Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lampwork for the Jewelry Designer


Way back when (six months ago) I promised to put together a tutorial called, "Lampwork for the Jewelry Designer" on my beginner blog, Glass by Jennifer. I've finally been able to put this tutorial together! Actually, I have so much information, I've decided to do two versions: the first one is a short, free tutorial. It is designed to provide a quick, condensed format of key characteristics of good lampwork beads. The goal: 1) provide information to the new lampwork consumer, and 2) provide talking points for artists who sell lampwork beads and jewelry designers who incorporate lampwork beads in their jewelry designs.

Newsletter subscribers had early access to this article and the freebie download that goes with it.
Click here to link to the full-color tutorial. (Note: I did struggle with the formatting to the A4 and Letter pages. If you have any issues printing, please let me know. I will see what I can do to accommodate you.)

Artists featured in this brochure (in alphabetical order):
Emma Baird, Kerry Bogert, Endangered Creations, Sarah Hornik, Moon Katty Studios, Sarah Moran, Lori Peterson, Michal S, and Laura Sparling.

Okay, here is the article that was published in my April 2009 The Kanna Spark newsletter:

Lampwork for the Jewelry Designer

A special thank you to Emma Baird at
The Little Bead Shop and Kerry Bogert at Kab's Creative Concepts for contributing independent lists of what they consider are the aspects that make up quality artisan beads. Their lists helped validate the key points and provided additional insight. Their thoughts are interwoven into this article.

As a fan of lampwork artists and now as I am launching my glass art, I have noticed a common thread of frustration in jewelry designers and lampwork artists. The most common question I see and hear, "Why are lampwork beads so expensive?" When I started doing jewelry, I stumbled across lampwork beads and it was that very question that started me on the quest to find out why. As I understand more about the art and the effort it takes to produce these beautiful glass beads, I find myself buying more beads. Why? Because I have a deeper understanding of the effort it takes, the investment the artists have made in their studio and their skill, and appreciate the unique voice expressed by these artists. Here is the short list of the most important things to know about artisan glass beads you buy and incorporate into your jewelry.

The Short List

Unique - this is the first thing Kerry, Emma, and I all listed. Artisan glass beads will make your jewelry unique and one-of-a-kind. Artists are notoriously restless and do not mass produce their beads. While you might see something similar, or an artist will revisit their design, you will usually not see that exact same piece again. The well-known glass artists usually push the boundaries and develop a style that tells you who made the beads instantly.

Kiln Annealed - this needs to be on the top of your radar for a quality artisan bead. Glass melts at close to 2,000 degree F (1093 C). Heating or cooling glass causes stress and reduces durability. A kiln will cool the glass down at a rate that allows the molecules to settle into a more stable form.

Well-formed - when examining glass beads, here are some basic signs they are well-formed:
  • All raised decorations are melted in enough so they are firmly attached and will not pop off or chip off during regular wear
  • It is generally desired to have a pucker on the bead ends so it does not cut into the wire or string
  • A perfectly formed sphere will not have a pucker, but it will also not have sharp edges
  • It is well-balanced and hangs nicely on a finding or string
  • The bead hole is clean and does not contain any dusty substance (this is the bead release that coats the steel mandrel)

What to Avoid

  • Pointed ends
  • Smoked or scummed glass
  • Unintentional bubbles and inclusions (including bead release)
  • Badly seated decorations
  • Not kiln annealed
  • Bead release not cleaned

This article will be available as a free tutorial with full-color pictures for use with your customers. There will be space to print or stamp your business name if you choose to distribute it. Click here to go to the Free Download page.

A more advanced tutorial is in the works. The more detailed tutorial will delve into the details of what makes lampwork art so special. I'm thinking of it along the lines of an "art appreciation" tutorial...teaching some of the details and techniques that show the significant investment of learning, time, discipline, and equipment that artists make into this art. It will drill into the details of the above quick reference to further educate the art bead buyer (end consumer and jewelry designer) and acts as a bit of a "pre-tutorial" for those considering giving lampwork a try. Because my first one took so long, I make no promises on when it will be available. I just promise to keep working on it. Here are the topics I plan to dive into:

  • A Closer Look at the Artists and How They Are Unique
  • Just the Basics - How a Bead is Made
  • Why is Kiln Annealing a Bead So Important?
  • Comparing Good and Bad Techniques
  • Techniques in Glass - What is That Called?
  • All About the Glass

And Finally - Feedback Welcome!

One great advantage of the Web 2.0 (interactive format) is the ability for instant feedback. I have written this tutorial in "my voice" in keeping with the spirit of small businesses. However, because I have designed this for free distribution with space for your contact information, would you like this written in a more "voice neutral" tone like more formal business documents? Post your response to this blog or send me a private email. Thanks!

A quick note on the copyright permissions granted with this free download: The words, photographs, and content of this brochure are copyrighted. As the copyright owner, I grant permission to print this brochure for free distribution for the education of the lampwork buyer. Space has been provided on the front to stamp your contact and studio name. This brochure is not to be distributed for resale. Content should not be modified and original contact information should not be removed. Permission was granted by the artists to photograph and feature their work. Permission was also granted by the artists to re-print their copyrighted photos.

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