Saturday 30 April 2016

Beads and stuff and more stuff

Lampwork glass 'Bumblebead' beads by Laura Sparling

This week has mainly been about the Return of the Bumblebeads. I hadn't made any for a while because the CiM Hollandaise glass I used to use for them is now pretty much extinct. This new wave of Bumblebeads are made in CiM Goldenrod.

Creation is Messy 'Goldenrod'

I've made the Bumblebeads available to order for a short time. They're £5.00 each and can be purchased here.

Speaking of extinct glass, remember I mentioned I was recently given the gift of some assorted glass? Well, some of that was Z-99 Purple Rose Special - a rare, beautiful, no-longer-produced glass by Zimmerman. I did a bit of a Google and discovered that it's highly sought-after (I know, I'm a very lucky beadmaker) and I also realised that I've had a jar of it as frit sat in my drawer for about a decade.

Zimmerman Z-99 Purple Rose Special glass rods and frit

See? This is what I get for being a bead hermit and not interacting with other lampworkers. If I did, I'd have known about this sooner. I'm working on that, by the way. I've joined a few Facebook lampwork groups and am being more 'social' which is something that I struggle with. But anyway, yes, I had a play with my Z-99 frit and some Effetre Opal Yellow and made these 'Painted Sunset' beads.

Lampwork glass Z-99 and Opal Yellow beads by Laura Sparling

A friend told me these remind her of Edvard Munch's The Scream. These have sold already but I will be making more, both for my Edvard-loving friend and for sale, so keep an eye out for some next week.

In non-beady news, my garden is starting to do stuff. Seeds are sprouting and there are tiny green leaves appearing in pots and tubs. I think I might have planted the world's slowest-growing tulip bulbs but they've finally flowered this week.

Tulip, taken with my iPhone and Olloclip macro lens
Tulip from the Sarah Raven 'Brandy Snap' collection

Food-wise this week, I have rediscovered the joy that is sardines on toast. Simple pleasures. Whenever Mum used to make herself sardines on toast she'd always do an extra slice because she knew I'd be there, hovering around unable to resist the toasted fish deliciousness.

Sardines on toast

I've been pescatarian/pescetarian (choose whichever spelling you prefer) since October last year. This is mainly for health reasons - I have one large gallstone that measures about an inch in diameter. I call him Trevor (as in Trevor Bolder, as in Spiders From Mars, as in 'boulder', as in large rock) and it would appear that I've had him for many many years. Because I have just the one stone my gallbladder only really plays up if I overdo the saturated fat, so Trevor keeps me in check diet-wise. I could have my gallbladder removed but I've not had an attack since September and I don't really want surgery (and I know it's a doddle of an operation, but still, I'd like to avoid surgery if I can) so for the time being I'm happy to control it with diet. Cutting out all meat except fish has really helped and I'm totally surprised to find that I'm not missing meat in the slightest and no, not even bacon. I can't eat eggs, though. Eggs are Trevor's nemesis. They're okay if they're in something, but pure egg, or an egg-centric dish like quiche, is out. Oh, the pain! I'm fully aware that I've become the annoying person who people dread feeding but seeing as how I hardly ever eat at anyone else's house, it's not really a problem. I don't do meat substitutes, though. Quorn and fake meats can do one. I don't understand the logic behind that stuff in the slightest.

Television-wise, oh my word, did you see the Line of Duty finale? Blimey me. I flipping love that show and I will miss its drama and twists and turns on Thursday nights.

(Photo via

Ted Hastings needs his own show, Steve Arnott is so good at being not-Scottish, Kate Fleming is my new ladyhero and I think I might fancy Matthew 'Dot' Cottan. If you've never seen Line of Duty, go back and watch all three series and enjoy.

After Thursday night's police telly drama, Chris and I went to a midnight screening of Captain America: Civil War. It was SO good! We saw it in 3D, which I'm normally underwhelmed by, but the 3D-ness of this film was spectacular.

#TeamIronMan. Obvs.

