Wednesday 28 October 2009

Odd Job

My highly-organised glass rod stashSometimes I forget how totally bizarre my job must appear to other people. I started this lampworking malarkey five and a half years ago and back then I had no idea that you could have fun melting glass in the comfort of your own home. Or shed. Now it's my job and I'm so used to it I forget that other non-glassy people probably don't know what lampwork is, just like I once didn't.

When I meet new people and they ask me what I do, I tell them that I'm a beadmaker. They usually nod politely and tell me that their sister, neighbour or friend-of-a-friend makes jewellery too. Then I have to explain that no, I don't make jewellery - I actually make the individual glass beads. Then I normally do a whole What's-My-Line? type mime and a quick explanation to back it up. I've got quite good at it - I can describe my occupation in just one sentence now!

I mention this because today the double glazing people came to fit new windows and a new front door. I let them in, made them cups of tea and then I settled down to melt glass in the conservatory while they went about their windowy business. Every now and then I'd catch sight of one of the window men lurking in the lounge trying to figure out what the heck I was up to with a flame and some glass rods whilst wearing some attractive purple glasses. Eventually I beckoned them in and explained what I was doing and they were fascinated. I love how people react to seeing what I do - it's a kind of a cross between wonder, puzzlement and a so-that's-how-beads-are-made reaction. I guess it's pretty much the same reaction I had when I first read my Cindy Jenkins' 'Making Glass Beads' book all those years ago .....

Tuesday 27 October 2009

CiM 'Mojito'

CiM 'Mojito' Glass RodsThe postman just delivered this.

A bundle of Creation Is Messy glass rods in 'Mojito'.

If it melts as good as it looks I shall be a happy happy beadmaker!

Monday 26 October 2009

'Monochrome Simplicity'

Lampwork Glass BeadsI never tire of black, white and clear glass. This spotty set features a glossy black heart focal decorated with a raised white heart. Clean. Simple. Striking.

Tutorial : Basic Thick Encasing

Encased BeadsI get asked about this technique a lot. It's a very useful skill to learn and you'll find it will open up a whole new realm of potential bead designs for you. This particular type of encasing is a great way of getting a great depth to your beads. Any design applied to the surface really stands out and sometimes has that floaty kind of look to it. I've put together this ten step photo tutorial as I seem to be writing it out in words for people on a weekly basis! I hope fellow beadmakers find this helpful and even if you're not a glasshead maybe you'd like to see what goes into making an encased bead like one of those in the picture up there.
Just so you know, I have a Carlisle Mini CC torch with a torch-mounted marver and for this tutorial I'm using Efftetre black, Vetrofond clear and a 1/16 mandrel.

Step 1

Lampwork Encasing TutorialMake a tiny donut-shaped base bead. And I mean tiny. Imagine small and then make it smaller. This donut is about 5mm diameter. When you make the initial wrap touch the molten glass to the mandrel very lightly so you have a very narrow footprint.

Step 2

Lampwork Encasing TutorialRoll your tiny donut bead on a marver to create a neat cylinder. I roll mine out to about 5mm long. I say make it neat because the neater you build your bead, the less work you'll have to do in the rounding-up part of the process. And why a cylinder? Well, when you're learning to encase it's much easier to apply a casing layer to a flat surface as opposed to a round one.

Step 3

Lampwork Encasing TutorialNow melt a glob of molten clear glass (not shown as I was making this bead with one hand and taking the photos with the other) that is about three times the size of the base bead. All the while you must keep your cylinder warm by flashing it in and out of the flame. When your glob of clear glass is really molten press it onto the base cylinder and wrap it around the bead. I tend to wrap and melt the glass off on the left hand side of the bead so I end up with more clear on the left hand side of the bead than the right. Don't touch the mandrel with the glass - you just want to apply it to the base bead. If you touch the mandrel with the casing glass then the bead is doomed. Unless funky, patchy encasing was the look you were going for .....

