~ flameworking how is it done? ~

Flameworking dates back to the 5th century BC at least. The first flameworked (also known as Lampworking) objects were beads, evidenced by a rich archaeological history in Egypt, Syria, Japan, China, and later in Ancient Rome.

The type of flameworking that I do is called "wound" glass, because their glass beads are made by winding molten glass rods or strips, heated in the flame of a gas torch, around a stainless steel rod (mandrel). Mandrels are coated in a ceramic that prevents the glass from sticking to the mandrel, but allows the bead to be removed when cool.

Once an adequate mass of glass is built on the mandrel, graphite, brass, and steel tools are used to shape the glass. Anne and Marilyn frequently incorporate metals - pure .999 fine silver, 24K gold, copper, and palladium, in the form of foil, leaf, fume, or wire. The glass then takes on an interesting grayish hue or after several passes through the flame at a very specific level the finish looks like a gold or silver mirror. Colored glass stringer, glass frit (small chunks) and glass powders can be added for decoration and texture. Small, simple beads can take as little as 10 minutes to make but the larger more intricate ones I love to do can take an hour or more each.

Once a bead is formed and the artist is finished with the actual creation process, there are several more steps involved before the bead is ready to be used in fine jewelry. Glass beads must be annealed, which means that they have been slowly heated and cooled in a kiln so that any unwanted stresses that develop during creation are relieved. This helps to ensure that your glass treasures are as durable as possible.

Dichroic glass is a special material that comes in sheet glass form with a thin metallic coating of various precious metals applied to the glass in a complicated vacuum process in a very expensive machine. It was originally developed by NASA for use as the reflectors on satellites. Dichroic glass is expensive and is very susceptible to heat making it fairly difficult to use. Once NASA realized how easy the dichroic coatings burned entering and leaving the atmosphere they lost interest in the material and artists have been exploring its possibilities ever since.

~ caring for your glass beads ~

Flameworked glass beads, like any other glass objects need to be handled with care. If dropped they can break just as any other glass products can. When handled with due care, glass beads can last for generations.

Anne Oberin flameworking.