Thursday, November 29, 2012

Implosion Bead Update!

Blue Floral Implosion Bead
The floral implosion bead is my signature bead.   I had been developing them for years and in 2010 I plucked up the courage to enter a set in the Beads and Beyond magazine jewellery maker of year competition.   I didn't expect to hear anything back and had completely forgotton all about it when I reiceved an e-mail asking me to attend an Artisan Show where my beads would be displayed.  WOW! I was over the moon.  So was my husband.  He took a day off work to take me to Worstershire and we spent the day together looking at my beads .... of course ..... and learning some new crafts!
My husband is incredibly supportive (I know he reads these....) and I had to drag him away from the polymer clay stall.  He had the very lovely Penny Vingoe from Clayaround demonstrating how to make a simple polymer clay cane.  He was completely hooked and came away with loads of packets of premo sculpy to make our daughter lots of pretty jewellery.  He did make some too ... well lots really .... lots of multi coloured hearts! Ahhhhh!  ........ then I pinched the rest of the clay and used it all up to make more beads ......
Anyway back to the implosion beads ....... Here is the winning set of beads.  I use this photograph for a lot of my promotional work and I will never sell this set of beads!  They marked a big turning point in my lampwork art. 
Floral Implosion Beads
These are very difficult beads to make.  They require a lot of heat control, an enormous amount of patience (many do not survive and crack halfway through the process) and confidence.  I am one of those people that loves to learn and enjoys a challenge, however big that challenge may be.  The trickier it is, the more interested I become.
Hydrangea Beads

If you hadn't already guessed I love my flowers.  My garden used to be a beautiful paradise full of pretty flowers where I would spend many hours sat reading books or gardening.  Then we decided to re-build the house and for the last few years my garden has been neglected and I really miss it. 
Hydrangea's are one of my favourite flowers because they hold very dear memories of playing in my Grandad's garden.  He had two huge Hydrangea bushes.  One was pink and one was blue and during the summer months they were full of beautiful flowers ..... well for a few days .... until my sister, cousins and I used all the flowers as our wedding bouquets.  My Grandad was always so patient with us even though we completely destroyed his beautiful plant.  I'll save the story about the black tulip for another day .......
I had to make a set of Hydrangea Beads in memory of my Grandad's beautiful plants.  These beads are now living in Canada with a very lovely lady.

The Protea implosion bead was a challenge set by one of my Cousins (a Hydrangea pincher who is now a Horticulturalist).  She had taken a photograph of a Protea flower whilst she was working in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in South Africa.  I had a good look at the photograph and decided to try and make an implosion bead as close to the flower as possible.  It is a work in progress. 
All of my Protea beads and the Blue Implosion bead at the start of the post are now on their way to a wonderful lady in Amercia Kimberly Idalski, who is going to create some very beautiful jewellery with them.  I will be writing about Kimberly in another blog later on but just quickly ... she makes the most beautiful jewellery from polymer clay.  Here is a link to her shop Kimi's Jewelry and Crafts.


This bead (as featured in my article for Bead Magazine) was made with a particular person in mind.  I was asked to commission a bead for a person who was very introverted and shy.  Although this person was very shy in public underneath it all he was very complex, interesting and highly intelligent. 
I am constantly thinking of new ideas, designs, implosions and ways in which to use the implosions.  Just recently I made a lampwork heart focal bead that was built up around a simple red and black implosion.  I have another one waiting to be photographed that I will be make into a piece of jewellery.
The Queen of Hearts

The future holds endless possibilities for these beads and I will continue to explore every option available to me and push the boundaries of lampwork bead making.
I am afraid all of the beads featured in this blog have been sold.  If you are interested in my work please come and join me here on my blog or join me on my facebook pageI always post my beads there as soon as they are listed.

Sarah xx

Sunday, November 25, 2012

CRAFTfest is Here!

Ok thought I would write a short blog post to let you all know that CRAFTfest has now started!  There are over 250 stalls selling a range of handcrafted items so you don't need to look any further this Christmas.

You can sit back in the comfort of your own home and shop contentedly!  There are no crowds, no parking fees, no over stressed people to make your shopping experience unpleasant and you can have as many coffee's as you want without having to take out a second mortgage!  Enjoy shopping from the comfort of your armchair, desk, bed whatever ......

Support Handmade!


