Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Galaxy of Blues: Coloring on the Blue Galaxy Swirl beads

Each of the memorial beads pictured in this post is a Blue Galaxy Swirl, made by me, Christine Hansen...but as you can see, each bead is totally unique, both in design and coloring. As the Blue Galaxy Swirl is one of the most popular of my memorial bead designs, I thought I'd share a little bit about what makes these beads so special.
I begin each Blue Galaxy Swirl 1.0 bead (more about that later) with a base of black glass, which is necessary for the color of the blue to "pop." Without the black background, there is nothing for the "blue" glass to show up against. The "blue" that I use isn't really a blue glass at all. Instead, it's a very expensive ($80/lb. and well worth every penny!) reduction glass from Double Helix Glassworks...and it's PINK!!!

This picture is of one of the Double Helix glass rods that I use to make the Blue Galaxy Swirl beads - very DEFINITELY pink glass, no? The soft glass rods I use to make memorial beads with are all about the diameter of a pencil, and start out about a foot long.

This is the same glass, but in shard form - which means I make a bubble of the pink glass, and blow it out, let it cool, and then break it into pieces, which are called "shards." The piece on the left shows a really shiny patch on the surface - that is the metals in the color coming to the surface of the glass, and is part of what makes the magic of the blue color on the Galaxy beads.
I *don't* make the Blue Galaxy Swirl beads with shards, though. I use stringers instead. Here's a picture of a few of the stringers I'll use to make my next Blue Galaxy beads, along with the original rod I pulled them from. I'd say the stringers are about 1mm in diameter or so.
The pale aqua blue on the bottom is the glass I use for encasing the Blue Galaxy Swirl beads. I use the pale aqua *instead* of clear, because the pale aqua reacts less with the metals in the Double Helix reduction glass...crazy, but true! (I'm very grateful to fellow lampwork bead artist Jacqueline Parks for that pro tip!)

The coloring on these beads depends upon so many variables, that it's almost impossible to get the same result every time I make one of these beads - which is a huge part of the appeal for me - I have a pretty good idea of what the finished bead will look like, but I won't know for sure until it comes out of the kiln.
The blues in these beads are influenced by flame chemistry (the ratio of propane and oxygen in the flame while I'm working on the bead), heat (whether I work the bead "cool" or "hot"), depth of encasing (a thicker encasing "insulates" the color - which can work for or against me, depending upon the situation), and length of working time (shorter working time = better blues). Planetary alignment and moon phase also appear to contribute to the variations in these beads, but those elements are out of my control.

Because of the infinite variations possible in the final beads of this design, I tell my clients that I cannot guarantee a particular shade of blue, or how much blue will be on the bead. At some point, control over the process must be given up and the glass must be allowed to do its own thing. Having said that, I do try to gauge how much "color" will be in the bead before I put it in the kiln, and if it looks or feels a little skimpy to me (working the reduction glass too hot or for too long can cause the color to vanish), then I just make another bead while I've got everything ready. My clients are typically happy with this approach - they wind up with a gorgeous memorial bead, plus an extra that didn't quite meet my standards.

I've recently developed a 2.0 version of this bead - using a transparent cobalt core for the base puts a little more "blue" into the bead. The following collage shows how these beads turned out. The client I made them for is absolutely thrilled. What's your opinion of the 1.0 (black base) versus the 2.0 (cobalt blue base)?
I've been playing around with other colors for the base as well - transparent very dark green and transparent royal deep purple (but not together in the same bead!!!). I'll post pics of those once I've got lovely samples made up.

Thanks for reading and commenting! You can find my memorial art glass at my website,

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jeannie K. Dukic's Echo Creative Club

I'm delighted to be the June artist for Jeannie K. Dukic's Echo Creative Club for 2014!

Cherry blossoms are one of my favorite design motifs, so I couldn't resist selecting them when offered a choice of Jeannie's beads.

Jeannie's polymer clay art beads are a labor of love. Each one is an original design, and she meticulously hand-paints many of the designs, especially the florals. (Check out the Gin Blossom and Acanthus designs for more luscious eye candy!) The Cherry Blossom beads are available in two sizes - 1-1/4" focals and 3/4" earring pairs, and you can find her main page of polymer clay art beads here. Jeannie also makes a wide range of fantastic finished pieces - bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and more, which you can find here.

