Sunday 26 July 2009

More Cupcakes?

Lampwork Glass Cupcake BeadsI have deliberated about this and mulled it over endlessly. After the Cupcake Mountain earlier in the year I was almost ready to say that there will be no more Cupcake beads.

Then I went through the wodge of when-are-you-going-to-make-more-cupcakes? emails that I've received over the past few weeks and this morning, after a cupcake conversation with Chris, I've decided this :

I will make more BUT they will be in batches. This way I won't get a huge backlog of orders. I'll take orders for so many, make them, post them out and then when I feel ready again I'll offer up another batch. This way I won't get bead despondent and stressed. I know - I sound like a fragile drip-of-a-thing, don't I, but hey, I can't control the way the arty-beady department of my brain works!

So this is a bit of an advanced warning I'm giving you, dear blog readers. Tomorrow night at 7.00pm I will replace the PayPal shopping cart buttons on the Cupcake page of my website. I will then take orders for Cupcakes. When the number of Cupcakes ordered reaches 50 I will remove those PayPal buttons. (That's not 50 orders, that's 50 individual cake beads or pendants.) I will then make those 50 cakes and pendants and they will be posted out by the end of August.

After that batch is cleared I will arrange the ordering and baking of another lot.

This seems to me like the only way I can do the Cupcake thing without driving myself insane in the process. I have allowed myself four weeks to make and post the orders as I have to keep my 'usual' beads in production too.

So, if you'd like some Cupcakes, set your alarm for 7.00pm tomorrow evening and place your orders then!

Thursday 23 July 2009

Ask Me : Encasing & Cracking Problems

Hi Laura,

Whenever I try and encase, nine times out of ten, my bead cracks. I have to let my beads cool in a fibre blanket through the night. I have a small silver clay kiln and I hang my beads on chopped up mandrels on a little home made shelf and batch anneal them. More tend to break after annealing. Any thoughts on what I'm doing wrong?

Much love
Bev x

Hi Bev,

This is a really common question. Most people start out beadmaking with the whole fibre-blanket-or-vermiculite-then-batch-anneal thing. I did the exact same thing. And I had the exact same problem. I could make smallish un-cased beads and they would cool with no problems at all. The minute I tried my hand at encasing was when I started getting beads cracking.

I'd read a lot about clear glass and all the different ones available and I was fished in by the lure of Lauscha's crystal clear sparkliness and decided to give it a whirl. I'd received Passing The Flame as a Christmas pressie and I was eager to try out one of Corina's spacey cosmic beads. I did so and cased my Effetre with Lauscha and the three beads I made were good when they went into the warm vermiculite. They were good when they came out too! But I was wary about the compatibility issue that surrounds mixing glasses of slightly different COEs so I did my Kitchen Windowsill Test. This is a very technical test where I place beads on the tiled kitchen windowsill for a couple of days. The windowsill gets sun and shade and therefore, different temperatures. Two days after making the beads I was stood washing up and I heard a 'ping' noise and I noticed that one of the beads had broken. The next morning the other two had also cracked. I looked at the cracks and after a spot of interwebs research I concluded that it was more likely to be a thermal shock issue rather than a compatibility one.

That was the point where I decided to buy a kiln that I could put my beads straight into as I made them.

In my highly unscientifically-minded opinion, I just think that encased beads are fussy things that like to be kept warm. They feel the cold, poor things, and even though you've swathed them in a coat of hot, clear glass they're still chilly underneath and that is where, I think, the crux of the problem lies.

While I was waiting for my kiln to arrive (from America as back in the day you just couldn't get a beadmaking kiln in the UK) I carried on with the vermiculite and I tried my hand at more encasing, this time using Vetrofond clear. I kept my encased beads quite small but they were still cracking. So I left the encasing and concentrated on other stuff.

When I eventually got my kiln and garaged my beads straight from the flame all of my bead-cracking problems magically disappeared.

My advice to new beadmakers is to do the vermiculite-or-fibre-blanket thing but I tell them to expect cracks if they encase. You get to practice basic beadmaking this way but to be honest, if you're at the encasing stage then you really should be thinking about putting hot beads into a hot kiln. This saves time, glass, stress and disappointment. Yes, a kiln is expensive but it is an absolute necessity if you intend to pass your beads on to anybody else, be it as a gift or by way of selling them. Aunt Beryl would be very upset if you gave her a nice bead necklace for Christmas but come New Year the beads had cracked and fallen apart. So yep, in my opinion, encased, elaborate, sculptural and large beads need to go straight into a waiting kiln.

But don't let this put you off batch annealing. Un-cased beads seem to survive very well and there is so much you can learn and practice with them - dots, stringer, shaping and so on.

