Thursday, April 29, 2010

Terms of the Trade - Encasing

Boy, I haven't gotten many comments this week... am I too technical??? Boring you to tears??? You know I'm a comment junkie...will work for feedback! Don't worry, back to beady goodness come Monday!

Encasing or casing is when one layer of glass is wrapped around another - fully or partially. This usually done with a clear glass at the end to magnify all the glass pretties on the inside.

This Summer's Garden glass bead was encased and encased and encased and.... numerous times!

There are many issues that go into good casing. Temperature is SO crucial. If the base bead is too hot, the surface decoration will smear; too cool and it will crack when you add hot glass. And that's just for starters! Some PRICEY clear glasses will pick up scum in the flame if your oxy balance is off! Air bubbles can get trapped. Some are pretty...too many are fragile. Or you can leave gaps and the inner glass rises to the top.

It's a pain in the rear! So why do it? That magnification that takes the bead to the next, extraordinary level! Let's take another look at the silvered ivory bead from the other day:

To me this bead is interesting and unusual but, if I cased it, check out how the design is magnified:

Snakeskin Closeup

Or look at what happens when the casing is a pale, tinted color:

Lavender Snakeskin

Pretty neat, huh??

Casing isn't always clear though. Why would you case in an opaque glass? Two reasons come to mind. Clear glass can get hotter and not lose it's shape. It also holds the heat longer. So if you are making a sculpted glass bead that will need a lot of working time, clear glass would make the perfect core.

The other reason is cost of the glass. Say that you LOVE some of those expensive glasses and, like me, you LOVE big, giant glass beads. That could get expensive beyond the point you could expect to recoup in the sales price. So... clear, cheap ($8 / lb) core cased with an expensive outer cover!

Quick reminder: While I'm STILL working away on the new website, there are a TON of beads up there. I will gladly wire wrap any of my pretty beads into something special for Mom! I even gift wrap. There's still time to order for Mother's Day!

Hope you will pop back in here next week! Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Terms of the Trade - Stringers, Twisties & Canes

Oh my! Today we'll explore some common decorating terms. The decoration on the surface of glass beads is often made with thin, hand-pulled pieces of glass called stringer. But stringer can get... complicated!

But let's start with the simple. Basic stringer is one color. It's is a simple a single rod, heated in the flame and pulled to a smaller size:To make the icing decorations on this toffee bar candy bead, I pulled brown stringer from the same rod as the base bead.

Then we move into the slightly more complicated "cased cane." Once layers of glass are involved, we start calling it cane. Casing means another layer of glass is coating an inner layer. The inside is encased in more glass. This is a great way to work with a fussy color that reacts (see yesterday's post) to other colors, such as transparent pink (a/k/a/ rubino di oro or gold rose). Casing pink in clear prevents it from reacting and getting all gray and ugly while still allowing it to be pink.

Cased cane is also a fabulous way to pull a custom color! If you understand anything about color i.e. Yellow + Blue = Green, you never run out of color! By taking a yellow rod and coating it with blue transparent, you'll end up with a really pretty green. OR like below, I like my pinks a little orange. This cane is coral+rubino+clear.

Next comes the more elaborate vine cane. This is cane that starts with a base color, gets striped with thin stringers of a darker or lighter color and then is encased. Here are some examples of vine and leaf cane from my table:
Note the stripes above. Many lampworkers cut into the base rod to apply those stripes but I like mine really even and use a graphite shaping block from Weaver Industries:

The hot base rod is placed in the mold which generates a perfectly scored rod. Stringer is added to the scores and the whole thing is encased and pulled thin. There are examples of rose cane, leaf cane and vine cane throughout this bead:

Next comes the much more complicated twistie. Twisties are fussy and it's taken me ages to realize why! Some glasses are "soupy" - they melt faster. Soupy glasses tend to take over the twist! White is the soupiest glass of all. To compensate, I use three - five times as much of the non-white color to keep the white in balance! The other issue is getting a really even pull. Here are a few twisities:

And since I rarely use them, I'm going to use an example from one of the Fire Divas who uses twisties frequently, Theresa of TeaseBeads. Check out this focal:

Even more complicated is the wig wag cane or V-rod. These are twisties that are pulled back and forth to create unusal twists and turns in the rod. Sarah Hornik pulls them by hand. These were pulled with the aid of a kiln, making it much easier to get them even.
The final type of cane I'll show you is ribbon cane. This is formed from a paddle of glass, striped with stringer and care is taken to keep it FLAT in pulling. These make fabulous textured scarves for snowmen or belts. I've even made ribbons flowing off Christmas ornaments.

