The lampworking technique call Feathering has been in use for hundreds of years by Italian lampworkers and I think it is very useful for decorating beads.
There is several ways to do feathering on a glass bead. One way to create a feathered design is to lay down lines on your bead with a stringer. The stringer lines can be wrapped around the bead in a spiral from hole to hole on the bead and melted enough to keep it from popping off while you are feathering the other side of the bead. I use a 1 1/2mm stringer that is the same color as the stringer lines and it is about 6 inches long. To make the feathering marks, it is best to heat one side of the bead at a time to prevent moving to much glass as you drag the molten stringer lines. At the end of each drag (if you are doing the hole to hole kind), take the glass that will be clinging to your dragging stringer and make the glass go around the end of the bead which gives your feathering lines a very finished look. Continue around the bead making the feathering go back and forth which usually takes about four passes to complete the whole bead. The bead will always get a little distorted from the feathering and will require some reheating and shaping.
You can make very pleasing leaf patterns on your beads using the short stringer to feather your bead. There are two ways to do feathered leaves: The first can be done by placing two dots of glass next to each other (about ¼ inch apart) in a row and then marver them down a little before you heat a manageable section of dots and drag the stringer between the dots. This technique draws the dots out into a garland looking decoration. The second leaf pattern can be produced by taking a stringer of a leaf like color and laying down a squiggle where you want the leaves to be. Heat and marver the squiggle down a bit to keep it from popping off while you are feathering, then take your 6 inch stringer and drag it down the middle of the squiggle in manageable sections. This technique produces very fluid looking leaf garlands.
A feathering stringer can also be used to produce swirls in color lines on a glass bead. To make a swirl, heat the spot you want the swirl to be and insert the stringer and twist it. At this point, you must wait a few seconds to let the glass stiffen up which will make it very easy to snap off the stringer that is stuck in the middle of the swirl. You can also place five or six dots in a circle and heating the center of the circle, insert the feathering stringer and spin it which will make the dots swirl around the center dot made by the stringer, producing a swirled flower design.
Another way to feather designs into hot glass that produces a more controlled look, is to use a bent tungsten pick. I use the bent tungsten pick when I want really crisp points in my feathered design. I love my bent tungsten pick, it has so many uses and gives you so much control over the molten glass.
I use the tungsten pick to produce zigzag feathering, where I have laid stringer color in strips from hole to hole around my bead. You can use zigzag feathering in lots of design situation, with pleasing results.
I hope this short blog on feathering will inspire other lampworkers to give it a try.