Thursday, July 16, 2015

Grave 19 Portway Andover

This small bead string is from Grave 19 of the Portway, Andover Anglo-Saxon Cemetary.

I completed a recreation of the above small bead string (likely a bracelet) over the course of 3 evenings. It took 2 evenings to make the beads, and 1 to remake a few beads that I was not fully happy with. I was originally not very excited about this project. I primarily made it to make sure that I would have enough items to enter for the Artifacts of a Life event, the event I created the larger necklace from Portway for. The technical level of this bead string is very low for me (no decoration, minimal shaping), and I didn't think it all that pretty to begin with. However, I'm glad that I did recreate this string, because actually seeing my recreation transformed how I thought about the bead string.

In person, this small bead string is quite adorable. Maybe my feelings changed because I could actually hold the string, instead of just looking at it on the page. Maybe it's the fact that a newly created bead string is so much more shiny than the historic one, which had been in the ground for centuries. Having the bead string in front of me also helped to emphasize just how symmetrical it was, especially towards the center of the string, and my modern eye really appreciates this symmetry. The order of the beads in the grave was mostly preserved, so this bead string is a likely example of the aesthetics under which Anglo-Saxons strung their beads.  The symmetry is not perfect, but it is quite obviously there, which is something I have found, to a greater or lesser extent, with most of the Anglo-Saxon bead strings I have recreated.  The distinction between light and dark beads is also very evident (another idea which is prevalent in the Anglo-Saxon aesthetic). There are many dark blue/black beads, with a fewer lighter white/red beads placed at regular intervals among the darker beads.

A few technical thoughts about my reproduction:
-The beads were made to match the size of the historic beads to within a couple of millimeters size.
-I forgot to try to match bead perforation sizes with the historic necklace, so that aspect of the recreation is not as accurate. However its not something that is very evident when the necklace is displayed/worn.
-A few of the beads (the white ones) were simply not listed in the description of the grave. The necklace is described as being made of "glass and other beads." I think these white beads are not glass (maybe stone?) but I've recreated them here as glass beads because that is the material I work with.
-I was not happy with my first attempt at recreating the bicone white bead, because my bicone was much straighter and more precise than the original. It just didn't look right when strung. So, I tried again, this time making it a bit rounder and it worked out well.  I also burned the glass slightly the first time, so I was a bit more careful the second time and turned down my flame and tried not to overwork the bead.

The bead on the bottom is my first attempt. The top bead is my second attempt.

-The same thing mentioned above happened for the largest black bead in the string. The edges and lines of my first recreated bead were too straight, so I tried again it, rounding the bead out slightly more the second time
-Finally, bead #25 is an odd one. It has red glass at the core, and then clear glass over-top, but it is not described in the report as an "encased" bead, and it's very unevenly made. The authors of the report make reference to a "swirl technique" which was referenced in Beck's bead classification from 1927, so I've ILL'ed that book to learn more.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bead Kiln- playing with stringer (part 2)

In my last blog post I talked about how I tried to do stringer work with the firebrick kiln. I noted that the method I used was from a YouTube video created by a French reenactment group, but how a slightly different method was proposed by one of my scholarly articles that I wanted to try. Below is a review of the information from the scholarly article, and then my thoughts about my attempt to use this method.

From my last blog post: One of my sources, archeologists Tine Gam, has done some experimental archeology herself, and she proposes a slightly different method.... Gam thinks that the beads were made by drawing out a thread of glass from the pontil using tweasers, breaking off the tweaser marks (creating glass waste) and then melting the thread onto the bead. Moving the bead back and forth  would help create the zig-zag pattern. The image below is from the article by Gam.


I tried this method, and overall I have to say that it did not seem to work as well as the previous method tried. 

First, it was hard to pull a long even stringer from the blob of glass on the pontil. Perhaps the blob of glass on the pontil needs to be heated more before it is pulled, and either I removed the glass blob too soon, or the furnace is not getting things hot enough as it is curently designed? You can see the awkward looking stringer I pulled below.

It was relatively easy to snap off the end of the stringer as described in Gam's article to get a clean point after pulling it with the pliers. It helped to dip the pliers in water and shock the glass. The piece of glass I'm holding in the pliers below also looks very much like some of the glass waste found at Ribe and described by Gam in her article.

When I started trying to work with the small stringer, I noticed that as I was applying the design I would use up the  stringer I pulled and still not be finished creating my design. Perhaps in the past they pulled longer stringers, but, if so, how do you fit a long stringer  in the kiln easily if it is a closed kiln? Also, because the furnace does not have one pin point source of heat, and you are sticking the entire stringer into a hot kiln, more than just the tip of the stringer ended up softening, making this method feel a bit more awkward to use.

Using the other method from the you tube video still seems to make more sense to me. In that method, the design was basically trailed out from a soft glob of glass, and how the artisan pulled the glass trail would influence the shape/size of the line decoration.

