Lampwork is the process I use to create my glass beads. I get asked about what it entails a lot, so hopefully this will explain it a little bit.
My raw materials are these glass rods:
They come from Italy mainly, although some are German and American. I have managed to build up quite a collection over the 3 years I have been lampworking (buying them can be somewhat an addiction), but I also sometimes use old glass bottles and glass sheet, which I score into strips.
To melt the glass I hold it in a very hot flame, fuelled by oxygen and propane. Here is my lovely torch:
The glass is introduced very slowly into the flame, so it doesn’t shock and ping itself all over the place. Once it starts to melt, I wind the molten bit around a mandrel, a thin rod of steel, which holds the forming bead up while I shape it, and becomes the hole through the bead once the whole process is finished and it is removed. I keep adding molten glass in the torch until I am satisfied with how much there is on the mandrel. Then the shaping and decorating can begin. The disc beads I have been obsessively making recently and shaped with a graphite mould while they are still molten, then decorated with frits, enamels, metal leaf, sometimes hair-thin strands of glass I have pulled. When I am happy with the overall shape, colour and decoration of the bead, it goes into the kiln.
While it is in the kiln, it can cool down very, very slowly during a process called annealing. It takes the thermal stress out of the glass bead, so it is far less susceptible to breakage if it is dropped than a bead taken out of the flame and left to cool by itself. If a bead is not annealed, it is highly likely it will break at some point.
So after the beads have been in the kiln all night gradually cooling, I remove them from the mandrels, and give them a good thorough clean. Then take pictures of them and share them with the world!
I will brush this up and add more detail over time, but I hope you enjoyed my little explanation of how I do what I do. Please let me know if you have any questions at all!