Sarah xx


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


My Periwinkle lampwork beads!  I love these beads because they remind me of the spring.  A beautiful time of the year when all the leaves are starting to return to the trees and there is a scent in the air of fresh, new life.  It is invigorating and fills you up from within, breathing new life into your veins ..... at least that is what happens to me every year.  Oh, and it means the end to suffering from any more nasty coughs, colds or the dreaded flu!  The air is clean, fresh and germ free!
These beads were my re-introduction to the world of floral beads.  I had tried making them years ago on my old Hot Head torch but they ended up becoming blobs of colour stuck onto the glass.  I made a few and gave up! 
If you are a lampwork artist who wants to know more about how I made these beads, click here .... Floral Beads!  There is virtually a step by step guide as to how I made them.
Periwinkle Pendant
They are quite therapeutic beads to make.  They take a lot of precision, patience and time.  You can't rush them, you have to take it slowly.  Sometimes in this day and age, it is not always easy to slow down ... we all lead such busy lives rushing around here, there and everywhere.  I like to stop and contemplate.  I can do this when I make these beads and it is a lovely feeling!
Periwinkle Bracelet
I am always thinking of new designs and have a notebook bursting at the seams with ideas of beads to create.  Sometimes I make the beads with an idea of a piece of jewellery in mind and sometimes I just go with an idea that is forming in my head at the time. 

These floral beads show a progression in my lampwork art and I will be bringing out some more designs in the New Year!
 All of the jewellery featured on this page is available in my shop on Wow Thank You!
Sarah xx

Friday, November 16, 2012

Musings about - Craft Fairs V Online Selling.

Over a year ago I made the decision to sell my work online rather than attending local craft fairs.  There were a few reasons for this.  I had payed quite a lot of money to attend various local craft fairs with the promise that they had been widely promoted and the crafts on display were all handmade.  Mmmm unfortunately, I found this was not always the case.  In face in the majority of instances it was a complete lie!
I spend a lot of time and put a lot of work into making lampwork beads and jewellery.  I pride myself on the quality of my work.  This is because of the time and effort I put into making them.  I have designed a database to price all of my work based on the raw materials that I use.  I take it all very seriously and I work very hard top produce good quality, handmade beads and jewellery.  This quite naturally leads onto the discussion about whether we should (as Artisans) add our time as a monetary figure onto our price tags.  I can't help wondering that if we did, would we price ourselves out of the market? 
There is a lot of preparation prior to attending a craft show.  You don't just turn up and lay your items out on the table for all to see.  You have to design your stall and think very carefully about the best way to display your items.  This involves a great deal of time and money.  Banners, business cards, packaging materials, stands, lighting ....the list goes on!  These all cost money and don't come cheap!  Not only that, there is a stall to pay for and these doesn't always come cheap either!
You then have to go through all the items you are going to sell, make sure they are all correctly priced and again displayed to look attractive to potential customers.  It is hard work!
I can't tell you how demoralising it is to set up your stall with all your lovely, beautiful handmade items to find just around the corner is a stall selling cheap imports!  This wouldn't be a problem if you had been told from the start that actually most of the stalls were not promoting handmade items because then you proabably wouldn't have bothered to go! 
I haven't even touched upon the promotion of craft fairs.  I have attended a few in my time where I have put my heart and soul into setting up my stall to look beautiful for a handful of people to turn up because the event was poorly advertised!
I don't mean to be negative because I have attended some very well run craft fairs and have been very successful but you do have to be careful.  Definitely pick and choose the best ones!  That said, ocasionally I will still attend a local craft fair to support local charities but primarily I have chosen to sell online.
Before you think Eureka!  Selling online is the answer to all my problems and I will be a millionaire overnight with my fantastic website .... beware!  It is equally hard work because all the self promotion comes down to you but it is also fascinating and lots of fun!   I really enjoy this side of my work.  I have learnt so much about social networking, how the internet works, the power of social media.....the list goes on.  The great thing about it is that it is dynamic and changing all the time.  The trick that I haven't learnt yet is how to keep ahead of it all.  A challenge! I like it!

Now, where am I going with all of this.... Well one of the places I decided to sell my work online was Wow Thank you!  I choose this site because they invest a great deal of time and money advertising thier site and drawing people in to view your products.  This doesn't mean you can sit back and be lazy, there is still a lot of promotional work you need to do yourself but everything helps! 
When I joined Wow Thank You,  I was offered a place on the next CRAFTfest.  That sounds interesting I thought to myself!  A friend of mine had already mentioned the idea to me so I knew a little bit about it before I was signed up.  Basically it is a virtual, online craft fair!  The best of both worlds!  
It takes a bit of work to set up your stall but again you join a team of people and in the run up to the CRAFTfest you each help promote the event.  I think this year there are over 200 stalls.  That is 200 people advertising an event, through their blogs, twitter, facebook, stumbleupon, wanalo ....etc etc .... The organisers are also promoting the event and all the participating artisans.  It is incredible really!
This will be my first experience of CRAFTfest and I am excited to see how it works and if I make any sales as a result of it.  I know one thing, I have been brought together with some amazing people and it will be great fun joining the team!  I am learning so much!  There is so much to learn!
Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting more and more about the CRAFTfest and if you have a few moments to click on my links and support my fellow artisans, we would all be really grateful.  If you want to support us by helping to promote CRAFTfest, that would be fantastic too! 
Support Handmade this Christmas and give your family and friends good quality, handmade items!
Sarah xx

Monday, November 12, 2012

Woman in Black Jewellery!