So there you have it... a tour into the world of stringers and canes. I hope you'll take what you've learned and look at some beads a little more closely. Take a moment to realize how much artistry goes into each bead. Does the bead maker use "flat color" - one color stringer - or is she trying to create a work of art by layering color? Does she give thought to the basic art principles of highlights, lowlights and midtones? If she uses single colors, does she do amazing things with it?

There's much to consider when buying lampwork. Each bead is a reflection of the hand of the artist.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Terms of the Trade - High Silver Glass & Dichroic

Continuing on our terminology journey, today we look at silver glasses and dichroic. High silver & silver saturated are two common terms you hear when shopping for glass beads. The meaning is pretty clear... there's lots of silver in a particular glass. Even though this is a basic vocabulary to glassy peeps... I hope you will keep reading...some good tips here for making glass beads!

Silver in glass? Yes, metals are common elements. Copper and Lead are also common in glass. If you are curious about what these metals do, check out the Bullseye website which lists the elements in a particular glass and what other elements may cause a reaction.

Glass artists are often looking for a reaction. One glass makes another "bleed" and create striations of color. Or the lovely black line that appears when turquoise touches ivory or coral. This button by fellow Fire Diva Rivers Edge is a perfect example. See the black line between the colors? That's a color reaction.
But back to the silver. Silver adds amazing shine to glass...a spectacular sheen! You can see what I'm referring to on this pandora style glass bead by Giapet.

This is a specific reaction that occurs when a silver saturated glass is "reduced." Reducing or reduction flames are mostly propane, starving the bead of oxygen. Silver needs oxygen to be a happy camper in the glass and when starved for oxygen, the silver molecules gather on the surface of the bead...where there is more oxygen in the air. Reduction is usually the last thing done to a bead before popping it in a kiln. This keeps the silver on the surface, creating that beautiful rich shine!

Here are another example. My fish has silver glass fins and the speckles on his body are silver glass as well.

Silver glass is very popular in spite of the cost. Starting at around $48 / pound and going up to $100 / pound, it's best used sparingly!

But that is not the ONLY thing silver does to glass. Silvered ivory is another term you hear alot, certainly on this blog! It's one of my favorite techniques! I simply love the rugged, ancient look you can get but adding fine (.999 pure) silver to ivory glass. Here are two examples, the first by Janel Dudley Beads called Sprouts. Check out the bottom half of her bead:

The second bead, I made. It features both techniques...silvered ivory on the inside with silver saturated glass on the dots and surface decoration.

The last glass I would like to show off to you is called dichroic. Dichroic glass was actually invented for NASA - I can't imagine what for but, I'm sure glad they shared it with the glass industry! This definition is from the website of CBS-dichroic, the best known manufacturer: "Quartz Crystal and Metal Oxides are Vaporized with an electron beam gun in an airless vacuum chamber and the vapor then floats upward and attaches then condenses on the surface of the glass in the form of a crystal structure."

Fancy, huh?? Well, the results are beautiful, sparkly and double colored....hence the name di = two; chroic = color! The two color are the color you see looking straight on at the glass and the color that light reflects back. See how the strips of dichroic look purple AND gold:
This bead is a perfect example of ways to use dichroic: There are THREE techniques here: Surface, encased and what one of my favorite teachers, Janet Andersen calls "party stringer."

That surface coating is the subject of much debate among lampworkers. Many say you cannot put the coating on the outside... but you can. You see it right there. The trick is, you MUST work cool. Too hot, and you have scum! But it can be done! Keep the coating away from the flame and wrap in reverse.... and keep working cool!

The dots on the bead are clear, clear glass traps the coating and makes it crackle and get all interesting. Most the dichroic you see is trapped under clear. That doesn't mean it's any less challenging to work. Many bead makers will clip a small piece of dichroic into their hemostats with the coating side up to stick into the flame without burning it off...but with me, my hemos fall over and then I'm panicked with a hot bead in the flame! OY!

But then I remembered an old fusing trick! Lay your fingernails on the glass. If your nail is touching the glass, you are touching the dichroic. If there is a visual "skip" between your nail and the glass, you are touching the glass side. The dichroic coating is on the back and creating a mirror effect! I can lay down my hemos and check with one hand while keeping that bead warm!

