Using handcrafted beads to create unique wearable art
Ihave always been interested in crafts. Growing up, my grandmother was a big influence on me. She loved to make things with her hands, so I guess I inherited that from her.
I began making jewelry about 15 years ago and glass beads about 12 years ago. I found it hard to find glass beads like the ones I saw in magazines, so I decided to take a course and buy the tools I needed to make my own—i attended a weekend workshop and it just exploded from there.
I make glass beads ( a process called lampworking) by using a torch with either Effetre or Lauscha glass rods and a mandrel. The glass rods are heated over a flame until the glass starts to move like cold molasses. The glass is then wrapped around the mandrel—the mandrel is what gives you the hole for the bead. From there, I can add more glass, foils, frits and glass enamels to decorate the bead. After the beads are heated over a flame, they are put into a kiln to anneal the glass. (A process that heats then cools the glass slowly to remove internal stresses and toughen it.) I use dental tools, a paring knife and graphite paddles to shape and move the glass, as well as bead presses to give the beads a specific shape or pattern.
I also enjoy using sterling silver, brass and copper to make unique pieces of jewelry.
I’ve started working with glass enamels on copper, which adds a whole new dimension to my jewelry. I sift one colour of enamel on the copper, then fire it, sift another layer and fire it again. I repeat this process until I achieve a pattern or design I’m happy with.
Although I don’t have one favourite bead or piece of jewelry, I must say, I love the surprise I get when I open the kiln to remove beads or take a metal casting out of the sand. Creating something with my own hands that makes people smile and say “wow” gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
Along with making and giving special pieces of jewelry to my family as gifts, I also donate beads to an organization called Beads of Courage. This is special to me, as the beads are given to children who are fighting life- threatening illnesses. The children choose beads that mean something to them, then, using the beads symbolically, they tell their own stories of courage, which are recorded to inspire others.
I also sell my jewelry and beads on my website and attend local Christmas craft shows every year. For the craft shows, I make fish magnets with big red lips and white teeth— they make everyone smile.
SHOW off your crafty side and write to us at ourcanada.ca or turn to page 64 for our address.