I wrote a blog post back in October called Woman in Black!  It was all about a set of lentil shaped beads I made after I had read the Novel - The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.  I know I am repeating myself here but if you get the chance to read it, please do ...... and if whilst reading you hear the wind howling outside, the windows begin to rattle and a very un-familiar creak on the stairs ........ don't worry ......

I decided to use the set of beads to make a bracelet.  Each lentil shaped bead was enclosed within sterling silver saucer beads.  Between each group of beads I added a 6mm swarovski crystal to add a touch of sparkle.  I finished the bracelet off with a sterling silver hallmarked lobster clasp.

I was really pleased with the result.  The beads became part of a very elegant piece of jewellery! I wanted to make more, a pendant maybe and a pair of earrings to match.  There was only one problem.  I had used up all of the beads.   

I couldn't decide whether to make a pendant or a necklace.   So the next day I made enough beads to keep my options open.  Of course, making the beads is only part of the bead making process.  I make each bead individually and once they are made I place them directly in my kiln.  They remain in the kiln overnight to anneal.  Basically, the beads are held at a certain temperature to 'soak' for a set period of time and then they are cooled down very slowly.  This gives the beads their strength and durability.  If I didn't place the beads in the kiln and just left them to cool in the open air, they would probably crack.  If they didn't crack immediately they would over a period of time.  Kiln annealing your beads is a very important part of lampworking.

When the kiln reaches room temperature the beads can be removed and are then soaked in water and removed from the mandrel.  I don't think I have mentioned the mandrel before.  Each bead is made on a metal rod called a mandrel.  The mandrel's have to be coated in a substance called 'bead release' before you start melting any glass on them.  The bead release does what it says .... you make the bead by melting the glass on the coated part of the mandrel so that when the bead is cool it can easily be removed.  If the glass was melted directly onto the mandrel without bead release then it would remain on there forever.  The photograph below is taken from my 'Shrooms Tutorial' but you can clearly see the metal rod (mandrel) and the light grey bead release.

Bead release is a nasty substance and it has to be removed from the inside of each and every bead.  For me, this is not the most interesting part of lampwork bead making.  I usually put on a good film and set about removing all the bead release from every bead.  I then give them all a good clean and polish on the outside so they are ready to be used.

It is quite a long process from start to finish and is usually why handmade lampwork beads are so expensive.

As soon as my beads were ready, I sat down with all my silver and threads (that would make a good name for a jewellery shop) and started making a pendant.

The pendant had to continue in the same theme as the bracelet .... obviously ... or it wouldn't match.  I strung one of the lentil beads onto a sterling silver wire core, I placed a sterling silver saucer bead either side of the lentil bead and finished it off with a 6mm black diamond swarovski crystal.  It looked unfinished at this point so I added a few little dangles on the bottom of the pendant to add interest and of course lots of sparkle ....

The set wouldn't be complete without a pair of lentil shaped earrings! I like making earrings! I added the same combinations of silver beads and swarovski crystals to create these .....

All of my lampwork bead jewellery can be found in my shop on Wow Thank you!

Sarah xx

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I have been so busy making beads that I haven't had the chance to write about these yet.  I am really enjoying making these bead sets.  It is quite liberating, actually!  I like just letting the glass flow, mixing up the colours and seeing where it takes me. 

As you can see from the photograph, I used transparent red, pale transparent green and ivory.  I also added some silvered ivory here and there for a contrast.

Some red coloured glass can be quite tricky to work with.  The red glass rods that I used for these beads start off a very pale straw colour.  When you heat the glass in the flame it changes colour or 'strikes' to form red.  But, it isn't always as simple as that.  With the glass I used for these beads there is a degree of 'striking'.  After each application of heat, the bead needed to be cooled slightly and the heat re-applied to bring out the richness or intensity of the red colour.  I could see the colour developing in the flame.  This is great but there were times where the colour wouldn't developed throughout the whole bead and these beads had to be scrapped.  It was quite frustrating!

