Monday, September 22, 2014

Wrightstown Demo

This past Saturday I attended an SCA demo that was part of a much larger weekend  long Renaissance Faire. I have not always enjoyed demos  in the past, however, because of the large crowd at this event, there were a lot of people who stopped by to watch us make beads!

Because the crowd was so large, we roped off the front of my pop up to prevent people, and the many children who were in attendance, from getting too close to the fire.

I was also pleased that remembered to bring a picture of a reproduction early period bead kiln with me. This visual helped when I was explaining to people that while we were using modern tools to make our beads, the basic method we used was the same one that people used in earlier times.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

River War 2014

I first learned how to make glass beads at River Wars, two years ago, so this event is somewhat of an anniversary for me! We had a bead making artisans row space again, which was good. Although the windy weather made bead making difficult at first, it calmed down later enough for us to let some people try to make beads.

Erica, Bruni, and Erlan (not pictured, Elizabeth and Aurddreilen)
I was asked twice today about how beads were made in period. I was able to describe the kilns that were used, but I did not have pictures with me, which is something I think I want to bring with me to demo's in the future. Below are a few videos of people working with reconstructed period bead kilns. Two basic types of kilns have been reconstructed by reenactors.

1) Volcano Kiln: opening at the top (this is the type of Kiln Bruni and I attempted at Pennsic)

2) Beehive Kiln: side opening.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Phoenician Beads

I found some nice pictures of Phoenician Beads online and have been playing around with making a few. I love the color combinations on these beads. I will have to make a necklace of these some day.

I started out looking at European Celtic/Iron Age Beads (so I could have an excuse to practice and play with stacked dots), but found the Phoenician beads which were similar in design/color. A line in Lois Dubin's History of Glass Beads book notes that the Phoenician beads were traded around and they ended up influencing the Celtic designs. However,  I have to order the book on Interlibrary Loan to trace down her reference, as I just have a photocopy of that page. The face bead, on the other hand, just looked like fun, and I have not tried much sculptural bead making yet.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ASO Article- The Social Meaning of Anglo-Saxon Glass Beads

I submitted an article to the East Kingdom A&S Newsletter.  The information in the article came from research included in the documentation for several of the A&S entries  have entered into competitions thus far. The idea to explore the social meaning of Anglo-Saxon glass beads came from a comment left at one of my A&S displays encouraging me to include a bit of this type of information in my documentation.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Metalsmiths Symposium 2014

This year at MSS I did a lot of one-on-one teaching at the bead bar. I also signed up to teach two classes. One was the same class I taught at Pennsic this year, the other was an Anglo-Saxon Glass Bead Roundtable. The full class description for this is below.

A few organizational thoughts about the bead bar:
1. I should label all my tools. Things get shared around, which is great, but I want to get it all back at the end!
2. I forget where I first saw this done, but I've been putting masking tape  on the end of a mandrel after a new person has made a bead, and writing their name on the tape. This is SO incredibly helpful, and it makes sure everyone gets the bead that they have made.
3. I think i want to have some different color frit out next time for new people to play with, as that is the easiest way of decorating a bead that I know of, and would not really require me teaching them any new skills (such as shaping and stringer work).

A few thoughts about teaching one-on-one
1. I think i should turn the flame up a bit higher than i have been doing for new people. It will be easier for them to get the glass to melt and to make sure it stays melted as the wind on the bead.
2. When teaching younger children, I think it helps for me to participate with them in making a bead the first time, by either twirling the mandrel or applying the glass. I think having to only worry about one hand at a time will make it easier for them to learn.

Erica and I at the bead bar at MSS

Anglo-Saxon Glass Beads: An Overview and Resource Round Table
Lady Elysabeth Underhill
This session will begin with a very brief overview of what the instructor has learned about Anglo-Saxon glass beads. The projects the instructor has completed and the resources she has gathered will be discussed and shared with attendees. After this introduction, others are invited to share their own resources and knowledge regarding Anglo-Saxon glass beads. Attendees can then look in more detail at the instructor’s resources, and the class can take some time to discuss how certain beads were made. We can then retire to the bead bar for hands on demonstration, if desired.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Maunche Beads

A member of my household asked if I could make a Maunche bead after seeing one made by another bead artisan. I didn't know, so i tried, and below are a few of the results. These were made at Pennsic. I've given a few to close friends/household members, and kept one for myself.


Oh, and if you stumble upon this blog entry, and want to purchase one, go to Heart of Oak Crafts on Etsy . This is the person I first saw making these beads.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pennsic A&S

Artisans Row
There were two days of glass bead making at the Pennsic Artisan's Row this year. Below are pictures from the first day, where Bruni and I spent the whole day making beads, and where I got to share documentation with people!

Arts and Sciences Display


Bead Kiln
Using Bruni's extensive knowledge of pottery, and some research articles we found (particularly this one, and the citation mentioned in this online article), we made an experimental bead kiln. After talking with Bruni, I've included a few thoughts below, but hopefully we will get more written about this later!

From Bruni I learned about building with clay. We used coils, which was a common period method, and we scored the coils to get them to stick to each other better. The article listed above discussed another person's experimental bead kiln, where they used clay, straw, and sand. We included some straw and sand in our kiln, but not as much as the article suggested, so that is something to play with in the future. When making the hole in the side of the kiln to blow air into, we extended that small pipe into the center of the kiln. This was a suggestion made by a camp member, so that the kiln would heat evenly. During our previous try at kiln building, the side of the kiln with the air hole got hotter than the other side, and cracked.

We dried the kiln for several days before firing it. I learned that firing wet clay causes it to pop and shatter. Our bead kiln popped once or twice when we fired it (Pennsic was damp!), but it held up pretty well.  We added coal (with no lighter fluid). Once we got a fire going, we used an air mattress blower to increase the heat. This worked, and the kiln was able to soften the glass (which you see above).  It did not get as molten as when using a torch, but it was definitely soft, and that is enough. The air mattress blower worked to increase the heat of the kiln, but it was a definitely too strong (even holding it at a distance from the air hole). A bellows, or manual air pump would be better.

This is me trying to make a bead. Next time, adding more coal and letting the fire heat up for longer (as well as getting a more regular source of air flow into the kiln) might help get the glass a bit softer, making it easier to shape and work. I don't think the bead held onto enough heat to let me shape it much outside the kiln.

The finished bead. Coil marks are still visible, but they are also still visible on some extant beads I have seen. I had to use cutters to cut the piece if glass off the rod, as the kiln was not hot enough for me to flame cut the glass rod as I would do with a torch. If we can get the Kiln just a bit hotter, using a better air source and more coal, I think this will work well.