Monday, December 19, 2011


For the last year and a half I have been working on my technique at the torch. I spent a lot of time making beads out of Corina Tettinger's book Passing the Flame, which in my opinion is the best beginner lampwork book out there. Corina's style is very similar to mine (or I should really say mine is similar to hers)..small beads, lots of precision dots, encased transparents. I have done very well using her basic designs, tweaking the dots and colors, and using those beads creating jewelry.

But at some point I started to feel like I was copying out of her book too much. Not that I was doing so to the point of infringement or breaking some sort of artist moral code, but the point of boredom. I am sick of little dot beads. There. I said it. I am tired of earrings which are a sandwich of a dot bead with silver rondelles and silver balls on a silver hook. Blah.

Well, ok, these poked dot beads in 'Leaky Pen' are not boring, although the bubbles are not exactly centered....

But......I still needed some inspiration. Something not out of a book, but something real that makes me stretch to adapt it into a bead.

I am in docent training at the Corning Museum of Glass, which means that in a few short months people will actually trust me to give them tours of the museum. The first exhibit we studied was Ancient Glass, which contains some gorgeous examples of nearly 4 thousand year old core formed vessels. Let me see if I can lift a picture or two of them....

I love these little vessels!

I finally found some inspiration! I love miniatures, and these 4-5 inch tall bottles are just exquisite. They were originally used to hold scented oils for perfume (they didn't exactly have deodorant back then).

The top one is random from the web, the lower one is from the CMoG website. If you have a few hours to spare, the CMoG website is an incredible wealth of glass history and information. I will have to do another blog post on the museum, but for now the point is to look at these vessels.

So the technique is core forming, where a clay core the size and shape of the interior of the vessel is shaped on a metal rod . Back in the day the clay was mixed with dung (camel poop) to make chipping it out of the bottle easier. Today people use steel wool covered in clay bead release, although core forming vessels is not really a popular way to make glass anymore. The glass is then wound around this core, then decoration applied. The most common decoration for these core formed vessels seemed to be stringer wrapped around the vessel and raked. To rake stringer you just heat the area molten and then drag a metal tool through the stripes to make zig-zags. Much like you might drag a knife through cream on  the surface of one of those fancy coffees, or when making chocolate.

  I didn't want to jump into bottles right away, so the first thing I started was raked stringer on tube beads. Getting stringer that thin however is challenging. Well, I should say USING stringer that thin is challenging. It is easy to make. But it tends to go from 'too cold to stick to the bead' to 'so hot it balls up' in about a millimeter difference from the flame.  In other words it is tricky to apply. I started with plain stringer and the results were not terrible but not great either. Luckily the raking was easier. I made tube beads,circled the beads with stringer and raked from end to end so I was working on a relatively flat surface. I thought for my first attempt at raking stringer they didn't turn out too bad.

I think next I will try to make a complex stringer with stripes of the colors in one thicker stringer. I will make a flat rectangle on the end of a rod, paint stripes end to end, then stretch the rectangle so I have a long rod of stripes. Then I can apply 2-3 of these to the vessel or bead rather than 6-9 separate stringers for the same affect, and the thicker stringer will be easier to apply.

I chose colors which were similar to the old vessels: turquoise, lapis (deep blue), white and yellow. They aren't popular jewelry colors, but they certainly make me think of Egyptian decoration.

So after making a few of these I got brave and tried a little vessel. I thought it turned out wonderful for my first try, until I took it off the mandrel. Unfortunately it broke into 3 pieces. My hubby wanted to glue it together, but I think I will keep it in pieces. It will remind me that while I apply the handles and spend 3 minutes working on one end of the vessel, I must remember to go back and warm the other end occasionally.  I also just got it out of the bag to take a picture of it and one of the handles had popped off as well. 

Ok, so pretty sad for my first effort. But failure is a learning opportunity, right?

So as Moo would say, if at first you don't succeed.....
look really, really cute.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm Back

It is time to revive this shortlived blog. As it does when you get older, time flew by from spring past summer, through fall and into winter. It is now December...not sure when that happened!!

So this past weekend we had the opening to the VESTA art show at the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center in Wellsboro PA. VESTA is a wonderful group of ladies largely from the Wellsboro area who are brought together by their art endeavors. There are a wide variety of media: Kathy Cummings, Alyson Leach and Alice Mickey are painters, Linda Hoerner does jewelry and graphic design, Ali Taylor uses lots of beads in weaving and jewelry, Judie Mainus works in fiber and metal thread, Ruth Anne Miller is a weaver and craftswoman, Barb Most sews using vintage fabrics and does altered photo imagery and collages, Madaline Murphy makes exquisite art quilts, Patty Dillman makes willow baskets which are to die for, and then Kathy Riley and I are bead makers. Well, Kathy is in VESTA, I am not sure if I am official or not. I showed this year as a guest artist, hopefully everyone liked my work.

I am hoping to get more pics from the group, but I have one of our own display that Kathy and I shared :

That is Kathy in the foreground ( I love that fleece she is wearing-I want to paint my upstairs hallway that color!)

My fleeces are mounted on black frames at the base of Mount Rileykuhn.  I used mostly old frames I had in the attic, and covered them with black fabric from Tom's old Harry Potter- Dementor costume.  I had to laugh because the felts were too big for the frames, so I popped them in the washing machine. Shazam! Shrunk to size! Kind of like Shrinky Dinks. Made the edges more ruffled too. I really loved how they turned out.

Further up the slope are some bracelet/earring combos I made. I had lots of bracelets, very few necklaces, and not a lot of earrings. The reason I had so few earrings is that the Fire Mountain order I made for earwires and posts took forever to ship. They did a pretty good job of getting it out the door, but the package sat at the Horseheads office of F****x for 2 days, then didn't get to the house until 8pm the third day (halfway through the opening of the show). I offered to pick it up myself but they wouldn't let me. Next time I will be using UPS.

Here is Kathy's bead tree. It was stunning! She grouped the beads on the branches, so one branch had encased florals, another alien eye beads, another swirly beads. She even made chickens. Yes...CHICKENS!!  I traded her a pair of earrings for one. We all know how gaga I am for chickens.

I also sort of spewed felts all over her side of Mt Rileykuhn....luckily she shares way better than our dogs.

A closer look at Mt Rileykuhn....

So my dear husband Dave came all the way down to bring me a stand for my bio and see the show and he took the pics on his iphone. He wasn't sure if anyone else would mind their work being photgraphed so ours is all he took. We then all went out to eat, scored some free drinks at the bar, and then Dave stayed with us at Kathy's. Kathy was kind enough to let us sleep in the bed, which we shared with Moo. Moo has never slept with us before, and was very, very happy to be in the middle. He was such a nice, still, and quiet sleeping companion I was hoping maybe, just maybe, Dave would let him sleep with us at home. After all, we have a massive bed...plenty of room!

No luck.