New Blog

I did it. I bought my own domain – well, another domain. I am setting up shop at robinmeltsglass.com. I have a ways to go yet as I am still putting together a business plan. I plan to set up a shop on Etsy, but I don’t know when that will be open. I have more than the usual governmental hoops to jump through and I want to make sure that I do it right. I want to give this venture my very best shot and that will take some time.

If you read my blog regularly, and I think there are a couple of people who do, I will be blogging over at robinmeltsglass.com/blog/ from now on. The new blog will be updated more frequently than this site has been recently. The Guide to Lampworking Glass will be revamped and moved to the new site sometime in the near future. And, this blog will just hang out on the Internet gathering dust.

So, pop on over to robinmeltsglass.com and check it out. Go to the gallery, press the facebook “Like” buttons, and leave me comments!

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European Charm Bracelet Beads

beadliner

I bought this bead liner from Retro Glass Tools when I was at the ISGB convention this year. I’ve just now gotten around to making some beads and buying some silver tube and trying it out. I probably would have taken longer to get around to it, but I’ve been asked to do a demo at the Southern Flames Demopalooza in January. So far I’m very happy with the results. It’s not too complicated or difficult, and it doesn’t take too long either.

First of all, the bead ends have to be even with a slight pucker. I had quite a bit of troubles getting good bead ends with the 3/16″ mandrels I’m using. I got so used to the 3/32″ that changing to a bigger mandrel is a bit of a challenge. I still can’t make thin beads on these mandrels, but that will come with practice. I’ve been using some of the Double Helix glass that I got at the convention.

Second you need the appropriate size silver tubing. There’s a whole thread on Lampwork Etc. (actually there are probably several) about what size mandrel to use, what size tubing, and where to get it. You could use a different metal tubing, but I haven’t found any copper tubing for sale. I haven’t looked too hard, but the places I have gone to don’t seem to have copper. There is one place that sells the tubing for the 3/16″ mandrels that fits Pandora bracelets, and then the tubing from other places is too thick and won’t fit over the clasp. So, I’m using the tubing that supposedly fits, but I haven’t found a Pandora bracelet to try it out on yet.

cracked

Once you have the bead and the tubing you need a couple other tools: a metal caliper and a mini tube cutter. The metal caliper is used to measure the bead and the silver tubing. I use a metal caliper because it will mark the silver tube and I don’t have to worry about a marker or something. Once the mark is set, use the tube cutter to cut the tube. The instructional video that came with my bead liner (quite the production by the way) suggested using the tube cutter to just score the tubing and then snap it off. That hasn’t worked for me – I just use the cutter to cut all the way through the tube. Once the tube is cut, the inside needs to be filed down and any burs removed. This is the most time consuming part of the whole process. But it’s not too bad.

Once you have your tube, and your bead, you load the bead on the tube into the beadliner where I have the arrow pointing to in the picture. Then it’s just a matter of turning the big wheel on the right until the bead doesn’t turn freely on the tube any more. It is important to turn the big wheel slowly, or in small increments, testing the bead between turns. I’ve only cracked one bead (my first) and that was because after I was through tightening the large wheel I got so excited that I had lined a bead I turned the wheel in the wrong direction to get it off. I tightened when I should have loosened, and the bead cracked. I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again.

And then you have a lined bead!

Silver Lined Beads

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Halloween Beads A Little Late

Ghost I

A few weeks ago I spent a few days with my friend Beth (from FL) and Marcy Lamberson. Beth was taking a private lesson from Marcy and I was there to enhance the experience. I think we all had a great time, at least I know I did. We talked, and melted glass, and visited FlameTree. How could that not be a good time?

Marcy is such a fabulous teacher and I am such a wonderful student that even though I was just observing the lesson, I learned a great deal. I want to tell you about these Halloween beads I made – yes I know it’s a little late, but oh well.

First we have the ghost bead. This is pretty much exactly what Marcy showed us how to make. I think it’s cute and fun to make. Usually sculptural beads give me fits because I’m so worried about keeping them warm. But I think my experience with the other beads I’m making has gotten me to relax a little bit.

Well, this ghost is adorable, but it occurred to me that I could do something with it. So, I made another one and gave it a little trick-or-treat basket. I was very pleased with how this one turned out. Unfortunately there is a crack next to the pumpkin basket. :(
Ghost II

I also tried to make bat beads, but I forgot how Marcy did them and just experimented. Here are my three tries. I think I got better with each try.
Bat I

Bat II

Bat III

Sometimes I’ll get requests. I don’t like requests. I know some people like requests, but I don’t. This next bead is an exception though. The owner of the Curves I go to asked me to make a black cat with green eyes. Normally I would have ignored it, but I was so energized by my time with Marcy that I gave it a go. Marcy hadn’t shown me how to make a cat – she had demonstrated an owl. But, I took what I had learned from that and applied it to making a cat. I made three cats, each one better than the last I think. I only have the first and the third here because I took some beads in to church to show people and someone bought the second cat before I had photographed it.
Cat I

Cat III

I also made some pumpkins.

