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
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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


These very modern looking earrings were a gift for a friend.

Construction Notes:
  • I used a lentil bead press to shape the beads.
  • I put white frit on the bead, and then rakend the frit to form the pattern you see above.
  • To the white frit I added dots of silvered ivory stringer, which is a very pretty and fun modern lampworking technique.
  • I tried all of this originally on an opaque blue background. However, the decoration did not pop against that background, so I switched to a dark transparent blue.
  • However, that blue was so dark, it looked almost black in certain lights. To fix this I started with a core of white class, around which I wound the darker blue glass. This lightened the blue transparent glass.
  • All of the above techniques are very modern, although very basic (un-raked) frit beads are completely period to the early middle ages. I've seen them in several sources discussing  Anglo-Saxon glass beads.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Large Murini Bead

This bead has 12 murini pieces spaced in between white crossing zigzags trails. The historic bead on which it is based is thought to be either a Viking or Northern/Central European bead. It is also very possible that this bead was imported into those areas from the Middle East. For example, the design is very similar to this syrian cane bead from the Corning Glass Museum.

The original is larger than my bead (my bead measures 2 cm in height, and 1.75 cm in diameter). I made mine smaller because I did not have a mandrel which could make a hole as large as the extant bead, so making it full size would have required a huge amount of glass and time.

Here you can see a section of the cane that I pulled to make the murini. It is about 20 inches long.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Voyages of Discovery- Power Point

Link to power point presentation here

Feedback from the presentation included the idea that this may be something that would benefit from a longer class (not a half hour, but a full hour) with information added to help attendees figure out how to find such sources themselves (I had a slide on that topic, but ran short of time). It was also suggested that a resource lists might be a good thing to send people home with. Maybe I can make a list of Anglo-Saxon  reports, both ones that I have used, and perhaps others referenced in some of my texts.