Step 4

Lampwork Encasing TutorialNow add some more clear glass to even up the casing layer. As I said, I melt my clear off to the left so I always need to add more to the right. So judge it by eye and add more clear where the bead needs it. Remember - you're building the bead as evenly as you can at this point as it saves you time (and stress) later.

Step 5

Lampwork Encasing TutorialRight, now for the crucial bit. We have to melt the clear down so that we get nice neat edges to the bead without any of the base colour leaking up on to the surface. To do this, concentrate on one half of the bead at a time. Aim the flame where you want the glass to move to. Glass likes heat and it will follow it. So heat the left edge of the bead first (you could do the right side first but this is the way I do it) and you want to get the clear glass warm enough that it starts to move towards the mandrel, covering the base colour as it does so. Again, don't let the clear touch the mandrel. Stop heating just before you think you need to and then bring the bead out of the flame, keeping it turning and horizontal.

Step 6

Lampwork Encasing Tutorial
Now for the other side. Repeat the process described in step five, letting the clear glass move down towards the mandrel on the right hand side of the bead. Again, bring the bead out of the flame and let the glow come out of it.

Step 7

Lampwork Encasing TutorialAt this point you may want to add a little bit more clear glass in order to make the bead up to the desired size or it may well be just the size you wanted it to be. I guess it all depends on how pernickety you are about this kind of thing ..... ;o)

Step 8

Lampwork Encasing TutorialMelt the clear glass in and round up your bead. Remember to keep that mandrel horizontal.

Step 9

Lampwork Encasing TutorialThis is the quality control check bit. Bring the heat out of the bead and check the bead ends to make sure you've got no colour bleed.

Step 10

Lampwork Encasing TutorialThe finished bead. Now it's all ready to decorate!

Hints & Tips

When you're learning this technique it's a good idea to use a dark transparent for your base bead. This is because transparent glass doesn't bleed like opaques do and if there is any leaky colour you won't really see it.
Again, when you're practicing, my advice is to stay away from ivory as a base colour - it's tricky to case without bleeding happening.
If you're encasing black, your base bead needs to be warmer than usual (the glow must have literally just faded before you wrap it with the clear) or else it will cause scumming. Tiny little white bubbles are not all that attractive.
You don't have to stick to clear glass for the casing layer - try coloured transparents for different effects.
Etching this style of encased bead creates a gorgeous glowing effect. Take a look at my Luminobeads to see what I mean.
Try trapping some silver wire, silver foil or frit between the glass - the encasing will magnify whatever is underneath.
Don't let your bead get too hot and melty. Bring the glow out of it every now and again as this will help to stabilise it. If things get too molten it all gets out of control and starts to go wrong. Just take your time, relax and enjoy!

All images and text in this tutorial copyright © Laura Sparling 2009

Sunday 25 October 2009


Lampwork Glass BeadsThese light brown and grey beads are decorated with bands of silvered ivory and tiny droplets of fine silver all encapsulated in a layer of clear glass. Subtle but pretty.

These will be for sale in the usual place at 8.30pm (UK time) tomorrow night.

Charity Auction

The wonderful Melanie Poxon of Kookie Designs has arranged a big collective auction for charity. The lots on offer are all made up of handmade beads and jewellery by a plethora of UK designers. I have donated a set of my swirly galaxy beads (they're in lot number 10) so if you fancy placing a bid then do click here to head on over to the auction and have a look at all the loveliness on offer.

All money raised from the auction will be split between two charities - Headway and Royal Free Kidney Patients Association.

It's finished!

Girasole BlanketYes! The 'Blue Blanket Of Love' is complete and I am so very, very pleased with it. The blanket took many bazillions of hours and nineteen skeins of cotton aran yarn but it was so worth it. The piece measures about six feet in diameter.

Girasole BlanketAs I was nearing the end of this I found myself slowing my knitting down as I didn't want the project to end. It was the same feeling that I get when I'm nearing the last few chapters of a really good book.

