Ok, so you’ve probably heard me waffle on about glass working being a dream of mine. Indeed I’ve shared some dabblings on this blog in the past.
Just recently though I’ve had a right hankering to take it further. So I did!
Here’s a little (and by little I mean goes on forever) post about the best time in my life, ever! You might want to get a comfy seat and a cup of tea (and some ear plugs).
The story begins a few weeks back on a recent trip to visit friends in Scotland. I was looking at creative courses in the area and got wind of a glass bead making course that was right up my street – well, several hundred miles up my street, but none the less it was what I was after. An organic 1 to 1 learning experience that would help me get a better understanding of glass bead making and it’s associated techniques. So I got in contact and booked myself on that there course.
The course is run by practicing glass artist, Helen Chalmers.
Here’s Helen showing me one of the techniques.
From reading about Helen on her website, I thought that she would be the right type of person to help me out.
Helen graduated in Jewellery Design from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, Scotland in 2011. She has since moved to Edinburgh, set up a studio specialising in hot glass. Helen has taken part in several exhibitions, undertaken international commissions and has her work stocked in numerous galleries. As well as creating ready to wear jewellery from hot glass, she makes individually handcrafted beads, which have been purchased by artists, jewellery designers and collectors across five continents.
Impressive stuff, right?! If you’d like to know more about Helen and her work, you can visit her website – www.helenchalmers.co.uk/
Anyway, back to the course. It was held in a shared, well equipped, jewellery making studio in Summerhall, Edinburgh (yup, I’m back in Scotland – I think that that country is trying to tell me something).
It’s a pretty cool building with much activity going on throughout. I caught glimpses of various other creativeness going on but didn’t stop to investigate as the lure of hot molten glass was too strong…
After a quick introduction to the various tools that we would be using, the first day was a fantastic and fast paced introduction to various forming and decorating techniques from basic round beads, through pulling stringers and on to various surface decoration ideas.
It was really easy to follow and was very hands-on. Helen would make a bead or show a technique, then I would repeat it. This kept things moving and gave me loads of practical experience.
Here’s me being all serious and concentrating on getting it right … oh, and not burning myself, obviously.
Getting the coordination of the elements right was a little bit of a challenge for me – i.e. keeping both the mandrel (metal rod in my right hand) and glass rod in my left moving and touching at the right points and in the right bit of the flame. I’m not sure that I had it to begin with but thanks to Helen’s guidance, it seemed to improve throughout day 1.
Day 1 literally flew by! It was also quite productive and we ended up making loads of beads :)
The first day’s beads needed to be annealed in a kiln. Annealing helps cool the bead gradually so that it doesn’t crack.
Here they are annealing in the kiln. *waves*- hello my pretties! :)
Fast forwarding through me scoffing choccie treats in the hotel to the next morning and here are my beads (along with some of Helen’s) all relaxed and getting washed and ready for the world!
Day 2 also flew by but was equally as exciting as it built on the skills from day 1 and introduced new techniques including using various additional shaping and forming tools and encouraged experimentation and finished off with the creation of a matching set of beads – well, it would have if I had concentrated a little more, lol!
They were along a theme, rather than exact replicas.
The finished pieces made during day 2 took a little longer to make as they were larger and more complex in construction, combining lots of the techniques that I Helen had taught me.
Because the beads again needed to anneal Helen kindly did this after I had left for my train home and posted them on to me.
The train home was also a nice experience.
I managed to munch my way through a Chicken Tikka pie and had several cheeky drinkies *nom/hic* :)
It was a melancholy feeling to be home as I would like to have stayed and experimented more however after all of this waffle you don’t want to listen to my lamentations but are probably smashing your keyboard and saying, “show as the darn beads already blooders”, so I guess that I had better show you the fruits of my labours.
Ladies and Gentlemen, here are the very beads that I made over the two day course with Helen Chalmers taking to the catwalk for the very first time.
(if you need a closer look, just click on the first image and they should pop out into a slideshow thing).
Pretty aren’t they?!
After coming down from cloud nine (and after I had stopped stroking the beads and calling them ‘my precious’) I did start to think of ways that I could use what I had made but sadly time has been against me for the last few days and I was eager to share the beads with you so I haven’t managed to make anything yet but fear not for I shall return to the bountiful glass shiny objects!
So, what do you think? Do you think I got it?
I’m not 100% sure that I totally grasped all of the techniques but I’ve certainly got a lot more practical experience and knowledge, had a lot of fun and cemented my love of glass bead making, all thanks to Helen.
I certainly believe that I have come away from this course with more confidence since my first foray into glass bead making when I wrote – Making Glass Beads – A Personal Challenge
I will definitely be doing more in the future – after all, only practice leads to a confident set of skills, right?
Perhaps I will even be good enough to sell some as sets of beads, or even as finished jewellery in the future?
Anyway, I’m sure that you’re tea needs a refill, or you need a the loo or something, so before I sign off I’d like to close by saying that if this is something that you would like to have a go at then I would highly recommend booking Helen.
A tutor can make or break a learning experience but Helen really nailed it – especially for someone like me (with the social skills of a hermit and the attention span of a goldfish) – not an easy combo to manage I can tell you.
If you’d like to get in touch, Helen can be contacted through:
- Her Website: http://www.helenchalmers.co.uk/
- Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/helenjewelleryglass
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/helenjewellery
So that’s it for this post. I hope that you have enjoyed it.
Thanks for allowing me to share this experience with you.
See you again soon!