What is Lampworking

Lampworking is an ancient process of creating glass beads (1300 BC, Greece). The basic techniques haven't changed since then.   The tools however, have become much fancier!

Originally, an oil lamp and a mouth blow pipe were used to melt the soft glass. The method now used is typically one in which a torch is fuelled by a mixture of oxygen and propane.

Glass is melted over a very hot flame and wound around a metal mandrel which has been firstly coated with a substance which allows the glass to separate from the mandrel when it has cooled sufficiently.  In this way, glass is slowly added, sculpted and shaped, to form a variety of different effects resulting in whatever the lampworker is wishing to design.

This process can take a considerable amount of time - sometimes one to two hours (or more!), depending on the detail and size of the piece being worked.
Once the bead has been completed, it must be annealed in a kiln.  Annealing refers to (re)heating the bead and maintaining a consistent temperature for a particular length of time, dependent on the size of a bead, to allow for the stress in the glass to be removed.  Beads which are not annealed are prone to cracking sooner or later.
I use a torch which is fuelled by a mixture of oxygen and propane.  I am now very happily using a wonderful oxygen generator (go to my 'Links' section for more information).  My lampworked beads are one-of-a-kind glass beads. A single bead can take over an hour to make, drawing and sculpting molten glass over the flame - and a further couple of hours of additional processes to have it ready for mounting into a piece of wearable art. To add detail to the work, I make separate pieces from multiple colours and combine these component parts with layers of transparent colours, adding depth, dimension, and a wonderful play of light.
The process of making a single bead therefore consists of layering glass, one layer over the other, shaping colours to achieve desired effects and is truly a labour of love.  I am absolutely addicted to this wonderful world of making glass beads and I hope you will be as thrilled in looking at these beads, and those of other lampworkers, as I am in making them.  To me, each of the beads is like a little miniature world - to peer into and get totally absorbed!






Last update:  March, 2010

Copyright March, 2010 Marie-Claude Chapman. All rights reserved.

Image Copyright Marie-Claude Chapman, March, 2010.

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