Monday, 1 March 2021

Spring things and bead things


I keep seeing people posting photos of springtime flowers emerging - lovely crocuses, daffodils and grape hyacinths and the like. Every year I mean to plant bulbs and corms like that but I never do.


I've got naff all in my back garden except for daisies. That's okay, though, because I flipping adore daisies. They're just little flowers of sheer perfection.

This morning I noticed that a couple of little daffodil things have sprouted out in the front garden, though. 

Little daffodil things

A few years back I bought one of those cheapo cardboard tubs of little daffodils that they sell in Tesco Express. When the flowers went over I planted the bulbs out the front thinking "Well, you've got two options; you can live or die" and every year since a couple of little yellow flowers have emerged. I always forget that they're there so when they pop their heads up I'm always "Oh yeah! I remember you!" at them.

Handmade lampwork glass big hole beads by Laura Sparling

In bead news, I made a couple more orange and purple big hole ones yesterday. I'm not sure about one of them (the one in the bottom right) but it might just be me being super-critical of my own work. I'll give it a couple of days and see what I think. Sometimes I think a bead has dot placement issues and when I go back to it a day or so later I can't actually see the problem that I was initially concerned about.

I'm really pleased with the one in the centre of that strand, though. This one:

Handmade lampwork glass big hole bead by Laura Sparling

He's about 20mm diameter x 9mm and he has many many dots. Lots of breath-holding and careful melting-in required during its making.

Handmade lampwork glass big hole bead by Laura Sparling

I made more dotty big hole beads today, this time in lavender bush kind of colours.

Glass stringers

Handmade lampwork glass big hole bead by Laura Sparling

The bead in the photo is still hot so those aren't its true colours. I'm looking forward to seeing what the bead looks like when it's cool.

Don't forget to enter my prize draw. Right now there are only seven entries so the odds of winning the heart necklace are pretty good! I knew this would happen. People are so over blogs. Social media has made it effortless for people to interact by whacking a like on this or posting an emoji on that, and it's made us lazy. I didn't want to do a giveaway on Instagram because it's too easy. "Like this post to enter!" or "Like and tag a friend to enter!" giveaways are far too simple. People end up entering things just because they're there. Doing a blog giveaway takes a couple more clicks and some actual typing, so this way I know that people are entering my prize draw because they really want to. If you've joined in, thank you!

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Heart necklace giveaway

Handmade lampwork glass red heart necklace by Laura Sparling

I'm going proper retro here with a blog-based giveaway. I've not done one of these for yonks!

The prize is one of my off-mandrel heart pendant necklaces in transparent bright red.

Handmade lampwork glass red heart necklace by Laura Sparling

The heart comes strung on an 18" sterling silver chain.

If you'd like to guarantee owning one of these necklaces, I do have a couple for sale in my shop.

Handmade lampwork glass red heart necklace by Laura Sparling

The giveaway is open to anyone anywhere in the world and all you have to do to enter is leave me a comment on this blog post. Please leave an actual name, or an Instagram username or a website/blog link in your comment - just something so that I can easily contact you if you're the winner. Don't worry if your blog comment doesn't show up right away; I have to manually approve comments (to avoid the dreaded spambots) so your comment will show up when I do that.

Only one entry per person, please.

On Sunday 7th March I'll draw a name at random from the comments and that person will be the winner of the necklace. I'll announce who that is here on my blog and I'll also contact them directly if I can.

Good luck!

Saturday, 27 February 2021


Handmade lampwork glass big hole charm bead by Laura Sparling

You know how last post I said that when I go down to the shed I just see what happens beadwise? Well, yesterday's beads are a good illustration of that. I had no idea what colours I was going to work with so I just selected one of my favourite colour combinations – purple and orange – and I pulled a few stringers and just sat and made.

Handmade lampwork glass big hole charm bead by Laura Sparling

I ended up arranging and stacking dots which is one of my favourite lampworking things. Whenever I start one of these beads I never know how it's going to end up. I make it up as I go along and there is something very zen about watching the dots move as they fight for space on the surface of the bead. Circles push themselves into rounded rectangles, triangles and petal shapes, and dding more dots distorts them further still.

Handmade lampwork glass big hole charm bead by Laura Sparling

Before you know it, half an hour has slipped by and a very groovy looking bead has been born.

Handmade lampwork glass big hole charm bead by Laura Sparling

I also made a couple of beads that have raised bumps.

Handmade lampwork glass big hole charm beads by Laura Sparling

These are asymmetric and the first one I almost abandoned because I thought it was too asymmetric. I couldn't think how anyone would like it or want to use or wear it, but something stopped me from plunging it into the water jug and I made another unbalanced one and resolved to see what they would look like together.

Handmade lampwork glass big hole charm beads by Laura Sparling

I'm calling them the 'Odd Couple' because they work as a mismatched pair. On their own each one looks like a weird little alien spacecraft but together they look quite happy and harmonious.

Handmade lampwork glass big hole charm beads by Laura Sparling

The beads all have 4mm holes and they'll be available in my next shop update. I don't quite know when that will be but keep an eye on my Instagram or sign up to my mailing list and I'll let you know.

