Archive for January, 2011

Hearts and more

[end of Oct 2010]

I got back from Venice and the first thing I tried out was using my Carlo Dona press.

Purple tornado heart

On a hot head it takes a long time to get enough glass on your mandrel to fill this press! He makes them in different sizes – I forget the measurements, but mine’s medium-to-large and the whole thing is a fairly puffy 3D heart. The tornado bead above I didn’t quite fill it fully and it’s a bit uneven, but I like the effect. I used transparent dark purple for the tornado so it was saturated enough that it would show up.

Ivory heart front

I made one in light ivory next so it would be faster to melt down. There was something of a washing machine disaster halfway through, which meant I had to stick it in the kiln when I was still building up enough glass. Washing machines are scary when the drum axle breaks when the machine is still on and has a spin cycle to go through… It was leaping about and shaking the entire room! I was rather shaken after that and just made a couple of fairly plain beads to calm down, so in the morning I still had my large ivory blob on a stick. Pat from FH reminded me that I could bring it up to temperature again in the kiln the next day, introduce it to the flame carefully and keep working on it, so I did just that. I messed it up a bit by using dark turquoise and getting the dots on the front too hot so they reacted messily, but I am pleased I rescued it! The back’s a bit neater.

Ivory heart back

I made an end-of-day heart next, using bits and pieces of green shorts I had lying around.

Green heart

It has a SIS shard on top. I did make the mistake of making one of the central colours be CiM kryptonite and it didn’t like being encased so deeply by the others. So this has a crack down the centre that only goes through the kryptonite and doesn’t reach the surface. I do like this bead and I like the slightly random way of using up shorts. You’re not going to get the same thing twice!

Here are some of the other things I made (the hearts do take a long time so I didn’t make very many at this point):

Sangre kalera

CiM sangre, encased and with murrini on top. This was going to be a tornado, but I made the wraps too thick and then when I pressed it the effect got too squished.

Red snake kalera

More sangre. This has a black, white and red murrini from Kaz, and a MCD + hades twistie design that looks like a snake.

Electric avenue tornado

Tornado lentil with CiM electric avenue and murrini.

Dizzy martini

A small set with a CiM dirty martini base and a Cheeky Frit Blend called Dizzy. Dirty martini works well as a base for all kinds of things.

Cool Colours and odds

Lastly, some spacers in a number of Cool Colours and odds. Back: blueberry marble, Vetro cosmic storm, Vetro purple plum with dirty martini dots. Front: kiwi. Cosmic storm is lovely and has little sparkles in it. Purple plum is incredibly soft and soupy. Blueberry marble and kiwi are two of the Effetre Cool Colours – pretty striations when you just use them on their own.

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Venice in October

October was a fairly quiet month by way of bead-making… but that’s because I went on holiday to Venice! The trip was organised by my family, so we stayed in a large apartment in Venice for a week in mid-October. I had a wonderful time! Glass (and masks) everywhere. We had a family day on Murano, and I went back another day on my own so I could take my time. We managed to catch some glassblowing at the Marco Polo furnace – if you poke about a bit, the furnaces tend to have places where you can sit and watch (and leave a tip). So we saw a guy making one of the rearing-up horse sculptures, plus a vase. It’s really cool to watch them shape everything so quickly!

I’d made a map of various lampworky locations before we left, so I found Carlo Dona’s shop and met Roberto (eventually! Number 1A is also 7, which was very confusing). I treated myself to a heart press. (Carlo Dona tools are known for being excellent quality. The presses are tong-style, not top + base + pins. They’re expensive but worth it, and if you’re going over there you have to make a visit. The shop is teeny tiny and looks like a normal door from the outside, then you go in and there are tools!)

I also had the address to Vittorio Constantini’s shop – he makes the most amazing animals. Insects and fish and octopuses and birds… At some point, I want to get one of his octopuses. The detail is incredible.

It’s definitely worth looking up addresses and maps before you go. The streets of Venice are narrow, twisty and confusing, and the individual makers’ shops tend to be tiny and unassuming, so if you don’t know where they are beforehand, you’re not going to find them.

The evening we arrived it was very wet, and so was the first day, but after that it brightened up and was beautiful. Mid-October with proper Mediterranean skies and icecream! It’s just amazing how light it still is over there at that time of year. It got chilly at night and you wanted to have a coat with you during the day, but in the direct sun it did get pretty warm. Oh yes, and you had to watch out for the streets that flooded during high tide! The main square and surrounds had boardwalks put down, but we did have to change our route to Fondamente Nuove one morning. We’d got weekly tickets for the vaporetto, so we could hop on and off whenever we wanted – like Oyster cards, you scan them as you get on. They caused great confusion the first evening when we got the bus from the airport, because they just look like glossy cardboard and no one said how they were supposed to be used. The buses that take them have scanners on-board, but the other buses take paper tickets that get stamped by little ticket machines… Many confused tourists that night!

It was lovely and I want to go back as part of a glassy trip some time, so we get to see all the insider stuff.

