Having come across The Bead Lounge on Etsy, I was inspired to contact this seller for an interview. Amber specializes in glass work, which I personally find to be a fascinating art (perhaps because you get to play with fire and melt things!) It's something that I myself would love to try but don't think I'll get to anytime soon. So, why not take this opportunity to learn more about this art and this artist here.
How did you get your start making lampwork beads?
When I decided to learn lampworking, I was strictly a jewelry 'crafter' and wanted to make beads to use in my designs. I took my first (and only) class in 2000 with a local teacher to learn the safety and equipment requirements for the hobby. After my 3 hour class, I left with a basic lampworking kit and haven't stopped yet!
Does it take a long time to learn this craft?
It doesn't take long to learn "how" to lampwork. A beginner's class can be anywhere from 3 hours to 16 hours, depending on the teacher and their structure. It does take a long time to perfect a basic bead, learn how to control the glass, and you can spend endless hours learning new techniques. That's what I love about this art form, there are endless possibilities for working with glass...
What is the difference between making lampwork beads and creating fused glass pieces?
'Lampworking' uses a torch. Artists have the choice between a single fuel torch (which is an inexpensive way to learn) or a duel fuel torch, which will allow you the opportunity to work with a wider variety of glass and make larger glass items. Glass is purchased in rod form, which is about as thick as a pencil and 12-13" long. Using the torch, you melt the glass and wind it around a steel rod to form the beading hole.
'Fusing' is a warm-glass hobby that requires you to cut sheet glass specially made for fusing into the shapes you like and then a kiln to melt this glass together to make anything from small jewelry pendants and beads to larger functional pieces like dishes. The larger kiln you have, the larger the piece you can make. There are even 'walk-in' kilns available. Some artists make awesome sculptures like water fountains and fused glass windows!
Do you begin each piece with a concept or do you design as you go?
This depends a lot on my time constraints. Although I am a full time artist, I also have 3 children, a husband and a household to take care of. Sometimes I will sit down and make what I call 'production beads'. These are my simple supply pieces, like spacer beads. Other times, I am working specifically on an idea for a customer, requiring me to stick to a concept that has been requested by a client. I have the most fun when I can sit in front of my torch and just 'play' with the glass and see what happens. Usually, I am surprised by the color combinations that occur with no real effort on my part. That's where the joy of creating comes in for me.
How do you make your color choices for your beads?
I really like working with neutral, earthy colors. These are what I prefer to wear, design with, and am naturally drawn to. There is something so organic about working with glass. I have a difficult time creating with the brighter, more vibrant colors...for some reason, my mind won't wrap itself around designing with these as easily. A lot of the time, if I just pick up some glass and try random things, an idea will just pop itself to the front of my mind.
Do you prefer to sell your beads as they are and let others create from them or do you like to create finished pieces yourself?
I've been asked this question a lot. Right now, I simply create the beads and then hand them over to designers to work with. I tend to be very simple in my designing, and sometimes I can't wrap my head around how to actually 'use' any of the beads I make in a design I think they are worthy of! I have some amazing clients who do incredible work with my beads, far better than I think I could ever do!
What do you love about this piece?
Of all the beads I've ever made, the set I called 'acid rain' has to be my favorite.
There is something random, yet controlled with these beads, and they are the perfect example of how being playful while creating can get amazing results. This set wasn't planned in my head, it just happened by accident and I went with it. The flow of the set when placed together is astounding to me and the colors are absolutely breathtaking in my opinion. The luster glass used to create this set gives you so many colors all within one bead.
Where do you get your inspiration?
The wonderful thing about art, any art, is that inspiration is all around you. I get mine from everyday places - watching my kid's cartoons (how colorful are they!?!), the natural beauty around me (we live in a rural area with gorgeous scenery), and I am absolutely inspired by other artists. I try not to look too closely at what other people are doing with glass, because I never want to lose my own voice, but I definitely have artists I look up to and am inspired by. It is always my goal to take that inspiration and create something in my own voice.
What other crafts, if any, are you hoping to try?
I'd love to get my hands into PMC (precious metal clay) and silver-smithing. I have always loved the look of silver, and being able to create anything in that medium would make me really happy.
Do you have any advice for fellow crafters?
Do what you love. I've seen too many people get into glass (lampworking, fusing, blowing, etc...) because they see other artists making a career out of it. Success in this field doesn't happen overnight, and if that is the sole reason for doing it, you'll never be happy. After 7 years in the field, I'm still learning, growing and trying to build a name for myself. Creation (in any form) should happen because it feeds your soul and fills a void that can't be filled with anything else.
Lampworking especially takes a lot of hard work to become good. and when you are good, it takes passion to become great but, like anything else, if you fall in love, there is nothing else you would rather be doing. Find art in everything...
To learn more about Amber and her craft, also visit her website - www.thatbeadgirl.com.