This past week I've been having fun making beads that would usually be considered as 'beginner' beads. By that I mean that they are beads that are presented in instructional lampwork books as 'basic' beads. The majority of lampworkers have either made beads like these or know how they are made. They're sort of classic lampwork bead staples, I guess.
However, just because something is 'basic', it doesn't mean that it is easy to make.
Take twisties, for example. These thin decorative canes of glass are created by twisting together two or more colours or types of hot glass. Sounds straightforward in theory but in reality it's a tricky skill to learn. Twisties are almost always held up as beginner things that every beadmaker should be able to do with their eyes closed. Personally, I've always struggled with them. I can do them, when I'm in the right frame of mind for them, but I never approach the twisty-making process with glee.
You can used twisted cane as a surface decoration or you can use it as I have to make striped beads. To make the bead above (and the 'Andy Pandy' ones at the top of this post) I made a disc-shaped bead, wrapped a twisty around it and then encased it with a narrow, tall wrap of clear glass, as opposed to full coverage hole-to-hole (*coughs*) encasing. As the encasing layer melts down and outwards towards the bead holes, it drags the twisty with it, pulling and stretching it widthways into thinner stripes of colour. Groovy!
The effect is even groovier when you use a twisty that is made from a mix of opaque and transparent glass.
The 'pleat' bead above was made with a white, amber and amethyst one, on an amethyst base.
The whole encasing-pushing-and-stretching-the-pattern thing can also be used over dots to make them into stripes, triangles and petal shapes.
All of the beads in the 'Peacock' set above started life as tiny base beads decorated with layers of opaque and transparent dots in various formations, before being finished with a layer of encasing that distorted those patterns.
So why am I making 'basic' beads and banging on about them here? Several reasons:
- Sometimes it's just nice to revisit old techniques that you've not played with for years
- They're a great way to showcase colour and rad colour combinations
- You can combine new knowledge with old techniques to create something fresh and new
- As a teacher, I have to refresh and jog my beadmaking muscle memory on a regular basis
- Because they're fun to make
I think sometimes us creative people can feel bad about doing basic stuff. We often feel like we should be constantly evolving and pushing ourselves and creating wonders and masterpieces. Well, I do anyway. (This is partly because years ago someone charming called my beads "Nothing but practice warm-up beads", but I'll not dwell on that here even though I hear those words in my head on an almost daily basis.) And I'm not just talking about beads. Sometimes I feel like a crud knitter for making a garter stitch scarf instead of a five chart, laceweight shawl the size of Brazil, or a boring unadventurous baker for baking plain fairy cakes with just cherries in and no icing on top instead of a seven layer salted caramel and chocolate cake topped with caramelised hazelnuts and handcrafted sugar paste squirrels. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with basic beads, plain garter stitch scarves or cherry fairy cakes because when they're done well, they're flipping fantastic.
In short, make what you want to make and what you enjoy making, rather than what you think others expect you to make.
That last sentiment is one that I personally need to tattoo on my brain. (Sometimes this blog is useful for giving myself a good talking to, if nothing else.)