Finally, some thoughts on the kiln design for this workshop day. This time around I tried adding firebricks around the open fireplace to create more of a closed design. The goal was to create a hotter fire,  but I'm not sure it helped much, as I did not notice that it was much easier/faster to make a basic wound bead. Maybe I could not get the kiln closed enough, or maybe, as Alesone pointed out, it was too small (and held to few coals) to get truly hot. However, I did find that this time I had a bit more trouble keeping my base bead (and the stringer) at the temperature I wanted it. They would get either too hot, or not hot enough to work with. Both of these issues are ones beginner bedmakers have, so perhaps this is a case of me needing more practice using the period fire source. Also, perhaps trying to create a covered firebrick kiln altered things just enough to cause me trouble after I had practiced on the open firebrick kiln.

Its also very worth nothing that winding glass onto a bead requires that the glass and mandrel be held in a slightly different way than when doing modern lampworking or when over an open fire.  This was an adjustment I had to figure out as I was working, using the above mentioned YouTube video as a guide. The first time I tried to work as I normally did, it felt very awkward. You can see from the picture below the awkward angle created when I tried to apply glass to the mandrel in the usual way.

However, using glass on a pontil or a small piece of glass held in angled hemostats, I was able to get the correct angle for adding the glass to the mandrel in a closed kiln. The glass needs to come off the rod/pontil sideways and the mandrel is held parallel/not perpendicular to the tool holding the glass.

Note: Thanks to Decklan for his help during this workshop session! He helped me start the fire, build the kiln, and kept the bellows going.  Could not have done it without him:)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pennsic Classes

Below are the titles and descriptions of the classes I will be teaching at Pennsic this year.

Recreating Anglo-Saxon Glass Beads
This class will begin with an overview of resources and information on Anglo-Saxon glass beads. I will review different bead types and information about how necklace styles changed over time during the Anglo-Saxon period. I will bring some of my own projects and documentation to share with the class in the hopes of encouraging students to take up some Anglo-Saxon-related recreation projects. During the second half of the class we will spend some time recreating a few Anglo-Saxon beads.
I only have 4 lampworking kits, but anyone is invited to attend to listen/watch. Please feel free to bring your own lampworking kit if you want to participate in the hands-on portion of the class. I will work with students to pick beads to recreate based on the skill level of the students and the class as a whole, but attendees should (at the very least) know how to make and shape a basic bead. More experienced lampworkers are encouraged to help out during the hands-on portion of the class and to bring any Anglo-Saxon-related resources and projects to share with the group. (2 hours)
This is a new class for me, and the first time I'm teaching a hands on class at Pennsic.

Recreating Historic Beads as a Beginner
Creating historically accurate glass beads is not as hard as you might think. You can make period beads at any skill level! Resources and strategies will be shared with attendees in this lecture/discussion class to help get you on the path to making beads that you can enter in A&S displays and competitions. We will discuss good starting points and first projects. The instructor will use her knowledge of Anglo-Saxon glass beads as an example, and share research and projects that others are invited to use and make their own.
This class is appropriate for beginning bead makers and intermediate bead makers who have not done much research into period beads or entered their beads into A&=S competitions before. Experienced bead makers are invited to attend to discuss their own first projects and to share additional resources and strategies.
I taught this for the first time last Pennsic. It is also the topic of a Tournaments Illuminated article I wrote.

Reproducing Glass Beads Using Archeological Reports
Learn how to find and use archaeological reports to reproduce glass beads (and other early period items) found in graves at excavation sites. These reports provide a wealth of information that is not available from museum or other websites. The focus of this presentation will be on Anglo-Saxon excavation reports and how I have used those reports to reproduce historic glass beads and necklaces. However, artisans interested in other early period items and crafts  should find this presentation valuable.
This is an expanded version of the presentation I gave at the Voyages of Discovery event last year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fibula (Broach)

These fibulas were based off of ones Grimbold made that I saw at Artisan's Village. After he
explained his process for me, and, after I watched a few you tube videos, I made replica's of his fibulas. After that, I started looking for documentation.

The links below are from the British Museum and Peabody Museum. Thank you to the lovely people who keep pinterest pages that I can steal from!!

Note: The British Museum has a LOT of fibula images in its collection. Below I've only linked a very few.

Fibula with bead attached by a wire ring:$0040/9/title-desc?t:state:flow=fad146ff-c292-45ec-af86-4069c07ce072
This images is sort of documenting the wire ring beads that I've used for tokens. I attach a little safety pin to those for people to pin to their clothing. The fibula, from what i've been seeing, is basically the ancestor of the safety pin, so...:)

Wire fibula with beads:$0040/11/title-desc?t:state:flow=fad146ff-c292-45ec-af86-4069c07ce072$0040/27/title-desc?t:state:flow=fad146ff-c292-45ec-af86-4069c07ce072$0040/16/title-desc?t:state:flow=fad146ff-c292-45ec-af86-4069c07ce072

Simple Fibulas, no beads:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bead Kiln @ Artisans' Village (playing with stringer part 1)

At Artisan's Village I had a chance to try decorating a bead with zig-zags. This is a perfectly period bead design, and a green and yellow version of this bead can be found on my most recent Anglo-Saxon Necklace project (look to the top right of the necklace). Just like the last time I worked with the kiln, I used 120 COE glass.