I have a few more colour combinations that I want to try before I develop these beads further and to be honest I am enjoying where this journey is taking me .......

This bead set is available in my shop on Etsy - Beadscrumptious on Etsy!

Sarah xx

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bubbling Brook!

This set of beads was great fun to design and develop.  I wanted to make some brilliant blue beads, filled with tiny bubbles of air that looked as though they were still bubbling away within the beads.  Sometimes most of the fun comes from researching and reading about how to develop an idea that has popped into your head.  There are times when ideas develop at the torch as you are making a bead but most of the time an idea requires a bit more research to find all the techniques that can enable you to achieve your design.

This is exactly what I did to develop this set of beads.  It was great fun!  I then put all the methods together made some beads and then tweaked these until I achieved the bead that was in my head.  This doesn't always work mind you....  There are too many times when you have a picture in your mind of how you want a bead to look and when you try to make it, it comes out like a chewed up toffee!

Usually I have already decided before I start making a set of beads if I am going to use them in a piece of jewellery.  But, this didn't happen with these beads and I have kept them in my bead box for quite some time,  until the other day when I stumbled across them. 

The beads are strung on a sterling silver wire core and separated by sterling silver saucer beads.  At the base of the pendant I have dangled three aqua coloured swarovski crystals which are strung on sterling silver headpins.  The pendant measures approximately 54cm including the dangling swarovski crystals and is strung on a 16 inch hallmarked, sterling silver curb chain.
This pendant can be found in my shop on WOW Thank You! - Beadscrumptious

Sarah xx

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bridgwater Carnival!

I live in a very quiet little village next to the town of Bridgwater.  It is also a fairly quiet little town but every November the town is buzzing with people visiting from all over the county to see the Bridgwater Town Carnival.  The largest illuminated carnvial in Europe! The atmosphere is electric in more ways than one!

It is a Spectacular, Spectacular illuminated carnvial of the most outrageous proportions.  We are talking about enormous carnival carts, brightly lit with hundreds of light bulbs, whizzing, twirling platforms, music blaring and energetic dancers putting everything into making the cart a visual delight.  It is something that really has to be seen to appreciate.
Unfortunately, I wasn't in the best place to take photographs but just to help you appreciate the enormity of this event ..... everything on this cart moved, span, jiggled and as you can see from the photograph was absoultely enormous!  There are hundreds of carts with the majority being of this scale!  
The town is divided by competing carnival clubs who work solidly all year and in secret to make these amazing carts.  Someone has to win each year and what a fantastic competition for all us to enjoy!
On our way back to the car we passed all the carts that had finished the procession so I couldn't help taking a photograph of the cart without any of the lights, music or dancers....
Please take a look at the offical website if you want to treat your eyes to a visual spectacle!
......I haven't even mentioned the Squibbing yet.... This happens after the carnival has finished.  The High Street is suddenly plunged in darkness and then lit up with what I can only describe as enormous sparklers!  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Autumn Spirit!

Autumn Spirit
It feels as though we have had a very, very long Autumn this year.  It started at the end of May and has continued right through to November.  It would be lovely to have some sunshine but unfortunately the sun has disappeared somewhere above the thick dense blanket of grey clouds.......I am sure it is still there .....somewhere.......

Whilst hiding away in my shed/studio/shed that is full of lovely summery pictures (and is very warm thanks to the heaters installed by my Husband and Brother - in - Law) I have been developing a new style of beads. 

It all started with my Nautical Lampwork Bead Set.   My inspiration for these beads came from a trip to Barcelona and visiting a house designed by a man called Gaudi (Nautical Blog Post). Since making this set of beads I have been using similar designs but exploring different colours. Each bead I make is totally different and unique to any of the other beads in the set. They are all different shapes and sizes and designs but all based around a three colour scheme.

These beads have so many possibilities for jewellery design and would definitely fit in the category of wearable art!  I haven't made a set for myself yet but I think I am going to have to so I can have a play around with a few different jewellery designs.

The name of these beads - Autumn Spirit, came from the colours which are very Autumnal and because we have just been celebrating Halloween.......

Amber Blossom

These are also a very autumnal set of beads. These beads were inspired by all the different coloured leaves falling from the trees in my garden. I need to get out there really and give my garden a good rake because they are everywhere and I am going to have an accident on my way to shed/studio/shed if I don't! 

I used different coloured frit to create the effect on the surface of the beads and then I placed the molten glass into a lentil press to create the lentil shape.  They are simple but very effective.

Amber Blossom

All of these beads can be found in my shop on Etsy! - Beadscrumptious on Etsy!

Sarah xx