Girasole BlanketThe pattern I used for this was Jared Flood's 'Girasole' and it is wonderful. The really well written, clear instructions made this a total pleasure to knit. Please click here if you'd like to download the pattern. Oh and by the way, just in case you're wondering, Girasole is the Italian word for Sunflower.

So that's one monster project finished. I must get my arse in gear and complete all the smaller unfinished ones now .....

I shall be back this evening with some bead photos. Have a good Sunday!

Friday 23 October 2009

Blankety Blob

Girasole In ProgressI thought I'd do a work in progress shot of the circular blanket that I'm knitting. I've been working on this on and off since June and the finish is almost in sight. I currently have 640 stitches on the needles and I have twelve rounds to knit before I start working on the edging. This blankety blob is keeping my lap nice and warm while I knit. Cosy! EDIT : I've just noticed that this is my five-hundredth blog bost. Woohoo!

Thursday 22 October 2009

'Purple Potpourri'

Purple Lampwork Glass BeadsAs the name suggests, this is an assortment of purple beads. They're all encased so they have a wonderful depth to them.

Purple Lampwork Glass BeadsUs lampworkers are really spoilt for choice when it comes to purple glass. There are so many shades of it to choose from and a load more can be created by mixing and layering colours. The palest pinky-purple and the deeper, more amethyst pink-purple here in this set are the exact same glass. I just layered it over different base colours and in varying thicknesses to get two different shades. Glassy magic!

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Future Socks

Manyana in 'Autumn' by Wild Fire FibresThe postman delivered a pink parcel of sock yarn this morning and inside was this gorgeous 'Autumn' yarn from Wild Fire Fibres. It's beautiful. I already know what sock pattern I'm going to use for this yarn but it's going to have to wait as I must finish one of my UFOs (UnFinished Objects) before I start something else. I'm currently working on two pairs of socks, a blanket for the Chris & Laura Box and a sweater for me.

I will have some beads to show you tomorrow.

Monday 19 October 2009

Felted Brooch by Bluebell Designs

Brooch By Bluebell DesignsGill at Bluebell Designs sent me this photograph of a wet felted brooch that she made with merino wool and one of my BloomBeads. Isn't it fab? The brooch is currently available over in Gill's online shop along with her jewellery, charms, pens and more.

Brooch By Bluebell DesignsIt's really nice to see one of my beads used in such an innovative way. It's also great to see one of my BloomBeads again - I haven't made one for years. When I started out on my lampworking adventure, plunged floral beads were the one thing I really wanted to have a go at. They have that kind of paperweight wow factor. Must make more .....

Today I've been catching up with Cupcake bead orders and tomorrow I'm teaching so I expect I will have some new beads to show you on either Wednesday or Thursday.

Friday 16 October 2009


Prize Draw WinnerI've just given the Lego tombola a good old whirl and the winner of the Lonelies beads is Blue Box Studio. Well done! Please email me with your address and I'll get the beads in the post to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered - there were loads of you!

I'll do another draw soon so keep checking back or follow my blog to find out when that'll be.

Quick Reminder

This is just a quick post to say that there are only a few hours left to get your name in the draw for the Lonelies beads. Please click here for all the details.

I'll do the draw tonight and I'll post the winner's name here on my blog.

Thursday 15 October 2009

'Fresh Air'

Lampwork Glass BeadsHere is the complete set of beads from the previous bead-related post.

They were inspired by the crisp, fresh mornings we've been having recently. When I think of chilly Autumn mornings I think of icy blues and greys.

There's a nice assortment of shapes here. Discs, rounds and a heart make up this 150mm long strand. Plenty of jewellery-making potential.

Semi-sorted. Kind of.

The website saga continues. My hosting company called me this morning to tell me that my FTP server had been hacked by some people somewhere in Russia and as such there was a niggly bit of code on my site directing people elsewhere, thus making my site unclean, hence anti virus warnings etc.

