Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Melting beads on wire

It all began with me reading an issue of Art Jewelry Magazine. Amongst the letters to the editor was one, commenting on Jill Ericksons Easy Torch-Fired Enamel Necklace (Art Jewelry, July 2007). To make larger drops, she had put a seed bead onto the headpin before dipping in enamels. At the time I was interested in enameling but did not have the tools or supplies for it. So I didn't think much of it, even though I bought the project.

Then one day I got my first butane torch. After making copper headpins and "playing" around with my new toy, I came to thing of that comment. So I put a cheap leftover seed on one of my headpins (pickled), held it in the fire and hoped for the best (no exploading glass). I liked the result so I kept on experimenting. I also discovered a few things, knowing close to nothing about working with glass and torches:

  • The beads stick to the headpin before the shape begins to distort.
  • Some glass changed colour, certain colours faster than others. Probably overheated it as I wanted quick results.
  • Don't heat the bead too fast or use large beads.
  • The headpins need to cool down slowly.
  • I cracked my largest seed bead, but not the flowerbell bead (instead, I melted most of the shape away on one side).
  • You can place more than one bead on the same headpin or wire and they will melt together.
  • You can melt one bead, then place another on it and return the pin to the torch.
  • I'm very abusive towards my beads.
  • I don't know anything about lampworking or melting glass: it's all trial and error, no understanding of the process or how to repeat certain results.
  • I like playing with fire.
  • But I still don't have this urge so many others have to give lampwork beadmaking a try.
  • I am careful when I do this.

Later, I read The Bead Book Magazine, isssue 11. Here Debbie Rijns melt a 3-4 mm swarovski bicone bead onto a silver clay brooch, using a butane torch. She melts the crystal until if forms a smooth cabochon. She writes: "I discovered that because Swarovski crystals have such a high lead content, when fired with a butane torch, they are able to take that high heat without cracking or breaking apart".

This I haven't tried yet. A bit too fond of my swaros, I think, even if I'm no big fan of them.

The pieces in the photo above are just my first trials. If I have the time, I'll probably keep melting beads in the future, but so far those are more or less all I've made. I did mention this on a forum and another jewelry-maker, inspired by my simple experiments, made a couple of black swaro pins. Doesn't it look just like berries?

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