could Bounce and Studio Update

I’m going to start this rather long post with my studio update followed with what this slightly bizarre title is about.

I have 3 sets of uncleaned comet beads which I really need to get round to listing.


I’ve also been painting, or at least working on the mixed media pictures


This is the one I showed you last week.  It now has its birds and some beading.  I think I might need to put a bit more movement into it, but hopefully by next wee it should be near being completed.


This is the one that I’ve recently started on.  Nothing is stuck down.  I’m thinking it might need some lampwork butterflies.

So back to the title.  It seems like one of the strangest things I could say but wow it so is.  I was watching a 5 minute presentation on Stoicism and looking at our fears rather than trying to improve our motivation.  The practicality of pessimism: Stoicism as a productivity system

It is so important to be grateful, so important to find out what we really want to do, but somehow in this I have always felt held back.  I’ve never been able to tie that down until this 5 minute moment.

Listening to what was being said something made a lot of sense.  In therapy I often get people to look at what the “bottom line” of what they are fearing is.  For some reason I hadn't considered applying this to my art work.

By Following the recommendation of creating a 3 column chart. I feel like something has lifted and I feel really excited.

  • The first column being identifying all the possible worst case scenarios that could happen if you did what you're considering.  
  • Column 2 Detail all the things that could minimize the likelihood of those worst case scenarios from happening.
  • Column 3 Detail all the line by line action items that it'll take for you to get where you want to go. What do you have to do to make that change in your life, to avoid those worst case scenarios, and is it worth it?

I now have 37 clear things that I can do to stop the worst thing I fear happening from happening.  OK only 18 are linked to my deepest fear but I feel like I can move forward in a way that looking at only positive things hasn't been able to give. 

By recognising and identifying my fear it has lost control over me, for now anyway.  I also have practical steps which will help challenge my procrastination which is one of my biggest problems.

I feel so happy I could bounce.  My pessimism has been dissolved by looking at it head on

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Tree Bead Necklace Giveaway

I thought I’d do something different this week.  I’m offering a piece of jewellery made with one of my focals.


The silk ribbon is painted and sewn by Diane at SowZerE Designs.   It’s amazing the love and care she puts into her hand made ribbons.  This one is called Calm.  I thought that was so apt for this bead.


The metal in this piece is sterling silver and has been formed by myself.  There are 2 copper spacers at the top and bottom of the bead to hold it in place.

I hope to have some comet beads and dragon scale beads listed on Etsy tomorrow morning.

All you need to do to have a chance of winning this pendant is make a comment, leaving your name