Pumpkins

So those are all the Halloween beads I made. They were fun to make, and I enjoyed showing them to people. Now I need to turn my attention to Christmas.

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ISGB Gathering: Rochester

I’ve been home for almost a full week now, but this is the first chance I’ve gotten to sit down and write about my ISGB convention experience. I had loads of fun, the weather was beautiful, and I spent tons of money. Here is what I bought. In the wooden case is a bead liner. I think that is what it’s called. What you do is, you put your bead in there with a silver tube through it, and you twist the dial and it flares the ends of the silver tube making a silver lined bead with neat ends. I haven’t tried it yet – I need silver tubing, and that might have to wait a month.

To the right of the bead liner is a small container labeled WCL-3. This is a wax bound luster that I got from Thompson enamels. It looked intriguing. Next we have a pile of enamel samples – over 40 different sample packs. Apparently this will last me a lifetime. Below the enamels is my Double Helix glass. I got there early enough to get several different test batch samples. Then there’s a tin of Double Helix murrini, and some goldstone frit. Next we have another pile of glass, and in front of the glass is a rather spiffy pair of glasses that actually fit my head. I’m really quite fond of the glasses. In the upper left is a mug with the little battery powered fan that came with it. Next to the mug is a box of postcards which I buy every year. This year Marcy Lamberson‘s card was on top – go Marcy! On top of the postcards are 10 necklaces that I bought in anticipation of trying to sell some of my beads at a First Friday in Gadsden. I know people will want to have something to put the beads on, so I got these. Also on top of the postcards is a couple of strips of dichroic glass.

Now on to the beads. These are all the beads I bought at the bead bazaar on Saturday. In the top left is an accurate rendition in glass of a Snakeriver Firespot Cutthroat Female trout made by artist Cleo Dunsmore. It is truly stunning in person. On the right is a darling bead by Yoko Nakagawa of Japan. On the bottom right is a long bead made by Mary Tarara. To the left of that is a butterfly murrini bead made by Stephanie White of Beads by Design. Left of that is a blown chili pepper that I gave to my mother – I don’t know who made that unfortunately. And to the left of that is a bead made by artist Leah Fairbanks. I didn’t spend a lot of time at the bead bazaar because I kept buying stuff. There were so many talented artists there! Maybe one day I’ll be able to count myself among them.

These are the beads that I made in the Leah Fairbanks class that I took. They are pretty good for class beads if I do say so myself. I got to Rochester a couple of days early so that I could take the class and I’m so glad I did! I have admired Leah’s work for ages, and it was really inspiring to take a class from her. These beads have nifty things in them such as silver, palladium, gold, and dichroic glass. I burnt out the dichro on the last one, oh well.

I have two amazing stories to tell, but they will have to wait for the next post.

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Paperweight and Passion

Here is the paperweight that I made in the Loren Stump class. It’s not great, but I kinda like it. It got a little flattened in the encasing process, but that’s OK. Like I said before, paperweights are difficult to do. I’ve thought about making another paperweight just because it would be a challenge, and apparently I like a challenge, but I really don’t think that paperweights are my cup of tea. Loren was saying that the really good paperweight makers (and why do something if you aren’t going to do it well) are very particular – and clean in an almost OCD way. Well, that’s just not my personality. Still, I guess I could develop the habits… It would also require new equipment. I don’t know, perhaps one day down the road I might be in a situation where paperweight making makes sense, but right now it’s beads for me. My point, I think, is that I was a little hasty when I said I’d NEVER do that again. Never say never, right?

Also, I was reading my New Year’s post. I definitely should have printed that list and put it in my studio. I guess there’s still time to do that. OK, I WILL do that. I have been spending more time in the studio recently, and I think a list of things to work on would be very helpful. I was torching yesterday, and I was trying to just play. Well, apparently I’ve completely forgotten how to play. I think part of it was that I had a podcast (Quirks and Quarks) running instead of the classical music (Naxos Radio) that I usually listen to. At any rate, I did come up with a bead that’s very nice and I will have to do more with it soon, but for the most part I was just stuck. It was an awfull feeling. But I did come up with one bead, so maybe I need to realize that if you’re just “playing” you might only come up with one nice bead.

One of the reasons I haven’t been torching much recently is that I’ve been thinking about careers and being productive. I was planing to go back to school and become an accountant. I figured that would be a good career that would be doable and I could make some money at it. But this past weekend, while we were visiting a family friend, it occurred to me that maybe there was a way that I could make the lampwork into a career. I’m still not completely sure about this idea, but I have felt better this past week and have certainly been torching more.