I had a bit of a panic before I went, because my wallet with all my cards was stolen two days before I was due to leave! Luckily I’d arranged euros beforehand, and my boyfriend gave me some spare cash to take care of travel to and from the airport. It did mean I had to be careful with what I decided to buy, because I had no way to take more cash out. I came back with my press, two masks (one basic and cheap for a Hallowe’en costume), and a very small selection of glass jewellery, including some blown latticino beads. You have to be careful on Murano, because even there, there are huge quantities of things imported from China, even if they have a ‘made in Murano’ sticker on the back. Some of the shops have signs up to the effect that you may notice their prices are higher, but all their goods are made right there. Those are the ones you’re looking for. Some of the others are mixed, so you have to pay close attention to what each shelf says.

I was actually less tempted than I thought I’d be – problem is, once you’ve got a taste for artisan lampwork, factory-made runs of beads are just not as appealing! The Murano style is also typically rather garish, so partly what I did was promise myself that I could buy some UK lampwork once I got home! I did see some lovely things, but they were made by people who have managed to become designer brands… and so of course they command designer prices.

I did love the sculptural beetles that abounded, but I was worried about getting one home in one piece. They have very delicate antennae and legs. There was also the problem of finding out where they were sourced. (Really, if you want to buy glass from China you can do it from home! No need to go to Italy for it).

Getting back to London in the dark and the cold was quite a shock. If I had the chance to live in the Mediterranean in the off-seasons I’d jump at it (the heat’s too much for me in the summer!). The light makes everything beautiful, even if it’s graffitied, in disrepair and falling down.

The trip also reminded me of the engineering feat that is aeroplanes. I’ve flown a handful of times in my life, the last being over 10 years ago. I am the person who will lean to watch the ground disappearing with a big grin on my face. I know the downsides (don’t we all?) but it is just SO COOL that we built these big ungainly tubes with wings that will actually take us off the ground.

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October Trees

[October 2010]

The theme of the month was October Trees and the colour was Effetre 460 yellow ochre.

I haven’t much liked yellow ochre when I’ve tried it before – it’s a bit mustardy for my tastes. I generally prefer pastel yellow or dark yellow. (Or CiM creamsicle – mmm, that’s a lovely colour). Anyway, I started with these, which I think are a bit of a mess:

Ochre dotties

Then I started making trees.


Vetro odd pale avocado over clear, with the tail end of a red and brown twistie used to draw the lines, which I then added twists to. I pressed it and added the leaves/birds (whichever you prefer – I think they’re a bit more bird-shaped) as dots of a MCD + hades twistie and raked them for a somewhat abstract tree effect.

Hippo tree

This is CiM hippo, rolled in silver leaf and pressed, with the tree done in hades stringer. I reduced it at the end. This bead was partly a test to see if the silver got the same effect as it does on African gray – it doesn’t.

Ochre with silver

Some more goes at the yellow ochre. I do like this one – it’s yellow ochre with silver leaf, then a dark ivory design and dark red brown dots. The silver leaf made it go blue!

Ochre with Cheeky Frit Blends

This pair are with more of Kaz’s Cheeky Frit Blends. On the right is Tobacco Road, superheated and with the tree in dark red brown. The other is the same, with Green Green Grass frit. Not quite sure about the result – they come and go with me!

Turquoise with spirals

This spirally bicone is a base of dark turquoise with yellow ochre spirals, then dark red brown spirals on top at another angle, deliberately pulling the surface a little.

SIS tree

This is dark ivory that’s had silver leaf melted in and given a twist on each side. Then I drew a tree on each.

Etched fritty tree

Etched fritty tree. It has Tobacco Road frit on the bottom and Ferry Cross the Mersey in the sky.

Etched pink tree

The last tree: etched pink and purple. I like the tree shape, but I wanted smaller blossoms on it :)

Ochre and amber

Finally, the last go at yellow ochre. For this I used yellow ochre stringer on amber for the focal, and I really like this set. The BHB is the same, but the stringer sunk in a bit more over the course of heating and shaping it, so it isn’t quite as clear.

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Cheeky Frit Blends: Ferry Cross the Mersey

Ferry Cross the Mersey

Ferry Cross the Mersey

Not a full test, but I played about with this a bit. Left is a white base with silver leaf, frit on top and superheated, the ends encased in clear and then it was pressed. Right is a white base, the frit was painted on with clear, then I added some silver brown dots that were reduced and dot encased, then it was pressed. Not successful since the silver brown is the browny-ambery areas…

The bird is made of clear dipped in the frit and painted on.

Nice deep blues in this frit, and lots of saturation for using with clear.

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Eyes and Vetro odd topaz

[Sept 2010]

Eyes around!

A little something that came out unexpectedly! It’s dark ivory, CiM sangre and Reichenbach silver brown for the dots (with clear on top). I ended up with a slit-pupil gap in the centre of each dot and I have no idea how I did it.

