About Me

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North Somerset, United Kingdom
My parents were worried when I ran around with scissors – now I play with fire and (intentionally) break glass! Based in the beautiful South West of England, close to the sea and often the scene of beautiful sunsets, I am inspired by the countryside around. Working with sea glass collected from remote beaches, soda lime glass from Murano, Italy, Europe, USA and beyond, I create artisan beads, for use in my own jewellery or for you to enjoy in your own creations. But I couldn’t stop there; continuing the theme from round rods to flat sheets, mostly from the USA, I break large sheets of transparent, opaque, multi-coloured and dichroic glass into much smaller pieces to make a kiln-formed range of bright, colourful jewellery and home decoration. Each piece I make is individually designed around the shape, size and beauty of the materials and intended to be unique, wearable, usable and affordable. All my glass work is kiln annealed for strength and durability and designed to give pleasure for years to come.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Good heavens woman, should you be doing that?

If there's one thing to bug me, it's something not working as it should!  Inspired to get on with my 52 in 52 challenge, I've not been keeping up for all the reasons explained already, I decided yesterday was the day to master my 'new to me' heart press.

These brass presses are made to press hot glass into shapes, sounds easy but I can assure you it's not as straightforward as it seems - you do have to have some lampworking skills before you start, and they are not a quick fix way to make beads.  They are a tool to help, and not an inexpensive one at that.  Usually upwards of £40 plus delivery , mostly from Europe or the US, and let's not mention Customs import duty, VAT and the dreaded Royal Mail rip-off 'handling fee', so when the one you fancy comes up in the same country as you with 'one careful previous owner' you snap it up.

So, I happened upon this expensive piece of machined brass with one previous careful owner a few months back.  I tried it out but with everything else going on and not taking to it immediately, it sat on my shelf or became a handy paperweight.  I have several (I refuse to say how many) of these 'handy paperweights'.  A friend then asked me about this particular press, so being a kind soul I offered to lend it to her for a short while - before deciding I ought to get some use from it myself before she collects on Saturday!  Hence my inspiration.

Kiln on, kiln hot, sit down, stand up, get coffee, sit down, stand up, get glass, change mind, get glass, get frit, get press.  Go!

I remembered why I wasn't getting on with this press.  The idea of this style of press is that the top and bottomline up using the pins in the bottom going through the holes at the top.  Simples.  Not with this one.  First press, no problems.  Reheat and decorate bead, re-press, ******* the top now won't come away from the bottom, the flame is in the way, the mandrel is bending, the bead release is breaking, the bead press is flying through the air, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

So it must be me, I'm putting it on wonky?  Can't be,  there are only two pins and two holes and they are a close fit.  Hang on, 'close fit', is that the problem?  Refer to other (undisclosed number of) presses, the top slides on and off easily; test this one, the top doesn't really slide off the bottom too easily.  Pick up to have a closer look, drop down - brass conducts heat well and it is now a very hot brass press base.  Perhaps this is the time for more coffee; and a think?   It would seem that the bottom pins expand sufficiently in the heat to stop them sliding easily through the holes in the top.

This is then the point where my husband would declare 'things are getting scary, do you know what you are doing?'  No, of course not.  Post-coffee, I have a bright idea.  I can't file down the pins easily, not got the tools for that, but I can make the holes bigger.  I surely have something I can do that with?  A bit of trial and error and I settle on a diamond tipped drill that will fit into my Dremel pendant drill and, a few brass shavings later, the holes are a bit bigger.  Well, it's not as if I am getting a lot of sea glass drilled right now.

Back to making beads .......

Groundhog Day moment, 2 beads in and the the top now won't come away from the bottom,the flame is in the way, the mandrel is bending, the bead release is breaking, the bead press is flying through the air, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

More drilling, more brass filings on my table.

Repeat  this scenario twice more - by now I am drilling like a mad woman, at the point where I think that is enough, I add another few seconds, just for luck.  But things seam to work out as, back to making beads, things seem to be much better and once pressed I can get the beads out of the brass press.  We are making progress!


So, not as many beads made as I had hoped, but a lot of water  brass has passed under the bridge table. Reasonably satisfied  that I have tamed the beast, I am more than happy to hand over this press to my friend, just for a while.  Just until the pain of hot stuck brass presses has subsided.  Until I run out of heart beads and someone commissions more......

At quick glance - these two are just out of the hot kiln long enough to glance, mandrels get hot when you're not looking, and I don't want the beads to suffer from thermal shocking, they don't look too bad.  But once cold and closely inspected, I'm quite pleased with them.  One has already gone to a new home with a house guest and another turned into a pendant to match something I am wearing this weekend; the rest will be in online and craft fair stock in due course.

And the end product ......................... in small, medium and large sizes.