• Kathy Mattes

Lampwork Glass Beads


I mention lampwork glass beads quite frequently in my design descriptions. Lampwork beads are handmade beads that are crafted out of molten glass using a centuries old technique known as lampworking. The term “lampwork” is derived from the fact that oil lamps were once used as the heat source to heat the glass used in this process. Today a butane torch is used to melt and combine the glass.

Lake Erie Artists Gallery provides this description of the process: The artist will use a torch to melt narrow rods of glass. The hot molten glass is then wound around a thin length of stainless steel known as a mandrel. The hole in the bead is formed by the space taken up by the mandrel. To form the bead, the mandrel is turned and held in various positions. The shape of the bead is formed through this turning and positioning, as well as with the help from gravity. Tools can also be used during this process to push and pull the glass into proper shape.

The artist who makes lampwork beads has a very good understanding of exactly how hot the glass must become before it will begin to flow, and will learn with time and practice how much heat can be applied to a shaped bead before it will again become molten. The lampwork artist becomes a master of the glass and the torch which are the tools of his/her trade. They also learn other aspects of working with molten glass, such as how various colors of glass will interact, and exactly when to add decorative embellishments during the bead making process.



I first find a piece that I love and then work with that to create my own design.

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