Friday, February 12, 2016

Notes for a class

Below are some notes that I will use as a quick introduction to 2 hour hands on demo/workshop.

·        The first beads were made 80-100,000 years ago. They were made of simple natural materials, such as shells, seeds, or bone.
·        However, early humans did know what glass was, as it can be formed naturally when its basic raw materials are exposed to great heat, through volcanic activity or lighting strikes on beaches. Early humans used obsidian (volcanic glass) to make tools, weapons, and jewelry. Glassy slags are also formed in cremation fires, and in furnaces and kilns when metals or ceramics are being fired.
·        Man  made glass and glass beads developed around 3,000 BCE in Mesopotamia, later spreading to Egypt. The development of the bellows during that time perhaps enabled glass technology, which requires high heat.
·        Ancient glass has the same basic components as does one of the most popular types of glass used by bead makers today, silica, soda (a flux to lower the melting point of silica), and lime (calcium to harden the glass).
o   [silica melts at 3,092 F. [1,700 C.] adding flux allows glass to melt at a significantly lower temperature, about 2,372 F. [1,300 C.]
·        Glass made from these ingredients will naturally be slightly colored (often a light green) due to metal impurities in the sand 
·        Over time, people started to experiment with adding metals (such as Iron, Cobalt, Copper, Tin, and others) to glass to purposefully create color.

Bead may seem like pretty, but inconsequential items. However, that could not be further from the truth. 
Throughout history beads have been traded far and wide, used as religious or spiritual talismans to protect the wearer, and served as symbolic indicators of social rank.  
Like all objects of adornment, beads have a significance that is unspoken, but very real, and which could be read by the people who wore them.

Glass beads can be made in many ways, but the method we will be demonstrating is called Winding. As you will see shortly, this method involves the use of a metal rod, called a mandrel today, around which the glass is "wound" 
What we are teaching you is called Flameworking, the use of a gas powered torch to melt the glass that is used to create beads. 
 It evolved from Lampworking, which began in Venice during the late middle ages (15th c). Lampworking uses a blowpipe to force air into the flame from an oil lamp to make beads. The blow pipe would increase the heat of the flame enough to melt the glass. 
In the early middle ages, glass beads were made either over an open hearth, or in a wood fueled furnace. 

·        There are many cultures and time periods to choose from if you are interested in making historic beads.
·        A few cultures whose glass beads I have researched and made are: Phoenician, Roman, Anglo-Saxons, Early Irish, Merovingian, and Scandinavian. I have also done a bit of research on Islamic glass beads (a very generic term for beads made in the middle east from  600-1400 b.c.e).
·        I have a book which has pictures of beads from these different cultures.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Necklace for HRM

I was asked to make a necklace for HRM to wear at Birka. The necklace was to go with a dark red
viking dress and it was part of an outfit that I was told many people were contributing to.

Inspiration Images: 1, 2

Pictures of two projects

Tokens made for high table at this year's River Wars. There were a total of 12.

Pennsic (fencing field) dirt beads. Transparent dark green glass with opaque green frit rolled in Pennsic dirt.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Videos of Turkish Beadmakers

These two videos were posted to the blog of Lady Isibel inghean ui Bheollain (of the Middle Kingdom). I had not come across these videos before, so I was excited when I saw her post them. One of the authors I've read who talks about evidence fr bead making at the Scandinavian marketplace of Ribe (Torben Sode) also wrote articles talking about what can be learned for modern bead makers who practice more traditional bead making techniques. One of the countries he studied, was, I believe, Turkey. Links to the videos and some notes I took are below.
-mentions using Pine as a wood source. This reminds me to investigate the BTU's of various woods (which several people discussed with me at Artifacts of a Life). Where does pine fit in here.
-they use broken, recycled glass.
-the beadmakers are male in this video and the other. This  video showed teenage boys (reminding me that what we do for fun, others do to make a living), the other grown men. Were men more likely to be the bead makers in period? Something I read a while ago discussed how historically when crafts are commercialized, men do them, but when they based around or in the home, women do them.
-the video noted that this was taught and passed down through the generations
-the audio in this one is not in English, but it has better visuals of the bead making than the other. A good place to start watching is 3:00.
---he preheats 2 metal rods, one straight, one hooked at the end
---he winds the glass onto the one rod by dipping in the pot of melted glass (can't actually see inside the furnace)
---uses the hooked end of the other to pick up small bit of glass and press it into the base bead
---marvels with a thicker and slightly flat rod.
---then hits the mandrel a few times outside the furnace to loosen and remove the bead (no bead release is used!)
-Also, something strange. At 1:45- there are beads in side in the side of the kiln. Why? Broken? Annealing?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Drawn Glass Beads