I was going to make more beads today but I decided to have a crochet day instead.

Crocheting a granny square

I'm two thirds of the way with the squares now. The best bit about making a blanket is when it reaches a considerable size and it starts acting all blankety while you're working on it. Cosy knees!

Friday, 26 February 2021

A post in which I moan about everything

Handmade lampwork big hole beads by Laura Sparling

I don't know why I feel the urge to write a blog post but I do, so here I am.

Lockdown 3 continues to roll on and like many others I feel as miserable as sin. It doesn't matter how positive I try to be, I spend most of my days in an absolute fug of hopelessness. "The vaccines will sort it all out!", "We'll be back to normal soon!" and various other stuff like that fails to cheer me up because I fear for the future. I worry about all the lives that have been damaged by lockdowns; about the non-Covid health issues; about the lost jobs and businesses; about the way that human interaction has changed forever; about children's educations and their mental wellbeing; about the creeping authoritarianism that so many people seem to be welcoming with open arms. There will be no 'back to normal'. Normal is gone. It's very difficult to be hopeful and jolly when you accept that.


Maybe that's why I felt the urge to blog? Perhaps I felt that I just had to put that out into the world. Writing stuff down has always helped me to process my thoughts. We're supposed to be all Blitz Spirit about the virus, aren't we? Asking questions about the way it's all being handled can get you labelled a 'covidiot' or a 'covid denier' or an 'anti vaxxer', when in reality you are absolutely none of those things, so people just say nothing and quietly seethe and worry. We live in a world where we feel increasingly unable to voice our true opinions and concerns. Most of us fear being unfriended, unliked and cancelled. We have to subscribe to and parrot the narratives of the day in order to fit in and get ahead, but that's a whole other blog post for another time...


A friend who I've known since we were 14 recently sent me a gift voucher for Wool Warehouse and I decided to spend it on an Attic24 crochet 'Aria' blanket kit.

'Aria' crochet blanket in progress
It's getting there

I've not knitted or crocheted for about two years. The whole 'knitting is racist' thing in 2019 left me with more than a bad taste in my mouth and it resulted in me nuking my Ravelry account, unfollowing a whole host of knitting people, and shunning my needles and yarn. It absolutely marred knitting for me. The racist knitting thing was one of the first things that made me ask "What is happening here?" with regard to the 'culture war' and 'cancel culture' and when I delved into it and learned about the theory behind it, I began to understand why I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with 'woke' discourse in general. This piece about purity spirals was particularly interesting.

Anyway again.

It turned out Lindsay's thoughtful gift voucher was just the ticket for pulling me out of my yarncraft funk.

Nigel likes to help

I've been working on my blanket these past couple of weeks and last night I completed the 90th square out of the 144 it is made up of. It's not knitting but I'm thoroughly enjoying it and maybe I'll get back to the old two needle stuff soon.

And what news of beads?

Getting my arse in gear every day and finding the enthusiasm for beadmaking is hard. I'm not happy about this but I'm just accepting it as a standard response to the shitty pandemic and lockdowns. When I do get in the shed and if I am able to make beads, I make whatever I am able to make. I don't think about it and I just make whatever I feel like I want to make on the day. The past couple of days that has been big hole beads.

Handmade lampwork big hole beads by Laura Sparling

I'm not silver coring them because the physical effort required to do this does not work with my current elbow issues. Have I droned on about that here before? If not, long story short: In October I hurt my extensor tendons lifting a heavy crate awkwardly at the foodbank but I didn't do anything about it and carried on lifting and working and now I have some kind of long term tendonitis issue that won't go away. I've had steroid injections which kind of helped with the left arm, but the right one is still bad. I'm supposed to go back for another set of injections but meh, it didn't seem to do much last time so I'm dubious about another lot. I've got used to the pain, I think. Some days are better than others. I've found out what I can and can't do, adapted how I lift things, and I've accepted that sometimes my arm really hurts. I'm pretty sure I should have been sent for some kind of scan or X-ray to check it out properly but that never happened because of the old Covid bollocks. I had to wait four weeks for the steroid injections! So yeah, it's a crappy arm situation but... I just can't be bothered, really. I'm bored with it. And in case you're thinking "Well, crochet won't be helping!", oddly it has no effect on it. I think it's because of the way I hold my hook (overhand) and the way I crochet. My technique is 'wrong', from what I can gather. I taught myself how to crochet when I was about 11 and I've never changed the way I do it.

*another sigh*

It's all a bit shit, innit? For everyone, not just me. I honestly believe that anyone who is apparently flourishing during all of this, or is carrying on seemingly unaffected by it all, is either a liar or a sociopath.

Apologies for such a downer of a post. Like I say, sometimes I write to get stuff out of my head, and sometimes the place I do that is here. Just be grateful that you don't have access to the Notes app on my phone!

Monday, 15 June 2020

Enough is enough

Handmade lampwork glass 'Gryffindor' beads by Laura Sparling

For a good few years now I've publicly detailed the glasses I use to make my beads. I call them my 'bead recipes'. My sharing of my bead recipes was prompted by numerous "What glass did you use for these?" or "What pink is that?" type questions and it became easier to just state these facts along with the photos of my work.