Right, after all that waffle I'm off to pack up some beads for posting. Have a great weekend, and fellow British people, if you have Monday off work, enjoy this extended weekend. Right now the sun is shining but seeing as we've had all the weather flavours this week, including snow, who knows what this weekend has in store for us?

Have a good'un!

Sunday 24 April 2016

Striped Pink: Episode II – The Pinkening

Lampwork glass beads made with Effetre Striped Pink 253

Remember those Striped Pink beads I made that were more purple than pink? Well, a friend gave me a tip-off that Tuffnell Glass had Striped Pink glass for sale at last weekend's Flame Off. I was all "YES!" and it wasn't listed on their site so I emailed Martin and asked if I could get in on that Striped Pink goodness and by Friday I was the excited owner of ten rods of the stuff.

Except what I stupidly forgot to factor in was Effetre's ever-varying glass production. Those magical glass conjurers work in mysterious ways and there's a reason why odd-lots are odd-lots. They just can't reproduce glass one hundred percent perfectly all the time and I totally understand that; I can't perfectly reproduce beads (one of the reasons I don't do remakes) because this glass malarkey is not an exact science and there are so many variables which make consistent results really difficult to achieve. Some glasses vary from batch to batch. For example, batches of Opal Yellow, EDP and Rubino seem to be affected by what phase the moon was in and what colour pants and socks the Effetre warlocks were wearing on the day the glass was made.

The first thing I noticed about my new Striped Pink was its colour. I only had one rod of it to play with last time and that rod was more purple. The one I got the other day is way more pink.

Two rods of Effetre Striped Pink 253
The newer (to me) Striped Pink is on the left. See? Much pinker.

Clearly these rods were from two different batches. Same basic principle, though. Something EDPish with a core of most-probably-Rubino.

Two rods of Effetre Striped Pink 253

When heated, the pinker rod goes the most gorgeously rich pink with subtle hints of the stunning purple that was present in the rod I used last time.

Effetre Striped Pink 253

I made plain spacer beads again; I think you would struggle to do anything else with this glass due to its devitrifying nature. With the previous Striped Pink, I wound the bead, heated it, rounded it up and stuck it in the kiln. With this one, I wound the glass on and the result was a pale grey-pink bead in need of striking. I waited a good few seconds and reheated the bead in the cool part of the flame, working from one hole to the other and then back again, heating out any devit that had occurred, then stuck it in the kiln. The result is something that actually is striped pink.

I ended up with beads that are pale pink around the holes (*Tim from The Office style glance to camera*) blending into purple-pink, with a band of delicious, blushing, almost Barbie pink around their centres.

Lampwork glass beads made with Effetre Striped Pink 253

Pretty, huh? The effect is reminiscent of what you can achieve with Reichenbach Purple Rose, but in a more pink way, if that makes any sense.

So, having Googled about and glass-faffed, I'm assuming that Effetre made more than one batch of Striped Pink 253 and that I've been fortunate enough to play with two versions of it. The version Tuffnell Glass currently has is nothing like the one that I showed you last time. That was much more purple and it did that gorgeous pink-glowing thing. This one makes beads that are more opaque. You do get a hint of the pink glow when held up to strong light but not to the extent that you do with the more purple version.

I'm more than happy to have this pinker Striped Pink 253 in my stashette. It makes gorgeous spacers and I reckon I can feel a bracelet-o-pink coming on.

You can grab some of this Striped Pink for yourself over at Tuffnell Glass.

My previous, more purple Striped Pink posts can be found here and here.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

And it was all yellow

Daffodil with a solar flare, taken with my iPhone 6s

The last couple of days have been sponsored by the colour yellow.

I bought a couple of bunches of daffodils on Saturday and I was expecting them to be bog standard, all-yellow, classic daffodils, but when they opened they had pale yellow petals and deep orange trumpets. Pretty!

I took a few photos of them using my Olloclip macro lenses.

Inside a daffodil, taken with my iPhone 6s and Olloclip
Daffodil gubbins

There was a tiny little fly inside one of the daffodils.