After watching a live streaming demonstration from Corning where two glassblowers made drawn glass beads, I wanted to try to make a drawn glass bead myself on a smaller scale using a hollow mandrel I had as a blow pipe, just to see if I could do it. Below are two beads that I made. 

The first time I tried do do this, I blew to hard and shattered the bubble. Luckily, I got a feel for how hard to blow the bubble after I messed up the first time. I was able to get a small length of drawn glass, enough to make one or two beads from.  This worked as long as I did not pull the walls to thin. If the walls of the bead were too thin, I could not cut the bead using my glass nippers, because the glass would shatter. To properly finish the above beads, I would also need to file the ends ends flat. I'm not quite sure how some of this would be done in period, particularly how the beads were cut and polished in period, but, one book that I've seen before that talks about how drawn beads were made, which I could acquire use as a reference to learn more is Asia's Martime Bead Trade.

Because I'm working with such small amounts of glass, this method would never be efficient to make beads in any number, but, I have seen modern lampworkers make modern ornaments and pendants by blowing glass.

My first unsuccessful attempt to blow glass.

The successful creation of a bubble of blown glass. To create this bubble,
I wrapped glass around the end of my hollow mandrel in a way that is a bit similar to
making a hollow bead. I then added more glass to the outside before blowing.
Lesson Learned: do not coat the hollow mandrel in bead release.
The bead release cracked twice and I lost my bubble of glass.

The length of glass I drew out from a bubble of glass similar to the one pictured above.
I did this by attaching a punty to the other end of the bubble and pulling,
much like I do when making cane to decorate beads with.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Stamped Tokens for Marion & JP/Lylie

At Pennsic I learned (during a class taught by Mistress Tinker from the Mid.) how to stamp beads to make tokens. You can use modern leather stamps (which I did here), or make your own stamps using soapstone. This is a documentable thing. Tinker shared an article with the class. I have the citation at work, and will update this blog post shortly with the information.

Pictures of period examples can be found on the Corning Museum site under the technique filter "stamping" and object type "pendant". The items are labeled as being Roman, or being from the Eaststern Mediterranean/Syria. Dates range from 100-700 c.e., with many pendants falling in the middle of that time range. The pendants seem to be made from transparent glass, in colors such as very dark brown, yellow/brown, amber, and blue/green

The pictures stamped on the pendants vary. Some have one or more animals (such as a lion, tortoise, or birds). Some showed humans (full figures or just busts). Others had both human and animal figures. A few of the pendants featured identifiable Roman mythological figures, such as Medusa and the goddess Victory. However, other religious symbols were also present. A cross, a star and crescent, the chi-ro monogram, the symbol for alpha and omega, and a Greek inscription for "one god" could all be found on the pendants. Clearly, many of the images on these pendants had deep significance and meaning.

The tokens I made have symbolic meaning within the SCA, as I am using aspects of a person's or a groups heraldry.

My Tokens

Tokens for Marion 

 Tokens for JP& Lylie

Picture of the Individual Tokens for JP & Lylie

Gifts for their Excellencies Bhakail

On stepping down as baronial A&S champion I presented their Excellencies Bhakail with a few gifts as a token of my appreciation for being chosen their champion.

Above are 4 "Islamic" folded glass beads (in Bhakail colors) which I added to fibula I wire wrapped and sharpened myself. I like the folded bead design for these tokens, because I feel it looks like a flame, an item which is related to Bhakail's heraldry.

Above is a necklace I make for her Excellency. The chain is based on a Roman chain, the design for which I learned at Pennsic during a class (sadly can't find at the name of the instructor at the moment). Erica helped teach me how to do the actual wire wrapping. A link to a museum photo of a Roman wire wrapped chain can be found here. The glass beads were made by me, the small gold beads were store bought. The necklace is in Bhakail colors, with a Salamander focal bead.