Illuminating the Age-Old Art of Lampwork
Several years ago, I was visiting my sister in southern British Columbia, Canada. We spent the day in the former mining town of Kimberly, wandering the brick streets now lined with boutiques and shops.
In one of those shops I was stopped in my tracks by the glimmer of dozens of colorful drops of glass reflecting and refracting as they swayed and dipped gently in a patch of sunlight. It was a very good bit of display work for those of us who may be part magpie.
I chose one drop of glass and took it to the woman waiting at the counter. I remarked on the beauty of something so simple and she told me that her husband had made them! The artist in me was intrigued and I asked her, “How?!”
“Using a method called lampwork,” she answered. All that was needed was a torch and some rods of glass.
What?! I felt the little hairs on my arms stand up.
A few weeks later as I was scrolling through eBay looking for collector tea pots I happened upon a listing for a beginner lampworking kit. I couldn’t get my credit card out fast enough.
Working with Glass Is a Magical Process
Working with glass in the flame is a challenging art. It’s a magical process that serves as active meditation for me. The glass in the flame is mesmerizing. It is somewhat like winding honey onto the stainless-steel mandrel.
Beads are formed, then further designed with more glass. Blown shards of glass, crushed glass and pulled thin strings of more glass are used. Not to mention bits of precious metals. The possibilities are truly endless.
Once the manipulation is complete, the hot bead is put into a kiln to be annealed overnight, much like clay pots.
I’ve had countless disappointments since the glass is wilful. What it might look like when it goes into the kiln is sometimes a far cry from what comes out.
Turning a Craft into a Business
While I began by making beads for art jewelry designers, it didn’t take long for me to move away from that so that I could make beads specifically for my own line of jewelry. That opened up a whole new door for me that I still find exciting.
I found that my strongest talent is not in the bead itself. I’m not a glass artist as much as I am a jewelry designer bringing all the elements together. But of course, I love it all.
My introduction to lampwork, or flamework was many years ago now, but the beauty and the mystery of glass has never stopped wooing me. I hope I’ve sparked – pun intended! – the interest in someone out there looking for a new medium to play with!
Here are some examples of my work.
These are artisan glass beads paired with Kingman Turquoise.
This is a collar necklace using artisan glass beads paired with Agate rounds.
Have you ever tried to work with glass? What do you think about lampwork? What about jewellery? Have you or someone you know turned a hobby or craft into a profitable business? Please share in the comments.