Weekend Update and Catching Up, March 24, 2013

I didn’t drop off the face of the Earth. I don’t have any good excuses for neglecting my blog other than “I just didn’t feel like it.” Until this weekend, I hadn’t done much of anything craft-wise for about a month. It was a combination of laziness and gaming. I’ve been playing the new Sim City game. Maybe you saw something about that in the papers because the launch of the game was a disaster. I’ve looked forward to this game for a long time. Instead of it tasting like rainbows and unicorns, it tastes like… Well, “Sim Shitty.”

So, onto the weekend update. Easter is next weekend and I still hadn’t used my new egg-shaped bead roller thingy. But first I had to do my least favorite part of bead making: clean and dip mandrels. It helps a little that I had some entertainment while I was doing it.

It was a good day at the torch. With warmer weather, I had far less to worry about with shocky glass and breakage and things just flowed.

Heart shaped bunny beads and Easter Eggs

Heart shaped bunny beads and Easter Eggs

Bunny Pendants and Earrings

Here they are all made up into jewelry.

So, that was it for the weekend.  Hoping to get back out and torch at least once more before Easter, but with my goal met, it’s going to be hard to get motivated.  I want to find a good craft fair to sell at so I should start building a stockpile.  Maybe that will be enough to motivate me. 🙂

Until later… Peace.

WTB Trained Monkey

Once upon a time I had a big order to fill and a very short amount of time to do it. I recruited my husband to help me with as many tasks as I could so that I could maximize my time at the torch. Plus, while I love just about everything about lampworking, there are some things about it that aren’t so far up on the “bliss” scale. If I could pawn those off, my life would be so much easier.

I gave him two lessons on dipping mandrels in the bead release. After two days of making nearly Pandora sized holes with mandrels that are supposedly 1/16”, I had to admit defeat and take the task back over. There’s nothing that slows your mojo so much as going out and firing up the torch and realizing that you have no good mandrels ready. It was way easier to dip the freakin’ things myself then to have to explain why more did not necessarily equal better.

So… Annoyed lampworker seeks trained studio monkey for menial lampworking tasks. Must understand plain English and take simple directions well. Husbands need not apply.

Weekend Update – Jan. 27, 2013

After work on Friday, I went to buy the stuff for my new etchent. I started at the pool supply place and picked up two gallons of hydrochloric acid. Yeah, I didn’t need two, but that’s the only way to get it. Grr.

After that, we trekked across the street to Rite Aid for hydrogen peroxide, nail polish remover and ice cream (mint chip, FTW). With that, I had all the things I needed to mix up my new etchent, toner transfer trials and dessert!

Saturday morning it was time to go to work. I fired up the torch and made plain spacer beads. I wasn’t feeling up to anything complicated but I did melt some glass that I’ve had for a while and hadn’t used because it was expensive. See, that’s what happens when I torch every week for a few weeks in a row. I gain crazy confidence.

Unfortunately, the glass gods didn’t get the message and the raku glass is just brown and the super fancy Double Helix Kalypso glass is just meh. Ah well. Can’t win them all. I was still going to use the Kalypso beads with the etched copper. No sense in letting it go to waste.

And speaking of the etched copper… On Friday night, I figured out the toner transfer. Every thing I saw on the web said that you had to iron the transparency for three minutes. WTF. I’m not sure what transparencies they’re using, but the ones I have shriveled up like Shrinky-Dinks after about 30 seconds leaving a black smudge on my copper. That’s where the nail polish remover comes in. I cleaned the same 4 pieces of copper probably 5 times. Wipe, wipe, wipe. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Rinse, repeat.

In the end, the thing that worked for me was heating the copper with the iron, then gently laying the transparency on it and very lightly burnishing it for about 10 seconds before lifting it off. I was worried a little because you could plainly see toner left on the transparency, but I decided that I was just going to see what happened. I was pretty tired of messing with it.

Disks all tonered up and ready for the acid bath.

Disks all tonered up and ready for the acid bath.

So after the torching session and a quick trip to In N Out for breakfast (don’t judge) I mixed up the new solution and grabbed six copper disks from the night before. It was amazeballs! The solution turned a lovely green and the etch was quick and clean. It took about 20 minutes to get a deeper etch than I was getting after an hour in the ferric chloride.

Acid and peroxide bath

The green means it’s working!

Once the copper was cleaned up, I got everything lined up for the painting. I got some new paints from Metal Me This on Etsy that I was anxious to try. You’d think that between the sample six pack of those and the entire Vintaj patina collection that I would have just about every color covered. Not so!

I really wanted a true red to use on the Year of the Snake earrings. I ended up using the burgundy color from Metal Me This. It’s nice, just not what I had envisioned for this particular project.



So, Saturday was good. Sunday, not so much. My new toner process was hit or miss with more “miss” than “hit.” I’d do one or two just fine, then the next three would be crap. I took the five good ones and headed out to the garage for the acid bath.

