Creating beads

I am a self-employed glass artist creating unique lampwork beads in purpose-fitted hot glass workshop in the heart of the Sussex village in which I live.

I started my journey into glass back in 2003, having been fascinated by a demonstration given by Diana East at that summer’s ‘Art in Action’. After two courses with Diana I quickly found that this was an art form that captivated me, and set up my own workshop in spring 2004. Since then I’ve learned a great deal through my own flame and glass experimentation, and have also taken classes with Kate Drew-Wilkinson, Jennifer Geldard and Andrea Guarino. Inspiration indeed!

Frustrated at the lack of time my working life allowed me to spend at the torch, I took the plunge into full time lampwork glass bead making, teaching and jewellery making in late summer 2008.

In early 2013 I was fortunate enough to secure business premises for a brand-new hot glass workshop very close to my home in East Hoathly, East Sussex. I was proud to open officially at the end of June in that year.

I am now able to teach lampworking techniques to up to four students at a time. Let fire inspire indeed!

What is lampwork?
The art of lampwork gets its name from the oil lamps used in ancient civilisations to melt glass and fashion it into objects using heat, gravity and simple tools. Lampworking techniques with these ancient roots are used today to create unique beads to feature in contemporary jewellery.

Glass rods, in a vast range of both transparent and opaque colours, are heated in the flame of a propane/oxygen torch. A gather of molten glass from the end of the rod is carefully wound around a mandrel and shaped in the flame to create a bead. Surface decoration can be added using a variety of techniques – by applying narrow threads of glass (called ‘stringers’), granulated glass (frit), enamel or metal foils. Tools or gravity can be used to manipulate the glass – the only limits to the intricacy of the bead are the artist’s imagination and expertise!

Depending on the complexity of the shape, size and design of a bead, and the techniques used to make it, a single bead can take anything from a couple of minutes to an hour to make. Individually crafted in the flame, each bead is, quite simply, unique.

All of my beads are kiln annealed for lasting strength, so are not at risk of cracking. Each bead has been carefully cleaned of bead release, ensuring that the holes are dust-free.

Images copyright Jim Holden.