The decoration technique I was trying to reproduce was one I saw in this video from Artisans d'Historie (a reenactment group in France).

 I used a pontil to gather the yellow glass I wanted to decorate my transparent dark blue base bead with. This glass had been melted in a small iron crucible. In period they might have softened glass on iron pan placed by the site of the fire, or melted glass in ceramic crucibles placed in the kiln (as seemed to be the case in the video). Once I had my glass gathered onto my pontil, I then touched the yellow glass to the blue bead, pulled back slightly, drew the glass to the other side of the bead and slightly forward, and touched down again.I repeated this pattern around the circumference of the bead.

It worked reasonably well. The yellow glass stayed soft enough for me to do this in the open fireplace I'm not sure 104 coe glass would have worked as well, but I have not tried that yet.  The only issue was that I didn't melt the decoration in all way before cooling the bead. I don't think I realized how raised the decoration still was until the bead cooled down.


One of my sources, archeologists Tine Gam, has done some experimental archeology herself, and she proposes a slightly different method. I will have to try this method out the next time I make beads. Gam thinks that the beads were made by drawing out a thread of glass from the pontil using tweasers, breaking off the tweaser marks (creating glass waste) and then melting the thread onto the bead. Moving the bead back and forth  would help create the zig-zag pattern. The image below is from the article by Gam.

However, Gam notes that the color of the waste glass with tweezer marks found at Ribe does not perfectly match  the colors used to decorate beads at Ribe. Instead, much of the glass waste with tweaser marks matches the colors of the base beads. Perhaps this means that the method used by the Artisan's d'Historie reinactors could be correct? Or, maybe more than one method was used?  I actually think this may be likely, simply because I know that in crafts there is often more than one way to do something. For example, there are at least three different ways in modern lampworking to make twisted glass canes.

Finally, Gam also notes that a small metal tool could be used to improve the zig-zag shape. After the lines have been placed, the glass designs can be moved slightly while it is soft. This is something I already do when making beads on my torch!  Gam notes evidence of this from Ribe, including a narrower shape to the corners of the zig-zags on some beads, and small air bubbles in the beads (as seen under a microscope)  that follow the direction the glass would have been pulled by the metal tool. I always thought I was fussing a bit to much when I tried to correct the shape of my decoration in this way, so it is good to know that this was done in period!

Gam, Tine. (1990). Prehistoric Glass Technology: Experiments and Analysis. Journal of Danish Archeology, 9.p. 203-213.

Pennsic Dirt Bead

I was asked to make a bead with pennsic dirt by a friend, and so I read up on these types of beads online, and then I did. The first step was drying the dirt  out in the sun so I could crumble it into a powder and remove the organic material. After that, it was very much like making a frit bead. I got the bead hot and rolled it over the dirt, which stuck to the bead. However, these beads should really  be encased with clear glass to protect the dirt, unlike a normal frit bead, which does not need to be encased. The encasing also has the benefit of magnifying the pennsic dirt, and making the bead look nicer, in my opinion. Since there is only a very little bit of dirt on the bead, it should be stable, though as they are a bit fragile due to the inclusion of the dirt, annealing these beads in the future would be a good idea!

These types of beads can be purchased at Heart of Oak's Etsy Shop

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Artisans' Village

Wow.... what a day!  Sixteen bead makers showed up with their kits to make beads with us. A few stayed for only part of the day, but many hung out in the lampworking village the entire day.  It was beautiful to see, and I wish I had gotten a panoramic picture of the lampworking village with everyone happily making beads, demonstrating, talking, and teaching.

I had asked a few people (Elizabeth, Carowyn, Erlan, and Erica) months in advance of the event to demonstrate and teach in the village with me. However, during the week or two leading up to the event, people kept telling me, over social media or in person, that they would be attending. I'm glad they did, because it allowed us to prepare enough space for everyone to work. Luckily, the event site had a huge supply of picnic tables, and a mostly shady area for us to play in, because we could not have accommodated such numbers otherwise. We set eight picnic tables up in a large "U" shape to allow visitors to approach and ask questions. This was a set up that had worked well at River Wars in the past. I had brought two full loaner bead kits, which was a good thing, because while the kits were not needed (as most people had kits already) some individuals did need an item or two to complete their set up so they could safety play. It might be nice in the future if we get such large numbers again to indicate in some way which demonstrators were available to teach new people to make beads, but I think new people ended up getting to the people who could teach them as most of the teachers were located on the outer edges of the village. Rather than teaching many people how to make their first bead, I ended up working more at this event with people who had some lamp working background, trying to teach or explain new skills.

I very much hope this event happens again, because it was wonderful to see so many people making beads together!

One attendee suggested finding a structured time for the more experienced beadmakers to get together and teach/learn from each other. I will have to think about how to incorporate that into the lampworking village next time.