I knew things weren’t going as well as yesterday when, after 30 minutes, they looked barely etched. It probably had something to do with the liquid being so much colder. So, back in they went. Then I noticed it… Little black pieces floating on the surface. I peaked at the disks and sure enough, the freaking toner was coming off the peacocks. Shit!

All painted and domed and looking like they didn't give me any trouble.

All painted and domed and looking like they didn’t give me any trouble.

I got them out of the bath with the intention of sanding them down and starting over since they didn’t look etched at all, but a crazy thing happened when I hit them with the steel wool. They were fine. One peacock had some broken lines, but damn if they didn’t look OK. Actually, all the disks looked OK. I did my thing with them, then worked up some earrings; six pairs in all.


Here they are… Etched copper earrings with lampwork beads.

Sunday is family day, so we went to my parents house for our traditional early dinner. My sister and I headed to the bead shop because I needed to get some clip on earrings for her birthday present. She’s crazy allergic to metal so only clips for her. While we were there, she spotted a lovely pendent in the display case. Since I needed something else to give her for her birthday, I thought, “what the heck.” So… Why buy when you can make, right? I got the stuff to make it (and I bought extras since my luck was crap all day Sunday.) But when I got home… Success on my first try. My first filigree wrapped pendant.

Filigree wrapped pendant

I can put this here since my sister doesn’t read my blog. I’m not bitter.

So, that was my weekend. Hard to believe it’s over all ready. Damn. Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind.

Weekend Update

I’d classify this as a very productive weekend. On Saturday, I started with some lampworking. I had oversold a bracelet during the week to my coworkers so I had to get crackin’ on some beads. (Isn’t it weird that you can have stock in your inventory for over a year and nobody is interested then all of a sudden BAM, and you need to hustle to fill demand?). So, I hit the torch early and hard and cranked out everything I needed plus a couple extras for insurance. I also prepped a couple plain spacer beads that I would put to good use later.


I actually think these are better than the original.

Then the fun started. I broke out my brand-spankin’ new copper etching materials and got jiggy wid it. There were some rough moments with ironing my toner printed image onto the copper disk but I soldiered on. Soon enough, I had my copper disks soaking in a Ferric Chloride bath. Then I waited, then waited some more. I am soooo not a patient person. I checked them every ten minutes despite the fact that I knew they would take at least 45 minutes. Finally, I threw caution to the wind and fished them out of brown muck.


I put a bird on it! And some etched lampwork spacers.

It wasn’t a deep etch, but it was enough. I slapped some patina on them, buffed them up then dapped them then punched them, then strung them… Wow. Tortured copper. Heh.

They turned out way better than I had hoped and I love them so much that I’m going to keep them, which is way out of the ordinary for me. I’ll eventually get around to putting some in my Etsy store when I get my process nailed down better and get some time to make something other than beads for oversold bracelets.

Progress update on the sculptured roses

This is my largest rose yet…  The picture makes it look better than it actually is.  There are a couple gaps down at the base where I joined the petals and the shape could be best described as “wonky”.  Also, I can see a crack in one of the petals in the picture that I didn’t see with the naked eye.  Sigh. Still… Progress and I’m happy with it.

Oooh.  Look at all those petals! (But not too closely.)

Oooh. Look at all those petals! (But not too closely.)



Sweet hearts and roses

There are some days that I go out to my torch and try to make something then end up shutting it down after 15 minutes. Today, I spent about 5 hours out there (in the freezing cold) and probably could have done another 3 hours had my husband not been so naggy.

I didn’t do anything cool – no new techniques or anything, but I had fun using some glass that I’ve had for four years now. I think it was part of my very first glass order. It was a lovely dark pink alabaster. I never used it because I was skeered of alabasters. It made some very pretty hearts and some pressed roses.

I also used some CIM Crocus and, OMG, I’m in love. Bee-u-tee-ful!! Definitely going to be ordering more of that so that I can make myself something pretty.

Anyway, here’s an Instagramed picture of today’s goodies. My only regret is that I have to go to my day job tomorrow and don’t get to make more.

Sweet hearts and roses

Countdown to Valentine’s Day

I actually started on my Valentine’s Day beads early (totally unlike me.) I had so much fun playing with my new rose presses from Devardi and I also dusted off the heart press I bought last year but didn’t really use because I sucked at it. Hope to make some more things over the weekend. I might even make a couple sets and list them on Etsy.

Valentine's Day mix.

Stop the presses!

When I first decided that I wanted to try lampworking, I started doing a lot of research.  I watched YouTube videos, visited forums devoted to lampworking and read just about every article that popped up in my Google search.  I read a lot of posts about “What you need to get started.”

There wasn’t a whole lot of variation from site to site.  Things were pretty basic.