Following are pictures of what I created with two of Jeannie's Cherry Blossom art beads. I *totally* forgot to take pictures of Jeannie's beads before I started working with them , but I *did* take fairly decent close-ups so you can see the great detail on these beads.

First up is the bracelet, inspired by Linda Hanes' cuff bracelet in (February 2014 issue). I took Linda's idea and made a few tweaks of my own (which I can *never* resist doing, whether it's a recipe or a jewelry design. I'm deviant, I know.).

The bracelet is based on a pre-made leather cuff, wrapped in recycled sari ribbon. The cuff came with a few holes in it, but I added *lots* more so I could affix the focal and embellishments. I was lazy and didn't want to dig out the Dremel, so I used a center punch on each hole a few times, then used an old needle file to ream out the hole. The beauty of the lazy strategy is that you can make each hole a different size to accommodate different elements, yet you don't need to switch out drill bits. Lazy *and* clever, no?

I added two of my lampwork spacer beads (the swirly pink and green one on the dangle, and the deep pink one on the right side of the focal), a short length of brass wire, assorted Czech seed beads and crystals, and one of my etched brass dragonfly charms.

I love this color combo, even though the coral in Jeannie's focal was challenging for me to match. I selected colors that were close (and added a pop of orange to brighten things up a little), and used the green to provide a rich background.

It's really comfortable and I love the way Jeannie's focal really stands out against the sage green.

For the second piece, a necklace, I wanted to keep the design simple to highlight the cherry blossom.

To me, this necklace has a vintage feel, with the drape of the smaller chain.

When designing a piece, one element I always love to include (whenever appropriate), is something that moves.

The jump rings with seed bead dangles carry the color of the focal throughout the piece and add that little hint of movement. I must confess though, putting seed beads on jump rings is a fiddly business, and one that sorely tests my patience. (Why oh why do I do this to myself?!???)

The above picture shows the terrific care and detail Jeannie puts into creating her beads.

Jeannie, thank you for including me in the 2014 Echo Creative Club! It has been a delight and an honor to work with your lovely art beads!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Bead Soup Blog Party: Dragonfly's Pond

My partner ChristieMurrow of Charis Designs Jewelry sent such a generous bead soup, it was a little difficult to know where to begin. I LOVE the focal and clasp, both from Havana Beads, one of Christie’s favorite local artists, and I knew I wanted to be able to see both on the front of the finished piece.

Christie’s soup included stone beads in pale pinks, which set off the smoky blue of the focal in an unexpected way, while the reddish brown tones of the accent beads pick up the rusty color in the toggle clasp’s glaze. Christie also included an assortment of silver beads, ivory pearls, and a couple of fun and funky blue beads.

From my stash came a few indicolite Swarovski crystals, short lengths of chain rescued from the thrift shop, and a handful of my own lampwork beads. It was *really* tricky to match the blue of the pendant, so I finally gave up on an exact match and just went with pretty blue beads in hues that complement the focal and bring to mind the dragonfly’s pond. I used a few of Christie’s silver beads, but left out the ivory pearls.
Figuring out a way to showcase the focal was the biggest part of the challenge for me. I don’t work often with pendants of this style (substantial, with a front-to-back hole), and was stumped for how to present it. Leafing through bead mags gave me a few ideas and I wound up making a bead link with one of my lampwork beads. Tiny dangles add movement to the focal and tie in colors from elsewhere in the piece.

From there, it was a matter of making a few more bead links, stringing some beads, and connecting the sections with chain, with careful attention paid to the overall length – with such a long pendant, I wanted to keep the necklace on the short side.
I’m really pleased with how the necklace came out. It was a joy to work with such a fresh-to-me color scheme, and I had a blast working with the lovely ceramic focal and clasp.

Christie, thank you for sending such a tasty bead soup, and Lori, as ever, thank you for being our fearless leader!

See what my partner Christie Murrow did with the beads I sent her:

To check out all of the other wonderful Bead Soup results, click on this link: