Tuesday 26 January 2010

The Art of Flameworking, How to and Introduction to the Real Thing...by ViviBijoux

Flameworking...or Lampworking, same difference! But I just love the word...with a torch in one hand and a vivid colour glass rod in the other, the sky's the limit! Your imagination can go wild once you found your perfect medium, wouldn't you agree? Well, in my case, it starts with jewellery making and lampwork.
This is why I wanted to talk about a couple of things that I am quite passionate about: first the so-called 'handmade' mass produced lampwork beads (:-(, then the artisan beads and last but not least jewellery creations featuring gorgeous beads...

Starting with the often controversial subject of mass producing lampwork beads. Often coming from india, china, turkey etc...cheap (obviously), not always bad looking and...well above all cheap, that's why a lot a designers would use them. Nothing wrong with that. It's great to be able to offer different budget jewellery. My point being : when buying lampwork, be aware of where it's coming from. So many people sell mass produced beads or use them in their designs and then pass them as handmade products or falsely claim that they made the beads themselves in their 'studio'. THAT is not right, especially when under false pretense the beads are not properly kiln-annealed for strength and durability.

On the other hand, I tell you what, there's some very talented lampwork artists out there! and oh so many fabulous beads to choose from...In some lampwork etsy shops I'm like a kid in a sweet shop. Just look at that glass...*sigh* love all the colors!!! Talking about eye candy huh! Wouldn't it be worth it to give an edge to your jewellery meanwhile supporting your fellow etsyans and artisans?! Surely it's worth it :-)

'Amethyst Season' Bracelet by ViviBijoux

Anyhow, a few months ago, I wanted to have a go at lampworking. So I contacted Cadenza beads a lampwork studio in Dublin. Ruzica, the teacher was brilliant! very patient and so passionate about her art. So there she is (down below) and there I am (behind the camera that is) trying to understand how to make my first ever glass bead...

For that, you need:

* a rod of glass, pick your favorite color!
* a mandrel dipped in bead release
* a lampworking torch and oxygen concentrator or hothead
* a kiln or even a fibre blanket will do for now
* protective glasses with didymium lenses
* a bit of water handy would be great in case you need to cool off your glass rod

here's how :

* Get your torch going...
* fibre blanket or vermiculite close on hand
* dipped mandrel in your left hand
* glass rod of your choice in your right hand
* warm up your mandrel in the flame
* introduce your glass rod as well and wait a few seconds to form a mini glass ball
* then simply wrap the glass (direction : away from you) on the dipped bit of the mandrel
* make it as thick or as thin as you want, turn it over and over in the flame to spread evenly the glass and to smooth it out.
* and...that's about it, pop your bead into the kiln/vermiculite/fibre blanket. and there you are, you created your first glass bead! There on the picture you can see the flamboyant bead (very hot) on the mandrel in her left hand.

Of course this is a VERY basic step-by-step. There's a lot of health and safety issues involved that I strongly recomend you look into if you're serious about getting started, as well as how to use the torch and so on. And really tere is nothing like being taught by a pro. However, a great read for beginners and pros is 'Passing the flame' by Corina Tettinger. Brilliant step-by-step and photographs for bead enthusiasts.

All that said, if I were to show you my first beads, you'd laugh...(shall I dare? Naaaa, that could be the object of an other post) But, man I enjoyed my day! I'd love to have my own studio and get going at the flame. (Saving up for that one) but meanwhile, I'm having fun creating unique and colorful jewellery designs...like so:

'Autumn glow' bracelet by ViviBijoux

Here's the thing, I love using artisan lampwork beads. They bear the artisan's mark. They have life and soul! No seriously, I carefully choose my beads from my favorite artists and usually create my designs around them. My jewellery is never complex looking but rather let the beads speak for themselves. I usually set them in sterling and bali silver and swarovski crystals. Nothing less!

'Winter Polar Bear' bracelet by ViviBijoux

For more creations, please visit my boutique http://www.vivibijoux.etsy.com/ or search for the ViviBijoux fan page on Facebook for gallery photos, draws, contests and updates on new jewellery coming up on etsy. Anything new happening with me will be posted there, so keep an eye on that page.

Lots new frosting coming next month by the way. I have even had a custom order ! (*sigh* I'm delighted!) Also I would like to add that I hope you enjoyed reading through this article. It was my first time blogging EVER! Being part of Etsy ireland team is an honor. So please let me know what your thoughts are, I'd LOVE to hear from you... Happy browsing!

- Virginie aka ViviBijoux


  1. hi! have you been at the dalkey fair and where you at the marley park fair at christmas? i just saw the photo of you, and thought it might be! your beads are just beautiful!

  2. Your beads are simply beautiful, I'm sitting here with my mouth open in awe at how you can get such delicate details. The flowers in the Amethyst Season beads are stunning. Very inspiring!

  3. Love all the amazing pieces in your shop Virginie - nice post! ;)

  4. Hi lads! Glad you like the jewellery,however i must say that the beads featured in my bracelets are NOT made by me, but by different amazing lampwork artists! I just hope that the beads and my work around them inspire folks to buy Handmade.

  5. Hi Sarah, no it wasn't me at the fairs...I wish I could have come, but difficult with a 4 months old baby! ;-)how was it though?

  6. These are gorgeous! I love glass, it's sort of magical!

  7. How did I not know we had a lampwork artist on the team?

    Beautiful stuff!

  8. Not lampwork artist just yet...(watch this space though) But jewellery designer...I certainly hope so...love the prints Bridget, especially the 'who doesn't love goats' book.cute
    Balanced, you supply beads! good to know!