Sunday, July 20, 2014

Figment Necklace

This necklace was made by request to match the colors of Figment, a Disney character. It will be worn with a viking dress of similar colors. The colors are purple, orange, and pink. It contains annular beads, and lobed/melon beads, both very generic period beads. The larger focal beads are inspired by several types of Hiberno-Norse beads.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Class Notes: Making Period Glass Beads as a Beginner

At Pennsic this year I am teaching a class called "Making Period Glass Beads as a Beginner."

Class Description: 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

You can read my complete notes for this class by clicking on this link: Class Notes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stuff for Colin

Colin asked me to make 12 beads that he and Marion could use on the palm coronets they are making for Iron Bog's court at Pennsic. Below are the beads I made him, in Iron Bog's colors of black and white. These didn't need to be super special or even "period" (the theme of their court is a luau!), so i used the opportunity to practice some bead design techniques I've seen in modern lampworking books.

Also, about a year ago,  I had made a few beads with a version of the Iron Bog heraldic charge (because Colin asked, and so he could use them as favors). However, I was never truly happy with them, because I did not have a bead press to help me make a nicely shaped bead with a large flat surface that I could easily draw on. I have since bought a bead press, and I'm much happier with this version of the bead. It made things soooo much easier!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

40 Beads for Bhakail's Gift Basket

Beads given to Bhakail for the Royal's Gift Basket Challenge.
These beads were actually all ones that were left over from other projects! The beads are all reasonably good. Some of them were left over from A&S projects I've been working on because they have minor design flaws. In other cases, the bead was just not quite what I was looking for (the bead was the wrong color, not large enough, too small, the design elements were too close together, or to far apart, etc.).  It is a happy thing that I can put these beads to good use in this challenge.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Recreation of Birte Brumann's Bead Typology

One of my long term projects has been to replicate each bead from Birte Brugmann's book, Glass Beads from Early Anglo-Saxon Graves, and in the process try to come to understand her study and the typology she created. I also wanted to learn more also how bead styles evolved over time during the Anglo-Saxon period. In the end, I was able to replicate all but one bead from her typology to my satisfaction. My summarization of her chronology in the documentation below is very much simplified from her book (her book can be very complex and detailed at times!!) but, it helped me to achieve my goal of realizing some general trends. The documentation includes close up pictures of all of the beads I made as part of this project.

Link to Documentation

Below is a chart showing most of the Anglo-Saxon beads that Brugmann identified in her typology. This chart orders the beads by decoration type and by time period. The chart itself comes from Brugmann's book. I have attached my recreated beads over the pictures of extant beads she used.

Brugmann's Original Chart

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Teaching Lampworking- one-on-one

Below are some notes for  teaching  people to do lampworking for the first time. I'm primarily using this to help gather my thoughts. What is below represents, for me, the idea introductory session. However, the session outlined below would take a good bit of time, and in a demo session, someone may not want to stick around that long, or there may be a line of people waiting to try.

Overall, my goal is to get students making beads quickly and simply as possible, so they can see how fun and easy it is. However, I also want them to be successful (so they will want to do it again!) A one-on-one lesson like this would not include a lot of history or background, unless the student asks questions.

I plan to modify this document over time as I learn more about teaching.

1. Discussion of Recommended Attire:
  • Safety Glasses: To protect against flying glass (glass can shock if it is heated up to quickly). IMO, regular safety glasses will do if someone is just learning, though at some point I may want to let the students look through my glasses, so they can see what things are like with the soda flare removed. I have regular glasses to lend
  • No loose clothing or hair
  • Clothing with natural fibers is highly recommended, as are long sleeves. I have fire resistant arm guards I can share if needed. I also purchased a leather apron that students can use after seeing a friend use one to teach beads.
  • Close toed shoes are recommended.
2. Safety: Since we are playing with fire, this is very important to discuss!
  • Fire is hot. You may get a small burn (think cooking), but, if we are careful we should be just fine.  I have aloe gel if anything happens.
  • Do not get up out of your seat with the torch still on. If you  need to suddenly get up, just turn the torch off at any point, by turning the knob to the left.
  • Do not reach above the torch, or across it in front of you. If the student needs something they can't reach, I can help them get it.
  • Pay attention to where you put your glass rod and other tools, and remember they will be hot if you have used them. Always point the hot end of the glass rod or tools away from yourself. Even better, use a glass rod rest.
  • If small pieces of glass chip off your glass rod, that is normal, don't let it startle you too much. If a large piece of glass should fall off, don't pick it up (it is likely to be hot). If something lands on you, just brush it off (this is why we want natural fibers in our clothing).
  • When making a bead, if the bead feels like it is not sticking to the mandrel, stop immediately, and put the mandrel down on the metal tray, or dunk it in the small glass of water we have off to the side.
Note: Everything I have students do from this point in, I will talk through, demonstrate, and then have them do.