Tiny fly inside a daffodil, taken with my iPhone 6s and Olloclip

I also took a photo of a bright yellow dandelion on the lawn.

Dandelion, taken with my iPhone 6s and Olloclip
Reminds me of fire

Then while I was putting glass rods away I found a rod of yellow Creation is Messy glass from a couple of testing bundles back. I don't quite know why I never got around to testing it, but I thought I'd give it a go because I need a new yellow for my Bumblebeads. I used to use CiM Hollandaise for them but that is long gone now, so this bee, the flowers and the yellow spacers in this set are made with CiM Goldenrod.

Lampwork glass bee and flower beads by Laura Sparling

Goldenrod is a touch brighter than Hollandaise, which was a bit more mustard with a tad more orange about it. Goldenrod is a very yellow yellow, but not in an acid yellow kind of way. It's just a bright, happy yellow. It works well for my Bumblebeads as it's not streaky. Some opaque yellows get transparent streaks in them but Goldenrod is a nice 'flat' yellow. I've ordered some more so I can make a few more bees.

Sunday 17 April 2016

In defence of the basic

Encased lampwork glass twisty beads by Laura Sparling

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.

Lampwork glass twistes, or twisted cane

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.

Encased lampwork glass twisty bead by Laura Sparling

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!

Encased lampwork glass twisties, or twisted cane

The effect is even groovier when you use a twisty that is made from a mix of opaque and transparent glass.

Lampwork glass pleat bead by Laura Sparling

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.

Encased lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

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.)

Wednesday 13 April 2016

I have beadish stuff to show you

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I've not got a whole lot to say, but I do have some beads to show you. First up are the groovy '70s Wallpaper' ones above. I'm pretty sure these were subconsciously influenced by HBO's Vinyl. I flipping love that show so much.

Then there are these 'Aquathyst' (aqua and amethyst) ones...

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I reckon if these had a smell, they would whiff of things from Lush. I know that sounds bizarre but to me they look like they should smell of shower gel or bubble bath or something.

And lastly, I have the 'Garland' jewellery back from Making Jewellery.

Lampwork glass bead jewellery by Laura Sparling

This necklace, bracelet and earrings set is a one-off and it's available on my website, along with the beads above.

Monday 11 April 2016

My brain is a pillock

Assorted lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

A whole week of me not blogging has occurred, mainly because I've had next-to-no beads to show you.

Weezer at Brixton Academy on 05/04/16

This is partly due to the flat bead battery in my head and partly because we went to London on Tuesday night to see Weezer (my most favourite band in the whole world ever ever) so I spent most of Wednesday looking at gig photos and videos on the internet whilst not getting a whole lot of work done because I was in a floaty Weezer bubble of loveliness.

Me in my new Weezer t-shirt

But yes, flat bead battery. My perfectionism is a terrible issue lately. The pressure I put myself under to get my beads just so is ridiculous and I know it's ridiculous but I can't help it. I get annoyed with myself over it and people try and help by telling me that a bead which I think isn't right is perfectly alright but it doesn't help because I know that it's not my idea of right. It's very difficult to explain all this to non-pernickety people. The way I get through these episodes—and I will get through it, I always do—is to tell myself that it's just the way my brain works. My brain can't help wanting to make my beads as neat/tight/precise/tidy as I can possibly make them. It's just the way it is. And that's science. I've read a lot about it. The brain of a perfectionist physically works differently to that of a non-perfectionist. Trust me, if I could quit the bead fussiness I'd be over the moon as it would mean that I could make way more beads than I do. I'm not a perfectionist in all areas of my life - just the creative ones. And I've always been this way, right back to primary school.

The only thing I can do, because those helpful books and articles about 'letting go of your perfectionism' are absolutely pointless, is to embrace it. Yes, my stringer placement is good. Yes, my dots are even. Yes, my beads are all the same size. That is what makes my beads my beads. And my beads are like that because my brain made me make them that way.

