Birth of a Bead

My glass beads begin as rods of Italian glass, which I melt with a torch that is fired with a mixture of oxygen and propane. I begin by dipping a metal rod, called a mandrel, in a specially formulated clay mixture which is called bead release. If the mandrel was not dipped in bead release, the glass would adhere to the metal rod.  
As I wind the molten glass onto the mandrel, I use gravity, tools and my knowledge of the properties of the glass to shape the glass into a bead. The glass can be manipulated into nearly any shape - round, flat, a barrel, triangle, or disk, for example. I can create miniature sculptures - shells, acorns, leaves or hollow beads. The only limit is my imagination. 


Once I have a basic shape, I can add another color or texture often using stringers - glass that I hand pull into very thin lengths to decorate my beads. Many times I only slightly melt in the stringers so that my beads have texture. Many of my beads have dots or swirls. 


When I am pleased with the results of my playing with color and texture, I place the bead into my kiln. The kiln is programmed to very slowly bring the bead back to room temperature. This annealing process insures that the bead is sturdy and not subject to cracking due to temperature related stresses within the glass.