The final technique - exemplified by the pink and gold thin ribbon running around the bead between the surface application is party stringer. Lay down several strips dichroic onto a hot clear rod. Case well and pull. This makes dichro go a long way...which is a good thing! It too is pricey, running from 65 cents an INCH to 1.50 an INCH.

Check back tomorrow for some twisted beads!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Terms of the Trade - Mandrels & Holes

I got lots of questions about the terms in my last post. I sometime assume my audience is jewelry makers or other beadmakers when I know I have some quilters and knitters and just generally creative folks who follow along. So... I thought it would be fun to examine a few of the glassy words from that post. For you glassy folks that do this all the time, there's tips for making hearts and buttons here!

Today's word is Mandrel.

A mandrel is a rod of stainless steel which is used to form the hole in a bead. The rods come in a HUGE variety of sizes, hence the large variety of bead holes! I use tiny 1/32" all the way up to 1.5" mandrels. There are even a variety of shaped mandrels allowing for bead holes in fun shapes such as hearts, squares or ovals.

Mandrels are dipped in a liquefied graphite emulsion, called bead release, and allowed to air dry or dried in the flame. After the bead is made and has fully annealed, the beads on their mandrels are soaked in water to weaken the release. This makes removing the beads from the mandrels a little easier. After removal, the bead release is cleaned from the beads with a diamond bit.

Beads on mandrels, waiting to be soaked and cleaned.

The word mandrel came up in my previous post when I referred to an "OFF mandrel heart." This means NO mandrel was used to make the hole. Instead the bail (Another word for hole but generally refers to something to hang the bead from...usually on top of or behind the bead.) was made by the careful application of hot glass to allow for the hole.

I hold the heart, attached to a rod of glass called a punty, in my left hand; the bail glass is in my right. It is usually smaller- about 2 - 3mm. I heat the bail glass and spot heat the heart where the bail is to be. I touch down, move the heart behind the flame and keep the bail glass in the flame. As the bail glass melts, I move my left hand to bend the bail around the heart, leaving a hole. After the bail is attached I spend a bit of time adding glass where the bail may be too thin, reshaping the hole with a tungsten pick, melting the bail to the glass and making sure the bead hangs true.

The final way tungsten pick. Tungsten can get very, very hot...I'm talking glowing red. I keep the bead / button behind the flame and it's actually fairly cool. The pick is IN the flame and glowing. The pick gets hot enough to actually DRILL a hole in the glass! I use this technique with buttons.

Buttons with drilled holes.

So there you have it... All about mandrels and holes. I hope you'll check back here this week for some more bead makers vocabulary!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Getting an Eye for Style with the Fire Divas

I thought it would be fun to talk about lampwork styles and take stroll through the recent entries and winners from the Fire Divas Bead Challenge.

Does your favorite lampworker have a style??? I would say that most do. I also feel that I don't... Or I don't have "enough" of one. I'm always fascinated by techniques and my curious mind always needs to explore and stretch. And in many ways I feel this holds me back as an artist. My customers never know what they are going to find and some days I feel like I could be more successful if I just sat down and made cute little sets... And honestly, I would rather drop dead than make myself do something I don't "feel." Stubborn? Yes!

Back to the bead challenge. The Divas do monthly bead challenges for several reasons. A theme allows us to stretch and think outside of the realm of our normal beadmaking. Hosting the voting on our blog exposes all our work to more viewers and hopefully picks up more interest in our blog and what we do as a team or individuals.

Our winner Debbi Homola is a newer Diva and I'm still learning her style and I must say, I couldn't guess who made this bead. I know my Divas work so well, that most months I can guess. But some months, we all stretch and grow and I can't begin to guess them all! Debbi's style is often cased and very colorful... but from what I've seen of her work... I would've never picked this as hers. And this beauty has already found a home...

Entry 3

In second place, we have a pendant by Amy of Two Glassy Ladies. If you peruse Amy's Etsy or her Two Glassy Ladies site, you will see lots of other goddesses as well as her passion for bright colors and dots. I guessed this one right.

