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What is lampwork?


Lampwork is the art of melting and forming transparent and/or opaque glass in a flame to make beads, objects and marbles.  

Glass cane is heated in a combined fuel flame (propane and oxygen) at the right temperature and balance of gas to make the glass molten enough to be malleable. Steel rods (mandrels) are coated in a substance called bead release or separator. This is entered into the flame along with the glass cane and the glass is wound around the mandrel. Further glass can be added in different colours and the bead can be shaped using gravity or rollers, presses and marvers. Adding further materials, such as pure silver foil and wire, bicarbonate of soda and enamels can add interesting effects.

For some beads I make my own special canes which give an unique look. These canes are made up in the hot flame. Some are pulled and twisted (Twisties). Others are built in such a way that when cooled, sliced up and added to the bead as a miniature art work (Murrini). Very fine canes are called stringers and these are used for fine detail work.                                                                                                           

For some of the pieces I do not use a mandrel. These are sculpted directly into the flame (off mandrel). This is the process adopted in implosion beads where the heat of the flame is directed in such a way that it enables the design to implode into itself. Each of these beads can take hours to make particularly when twisties and Murrini canes are employed.

I also use frit in the design of my beads Frit is tiny pieces of glass or glass powder that has been blended in certain colourways. I use this ready manufactured (although I do sometimes make my own) resulting in a beautiful unique bead, that is impossible to duplicate. Different glass has its own COE or coefficient of expansion. This denotes the softness of the glass and the temperature at which it melts. I use mostly COE 104 which is a soft glass. I also use COE33 Borosilicate glass. This is a much harder glass that needs more heat to melt it.This type of glass is mostly used in my sculptural work, particularly in glass rings and off-mandrel pendants. It is also stronger than COE 104 glass and can be worked longer as it does not cool as quickly. COE's cannot be mixed in the making of glass beads as it will cause the bead to crack.

When the bead is completed in the flame it is immediately placed into a digitally controlled kiln for annealling. Annealing is the process that the bead needs to go through to make sure even heat distribution for the right amount of time (Soaking) and an even, timed cooling programme. This helps in the prevention of cracks forming in the beads and eliminates breakage. Further changes and reactions can happen to the glass during this process and is one of the reasons why I do not offer commissions as glass is very unpredictable.                             

Following the overnight cooling period the beads are removed from the kiln. The bead release will break and free the bead from the mandrel. The beads are then manually cleaned of bead release and then offered to you on this site to make your own stunning, unique piece of jewellery or made up for you into something that you can wear and treasure.                                                                                 .