Lampworking Fun

On Sunday, my sister and I played hooky from church and headed off to an introduction to lampwork class that we got through Groupon. Basically it's half of their usually 2-day intro course (the 1st day, clearly) to get people more interested in taking further classes. But for $70, it seemed like a nice way to spend 6 hours and get to try something that has always been fascinating to me.

We got there and found a group of about 12 (a full room), each station had its own torch and a box of tools. The first thing you learn is how to turn on the torch. As the mother of a boy, this is something I will never forget, because the acronym is POOP. (Propane Oxygen / Oxygen Propane) For turning it on, you PO, to turn off, you OP. Simple, easy, and something my son likes to run around chanting. (What is it with that Y chromosome?)

So you spend a little time turning your torch off and on and then you get basic instruction on how to hold your mandrel (not to be confused with a mandrill). The mandrel is a long, thin rod around which you wrap your molten glass - so it forms the hole in your bead (or whatever you're making, but generally, it's a bead of some sort.) They have various thicknesses, depending on how large a hole you want to have. The end you wrap the glass around is coated with a compound that keeps the glass from sticking to it (so that your mandrel doesn't become a permanent part of the bead). The key is that the mandrel has to be continually spinning while the glass is molten, otherwise gravity takes over and your beads are more like teardrops (or worse). It's trickier than you think, since you've also got to keep it level perpendicular to your body. They suggest that you spin the mandrel with your non-dominant hand and melt your glass and wrap said molten glass with your dominant hand. For whatever reason, doing it exactly the opposite of that was much better for me. (I have enough dexterity to collect a gather of molten glass and wrap it with my left hand, not enough dexterity in the left hand to keep anything resembling a constant, easy spin going.)

Once you've got the hang of spinning your mandrel in the flame, you get to practice with simple beads (a single wrap of one color - basically you're just practicing getting a good enough gather of glass and trying to get a reasonable shape out of things.) Here were the results of this practice:

Nothing terribly earth shaking in there - though the aqua ones turned out nicely. I also like the light blue with red stripe (I was getting fancy with that one, adding a second color - it was the last practice bead I made.) None of these got fired, so they may break pretty easily, but they also may not. I figured it was worth keeping them, they're kind of pretty.

Then we learned some more techniques, such as adding additional gathers, making dots and swirls and barrels (vs. round beads, a longer more barrel-like bead) and so forth. Such as these:

Some of these I'm very pleased with (the red white and blue is probably my favorite (far left) the light blue on the far right is fun and bumpy and I like it as well. These I actually did fire, so they're all official and everything.

The instructor said they're working on finding a time that we could take the 2nd half of the class if we're interested - and then we'd be eligible to do go to open lamp times at the studio. If I can make it work with the schedule, I'll definitely go to the 2nd class. It was lots of fun and it'd be fun to be able to go to open lamp and play some more.


Lynellen said...

I think all of those are quite lovely!

Jen said...

Good job! I really like the red/blue one, too.

I'd love to learn how to do that, but I don't need another money sucking hobby, so I'll stick to just buying other people's lovely beads.

Gwynne said...

I've always wanted to try that! Yours are amazing for being your first try!! I like them all.