My glass beads and marbles are made one by one in my studio, I use rods of different coloured glass and sometimes inclusions such as silver and gold leaf, cubic zirconias, mica and dichroic glass. I love to sculpt glass, to push it around with tools while its hot, or simply use gravity and heat control to create the shapes I want. I have a selection of tools, from the basic old kitchen knife, to more specialist beadmaking tools made from brass or graphite, these are excellent materials for glass as it doesn’t stick, whereas if you get steel hot enough it will stick!
Beads are made on steel rods called mandrels, the size and shape of the mandrel determines the final hole size. They are prevented from sticking permanently to these by first coating them in a ceramic substance called bead release, this allows the glass to stick whilst hot, but when cooled it can be removed using water.
Each bead or marble must be made in one sitting, there is no putting it to one side once started, no coming back to it later! Once it is complete it goes into my digitally controlled kiln, which keeps the temperature steady throughout my working time. When I’ve finished for the day, it will slowly bring the temperature down in a process called annealing, which prevents internal stresses in the glass from forming, allowing the piece to be strong, and ready to last a lifetime
Much of the glass I use is rich in silver, these specialty glass colours can be used in different ways, either under clear glass, or on the beads surface, in either application they give a varying range of colours and effects such as shimmering mother of pearl, colour shifting tones or simply shiny. They are highly sensitive to heat, flame chemistry and the time spent in the stages in between, this is what gives the delicious range of different hues and effects within one bead. Working with them is both a technical challenge, and a visual delight, beads often look very different on opening the kiln the next day when the beads are cooled.