Oh, enough of this wallowing about my pillock of a brain. It's boring me so it must be boring you. I'm just trying to explain why I haven't had many beads to show you this past week or so.

Whilst working through my current period of This Bead Needs To Be Killed With Water Now, I've amassed a collection of half-sets and one-offs that are totally cromulent beads and they need homes. I'm going to be selling them in my new Facebook Group at 19:30 (UK time) tonight.

Assorted lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

There will be spacers, pairs, mini-strands and a couple of strands of Lonelies for sale. You can join my Facebook Group here but you will need to be a Facebook user to do so. I understand that not everyone uses or wants to use Facebook and I apologise for that but when you sell on the internet and market your work through social media you need to stay on top of things, beat tricksy algorithms and experiment with different selling platforms. My 'normal' bead sets are, and will always be, available on my website. In fact, this set of 'Cloudburst' beads are on there now.

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I've left these spotty beads shiny but I've added the option of tumble-etching, at no extra cost.

And now I must away to the shed. Happy Monday!

Sunday 3 April 2016

Oooh, I'm fondling a daisy

Bracelet made with Effetre Striped Pink beads

I made myself a bracelet with some of those Effetre Striped Pink beads I blogged about the other day.

Here is a photo of me wearing the bracelet whilst I hold a daisy like I'm doing some kind of kooky manic pixie dream girl Etsy style photo shoot. I'm conveying the image of me lounging in a sunny meadow, wearing a floaty ditsy print tea dress with a flower crown and strappy flat sandals. But no. In reality, I was sprawled on my front on the weed-filled back lawn in a Star Wars t-shirt, muddy jeans and three quid George at Asda slippers whilst the cat attacked my foot and the wind made my hair look like a tornado-damaged bird nest.

Still, the beads look nice and you can really see their lovely pink glow.

'Garland' in Making Jewellery

Lampwork glass flower beads by Laura Sparling

I have a project in the garden party-themed May issue of Making Jewellery magazine. I show you how I make my lampwork glass flower beads.

Lampwork glass flower beads in a long 'Garland' necklace by Laura Sparling

I then show you how to turn them into a super-long 'Garland' necklace.

Lampwork glass flower beads in a long 'Garland' necklace by Laura Sparling

The brief was 'early summer colours' and in my mind this equates to bright pastels, which I know is sort of an oxymoron, but it makes sense in my head.

The two page article also includes directions for a matching bracelet and earrings.

Issue 92 of Making Jewellery is in the shops now.

Friday 1 April 2016


Beadswax - olive oil and beeswax polish for finishing etched lampwork glass beads

It's safe to say that I'm utterly in love with my tumbler and the beautiful satin finish that it puts on my beads. The thing that takes tumble-etched beads to the next level, though, is the final finishing 'beadswax' touch.

Lampwork glass tumble-etched beads with an oilve oil and beeswax finish

Etched beads are pretty as they are but a thin application of this olive oil and beeswax mixture gives them a subtle, soft sheen that makes them glow. I made this little jar of what I'm calling 'beadswax' using the directions I found on the Lavender Creek Glass blog. I melted five tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with two tablespoons of beeswax pellets. I used BP grade beeswax pellets, meaning that they are certified as suitable for use on skin and in cosmetics. I poured the beadswax into a super-sweet little Kilner jar that I got from Lakeland.

Lampwork glass tumble-etched beads with an oilve oil and beeswax finish

To wax my beads (oooh, saucy) I scoop out a little bit of the beadswax, rub it between my fingers and then I give each bead a little massage. I then buff my beads (oooh again) with a cotton cloth. The beads are left with a beautiful sheen that just makes their satin finish sing. And don't be thinking that the beads are greasy or sticky because they're not at all. The beadswax will eventually wear off but will be replenished by the natural oils of hands and skin during handling, or when the beads are worn.

The beadswax doesn't just work for tumble-etched beads, which can seem a little 'dry' after the tumbling process - it's great for chemical-etched beads too.

Big thanks to Teresa at Lavender Creek Glass for sharing her bead polish recipe.