Archive for June 2009
Anyone who has worked on more than one kind of lampworking torch knows that there is a world of difference between one torch and another. I though that a short history lesson about the kinds of torches they use on Murano and Venice would be interesting.
The name lampworking came from how the early beadmakers heated their glass. They used an amazing contraption that ran on lamp fuel and a foot bellows (note the photo of the antique lampworking station). The beadmaker would light the torch and intensify the flame by pumping air into the torch mouth to make the flame hotter. To me, this seems like an amazing act of coordination and I think all beadmakers should rejoice that we have such fine torches to pick from these days.
When I started going to Murano to buy glass, I went looking for other beadmakers in Venice and Murano and discovered that the beadmaking done by individuals was almost an underground way to make a living. Yes, there are a few beadmaking workshops, but these establishments are run by one person. The person running the shop does all the glass buying and selling of the beads that are made and the beadmakers under them do not get to decide what beads they want to make, but are told what to make and the designs are usually very traditional. These workshop beadmakers do not get to experiment or play around with color or new design.
There are torches that run on gas and oxygen on Murano and Venice, but in order to obtain bottled oxygen, you need a prescription from a doctor. The reason for this is so the government can track who is getting oxygen and this way they can find the underground beadmakers. The bottles of oxygen are very expensive and have to be delivered by a special boat with a crane. I have seen these kinds of boats delivering oxygen and it is a very big production to get a bottle of oxygen in Murano.
The way the beadmakers who don’t want to be found handle this problem, is to run their torches on natural gas and push air into the flame with an aquarium pump. This might seem impossible, but these artist stack up heat resistant bricks in front of their torches ( about 8 inches away) to produce a tiny alcove or baffle that bounces the heat back towards the torch flame tip to make that area hotter. They have to work slower, but this technique creates a unique atmosphere which allows them to work with glass rods that would boil in our hotter propane / oxygen torches. This is the kind of torch set up that they make murrini covered beads in because the heat is soft enough to not boil the glass.
I have seen many Italian made torches that use natural gas and oxygen. These torches produce a slightly softer flame than most of the torches used in the U.S. I have posted some photos of Italian studios; one is of Vittorio Costantini working on his Italian made torch and another of a boat that delivers oxygen. I have included two more photos of ventilation systems on Murano and one that shows how they use the heat wash of their torches to pre-heat their glass.
Most people who know my work think that I only work in dichroic glass because I have done a lot of dichroic over the past 10 years, but I also use gold and silver in my glass beads. Using gold and silver in or on your glass beads is not necessarily easier, but you can get some very interesting effects with these precious metals and a lot of bling.
The first glass and gold beads were produced by the Romans to produce gold looking beads for the folks who could not afford solid gold beads. They did this by blowing two tubes of soft glass that fit tightly one inside of the other. The tube that fit on the inside was rolled in gold leaf until a sufficient amount of leaf coated the surface of the tube. The gold covered tube was then inserted into the larger tube and the beads were made by heating and crimping the tube to form round or oval beads. They knocked the crimped bead off the tube and then fire polished the holes.
Today’s beadmakers have both leaf and foil to choose from to make bead with. Currently in Italy, there are still a lot of gold leaf beads being produced, but not in the way I described above. In Venice and Murano, Italy they are making gold and or silver beads much the same way the rest of us lampworkers are making them.
My personal preference is to use foils or fuming because I got tired of chasing the floaty leaf produces around my work table when I would sigh. Another neat thing about foils is you can cut them into the desired widths or shapes ( you can use those neat paper punches that are available in craft stores) and the foils hold up better in the heat of a torch.
I have included in this blog segment, a short video of me making a bead with gold foil. The video is a section from my DVD call Beadmaking 101 with Patricia Frantz which can be pruchased through Frantz Art Glass and Supplies. The video was shot and edited by Marcie Davis of Firelady Productions.
In this post, I want to share some tips about dichroic glass. Dichroic glass is a glass that has had multiple thin layers of tiny crystals applied to it in a vacuum chamber. This mysterious crystalline coating was original developed for eye gear worn by astronauts when the U.S. was hot and heavy into the race for space. The coating that was developed turned out to have a number of applications unrelated to the space race and one of them turned out to be dichroic glass.
What I want to discuss here is what I call the water color effect that you can apply when using dichroic on lampworked beads. If you have ever done any water color painting, you know that the range of color variation in water colors is created by placing subtle layers of water color pigment over each other, thus creating new colors.
You can achieve a wide range of delicate dancing colors in dichroic glass by doing the same technique. I tend to use small pieces of dichroic glass when I am doing this technique because I can get so much more depth and color shifting.
I use only dichroic on clear pieces when I am making a multi layered bead because the clear glass that is the carrier for the dichroic crystals makes its’ own encasement that way and the clear protects the crystals from burning up in the flame. One of the secrets of having scum free dichroic in your beads, is to pinch the edges of the strip or piece of dichroic that you are applying to the bead core as it gets hot, which keeps the crystals from crawling up into the flame as the glass becomes liquid. Be sure to heat only the glass side of the dichroic piece, to protect the crystals from burning.
Another fun thing to do with this technique is to mix pattern dichroic with solid colors to add spots of interest. This is a fun way to use the small piece of dichroic and I find that I will use pieces as small 1/8″ x 1/8″, which I use as accents over the colors underneath.
Have fun and embrace the sparkle of dichroic.
Why do people love a piece of art. I’m talking about any kind of art; music, painting, lampwork jewelry and so on. It’s because they are able to relate to it on some level. By the end of the article I’ll explain why it’s important to know this and how to use it to your advantage. This works for any kind of artist trying to get attention, build a fan base and help sales.
I want you to take a look at this image.
It’s titled “A Moment”
Stop and take note on how you feel about this picture.
I went to high school with the guy who made this, his name is Phil Hansen. Phil has successfully created a huge fan base all over the world with pieces of art like this.
How did he do it? Other than creating amazing artwork he was able to enhance it by adding context to the piece. He didn’t just make it and say “There it is”, he told the story behind it and showed how he did it.
Take a second and think about how you felt about this image.
Now watch this video.
After watching the video I’m sure you feel differently. By producing this video he added a lot of context. He showed the technical side and the emotional side which transformed it from just being an interesting image to a piece of art. Context adds an emotional hook.
I suggest going to his website, www.PhilInTheCircle.com and look him up on youtube.com. These are perfect examples of what I’m talking about.
The more people know about an artist and their art, the more they feel connected to it. You can easily do this by adding context. You don’t have to produce videos like this to do it. You can start a blog and post pictures and articles. If you’re selling pendants, ear rings, necklaces or anything don’t only describe what it is, by why you did it.