Over the years I've also done the occasional video or tutorial, talking about beads or demonstrating how a certain bead is made.

The thing is, you share things and suddenly people think every bit of work you show on the internet is fair game for copying. And no, I'm not saying that if I've shown you how to make a certain bead that you are not 'allowed' to make it. I'm trying to say that some people think that because I've shown how I make a couple of things it must follow that the rest of my back catalogue is up for grabs too.

It's not.

Recently someone has adopted my 'signature' bead sets (like the ones pictured above) to the point where as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day I thought for a second I was looking at my own work. And no, dear outrage police, obviously I don't think I own band, spotty, scroll, polka dot or spiral beads but I'll tell you what: quite a few people know that when they see a set of beads with those designs arranged like that, they are most probably mine. Does that make me sound big-headed? Probably. Don't care.

I've also had a thing recently where someone nicked a bracelet design of mine and is selling the results on Etsy. That's one thing, but when you have blatantly copied my description for my version of the bracelet, pasted it into your Etsy listing, changed about four words of it and altered the dimensions to fit yours, that's plagiarism. It's lazy and it's wrong.

I know this all sounds pathetic and it is, in a way. In the grand scheme of things it's just beads, right? We should be flattered that others like our work so much that they want to emulate us, right? Wrong. This copying shite has rumbled on in lampwork circles forever. I see copies and interpretations of other beadmakers' beads all the time and it irks me. Sometimes you know that a beadmaker has done a popular tutorial for a style so that's maybe OK (depending on the original beadmaker's tutorial terms) but sometimes I see absolute bare-faced rip-offs and it's not right.

A student once told me that she copied my work and the work of others but because she sold the results at fairs and not online she felt it didn't matter because we didn't know anything about it. If you're doing a "Well, that's rude!" face at the screen now, please know that my face did the same thing to her face.

Why am I telling you these petty stories?

Because I've had enough.

Sixteen years I've been doing this. Sixteen years of figuring out how glass works. Sixteen years of reading about glass, of experimenting, of trial and error. Sixteen years of mistakes and wasted hours, wasted propane and wasted glass. Sixteen years of writing stuff down and learning. And I'm still learning. You look at one of my beads and you are looking at the ten or so minutes it took me to make it plus sixteen years of practice.

Basically, I think that I've shared enough.

It got to the point where I was feeling like a bit of a mug. I'd post some beads or a new style of bead and people would comment with a short, sharp "Video?" or "Tutorial?" like I somehow automatically owe it to others to put my years of findings and what I've learnt from honing techniques out there. I don't.

I've removed my instructional videos from YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, and I've made the decision to stop sharing my bead recipes. The bead recipes I've posted on Tumblr and Instagram will remain where they are, and obviously I will still discuss the glasses I use when I'm doing Creation is Messy testing, but from here on in I'm just about showing you what I've made. I will share any information I am comfortable sharing but I'll no longer respond to questions that I feel I don't have to answer.

I apologise if this post comes off as rude but there's only so long a person can feel taken advantage of before they say "NO MORE!" If my forties are teaching me anything, it's that I don't need to pretend; I can be me and be true to myself and people can accept me as I am or they can naff off.

TL;DR: Because I am an over-sensitive, misanthropic whinge-bag I am no longer answering every bead-based question I'm asked, or sharing instructional videos or bead recipes.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

CiM Testing: Montezuma

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling made with CiM Montezuma

Montezuma is a sliver-rich navy blue that was an attempt to remake Prussian Blue and it is similar to that but I reckon it’s more of a dead ringer for CiM Class M Planet.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling made with CiM Montezuma and CiM Ra

In rod form Montezuma is a dark blue but when heated it gets a marine green tinge. If you don’t encase the bead this will remain, but a layer of encasing magically does away with the green, leaving a rich navy blue. This glass behaves exactly the same way as Class M Planet did, even down to its occasional shocky-pop here and there. (Nothing serious – just warm it slowly and carefully.) That quirk aside, the glass is a doddle to use.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling made with CiM Montezuma and CiM Ra

The photos of the spotty beads are Montezuma encased with Effetre Super Clear 006, with spots and spacers in CiM Ra. The picture at the top of this post is just Montezuma on its own.

The beads were photographed indoors in natural daylight.

Friday, 17 April 2020

CiM Testing: Ra

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling made with CiM Ra

Ra is a silver-rich pastel lemon yellow. It’s like a slightly brighter, tad more saturated version of CiM Baked Alaska.

I didn’t strike the glass in any way; I just used it as I would any other opaque glass. I pulled it into stringer and applied it as dots to a base of CiM Flax and the dots retained their crisp edges with no bleeding or feathering.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling made with CiM Ra

When you heat Ra it loses its colour and looks to be off-white but as it cools the yellow returns. Baked Alaska behaves this way too.

Handmade lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling made with CiM Ra

I found Ra to be fuss-free with no shocking.

The beads were photographed indoors in natural daylight.