I think I'd also better address the whole glass compatibility thing a bit more here. As I said, I got cracking problems when I mixed Lauscha with Effetre and even though I'm 99% positive it was thermal shock, I've never mixed those two glasses since. That is my personal choice. I know many beadmakers that successfully use Lauscha with Effetre with no problem at all. I don't use the two together because I just don't. Have I stressed enough that this is my personal choice? I'm not decrying anyone for mixing the two and I'm not saying it's wrong. OK?! ;o)

Right. Hopefully that answers your question, Bev. Hot encased beads really do need to go into a hot kiln. To do this your kiln will need a digital controller and thermostat. Just a ramp-up, ramp-down kiln isn't enough. You need one that will sit at a garaging temperature for however long you want, then anneal for at least an hour, then ramp down. I have a Paragon SC2 with bead door and it does the job lovely.

Hope this helps. Happy encasing!

Laura x

Got a lampworky question? Email me at and I'll do my best to answer it for you!

Please Note : Any answers and advice I give here are based entirely on my own lampworking experience and are my own thoughts and opinions. All views stated are personal ones and should not be taken to be carved-in-stone recommendations of what to do and what not to do with regard to beadmaking.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

'Monochrome Megamix'

Monochrome Lampwork Glass BeadsHere they are! Glossy black, pure white and crystal clear in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs.

Monochrome Lampwork Glass BeadsMy favourite is the cute 'Dasiy' one on the right of the picture above. Very fiddly but oh-so pretty! I will make more of these - maybe a set of them?

Monochrome Lampwork Glass BeadsThere are lots of focals in this set including some funky lentils and a groovy cone.

Monochrome Lampwork Glass BeadsThe heart above is simple but effective - a slightly-raised white heart on a jet black background. I can see this as a pendant.

Whoever buys this stash is going to have loads of fun making lots of jewellery!

I got totally absorbed in making this little lot. I think it was all the stringer - I reach Stringer Nirvana and time just flies.

Talking of stringer, if you're in the Bristol area (or even if you're not) you may be interested to know that I'm teaching a beadmaking course at Fire Works on November 7th. We'll be doing lots of stringerwork and many other fun things too. Please click here for details.


How's things?

I'm just having my lunch and am currently eating a yoghurt that was left over from when Robyn came to stay. It's a Munch Bunch half-vanilla-half-strawberry-as-much-calcium-as-a-dairy-farm type thing and it is really mank! Doesn't taste like yoghurt at all. It's certainly not like the Munch Bunch yoghurt that I remember from the 80s. Rubbish!

I know I said I'd post photos but I never got around to it - I was too busy playing Lego, reading books, baking cakes (then dropping them on the floor as I took them out of the oven) and having my make-up and nails done by Robyn.

Anyway, I do have some beads in the kiln. I shall post a photo later and I'll put them up for sale in the usual place at 8.30pm tonight. I do warn you, it is a BIG set. I got in the groove, couldn't stop and I'd hate to break the wodge of beads down into smaller sets as they just all belong together like one big beady family. So these will be fab for a jewellery maker who is looking to stock up with some fancy beads to make lots of pieces with. Stay tuned for pics .....

Thursday 16 July 2009

No beads because .....

..... Robyn's come to stay!

We've had a busy day today. We went to the farm centre in the morning and then down to the river to feed the ducks this afternoon. Tomorrow we're off ice skating!

I've just got Robyn off to bed - she's nabbed mine and I'm on the floor on her inflatable (or 'infloatable' as Robyn likes to call it) mattress but I'm not complaining because I'm really excited to have my little niece here!

I took lots of animal snaps this morning but I've been so busy blowing bubbles, playing on the CBeebies website, drawing and cooking fish fingers and chips (result - it's been eons since I've had fish fingers!) that I haven't had chance to sort through the photos on the camera. I'll do a montage thing if I get a minute tomorrow.

Monday 13 July 2009

Poppy Pendant Winner

Drawmaster BusterLots and many of you entered the prize draw for the Poppy pendant!

I wrote all the names down, gave them a spin in the Lego tombola and then Buster came along to 'help' me pick a winner. What is it with cats? They're so nosy inquisitive. Anyway, my furry purry friend helped me draw a name and the winner is Jenna Eyres of Stitch Itch . Well done Jenna! Please email me with your address and I'll get your pendant in the post to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered the draw - you've all given me lots of potential flower bead ideas. I'll do another bead giveaway soon so do stay tuned.

Oh yeah, while I'm on the subject of cats, I read this interesting article on the BBC site today. Apparently cats are quite the manipulative little scamps. Like we didn't already know that .....