The third entry was mine and I think one of the most predictable pieces I make... I LOVE off mandrel hearts! When I first got into buying lampwork, I bought them by the pound... NOT seriously but, let's just say I adored them and still do! I simply love having a new, unique piece of jewelry every day by adding a new heart to a chain. I was really stumped and feeling unimaginative when I realized this heart reminded me of rain... thus it became my entry after the fact...something I rarely do! But if you browse through my shops, you will see lots of hearts. This heart will be on later in the day today.

Entry 1

Next up, we have bead by Divas Admin Lea Avroch. This is another entry I correctly guessed because Lea makes many focals in this shape and style. She is known for swirling color and often silver, reactive style beads. I just love the layers of transparent and opaque glasses in this!
Entry 4

The fifth entry is also a Diva admin bead from Theresa Ehlers. Theresa is known for interesting shaped focals and lots of twisted on color. I guessed this one correctly too during the competition.

Entry 5

I also recognized my buddy Janel's work right off the bat. Janel is drawn to high silver, reactive glasses and her swirls and dots ... make me swoon.

Entry 6

This is another bead by a newer member that no, I didn't guess. So maybe the lesson here for me is to spend more time getting to know our newer members! I am a HUGE fan of Melanie's fantastic blog... devoted to glass color! Melanie does make nice large focals! Oy! A girl after my own heart! And... she also seems to be fascinated by the long, skinny focal as well. Drool!

Entry 7
This next one is from my friend Jamie and honestly, I don't think I would have guessed it was hers except... I saw it on Facebook before the contest! We have several ladies that make cute "gigglers" - you know - beads that just make you SMILE! But when I really think about it... all of them really have their own style! Jamie always has exceptionally expressive eyes. So maybe, I could have guessed....

Entry 8

Our last entry is by Lara Lutrick. When I look at Lara's beads, one word always pops in my head: elegant. That word is her style through and through. Her beads are always sleek and absolutely perfect and above all colorful. I can pick them out a mile off!
Entry 9

Spend some time getting to know the work of a beadmaker who has caught your eye. See if you can pick up on her style. Watch their work grow and be amazed when they surprise you. You will improve your own artistic eye and learn so much about color!

The Divas would like to thank all our wonderful fans who voted!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Still Harping on Customer Service

I know I sound like a broken record lately but I'm amazed that in a relatively small sector business, one that is so close knit, it's almost incestuous, that a vendor can afford to treat anyone poorly.

The frit vendor (there, that narrows the curiosity down to less than 10) I've been dealing with is a crystal clear vision of how NOT to treat customers!

Things to consider:

1) Your receipts and letterhead - is your contact info on there? It should be! Make it easy for customers to contact you!

2) Email - Do you answer it promptly??? You better! Someone may order from you once but if they feel ignored, they will shop elsewhere.

3) Problems - Do you address them head on or ignore it? See #2.

4) Shipping confirmation - Do you send these to your customers? USPS will do it if you add the customer's email. Paypal also does it. Artfire allows you to post the number into your customer notes, which the customer sees. All of this reassures the customer that the package is coming.

5) Processing orders - Do you fill them fast or take your time? All sorts of issues here. It's ILLEGAL to take money before you ship but Paypal suggests turning orders around in three days. A few days is forgivable...weekends, holidays, lots of orders... things happen. More than that is NOT.

6) Out of Stock / Custom work - If something is out of stock, how do you handle it? If you make the item you sell to long does it take to ship it? Again, you can get into murky legal water here. If you can't ship that order in three days or less, you MUST let the customer know AND give them the option of a refund or waiting. If they opt to wait, to protect yourself, keep a copy of the email where they say that they are willing to do that.

With custom work, I never take payment upfront unless there is a large outlay of cash. Then I ask for a deposit against final payment.

There's a lot to think about with good customer service but it's not that hard! Bottom line, how would YOU like to be treated if the shoe were on the other foot?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Glassy Stuff - Here's L@@king at You!

O.K. I promised glassy goodness today and I'm here to deliver...just not my own! LOL!
Truth be told, between my elbow / fingers being numb and the time consuming new website project, I'm just not torching as much as I would like.

So let's look at some beads I like to look at...only these beauties are looking right back!

My fellow Fire Diva Janel is always working with high silver glasses and gets stunning results but her hand - pulled eyeball murrini's are a thing of wonder! I've seen them in person and WOW!

This beauty is up for grabs in her Etsy Shop:

This necklace is in a customer's private collection, but... I'm sure you could talk Janel into making another! Isn't it amazing???