I have a long way to go before I’ll be able to support myself with the lampwork – same is true of accounting – but it gives me something to work toward, and that is where my passion lies. The family friend we spent last weekend with (an excellent business and technology lawyer Margaret Fernandez) even commented on how animated I became when I was talking about it. I had forgotten what that potato chip quality control lady said about passion – boy I’m glad I wrote it down in my About Me page. But it’s true – in order to be successful you have to have passion.

So, I have goals from the New Year’s post. I have passion for the lampworking. I have skills from all the classes I’ve taken. I have a studio thanks to my Mother. I have glass and supplies. All I need to do is spend the time making beads. I have a long way to go, but hopefully I’ll get there.

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The Loren Stump Class

Well, from May 18th through May 22nd, I took a class at Flametree Glass with Loren Stump. It was intense and I had some challenges, but I’m so glad I took this class. It was a very humbling experience actually. I was exposed to all sorts of things that I wasn’t good at and didn’t get on the first try. But after a couple days rest (we went from 10:00 AM to 1:00 AM every day for five days) it seemed my whole approach to life in general was reinvigorated. I wouldn’t say it was life altering, but I think it was pivotal – like my trip to Scotland in 1999.

Anyway, this first picture is of the eye murrini that we made. I was quite pleased with how it came out. Then we did a simple nose – which was not simple for me. I don’t even have a picture of how that came out because mine just looked like some kind of deranged squiggly line – nothing nose-like about it at all. The shaded nose looks better, but suffers from the lack of well mixed flesh colors. Still, it looked enough like a nose for the face – and it got so small anyway that the shading didn’t matter too too much anyway.

All these murrini (and that’s the way I decided to spell it – I have no idea if that is the correct spelling or not. I’ve tried looking it up online and everybody spells it differently. Maybe Italian is in a different place than English and there’s not actually a correct way to spell it. I don’t know.) were quite large hunks of glass before they were pulled, and that made me very nervous. I think in my own practicing I will start pretty small (already have) and work up to a bigger size. Large hunks of hot glass on the end of a punty are dangerous! They fall, and roll on the floor, and get covered in dog hair (so I’ve heard), and you just have to pick them up and put them back in the flame – but NOT with your fingers!

I did actually have one of my pieces roll under the table – actually, it fell in my lap (I was wearing a leather apron) and I stood up, and it rolled under the table. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I yelled. My neighbor reached under the table and got it back for me. So the whole murrini making process is a little frightening to me, and that’s why I started at home small. I’m trying to make a signature cane, but I have to work up to it because the letters R and S are particularly difficult. I will practice and get better at this technique.

After the murrini phase of the class, we had the sculptural phase. I didn’t do so well at making the Venetian glass leg. I don’t have any pictures of it either. I do have some of my practice legs in the box of goodies I took away from the class – but I think I accidentally threw my best effort away. I need to make a glass order – maybe I’ll order some more black so I can try this out a gazillion times. Loren made it look so easy! Melt, twist, melt, pull, wave the glass around a bit, and it’s a leg! I think I finally understand what I’m supposed to do, but doing it is another matter.

The little sculpted mouse went much better – it was a bead! It felt really nice to make a bead after all the other non-bead stuff we had been doing. I thought my mouse came out pretty well – until I saw it come out of the kiln. Eh – it’s not too bad, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Still, I think it was my favorite thing that we did. As it turns out, I like making beads. It may not be “real flame-working” as was suggested by someone who will remain nameless, and it may be so easy anyone can do it, but gosh darn it, as one of the other students said, as long as you’re making stuff what does it matter what you make? One day I will try furnace work, and one day I will try torch-work glass blowing – making bottles, that sort of thing – but for right now, beads are what I do.

And another thing that I will probably NEVER do again is make a paperweight. Those suckers are HARD! I’m still waiting for my paperweight to be shipped to me, and will post more on that when it comes. Right now, let me just say that my appreciation for paperweights is a gazillion-fold increased. Think about it, how many glass paperweights have you seen recently? And I think there’s more than one way to make a paperweight, but the way we did it, with a torch, is definitely difficult.

There was a lot more to the class – we did go for fifteen hours a day after all – and the studio was constantly abuzz – what with Loren Stump there – but suffice it to say I’m glad I took the class. I may have not been in the best frame of mind when it started, but it was exactly what I needed. It was one of those life experiences that it’s just good that you had. Hopefully, if I ever take another Loren Stump class – and I might – I’ll be better prepared. One other thing – Flametree Glass really, really, ROCKS. I’m so glad that I took the class here! I think it’s the best environment, and Lance and Maureen are such good hosts. Really, I can’t say enough what a great studio it is.

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KaleidoVid

This is a photo I took with the KaleidoVid application on my iPhone. Just point your phone at everyday objects and this app turns them into beautiful kaleidoscopic images. My flickr photo stream is now littered with these images. There is also a new group on flickr for images made with this app. I think it’s a nice diversion from bead pictures. It is also extremely fun to see how things look when chopped up and flipped a zillion different ways. Here are just a few of my favorites that I’ve taken over the last couple of weeks:

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