Process - Beads

Processes
A hand-blown glass bead is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Vibrant colors fire-polished to a shiny surface or tumbled for days in a rock-tumbler to give a soft, sand-blasted appearance make up Lisa's beads. The finished product of a shiny or tumbled bead takes considerable amount of glass, time and patience as you'll see below.

gather1

Lisa gathers some glass on the end of a blow pipe.

gather 2

After letting the molten glass cool for a minute, she goes in for another gather. A hole is blown in the center of the glass.

color1

Crushed colored glass, also known as frit sits in a scoop.

photo Oakley Studio Glass

Lisa rolls the molten clear glass in the frit to apply color to the outside of the glass on the pipe. She may go in to the furnace for several more clear glass gathers.

marver table

Lisa uses the marver table to shape the bead. The marver table is made of one inch thick steel.

marver two

Lisa goes back to the marver table after heating the bead in the glory hole again, to make it pliable.

photo Oakley Studio Glass

Lisa shapes the bead with her hand under wet newspaper. The wet newspaper gives enough of a barrier against the heat, although the newspaper does need to be re-wet periodically.

pancake

Her assistant creates a pancake of glass on another pipe that will be used to attach to the other end of the bead.

attach foot

Lisa heats up the large bead until it is nice and "juicy." She has her assistant get the 'pancake of glass' ready and she attaches the bead to the center of the foot. The bead is now attached to pipes on both sides.

begin pull

The tug of war begins!

photo Oakley Studio Glass

The glass has to be pulled at a constant, even speed and sometimes rotated to ensure the glass doesn't get too thin at a particular point or hit the ground prematurely.

pulling

Lisa starts putting some weight behind the bead pull as the glass starts to cool and get more stiff.

photo Oakley Studio Glass

While the glass is still almost 1000 degrees farenheit, the bead is cut into 2 foot sections and placed into an annealler to cool slowly overnight.

If the thicker ends are the right size and have a large hole down the center, they may be used for creating a lamp base. It is rare to get a nice-enough piece for creating a lamp.

photo Oakley Studio Glass

After at least 24 hours of cooling, the bead rods can be cut into smaller sections.

photo Oakley Studio Glass

The bead sections are then cut into the final size beads. Some beads split/crack during this process due to thin sides, heat from the saw or other reasons.

At this stage, the beads have two rough edges.

cut beads

A bucket of cut and washed beads. They are ready for the next step.

photo Oakley Studio Glass

The beads are then lined up according to size, thickness, and height on a high-temperature kiln shelf.

They will be brought up to a temperature of over 1000 degrees farenhiet, then torched using a propane torch to melt and polish the beads to their final luster. After the beads cool slowly, they will be turned over and the beads are torched on the final side.

bead bracelets

Here is an example of some of the finished product as bracelets.