3. Review tools (in addition to glasses, discussed above)
  • Torch head
  • Mapp Gass
  • Clamp for torch to attach it safely to the table
  • heat proof surface for infront of the torch.
  • Glass rods
  • Mandrels coated in bead release.
  • Marver for shaping the bead
  • Fire extinguisher (just incase)

 4. Getting a feel for the glass/pulling stringer
  • Turn the torch on
  • Take a full length rod of glass (preferably one very noticeably changes color when hot (like yellow) and introduce the middle of it high into the flame. Talk about why we start high in the flame (to heat the glass slowly so it doesn't shock and crack). Talk about the need to rotate the rod constantly for even heating.
  • Once the rod starts to change color, slowly move the rod down closer to the flame, continuing to rotate it. Discuss the color change in the glass that occurs as it heats up. Tell students not to put glass in the blue part of the flame, stay an inch or two above that.  They will know if they are working too low in the flame, because the flame hisses (demonstrate this). Glass can discolor if worked too low in the flame.
  • While the part of the glass in the flame gets hot, glass is a poor conductor, so the rod itself remains cold.
  • Once the glass is molten (where it starts to sag and move on its own), you can push and pull the ends of the glass rod slightly to get a feel for what the molten glass feels like.
  • Before the glass gets too hot, take the rod out of the flame (towards or away???), let it firm up a bit (its color will change back), and then put it back in the flame, and repeat the above process (a few times if desired). You an always take the glass out of the heat briefly if it gets to wobbly, or you need a few moments to think and reset yourself.
  • Hold the rod in the flame until a small ball of glass forms in the middle (the ends of the rods can be pushed slightly in to help this).
  • Move the rod in front of the torch (towards or away???), count to 3, and then pull slowly but firmly on both rods (don't pull too fast!). Watch the class stretch out, become thin, and then cool. Congratulations, you have pulled your first stringer. We use these to add decoration to beads.  Over time, and through practice, you will learn how to reliably make stringers of different thicknesses and lengths. This is also just one way to make stringers, there are others. Repeat a few more times.

4. Practice rotating the mandrel without fire!
  • The mandrel is usually held in the non dominant hand, and glass is added with the dominant hand.
  • Put the mandrel in the students hand in an overhand grip ( to me, this grip feels more secure for something that will be constantly rotated). Have them practice turning the mandrel away from them. It should be don relatively slowly! Rotating too fast wont let enough heat sink into the bead to shape it.
  • Put a glass rod in the dominant hand in an underhanded grip (this grip allows the hand to be place perpendicular to the mandrel when adding glass, this will result in better beads in the long run). Have the student rotate the rod back and forth (it does not have to rotate around in a circle, both sides of the rod just have to be heated.
  • Then do both of the above at the same time.

