“Lampwork” is the term used for working hot glass in a flame, or “flame working”. The term came from the use of oil lamps centuries ago, to produce the heat and flame needed to melt the glass. Today modern flameworkers use torches that can mix both fuel and oxygen for a much hotter flame and easier control.
The glass that is used comes in a length of about 12 inches and is called a rod. There are many manufacturers of glass rods throughout the world including The USA, Germany, Italy, The Czech Republic, and Asia to name a few.
The making of lampwork glass beads is done by melting a glass rod in the flame and wrapping it onto a steel rod called a mandrel. The steel rods are coated in a special mixture called bead release or bead separator to allow the glass to be taken off the the mandrel when cooled.
Along with glass, many other different materials can be used to enhance glass designs. Glass rods can be melted together and twisted, pulled, or cut into designs. Sterling silver wire, mesh, foil and leaf, copper mesh, designs, and foil, cubic zirconia stones, authentic fresh water pearls, and pearl lusters are just a few of the things that can be added to glass when it’s hot to further a design.
Glass comes off the torch at about 1500 degrees. It is cooled until no longer glowing and put into a kiln to anneal. The annealing process allows the glass to cool slowly over a period of time to remove internal stress and make it tougher.
When completely cool, the beads are removed from the mandrels and cleaned with a dremel type tool to remove any remaining bead release. They are then inspected for cracks or defects and if no problems are found they are used in jewelry and other items.
The Art of lampworking is a never ending journey! It is limited only by your own imagination! There are always new ideas to try, new concepts to dream up, new glass to experiment with, new tools to use, new classes to take and new friends to make!