Vetro odd topaz

This is Vetrofond odd topaz 791989, as far as I can tell (the one with a blue centre). All just the one colour, raked and smooshed about. I seem to recall this is a colour that doesn’t take kindly to encasing, but I really like it on its own. May have to chase some down eventually, since it’s still available here and there.

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Squares, charms, twisties and presses

[Sept 2010]

The UKJC charm swap was due on Sept 9th – I’d been making the teeny lotus beads with that in mind, but then I started making these and liked them much better!

Twistie squares

I got out my Zoozii’s Mini Duo press for these – it has a tiny square and a tiny diamond, and I’d had a couple of goes with it but then got distracted by my lentil press. It’s just right for things like this. I think these are a great way of using up odds and ends of twisties. You just need a piece that’s an inch or so long, wrap it on and encase with clear and press. Then add a little random murrini to one side! Note: it works a lot better on 1.6mm mandrels. I usually use 2mm, but these are so small that the larger mandrel doesn’t let you press as neatly.

My favourite was a multicolour dark + hades twistie with one of Kaz’s multicolour mermaid murrini. So I used that to make my charm swap bead – put it on a nice fine silver headpin and voila! See a gallery of all the charms.

Here’s the charm I received – it’s a beaded bead in black and silver by Anita Mistry and is lovely and very clever! (We do the swaps secretly, then have a big guessing game to work out who did what).

UKJC charm swap by Anita

The other thing I tried at this time was a little sculptural head. This is the second try, the first is a bit more Lego styled :p


I used CiM ginger for the face, which got a lot darker with the longer working time than it did when I made test spacers – now I know how to get what I want out of it! I was disappointed with the paleness of the spacers, but this is very nice. Oh, and the mouth is CiM chai. He went a bit little old lady, because I kept accidentally melting parts of his face in when working on others… needs more practice.

I got a second hand Kalera Long & Lean press, and proceeded to make everything into kaleras. I do like them as a shape.

Organic kaleras

I was trying a number of things, some of which didn’t work (that silver brown again!). There are some Vetro odds in there too – Jolene gave me some bits and bobs to play with when I visited her.

And this is the big version of my twistie squares. I like it a lot.

Elements kalera

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Speedy beady catchup

[August 2010, inbetween the frit tests]

I’ve been hopping about a bit here – the CiM tests were in the second half of September, but I wanted to get them up sooner.

Lotus beads

I got a little carried away making lotus beads. I find them quite relaxing – dot, dot, dot, dot… Above are my first two. The cobalt is a BHB. Then there was a multicolour dark one.

MCD lotus

Then I made more! I was trying to make some little diddy ones, but they didn’t turn out quite so well. You need colours that are dense enough for the petals to stay defined, and they look better when the petals are a bit bigger.

All the lotuses

August’s Colour of the Month was 060 transparent cobalt, so here are a few more. I did some BHB practice (accidentally used light ivory instead of white on the skinny ones, so they got a bit fuzzy round the edges) and some little rounds.

Cobalt BHBs

Used some fine silver wire for the first time on one of these. Then I tidied it away and seem to have forgotten about it – should unearth it again…

Small cobalts

My persistent mostly-unsuccessful experiments with Reichenbach silver brown continue, and I got this, which I actually like! At this point I mostly got nothing out of silver brown if it wasn’t in dots, with the exception of a single odd spacer that turned purple in the kiln (I’m getting some better results now). The dots could still be better, but I like the haziness in them. The base is avocado and the little silver dots are Plowden & Thompson black.


I was then out of gas for the best part of two weeks, which was very irritating!

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Cheeky Frit Blends: Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Blend 36: Afternoon Delight

Over white, over light pink and encased, frit painted, over straw yellow with twists, and on a light pink barrel.

A light and summery blend. Purty. I used light pink instead of white as the base for a couple of these since this blend has white in it. I really like the one with twists over straw yellow. It has a nice suggestion of roses. I imagine a set of those would look rather good etched.

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Cheeky Frit Blends: Do Wah Diddy Diddy

Do Wah Diddy Diddy

Blend 33: Do Wah Diddy Diddy

First three: over white, over white and encased, and frit painted.

There’s a nice selection of colours in here, with the spring green and browns giving a foresty feel, then the deep blue and aqua add some extra zing.

The last two are superheated over white and with swirls over straw yellow. You can kinda see in the frit painting and the straw yellow nugget that there’s definitely a reactive glass in there that goes iridescent. Very tricky trying to capture it on camera!

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Cheeky Frit Blends: Wondrous Place

Wondrous Place

Blend 37: Wondrous Place

First three: on white, on white and encased, frit painted. This has got one of the striking glasses that I’ve never managed to strike on my hot head in it, so some of the yellowy-brown patches will do other things if you can make them work! But it’s a nice jungly mix like this, and I really like the frit-painting one. The last one is over ivory with silver leaf. The photo is picking up more colour variation than you normally see with the ivory – it’s a bit blander in person and I think could have done with more frit on it.

Wondrous Place superheated

L: superheated over white. R: heated and swirled over pale green apple. Back: over straw yellow, encased in Reichenbach antique green.

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