Friday 19 March 2010

Looking Back

Me and my Hot Head, HoraceI've taught a lot of people to make beads and every time I do I can always remember how tricky it was when I started out. I am totally self taught and have never had a beadmaking lesson. That's me in the photo above making beads on Horace, my beloved Hot Head torch. Everything I know I have learned from books, experience and by making mistakes. I was two years into my beadmaking before I ever saw another lampworker making beads in real life.

Maybe if I had taken a lesson or two I would have progressed quicker. But then again if I hadn't made mistakes and then had to find a way to correct them then I honestly don't think I'd have the understanding of glass that I do today.

I've decided to be very brave and I'm now going to show you some old beads so you can see how they, and my photography, have improved over time. This is pretty difficult for me (as you know what a perfectionist I am) but I want you to see how far I've come in six years. I also want to prove that I am not lying to the students and people that I tell 'It's just practice- you'll get there if you stick at it!' but I tell you, when I was delving into the Beads By Laura archive I was laughing, cringing and generally squirming in my seat at my beads-gone-by.

So without further ado I give you some of the beads from my first few beadmaking sessions. The little light blue one on the left was my first attempt :

My first few lampwork beadsAnd now we move on to my first 'set' of beads. I was so proud of these at the time but now I hang my head in shame. The colours! The bumps! The dot placement! They were the first set I ever sold (on eBay) and they reached the massive sum of £4.50. I remember being so pleased - pleased that I had made an actual set and pleased that someone wanted to buy them.

The first set of beads I sold - agh!After that I was fired up with enthusiasm and I regularly sold beads on eBay. Beads like these Spiderman-inspired ones :

Terrible red, white and blue beadsIt's okay - you can laugh. I am. I'd been to see the movie and I just had to use Spidey's colours. I can't believe anyone bought these, I mean, look at them! But then again, back when I sold these there were only about six other UK people selling handmade lampwork beads on eBay. People seemed to like my work and I carried on selling via eBay. Here are four more of my early bead sets - just look at that 'stringer'! :

Some early bead setsI wouldn't sell beads on eBay now but I was so thankful for it back then - it drove traffic to my own website and I started to build up a customer base, some of which still buy from me to this day.

As you can see from the photos my early beads were very basic. Dots and splodges on plain glass. It wasn't until I taught myself how to do stringerwork that my beads stepped up to the next level and I can still recall what set it was I was making when the stringer lightbulb went on and I had that fabulous 'A-ha!' moment. It was these - my 'Stratford' beads. I think they fetched about £30 on eBay and I was so elated you wouldn't believe it! :

My strinmger 'A-ha!' moment beadsNot exactly up to today's standard, are they? But as I said, being able to work with stringer opened up a whole new load of bead doors for me and I really got into my stride making sets like these 'Aztec' and 'Ranocchio' ones :

Beads with lots of dots and lines
More beads with lots of dots and linesMost of my beads were bumpy back then. Take this 'Neptune' focal for example :

Sparkly focal beadBy teaching myself basic encasing I stepped my lampwork up another notch and started creating beads that are pretty similar to what I make today. These ones have the grand-sounding title of 'Intergalactic Episode II' so I'm guessing I'd watched one of the Star Wars prequels prior to making these :

Lampwork beads with many raised dotsSo there you have it - a little voyage through the Laurabead archives. As I say - I hope it's given you a laugh and also I hope that it shows all you new beadmakers out there just what practice, endless hours of torch-time, persistence and patience can bring.

I still can't believe those 'Spiderman' beads, though ..... *cringe!*


  1. I'm no expert at lampwork beading, but have to say they all look pretty good, definite sellers!

    You're probably cringing at that LOL.

    I received my earrings today, thanks, they are so pretty. I love working with frit also (in fusing).

  2. Laura, I understand you are a perfectionist and I own your beautifully perfect beads. But, I don't think your early beads are cringe-worthy in any way. I think you should be proud of them...your technical ability showed at a early stage and I'm encouraged watching how you moved from back techniques to incredibly refined techniques. Thank you for getting the courage to share...they are beautiful...

  3. I agree with Kathryn, although I am no expert in things glass. Thank you for sharing Laura xxxx

  4. I think they're all really good! And thank you for showing me this.

  5. I have to agree with all the other posters, I cannot see anything wrong or to cringe at but then I am no lampworker, I think they show even then what a talented artist you are.

  6. Loved reading this post! None of those beads are cringe worthy at all! They are all something to be proud of! So there! xx

  7. This was really interesting, especially seeing how your work has progressed. I think by teaching yourself you have been able to develop your own individual style, which is what we all love!

  8. Thank you so much Laura for this little voyage through your lampworking archives. It is really interesting, above all, for beginners like me.
    And your first attempts don't make me laughing, everyone need to begin...
    So interesting too, to follow you trouth the trip to the "A-ha" moment with stringers. I am really found of the video where you show how to do them.
    Thank you to be one of those who help us, by sharing your experiences.


  9. Thanks for sharing your 'journey'. It has inspired me to stick with it.

    So stringer and encasing cracked, what is next for the skill set?

  10. Laura I think all the beads are great! Thank you for sharing!

  11. It's lovely to see how your lampworking has progressed, but to be honest they all look fantastic to me!
    Tracy x

  12. I'm yet to start making beads - you've inspired me to have a go later in the year but as much as yours are fantastic, if I managed even to make that first blue one I'd be elated.

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  13. It's like a retrospective Art Gallery showing - thanks for the walk through your beadmaking career to date - long may it continue!

  14. Thank you for all the fab comments, people.

    I just wanted to show you how my beads have progressed over the years. I've been promising students for yonks that I'll dig out some old bead photos and now I've finally got around to it.

    Glad you found the post interesting.

    Laura :o)

  15. Thank you for sharing that with us Laura. I totally know what you mean when you feel your first beads are cringeworthy, not that I'm saying they are, just that I look at my first beads with horror but also quiet satisfaction when I compare them to todays beads. Compared to you I still have a long way to go!

  16. I so agree with all these others that your early beads were far from cringeworthy, they are lovely and the people who bought them so cheaply on ebay were very fortunate! Having said that your recent beads are definitely really classy and original. I think part of it is that trends change, and we all develop our styles through practice and trial and error. i've just started making polymer clay beads and hope I can develop and achieve as much as you have eventually,
    pam x


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