Sunday, January 25, 2015

Phoenician Glass Bead Necklace

This necklace is composed of 10 store bought metal beads, and 19 glass beads.

It is heavily based on several Phoenician beads and necklaces I've found on museum websites, such as Corning's Glass Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the British Museum, or on Christie's auction website.

Inspiration Bead
Inspiration Face Bead

Inspiration Necklace 1
Inspiration Necklace 2
Inspiration Necklace 3
Inspiration Necklace 4

Note: Some of the museum websites indicate that the necklaces may have been recomposed at a later date, so it is not known if a necklace of this configuration would have been worn. One of the auction websites notes that their necklace contains modern metal beads, while another notes that the metal beads are several centuries newer than the glass beads on the necklace. However, while the necklace configuration may not be able to be documented, the glass beads themselves are easily documented using the first two links above.

Research Note on Face Beads
Face Beads started to be made in the 7th century BC, when according to Glenn Markoe in Phoenicians (p. 156-7), "demon masks, animals, and male and female heads began to appear. It's probably more correct to call these figures pendants, rather than beads, as Markoe notes that they were often found on necklaces as special talismans (perhaps these are another variant of "evil eye" beads, as are the stacked dots beads on the necklace above).  Markoe says that these beads were likely made at multiple workshops along the Phoenician coast, in areas such as Cyprus, the Egyptian Delta, and Carthage. The pendants started small (3cm) but later grew up to 8 cm in height. These beads traveled widely and have been found  throughout the Mediterranean, and in Russian and Europe

Markoe says that these beads were "rod formed," but I think the larger of these beads were more likely to have been core formed. Corning's Glass museum specifically notes that one of these beads was made using this technique. Core forming is a process where small dried balls of clay, dung, and straw were wrapped around a mandrel. The bead was made on that "core" and the core cleaned out once the bead cooled. This results in a hollow bead. It is also easier to make larger beads using core forming, as less glass is required due to the large core.

A previous post of mine on Phoenician beads which includes a reproduction of another variety of Phoenician face beads.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Viking Necklace

This necklace was made for a friend. She has a viking persona, so she needed a necklace.

My inspiration was the necklace that can be found at this link .

The original colors I wanted were coral and green, which would have more closely matched the necklace above, but the coral effetre 104 COE glass is problematic . It tends to turn grey unless treated a specific way in the flame, something called striking, which I can not do with the torch I have. So we added in yellow and orange instead of the coral, and things got much easier from there on.

This necklaces is mostly made from monochrome beads, just like the example I linked to above. I added in a few different types of polychrome bead designs, and those designs can be documented very easily using Johan Callmer's book "Trade Beads and Bead Trade in Scandinavia."

I tried to keep the organization of the beads on the necklace feeling somewhat random, just like the the viking necklace I used as inspiration. I did this by creating a variety of colors, and shapes in the beads, and also by stringing them onto the necklace in a random pattern.

There are approximately 180 beads in this necklace!

Making this necklace was a useful experience because I had the chance to practice making very simple beads, and it became much easier and faster for me to make these beads over time and after all this practice. I even learned  how to make more than one bead on a mandrel at a time.

Close up view of a few of the beads.

Beads broken out into piles by type

Final Necklace. Glass beads (made by me) with store bought amber beads and an amber Thor's hammer.

The necklace I used as inspiration was not all made from glass. In the future I might try to mix glass beads I make with store bought stone beads to more closely match what was done with some period necklaces.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Modern Bead Pendant

This is a modern bead pendant made with black glass. It was pressed into a lozenge shape, and the decoration was made with silvered ivory stringer. 

This bead is an example of something that I have been hearing bead makers say in classes I have attend for the past two years. Basically, they have said that if what you are trying to do does not work, instead of discarding the bead, take the opportunity to play with the bead and see what happens. 

When I applied the silver ivory string at first, I was not happy with the results. So, instead of stopping my work on this bead, I took a rake and feathered the bead in a back and forth swirling pattern. And this is the result!

Monday, December 1, 2014


A few months ago I was asked to make some glass bead tokens. I was requested to make the tokens reasonably appropriate to the requester's persona. The person I'm making them for has an early Irish persona. Her heraldry is blue and yellow, and her device has several triskels on it.

I was lucky enough to find a PHD thesis which provides a classification and typology of bead from this period.  Looking a the list of beads from the study I found that the spiral beads seemed to evoke the triskels from her heraldry, as they could be made with 3 spirals. With the ok of the requester, I settled on a spiral as the design, and I used the class 8 spiral bead as my inspiration (page 40 in the above source).

The spiral design was also new to me; I had not made many of these before. This meant that making these tokens would be a good opportunity for me to practice. I made 30 beads for this project.

A. Glass Rods= $3
To complete this project I used 3 transparent blue rods & 1 opaque yellow rod. Glass rods can be purchased singly or in bulk for a cheaper price.
---3 cobalt blue transparent glass rods = $1.25 x 3= $3.75
---1 medium yellow special glass rod = $1.55
---1/4 bundles of colbalt blue = $2.95
---1/4 bundle of medium yellow = $3.95

B. One tank of Mapp gas =  $13

C. One half of a small spool of jewelry wire = $1.25

Total Cost = $17.25
Cost Per Bead = .58c.

