So what does lampwork mean? No, it is not constructing lamps but refers to the way glass beads were made a few thousand years ago, with lamps for the fuel source. Glass beadmaking is an ancient art, and has been practiced for more than 3000 years but throughout history the art of making glass beads has been shrouded in secrecy. Now the word is out and beadmakers willingly share information. Glass beads have been used for adornment, trade, currency and religious rituals in cultures all over the world. The past ten years have seen the rebirth of ancient glass beadmaking traditions.
I use natural gas in a Minor torch as a fuel source with an oxygen concentrator for the accelerant to transform molten glass into works of art in my Ann Arbor, Michigan studio. My Beaver Island, Michigan studio uses a Minor torch with propane gas and an oxygen concentrator. All beads are immediately kiln annealed overnight in a digitally controlled kiln for strength and durability. Make sure that handmade glass beads are annealed or else they are subject to cracking or breaking. Annealed beads should last for your lifetime.
There are several good references to read about lampwork glass beadmaking. The first book that I benefited from was Cindy Jenkin’s Making Glass Beads which has great photos of different lampwork designs. Then I bought a couple more technical references: More than you ever wanted to know about Glass Beadmaking by James Kerwin and Volumes 1 and 2 of Contemporary Lampworking A Practical Guide to Shaping Glass in the Flame by Bandhu Dunham. And one of my favorites for learning the details/how-to of some techniques is Passing the Flame A Beadmakers Guide to Detail & Design by Corina Tettinger. Corina’s guide is chock full of photos, step-by-step instructions and helpful information and she shows you how to make the great frog! Jim Kerwin has a series of great booklets on different lampwork artists such as Sharon Peter’s wonderfully wacky sculptural beads.
Interested in lampwork bead classes in Ann Arbor or Beaver Island? Please check out the Lampwork Class page and give us a call. We are willing to work with you. See Studio Tour for pictures and more!