Glass beads have been used for centuries as adorments, currency and in some cultures, religious items. The earliest glass beads date back to the early Egyptians.
Click the image for a step-by-step tour of beadmaking
Today, lampwork art is still treasured because each piece is an original work of art. No two beads are exactly alike. Lampworking is much easier today, due to the improved torches which use a blend of oxygen and propane to melt the glass. This gives the right temperature and a clean flame. The glass is melted and wound onto a steel rod, called a mandrel, then shaped and decorated in and around the flame. When finished, the hot bead is immediately placed into a kiln to anneal. Annealing is the process of bringing the entire bead to appoxiamtely 970 degrees to evenly heat the bead and remove any stress in the glass. It is then slowly brought down to room temperature, which takes about 8 hours. This makes the bead strong and durable. Beads that have not been annealed are suseptible to cracks or even breaking in half.
The photos in the demo are my first studio. I now have a larger work area and along with newer equipment. I use a Carlisle mini cc torch and an AIM kiln with a digital temperature controller. One of these days I will take a new series of photos and update the demo...one of these days!
Flamework is a more contemporary name for this amazing form of art.