Beads: 10 minutes per bead x 30 bead = 300 minutes = 5 hours
Cleaning: 15 minutes
Attaching brass rings: 2 min x 30 = 1 hour
Note: I annealed the beads, but did not figure that into the above equation, as I put a bunch of my own beads in with these beads.

Total Time = 6 hours, 15 minutes

I had never really timed myself before, or calculated the cost of making a single bead. I now understand why I people who are selling these beads charge several dollars for one bead. While ordinary glass is not expensive, these beads do take time to make!  Gas is also not cheap, although someone using a professional system with larger refillable gas tanks would likely spend less on gas than I did.

The blue and yellow of the requester's heraldry is actually very close/exactly the same as the colors that these beads would have been made in in period. Class 8 beads were made on a dark semi-transparent blue glass with mostly white spirals (though my source says that yellow would occasionally have been used, see page 60). There were 2-3 spirals on each bead ( I did three for the tokens to evoke the triskels from the requester's heraldry). My source said that the spirals were interlinked. However, I could not find a way to interlink all three spirals while applying the design in a continuous line. The pictures I found from the source  I mentioned above (and the supplementary sources I consulted, including museum photos and a book by Margaret Guido) only include images of one side of the bead, making it difficult to see how the entire design was constructed. So, what I ended up doing was I interlinked two spirals, and made a third freestanding spiral.

To enhance the tokens, I added a wire wrapped ring (which has been found on other early period extant beads), as I had done when I made a few tokens for myself. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

St. Eligius

So St. Eligius happened. It was a great day, but it also made me think, a lot!

I loved that fact that having to judge other entrants gave me the opportunity to spend  time with them and talk with them about their project. I was able to learn a lot more from this experience than I have in the past where I am a simply a spectator. The enthusiasm of my fellow competitors is also wonderful to see, and one of the joys of the SCA!

When talking about my work, I was able to teach a few people about how glass beads are made (both modernly and in period) using photos I've taken of me making and decorating glass beads. I'm going to continue to bring this document with me to competitions/displays, as it was useful and helped when people had questions. I was also able to talk to a few people who make beads themselves, or who know the Anglo-Saxon time period, which made this a great opportunity for me to learn as well!.

My entry for the "experienced" catagory. I won this catagory (just barely!), and also received the populace choice prize.
Finally, this was also my first time judging an A&S competition. Having had this experience, I like to think that now I will be much more understanding of those who  judge my entries in the future, because it is not an easy thing to do!! I found that I was not very comfortable judging the work of others, for a variety of reasons. I could not spend as long as I wanted to on each entrant's work, the environment we are judging in is very chaotic and not supportive of deep thinking, and not every entry fits neatly into the evaluation criteria we were given. All in all, I came away from my experience wishing that I could have done a much better job than I think I did. Perhaps having more conversations with people about judging will help. Perhaps I also just need more practice to get good at it. In the end, this is something that I will want to work on, so I can participate fully in A&S in our society.

Artisan's Progress Entry (I received the prize for this catagory as well)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Islamic Glass Bead with Cane Eyes

My reproduction
Historic Bead from: Corning Museum of Glass
Origin: Islamic (possibly made in Syria)
Date: 799-1099
Measurements: Height 2.9cm, Diam 3.4cm

It is thought that the combination of cane pieces placed in the center of  trailing white lines is an another way of making an evil eye bead. Evil eye beads have been created by various cultures for thousands of years as protective amulets. Earlier evil eye beads were made by placed smaller dots on larger dots to form eyes (stratified glass eye beads).

The above information is from:  "Tracing Eye Beads Through Time" by Amy De Simone and Adrienne V. Gennett, published in The Flow, Spring 2013, p. 24-26
Historic Bead

Major Differences Between the Two
  • My bead is 1 cm smaller than the historic bead in each direction (my bead measures approximately 2cm x 2cm). Scaling down my reproduction was a practical choice. I will not be able to anneal this bead right away, and larger beads are more likely to crack if not annealed. It also takes much more time & glass & fuel to build a larger bead.
  • My mosaic eyes are slightly different, as they only have 12 rays instead of 20. To fit 20 rays on my cane would have required me to make a very large gather of glass when making my cane This may be something I work up to doing some day, but, it should also be noted that I am still using what amounts to an amateur level torch. Making a larger bead or a larger cane might be more practical if I had a professional grade torch, or if I was using a large furnace and working in a workshop with other artisans as they likely would have been doing in period.
  • Glass waiting to be pulled into a cane. The gather is attached to a hollow metal chopstick.
  • I chose to make my cane eyes out of only red and white glass, and to make the turquoise dot in the center using stringer, rather than integrating a turquoise center into my cane eye.  I figured this is possibly what was done with the historic bead, because A) there is a dot of turquoise underneath each eye, and B) the turquoise dot on the center of each eye is off center, and does not appear to be off center in the same place on each eye.
Things to do Differently Next Time
  • Try creating a cane with a turquoise center
  • Try using a different turquoise glass. The one I used tends to go silver, muddying up the color, when it is heated for any length of time.
  • I'd like to melt some of the elements into the bead a bit more, as some of them seem a bit more raised when compared to the historic bead.