Saturday, 9 June 2018

I like small beads and I cannot lie

Lampwork glass beads handmade by Laura Sparling

I know this sounds terribly selfish of me, but I truly am bead-happiest when I'm making the beads I love to make. This week I've made some of the best beads I've ever made, as far as skill and technique are concerned. The beads pictured in this post are just over 11mm in diameter and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of getting the designs and encasing methods to work on such a small scale. Some of the beads – the purple and grey-blue ones – are double-encased; they have opaque cores which are then wrapped in a coloured transparent and then the whole thing is encased in a thin layer of clear. Getting that right, with no core 'bleed', or over-encasing at the bead holes, is not the easiest task. The double-encasing is nice, though, as it allows me to use denser, more saturated colours that look lovely when used in a thin application, and that final layer of clear seems to give extra shine.

Lampwork glass beads handmade by Laura Sparling

One might think that small beads are quicker to make than bigger ones, what with them using less glass and all, but infactually, they take me longer. I already work at a weary slug's pace, but working smaller requires even slower working. The core beads for those double-encased ones start off at about 4mm long by about 1mm thick - too much heat and you'll boil the heck out of a glob of glass that small, and boiling means bubbles and bubbles mean Water Jug of Death.

Lampwork glass beads handmade by Laura Sparling

This week, someone said to me that it's a shame I don't make bigger beads. Truth is, I struggle to do so. Lentils, hearts and blown hollows aside, 14mm diameter is generally as big as I go. I've spent years honing the designs and patterns that I think make my beads mine, and over the years those designs and patterns have got tighter and more refined (oh how I wish I could say the same for my thighs) and if I were to try and translate them to larger beads they would look 'wrong'. Dots would need to be bigger and stringer would need to be thicker. My scroll design – and it is a design; my scroll beads are pretty much all the same, save a couple of tiny add-on space-filler swirls here and there – would need reworking and I'm not sure I want to rework it. Small beads are my thing.

Lampwork glass beads handmade by Laura Sparling

Eagle-eyed bead watchers may have noticed my price increase this week. I make a conscious point of not really following other beadmakers or looking at their work (this sounds absolutely horrible of me, I know, but there are very valid reasons for this which I will discuss another time) so I have no idea what prices people sell their work for, but I had a quick peruse of Etsy last weekend after Chris questioned what I was going to price some beads at. I was so shocked. People tell me all the time I undercharge but crikeyflip, I've been undercharging so very much, and I'm afraid this has had to change. Had I not listened to Chris, I'd have sold five hours' worth of work for £27.00 and I think you'll agree with him that this was not viable. Pricing your own work is always difficult and putting prices up is even harder but I had to do so.

Lampwork glass beads handmade by Laura Sparling

In other news, I've spent the last two days in a barn in a little Cambridgeshire village. The barn has been converted into a theatre and each summer the local Gilbert & Sullivan group put on a show there. I'm not in the show, and I know diddly-squat about Gilbert & Sullivan, but one of the fellas from our local archaeology group has done the lighting at the theatre for the last eleven years and he needed some assistance putting up the lights, so I volunteered to help.

I climbed to the top of this tower. Blimey.

It's been two days of moving and climbing ladders and scaffold towers, pulling theatre lights up to the rafters, plugging them all in and checking they work, and then positioning and adjusting them. It was hard work but fun.

I'll be back in the shed tomorrow. I'm quite looking forward to sitting down all day after two days of theatre lighting shenanigans.

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