And finally, Janel is giving one away over on her blog... tomorrow! Go! Check it out!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Still about MEEEeee!

I'm still uploading content as fast as I can to the new site and... I almost forgot to blog today!

I had two more articles about me (ME, ME MEEEEeeee!) get published over the weekend. Whooo Hooo... (I may not have a lot of sales but at least somebody seems to like me! LOL!)

I mentioned writing for the new, Timothy Adam handmade site called Handmade Spark. [ My articles are HERE.]

But... Emily, one of the writers there, did a profile on moi! You can look for more articles on the Handmade Spark writers from Emily in the future...they are an interesting bunch!

Emily, an Aussie, loves to sew and makes critters! (Her shop is on vacay while she moves from Hong Kong to Seoul but check it out in a few weeks!)

And...that's not all! Andrea W of Andrea W Designs featured me on her blog! Andrea is a fabulously talented knitter!

Now enough of ME! (If I'm sick of me, surely YOU must be too!) I promise, something beady tomorrow!

And how are YOU??? Seriously! I want to know!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's about MEEEEeeee!*

My left arm is completely numb... I've been on the computer too much and I've decided... I do weird things to my left arm. More on that on Creekhiker later.

But that means today's post (and the two others I have yet to write) have to be brief!

So I thought I'd send you blog hopping for more scintillating content than I can provide here, today!

I've been writing for the new, Timothy Adam handmade site called Handmade Spark. LOTS of good info about selling there! My articles are HERE.

Some of you know I also write for the Art Bead Scene's Blog Carnival. The third round of posts are officially up - all about Anticipation. Check them out... all inspiring!

My fellow Fire Diva Lea of LAJewelryDesign wrote an article about me for her blog.

And finally, there is a tax day sale on HollysFolly and my Artfire. 10.40% off and Fan page members get free shipping!

*When my BFF was the hottest karaoke act in Los Angeles, she once had a customer sign up and then repeatedly come to the sound board, whining, "When's it gonna be MEEEEeeee?" She was dead serious! Whenever we get a bit full of ourselves or self centered, the BFF and I look at each other and whine, "It's about MEEEeee!!!" Forgive me!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another Bead Challenge!

Yes, new month, new bead challenge at the Diva Blog!

This month's bead challenge theme is April Showers! Take a close look below at the entries, and when you've finally decided on your favorite, vote for it on the right side of your screen. Polls will be open for a week, and then the winner will be announced!

Entry 1:

Entry 2:

Entry 3:

Entry 4:

Entry 5:

Entry 6:

Entry 7:

Entry 8:

Entry 9:

Thanks for voting, and thanks to all the Divas who entered the April Showers Monthly Bead Challenge!

Don't forget the Tax Day Sale tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Last Days of the Fire Diva's Jewelry Challenge - SALE!

OMG! This is the SECOND batch of FABULOUS entries into the Fire Diva's jewelry challenge and WOW! (Just wait til you see the THIRD batch!) There are some incredibly talented jewelry designers out there!!!! If you want to enter... deadline is TAX day!

Speaking of TAX DAY, my god-dog-ter Twinkie started a TAX DAY sale on her book! And since I LOVE to chase my god-dog-ter, I'm gonna follow her lead! On 4/15, take 10.40% off anything on the HollysFolly site or my Artfire!

Now...on to those jewelry designs.

GlassEyeButterfly's charm bracelet incorporates RiversEdgeGlass' lovely beads.
Beads by Rivers Edge Glass

Scoots61 submitted a wonderful wire wrapped pendant necklace with TeaseBead's focal.
April Showers - Close up

Another lovely wire wrapped piece, this one submitted by NightingGayle using beads by Amy Houston.

Rhamesses' lovely submission is made with swarovski crystals and bead from Amy Houston.
Springtime Close-up

Smisuraco made this lovely amethyst and brass piece using a focal from Magikalglassworkss.
Until the Lilacs Bloom

ClarindaSmith created this adorable whimsical bracelet with Maybead's focal kitty.
Cat In Cow's Clothing

Splumb1us submitted this lovely beaded spiral necklace with a focal bead by LA Jewelry Designs.
The Parting of the Red SeaAlign Center

If you make jewelry featuring Fire Diva Beads, we would love to see it! There's over $200 in prizes to be won and the deadline is April 15th! Click here for more information.