than meets the eye! I've had a couple of people say 'but, it only takes a couple of minutes to make beads' so thought I'd share the less exciting bits with you.
I'm sure you've all seen me making beads, either on my website or when visiting my open studio events. In a nutshell, the glass is melted in a hot flame onto metal rods coated in a clay like substance.
Then the beads go in a hot kiln to keep them at the a temperature that stops them breaking through thermal shock, followed by a long slow anneal to let the molecules relax (I didn't do science at school!) and the beads strengthen so they are likely to withstand the stresses and strains of every day living.
That's the bit that many Indian beads don't get - if you watch the You Tube videos, you will see they go straight into sand to cool but are rarely annealed. Beads that are not annealed often break - right down the middle into two halves. Sound familiar? Before I made beads I bought beads and had it happen many times.
After several hours of relaxing in the kiln, mine usually get all night to relax - next time I'm coming back as a glass bead - they need to be cleaned.
Cleaned? What, they got dirty? If you are a fan of mass produced imported beads you will be used to the powdery stuff that is in the middle of the beads and ends up in the bottom of your bead box. That's bead release. Personally, I am not a fan of it (and in its powdered form it is apparently carcinogenic!) and remove it.
First job is removing the beads from the mandrels - I use a pair of pliers, but some people have a vice like grip of their own. 'Tis a mucky job (when I do it) hence the newspaper....
Having got the bead off the mandrel, it needs to be cleaned of all the bead release. This is a two handed job, the bead in one and the bead reamer in the other but as I didn't have a third hand to hold the camera you will have to imagine I am holding the bead and that the diamond tipped drill bit (best thing I've found for the job) is spinning away inside the bead. I should add at this point, I clean the beads under water, so that the bead release powder goes in the water and not in my lungs!
Once they are all cleaned I have a pot of dirty mandrels in water, still some bead release on a few, and a pile of cleaned beads. The mandrels get washed and dried - the beads are then checked to ensure perfection and then dried -
before being sorted and strung into sets ready for sale
Many of these beads are now available from Ebay
and I have others for sale in my Etsy shop.
I hope this goes some way to explain why my handmade beads take me a little longer than 'a couple of minutes' to get from glass rod to point of sale