Friday 10 July 2009

Ask Me

I've just had an idea.

I get lots of emails from people asking lampworky questions - how to do this, where to get that etc etc and I thought that it might be a plan to answer some of those questions here on my blog. That way, everyone can read the answers!

If you have any lampwork/bead-related questions for me then zap me an email at and I'll do my best to answer them.

Thursday 9 July 2009


Lampwork Glass BeadsThis set of beads was going to be bigger. Thing is, I had to have the door open while I was making them as it was really muggy. It was quite breezy too and my flame kept blowing about. I burnt my finger and I also singed a bit of hair - only a couple of strands but isn't the smell of burning hair just so horrid? After that I thought I'd leave the set at just five beads. Who knows what may have happened if I'd carried on .....

Anyway, these beads are glossy black and white accented with raised dots in hot pink. I think they look quite cosmic. I know it's sad but I'd like to think if Darth Vader had a missus then she would wear these beads!

'Lovely Lizzi' Charity Auction

'Lovely Lizzi' Necklace By Mel PoxonThis pretty pink necklace was made by Mel Poxon of Kookie Designs and she is auctioning it to raise money for the Princess Alice Hospice. The piece is called 'Lovely Lizzi' and is named after Mel's close friend Lizzi who sadly died earlier this year.

The beautiful focal in the necklace was made by Rob Johnson and the dark pink nugget beneath it was made by yours truly.

Please click here to read more about the auction being held in memory of Lizzi and for details of how you can place a bid for this gorgeous piece of jewellery.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Roll up, roll up! It's giveaway time!

Lampwork Poppy PendantI realised yesterday that I haven't done the name-in-the-hat thing for ages, have I? Thought I'd better rectify that.

The prize this time is a pretty Poppy pendant. The bead is quite chunky, very tactile and comfy-to-wear. The pendant is ready to be slipped onto a chain or ribbon. All the findings are sterling silver.

If you fancy a shot at winning it all you have to do is leave a comment, or email me if you prefer, telling me what your favourite flower is. I'll also need your full name. (Last time I wrote that a few people gave me their middle names as well which isn't necessary but if you feel like sharing your middle name with me please go ahead and do so!)

The prize draw is open to anyone anywhere in the universe but it's only one entry per person, folks.

I'll put all the names in the Lego Tombola on the evening of Monday July 13th and I'll draw a winner and announce who that lucky person is here on my blog.

Good luck!

What was I thinking?!

I've just had the most disgusting lunch ever.

You see, every weekend (except for the ones I'm with Chris because we eat all proper and civilised then, or try to) at some point I always have to have what I call a 'childhood meal'. These meals consist of things that I used to have on a Saturday or Sunday evening as a kid. Saturdays were Mum's day off from cooking and we'd have sandwiches for lunch and a light meal such as soup and bread for dinner. Then Sunday was roast lunch day and we'd have something like buttered crumpets at tea time because we would all be full up from Mum's lovely cooking. I have fond memories of sitting in front of the telly on a Sunday evening after my bath, watching Hi-De-Hi! in my nightie (a 100% nylon Pippa Dee one) munching on a toasted Marmite sandwich while Dad dried my hair ready for school the next day. We would turn the volume up loud so we could hear the hilarious jokes on the telly over the noise of the hairdryer.

So now every other weekend I have things like Heinz Ravioli, bacon sarnies, cheese on toast, crumpets, Heinz Hoops on toast or eggy bread. I know what you're thinking and I know it's a tad childish. But it's nice.

When I was in Tesco the other day I was about to grab a can of Heinz Ravioli in tomato sauce when I saw some Heinz Spaghetti Bolognese and I thought 'I haven't had that for yonks! Dang, that used to taste nice!' and I swiped a can off the shelf and triumphantly put it in my basket.

I've just cooked that spaghetti.

And that was such a mistake.

It. Was. Rank.

Either my tastes have developed since I was about eleven or they've changed the recipe. I suspect that the former is the case. I tell you, it looked horrid and it tasted ten times worse so I'll be sticking to the ravioli and hoops in the future.

I'll tell you what hasn't changed, though. Weekend evening television. Bar Casualty, which is now yawningly boring, the telly schedule is so lame it's untrue. The Graham Norton fest that is Totally Saturday is just unspeakably awful. I think I'd rather watch re-runs of Hi-De-Hi!

Saturday 4 July 2009


How are you doing? I haven't posted for the past couple of days because I haven't had much to say. I've just been trying to stay cool and I've been making Poppy beads when I can bear to sit next to the torch and kiln.

I did do one thing, though. I had my hair cut and I no longer look like Brian May! If I'm feeling brave later I'll post a photo of the new 'do .....