Getting Started Making Glass Beads
Lori Greenberg in her studio
In July, I asked if anyone on the Beading Daily list had questions about lampworking. Boy, did you ever! Many of the questions centered on getting started making glass beads—equipment, classes, and expenses. I asked Lori Greenberg, a talented lampwork artist and blogger (Bead Nerd) to answer a few of your questions. Not only did she agree, but she also agreed to answer other questions from Beading Daily readers, so feel free to post your questions here!
Michelle: What recommendations do you have for the beginner? What's the best way to get started?
Lori: The online forums like WetCanvas!, the ISGB (International Society of Glass Beadmakers) forum, and Lampwork Etc are great for information on set-up and costs involved. Sometimes I think as a beginner, you learn more because you have to dig into research.
I always recommend taking a short class just to see if you like it. If you can't get to one, there are many books and videos available. But the absolute best way to get started is to locate someplace near you where you can observe and give it a try.
Places are popping up everywhere and I predict, much to the chagrin of bead makers trying to make a living by selling their beads, that lampwork studios are going to be the next "paint it yourself pottery" kind of craze.
One of Lori Greenberg's beads
Michelle: What equipment is absolutely essential?
Lori: Essential equipment is, of course, a torch in a well-ventilated area (preferably with a ventilation fan/hood), a fuel source, shaping tools like a marver, mandrels, bead release, sample pack of glass, fireproof surface, large tweezers, safety glasses made for your type of glass, and a kiln.
You can set up in a spare room, garage, or patio, as long as you can provide a safe, fireproof area, good ventilation, and make-up air.
Michelle: What if you live in an area where no one does lampwork? What can you do to teach yourself to do this form of bead making?
Lori: Holy smokes. I could write a book on that. Wait. There are already books on that! Check out Cindy Jenkins's books. (Two of her titles are Making Glass Beads and Beads of Glass.)
First and foremost, learn safety. Read up on the forums about everything from lighting your torch to ventilation. Making beads will be the fun part, but if you blow yourself up the first try, you're not going to be making many beads.
If there is nowhere near you, petition your local craft store or bead store (especially if they sell the equipment to make beads) to give demos or classes.
Michelle: How can people on a limited income get involved in making lampwork beads? Can it be done without a kiln and/or expensive equipment?
Another bead by Lori Greenberg Lori: The least expensive way to get started is with a HotHead. I believe it costs $30 plus the fuel. Over time though, those fuel canisters can add up, so I recommend saving to invest in a propane/oxygen set-up. It will pay for itself in no time if you're more than a hobbyist.
A kiln is the most expensive part of the set-up. Please DO NOT sell your beads before you are able to properly anneal them in a kiln. They will crack and potentially hurt someone if they are not annealed in a kiln. If you don't have your own kiln, perhaps you can partner with someone who does. Either pay someone to batch anneal for you or trade them something for kiln time.
The good news is: Glass sells. With practice and a little know-how, you can easily sell your beads and jewelry and support your hobby.
Thank you, Lori! Be sure to check out Lori Greenberg's project, Amber Marquis Necklace, in the September/October 2007 issue of Step by Step Beads. (The instructions for the Amber Marquis lampworked beads used in the necklace are available on Beading Daily.) More photos of Lori's gorgeous beads are on her website, www.lorigreenberg.com.