6. Making a small bead (do this a few times)
  • Turn on torch (can do this for the student at the start)
  • Introduce the end of the glass rod high into the flame. Once the glass is glowing, slowly bring it down in the flame and heat it up as demonstrated in section three, making sure to keep rotating it.
  • The glass should begin to form a small ball, and it should have a consistent glow.
  • While the ball on the end of the glass rod is forming, pick up the mandrel (with bead release on it- so the glass does not stick to the bead), and preheat it by putting it in the flame above the glass rod for about 10 seconds (rotating it gently). The mandrel needs to be hot for the glass to stick (demonstrate it not sticking) However, the metal is thin and not a great conductor, so the end of the mandrel you are holding will stay cool.  
  • Once the mandrel is preheated, turn glass rod perpendicular to the mandrel. Position the mandrel right outside the flame (towards the back of the flame)
  • Have the tip of the glass rod pass through the flame and touch the mandrel gently. Just the tip! As it touches, pull the rod back very slightly and rotate the mandrel away from you slowly. Try to make a complete circle with the glass you have melted. We leave the rod in the flame as we do this so the glass stays soft and continues to melt. There should be a small triangle of molten glass between the bead you are winding and the glass rod (think fiber drafting triangle).
  • Once a complete circle has been made, continue to turn the bead away from you slowly, but also stretch the glass rod back slightly towards you to thin the stream of glass out. If the glass stiffens and you can't pull it this way, just leave the glass in the fire for a second or two until it gets molten again, and then resume turning and pulling. Eventually the stream of glass should be thin enough to break. Put the glass rod down, hot part away from you or on the glass rod rest.
  • The bead is bumpy now, but we can smooth it out in the flame. Continue rotating the bead away from you but move it into the flame. If the bead gets too hot and wobbly, just bring it higher in the flame, or slightly outside the flame to cool it down. Rotate until the bead is mostly round, glass wants to be round, so the bead will even out a good bit. Also, remember,  this is a hand made item, and your first bead, so it wont be perfect, but don't worry about that!
  • Bring the bead higher up in the flame until it is just barely glowing, while continuing to turn  (flame annealing- we are brining the temperature down slowly).
  • I can then turn the torch off for the student. And we can put the bead to anneal (cool down slowly so it does not later crack).
6. Shaping the Beads (show barrel shape only, gives a  larger decorating surface. Can discuss more shapes later in advanced lessons.)
  • Demonstrate rolling the bead into a barrel shape.
  • Glass must be hot to shape it. Don't try touching the bead to the marver unless its glowing (it wont do anything).
  • Touching the bead with anything cools it, so you have a limited amount of working time.
  • If it doesn't work at first, you can always heat the bead and try again.
7. Applying dots with the stringer you made.
  • Never put stringer in the flame
  • Have bead to the back of the flame, the stringer on the side of the flame (show students how it will melt there!).
  • Heat slightly and then touch the stringer with the bead, press a little bit, and then pull back, and cut the little stringer that forms off in the flame. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Teaching Notes

This past weekend my peer held a small workshop day at her home so I could practice teaching a few friends about making glass beads.  Below are some thoughts from the day about what I learned about teaching, or what worked well.

  • I used a teaching technique I learned last Pennsic to good effect to help someone get better at pulling stringers. The idea is to teach a student to pull stringer by having them apply heat to the middle of a full glass rod. Have the student push in slightly on both ends to form a small glass ball, and then have them remove the stringer from the heat, count to three and pull. This method works better than the commonly taught method of using pliers in one hand. It can be hard to get a grip on the glass with pliers, adding an unnecessary complication to learning a new task. I also think that having the same thing (a glass rod) in both hands feels more even, and thus and helps people to pull more evenly and comfortably.
  • When trying to apply stringer students tend to, without instruction, stick the stringer directly in the heat (likely b/c that is what they do with the glass rod). As a result its imp. to demonstrate how just the side of the flame can melt the stringer enough to apply w/o it getting too molten. Also, stringer from transparent glass may be easier for people to learn with, because it is firmer than opaque glass.
  • When teaching people, I also try to have them hold the glass in there hand like a pencil, and to turn the glass perpendicular to the torch once it is heated and apply the glass that way. I learned this from a mundane glass book. One of the people I was teaching made an interesting comment about this method, when I asked her how this change felt. She said that it felt more like she was applying the glass, and less like the glass was applying itself to the rod!
  • Also, another interesting lesson learned. When working with someone who is ambidextrous, have them hold the glass I the hand they write with. Because of the pencil like grip  I have students use, this position felt less natural to the person learning when they used the hand they did not write will. This actually made it much harder for her. Once we switched hands, things worked much better.
  • Good materials are so very important to the enjoyment of glass bead making. Bad bead release, or glass rods that shatter a lot (Devardi Glass!) can be a problem. We had both of these issues this past weekend. When teaching, I should continue to look for these problems and if needed substitute my materials for the materials the students are using (if they have their own kit) so that learning can occur in the best possible way.