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:
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:




Simple Fibulas, no beads:







Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bead Kiln @ Artisans' Village

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.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bead string for Ysmay

Bead string for Ysmay in the colors of her heraldry (blue, red and yellow).

I'm wondering if heraldic colors work well for viking inspired bead strings because of the need for contrast in making a heraldic device. Including both "metals" (yellow and white) and non metals ensures there will be both light and darker colors that contrast well.   I happen to think that these three colors work very well together, and as a result, this necklace was a pleasure for me to design and make.

The polychrome beads are based on period Scandinavian beads that I first made several months ago for a largesse gift.


You can see that I've used the leftmost first two beads from the above link. By changing only one of the three colors on each bead I was able to make them work with Ysmay's heraldic colors.

I tried to bring a bit of period "randomness" into an otherwise modern symmetrical stringing by alternating which color annular bead (yellow or red) is next to the blue melon bead.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Another artisan's row style demonstration! Aibhilin jointly demonstrated with me the entire time, and Druetta joined us during the last hour.

We had a few people make a bead for the first time, but the highlight was demonstrating for several young children, and then letting them pick a bead from my stash to take with them. They were so serious and deliberative in their choices! Aibhilin again brought ribbon again to string the beads on, which I think is a great idea.

The main lesson for the day is always tie down the ez-up, as towards the end of the demonstration it tried to escape over the roof of the building!

Also- I entered the firebrick bead kiln documentation (with pictures) based on the experiments Aibhilin, Bruni, and I did into the populace choice competition, where it won!  So, go us :)