Whatever the hacking people/software did has somehow affected and limited my website editing capabilities so for the time being I'm going to have to do site updates in a very long-winded fashion. I'm hoping that Chris can help me sort things out at the weekend - no pressure, Mister G! ;o)

The good news is that I've cleaned away all the nasty code so my site is once again clean and sparkly and I will try and upload last night's beads at 8.30pm tonight. They'll be on the Freshly Baked Beads page ..... fingers crossed, that is.

This is all a pain in the rear end but at the same time I have learned a lot. I've been doing FTP stuff, HTML editing, changing passwords, installing stuff, uninstalling stuff and having lots of 'Uh-oh!' and 'A-ha!' moments. I feel like a right computer geekette!

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Tech Stress

This is a quick post to let you know that I'm having website trauma. A corrupt bit of code has attached itself to my site (again - have these internet vandals nothing else better to do?!) but I only found out about it this evening by which time the helpline people at my hosting company were just going home. I'm trying to sort it out myself and as such the beads that I was going to sell tonight will have to wait until my website is back up and running.

In the meantime, if you do visit my website and your anti virus software pops up with a warning message or it won't let you view the site then fear not, the corrupt code is not malicious - it's just annoying so nothing nasty should happen to your machine.

I'll call my hosting company first thing tomorrow and hopefully they'll put it right.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday 12 October 2009

Sneaky Peek

Lampwork Glass BeadsHere's a glimpse of some of the beads that I'll have for sale on Wednesday night.

Friday 9 October 2009

'Barbie Eclectic'

These are some really nice beads, even if I do say so myself! The colours just sing.

These pink beads are encased with a dusky rose and are decorated with turquoise stringerwork. Someone's going to have fun with this set. It includes a heart, some discs, a squat cylinder and lots of rounds, including a matching pair that would make some fab earrings. Utter pink prettiness!

'Wiggle It' Jewellery by Beady Pool

Necklace by Veryan ParkerVeryan Parker at Beady Pool has made this beautiful necklace and matching earrings featuring some of my 'Wiggle' beads. Aren't they great?

Earrings by Veryan ParkerThey're available now over in her online shop along with a wealth of other wonderful wearables.

And don't forget, if you've made something with my beads then do send me an email.
I'm always intrigued to see what happens to my beads after they leave me!

Thursday 8 October 2009

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

Lampwork Bead GiveawayYes, it's giveaway time and the prize is this bunch of sixteen of my Lonelies beads. These are all one-offs, experiments and leftovers from sets. All of the beads are first quality - no seconds.

Lampwork Bead GiveawayIf you fancy a chance of winning this little lot all you need to do is leave me a comment or send me an email along the lines of 'Yes please, Laura! Put my name in that Lego tombola of yours!' and on Friday 16th October I shall draw a winner at random.

Lampwork Bead GiveawayThe draw is open to anyone anywhere in the entire whole cosmos but it's only one entry per person please.

Good luck!

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Hey, blog peeps!

Lampwork Glass BeadsIt's been a little while but I'm back with some new beads to show you!

These are a variation on the Halloween theme - purple and green but in slightly muted shades. The pairing of soft violety purple and groovy wasabi-esque green makes for some quite sophisticated-looking beads, methinks.

Lampwork Glass BeadsThe purple is encased in a thin layer of clear glass so they have a nice depth to them and the stringerwork appears to 'float'.

Any name suggestions for these ones?

Thursday 1 October 2009

A little bit green

Green Lampwork Glass BeadsI've had this green glass in my stash for yonks. I ordered teal green and received this instead. It's not quite teal and it's not quite emerald but one thing's for certain - it's most definitely green!

My beadmaking batteries are flat. I sat and played about on the torch today but nothing was working right so I'll have to wait for my batteries to recharge. I'm off to Cambridge this weekend so hopefully I will return next week all bead-eager and full of ideas .....