Friday, 30 April 2010
Hot For You
Last week I had one of the best days of my life. What a thrill it was to hold that powerful tool in my hand and be instructed by one of the nation's finest in her trade. She showed me the basics of this traditionsl skill that dates back as far as the ancient Egyptians, and it was not long before we moved on to the more complicated stuff, incorporating all sorts of little added extras. What an amazing experience and one that I would never have even considered doing let alone known about, this time last year. So, what exactly was I up to? Well, not what you might have been thinking, for a start. No, this was much better than that, although you can work up quite a sweat with this skill too and I did have to strip off some of my clothes in order to get it just right!
OK, enough silliness. I was at a lampworking class - a one-to-one day-long session with lovely Karen Baildon of Cheeky Cherub Designs over in Alderley Edge which is just 10 miles south of Manchester. She told me how she had started out in lampworking by attending a class in Adelaide and she needed to overcome her fear of the powerful torch before anything else. I didn't have a fear of the flame. Perhaps I am a closet pyromaniac or maybe it's just that I'm used to extreme temperatures as I have a ceramics kiln in my house.
Kaz has a funky little studio in her garden where there is space enough for two people to work. She showed me how to make a plain glass bead, before we moved on to making long thin strands of glass and twisted strands of bi-colours to use as decoration. I added dots to basic beads and poked holes in molten glass, refilling it with contrasting colours. We swirled, prodded and tweaked the glass all day.We also experimented using silver leaf, the effects of which are out of this world. Check out the large turquoise bead that I made - the crackly grey patterning is created using silver leaf.
The most important part of lampwork is to keep everything moving at the same time. The bead mandrel is held in the left hand and needs to keep twisting the molten glass and must never be too far from the flame as it will just crack and die if allowed to cool. Simultaneously the glass rod which is melting in the flame must be in exactly the right spot and also needs turning constantly, so the brain is coping with a metaphorical 'patting of the head with one hand and rubbing the belly with the other' kind of multi-tasking. Lampworking is not easy, but once I'd got into it, the hardest part for me was choosing which colours to use. Believe me when I tell you that Kaz has every colour under the sun, and then some. I told her that next time I come to her studio to play with molten glass, she must hide all the colours except my favourites - olive, ivory, orange, turquoise and black. Life will be much easier with that choice. But just look what I made - yes, mine are the ones on the lower string that aren't quite circular but don't they look handmade? Of course, Kaz's lovely beads are the round ones!
So now I have a new hobby that needs a special torch and clamp, propane, lots of rinky dinky tools and of course, oodles of glass in lots of different shades of the aforementioned colours, as well as pots of frit, silver leaf, mandrels and......
Check out Kaz's website for her gorgeous groovy beads and details about her workshops.