How are Lampwork Beads made?
I use lampwork beads a lot in my work, I pick them out especially by hand. But rather than just talk about the designs, let get into how they are made. Lampwork beads are unique as they are made by hand and out of molten glass. The technique used to make them is called lampworking, hence where the name comes from. Now-a-days, a torch is used to melt the glass, but the name originated from how artisans used to use oil lamp flames to melt the glass. Once the glass is melted, it is shaped and formed by blowing and the combination of tools and hand movements. In this process, there are usually multiple layers of glass used to create the look the artist is going for.
The process starts out by the artist torching small rods of glass. Once it is melted, it will be wound around a small metal rod called a “mandrel”. The mandrel is important because that is where the space will be made for the hole of the bead. The mandrel is also used to turn the bead and the artist uses gravity to their advantage to get the glass into the desired shape.
Through practice, the artist knows the exactly temperature the glass must become so that it flows. They also figure out how much heat can be applied to a bead that is shaped until it becomes molten again. They also gain understanding of what colors of glass interact well together and gain the skills of be able to add embellishments onto their beads.
One the bead is shaped and made, as the bead begins to cool, the outside cools much faster than the inside, and this leaves the bead vulnerable to cracking. To avoid this catastrophe, the bead makers will cool their art in a kiln.
There are a lot of materials needed to properly lampwork. These include a
- Bench Burner: Torch that has a stationary flame
- Hand Torch: Allows for more maneuverability of the flame
- Kiln: Used to anneal the glass
- Marver: Tool to create a flat surface
- Paddle: Marver attached to a handle
- Reamer: Graphite attached to a handle to make holes larger
- Blowhose: a hose that allows the artist to create hollow pieces
- Tungsten Pick: a tool ideal for dragging class around on the surface
- Shears: Glass cutting scissors
- Hot Fingers: Tool to allow you to safely grab the glass
- Lathe: A tool that allows you to rotate the glass precisely