  1. Torch – obviously
  2. Fuel for the torch – again, obvious
  3. Didymium safety glasses – filters out the soda flare from the glass meeting the flame and stops hot glass from flying into your eyes
  4. Stainless steel mandrels – that’s what you wind the glass on to make the bead
  5. Bead release – this goopy clay stuff that keeps the glass from perma-bonding with the mandrel
  6. A few rods of glass  – pretty freakin’ obvious.
  7. Fiber blanket – see, the glass is hot, hot, hot and it can’t cool down too quickly or it will shatter.  The fiber blanket slows the cooling process
My sparkle green GTT Cricket.

My sparkle green GTT Cricket. My first “big girl” torch.

You can buy basic starter kits for about $150 or so.  “It’s everything you need!”  Not.  Actually, I take it back.  It’s everything you need if you want to make very simple beads that will never be sold.  Very quickly, you realize that you are going to need more.  Lampworking is like crack.  And one could make an argument that it’s more expensive.**

Professional lampworkers would laugh at my tiny amount of glass.  They'd be like "bitch, please."

Professional lampworkers would laugh at my tiny amount of glass. They’d be like “bitch, please.”

First, those colors that come in the kits – pffft.  You’re going to need more and better colors.  Time to find a glass shop.  And that little propane torch with it’s little one pound canisters, well, it’s kind of limiting.  You might need an actual torch that uses propane and oxygen.  That means, a bigger propane tank (or stealing the one from your husbands BBQ) an oxygen tank or an oxygen generator, hoses and regulators.  And you can’t overlook your actual workstation and safety.  You’ll need an actual desk (preferably with a non-flammable surface and some ventilation and a fire extinguisher (safety first!)

My Creation Station.  I lived about two years without it.  Never again.  A "must have" for sure. They don't put that in the beginner's box.

My Creation Station. I lived about two years without it. Never again. A “must have” for sure. They don’t put that in the beginner’s box.

And isn’t it a shame that you can’t really sell your beads that you’re getting so good at because they haven’t been “annealed?”***  Yeah, you’re going to need a kiln, and those babies are expensive.

My baby.  A Glass Hive kiln.  Love.

My baby. A Glass Hive kiln. Love.

So, yay, you get all that stuff and you go to town making your round beads.  Then, one day, you realize that round is boring.  There’s only so much you can do with “round.”  And that’s when the trouble really begins.

You start tooling around the interwebs and, what’s this?  This is a cool little brass thingy that you put your hot glass in and squish/PRESS it into a new shape!  OMG, it’s a whole new world of possibilities.  So, you debate for weeks on which one to get.  It’s $60, so it’s got to be a shape that you are going to use forever and love because you are only ever going to buy and use one.  You make posts on lampworking forums that are titled something like “If you were stranded on a desert island with only one press, which one would you choose,” and it actually makes things worse because you get like 50 different answers.

I have a special bin for my presses...  Most of them never see it.

I have a special bin for my presses… Most of them never see it.

Eventually, you choose THE press and it comes and you’re so excited that you can’t wait to smoosh your glass into a new shape and you’re incredibly happy… for all of about 5 minutes.  For, it is then that you think, “I should have gotten the other one.”  Rinse.  Repeat.

My favorite Zoozii's presses - Straight Sided Lentil Trio and Nugget Trio.

My favorite Zoozii’s presses – Straight Sided Lentil Trio and Nugget Trio. They never make it into the bin.

So, here I am, four years and about 20 presses later, and I still don’t own all of the presses I need to make me happy. I have slowed down on the purchasing quite a bit, though.  I now buy myself about 3 presses a year (maybe more if I can find a good deal on a used press or a cheapy tong-style press).  The main problem is that the press manufacturers keep coming up with new shapes.  My life would be so much easier (and my wallet, fatter) if they would just STOP!

Seriously.  Stop the presses.****

**No, I’ve never bought crack.  I’m just guessing because it seems like there are A LOT more crack users than lampworkers.  If lampworking was less expensive, then everyone would do it and there would be a lot less actual crack addicts. Maybe.

***Annealing is the process of slowly heating then cooling the glass in order to remove stress and toughen it.

****See what I did there? 😛

Christmas comes again

I have the best parents in the world.  They are really supportive of both my sister’s and my creativity.  They gave me a bonus Christmas present and told me to spend it on crafty things.  So I did.

Amazon is loving me right about now.

Ooooh. Fra-gee-lay! Good stuff comes in these boxes.

Doesn’t look like much is in there, but…

Voila! Look at all that good stuff! New mandrels, clear frit, mini mashers and a bunch of glass.

Since this was a bonus gift, I took the opportunity to order some colors that I don’t get very often, like some of the more expensive pinks and purples.  Spring is coming; it’s best to be prepared.  I also restocked some staples – medium grass green, creamsicle, pea green, white and black.

I can’t wait to get out to the “studio” and play.

** Just to be clear – Amazon does not sell lampworking supplies (though I wish they did because then my shipping would be free instead of $20.) This stuff is from Frantz Art Glass in Washington.