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.
SOCIAL MEANING OF GLASS BEADSBead 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.
HOW GLASS BEADS ARE MADEGlass 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.
SOCIETY PERIOD CULTURES WHO MADE BEADS
· 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.