The Birth of an Art Glass Bead

I handmake each bead one at a time
by melting glass rods in a torch flame
and winding the molten glass around a metal rod
that has been coated in a clay-like material,
then annealing the bead in a kiln,
and carefully cleaning the separator material
from the bead hole after it has cooled.

Most of the glass rods I use are manufactured on the island of Murano in Italy, but I also use some gorgeous glass rods made in Germany and the United States. I also love the idea of recycling glass, so I have been known to make beads from pretty broken bottles and other found glass!

When I am finished forming the bead in the flame, it is put directly into a hot kiln. This serves two purposes: it anneals the glass, and it controls the rate at which the bead is cooled. Annealing means holding the glass at a certain constant temperature for a certain length of time so that the molecules can stabilize in an orderly fashion. Likewise, the cooling process is done slowly at a controlled rate, so that the molecules in the glass remain orderly. This helps relieve the internal stresses introduced into the bead during its creation and will make it more durable.

Lastly, when the bead is cool, I remove it from the metal rod and use a diamond tool to remove the clay-like separator from inside the bead hole. It’s important to do this under water, as the dried separator is a respiratory irritant, and it must be removed from every bead. After the separator is removed, the bead is then dried and admired for the beautiful little creation that it is.

Since each bead is handmade, each one will always be a one-of-a-kind work of glass art!

An overview of my workspace

Wrapping the glass on the mandrel

Decorating the bead

The completed bead in the hot kiln


© 2010 Earth & Sky Arts