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!
23 thoughts on “Glass Bead Making With Helen Chalmers”
John amazing! You are very clever, I’m still working on getting beads off the mandrel, think I’m over heating them or not using enough bead release! I got started by watching Martin Tuffnel at a couple of shows!
I am so impressed with what can be achieved in 2 days. I love the swirly patterns. Well done you. I think you might have shown me that I need t have a go myself. It is something that I have always wanted to try …. so many crafts, so little time!
I really like these beads, and am feeling inspired, but like you, I already had a fancy to have a go. Maybe, one day I will, Must try not to “want it all” …”now” though.
I like your blog style, it hits just the right note
Jackie C. A new follower
Thank you Jackie, and welcome to the blog! :)
wow John you’ve done it again, blown our minds and made us jealous! Being serious they are marvellous beautiful beads. Amazing job keep up the good work, somehow I think you will! Keep trying new stuff because you are such an inspiring person. I am constantly trying new things and people tend to tut and say “jack of all trades master of none” but when you see results like yours and the projects you could do know its all worth it. I pass your blogs details on and have had some oooo’s and aah’s! What can I say happy creating. Hugs maria
Thank you very much for the kind words Maria. I try to craft by the rule ‘do what makes you happy’. This does mean a lot of variety but I guess that’s the spice of life, right? :)
Wow, really impressive being able to create something so wonderful with such a short amount of training. Will look forward to seeing your next creation from them :)
These are simply beautiful John. Now I’ve stopped drooling (especially over beads 24 and 25) I am so envious of your course, it sounds a wonderful experience. I’ve done a bit of stained glass (leading, solder etc) but would love to try this element of working with glass. Can’t wait to see what you make with them all. Thanks for sharing with us all.
Hi John, thank you for sharing your experience and you beads are absolutely gorgeous.
It sounds as though you had a great time and the beads look fab, well done
Having attended a Lamp Working Day course many years ago i can totally understand your excitement and happiness at learning one of the most amazing and fulfilling crafts there is. Your beads are even and so varied, you have done a wonderful job picking up on what you have been taught.
I attended the day with my OH as i struggle with my joints, it was practically impossible for me to hold the mandrel and glass rod long enough to make a bead but good did come out of the day, my OH is totally smitten with Lamp Working and we have been collecting all the equipment for him to start making his own beads, only thing left now is a kiln.
Thanks for sharing your time in Scotland, i would move there tomorrow if i could, it’s where my soul lives.
Try http://www.tuffnellglass.com for attending the Flame Off details. :-)
Looking great, looking forward to seeing the end project.
WOW!!! These are really pretty. I wish I had a fraction of your ability. It must be wonderful to be able to succeed with all the things you try. I am trying Sheena’s faux leather at the moment – wish me luck! Lorraine
What a fabulous job you made on the beads, they are all so beautiful. Can’t wait to see what you do with them. Hope you get the opportunity to go back as you obviously have an infinity with Scotland x
WOW! I am so jealous, you had a fantastically productive day…… I have a friend moving to Edinburg soon and shall pass on Helen’s details.
These are beautiful – well done! I see bracelet and matching earrings (I make/assemble jewellery)
I’m a big fan of Helen’s work and I think you’ve done a great job! I’m desperate to have a go myself (just saving the pennies!) but it’s amazing to see what you’ve achieved!
They look wonderful. Perhaps it is something I should look into as already make pendants in the microwave kiln and would love to make beads. How much equipment would you need at home?
That depends on which set up you want.
Oh I so envy you. Well done on producing some beautiful beads, hope you make some memorable pieces with them. xx
well done you, they are fab
take care and thanks for sharing
love maria xxx
Oh How pretty John and what a wonderful experience. What next? Are you ordering all the equipment and turning a spare bedroom into a bead making factory? I´m sure that sounds like heaven to you.
Love Val in Spain
I think you have done a terrific job there John, the beads are so colourful and shiny, I really like them. I’m more into kumihimo on the marudai at the moment, but who knows what might happen in the future.
Can’t wait till you make enough to sell.
Love and Light