Saturday, October 16, 2010

Birdwatching Beads

Heat control is critical when making beads. Finesse is needed to apply stringer (thin glass rods like angel hair pasta) slowly and carefully, keeping it raised, not melted into the surface. Then that applied stringer needs to be kept warm enough to keep it from popping off while other surface decoration is being applied. Thin areas of certain bead shapes, like the smaller end of these cones, are prone to cracking if not enough heat is applied, while it also takes less heat in those areas to melt the stringer in. There's a narrow window of tolerance.

Different glasses react differently in the flame. Some are prone to boiling if overheated. Some are shocky and dislike sudden thermal changes. Certain colors react. Silver glass will fume the surrounding glass if it is reduced, meaning the flame has more fuel and lower oxygen.

There's a lot to know. And knowing is different that being able to do it without thinking. Five months off the torch means that I have to remind myself of things that should be second nature. Practice, practice, practice is required. Slowly, I'm approaching the point of being able to do what I want without so much talking to myself.

It's like teaching a child to read. At some point that laborious sounding-out of words becomes recognition, and a reader is born. Then after years of building skill, the teen can read Dickens.