Hello dear friends,
Today I am starting a new segment on my blog. Each week or thereabouts, I aim to talk to an Australian glass bead artist and show you some of their work. I am starting the series with an interview with Marianne Bradman from Fields of Clover
For those who do not know, glass bead making or 'lamp-working' as it is often called, began many centuries ago. The techniques that are used today are a little different, the torches are more sophisticated but essentially the techniques are not too dissimilar. Hot glass is wrapped around a metal rod. The constant rotation of the rod, shapes and keeps the bead round. Decorations are added with thinner pieces of glass and manipulation of shapes can be achieved with tools and gravity. That is it in a nutshell... though of course, the techniques are many and the combinations of colour and design only limited by the artist himself.
Here are a few questions I put to Marianne and she so kindly sent me her response and photos.
1. How long have you been lampworking and what led you to begin to make glass beads?
I had my first lampworking class with Pauline Delaney at the end of 2005 but didn't really do any lampworking at home until about 1 1/2 years later, so really, off to a slow start. A girlfriend (Sue) and I took the class together. Sue had already made some beads at home but I'd never attempted lampwork before.I was petrified that I would get burnt or the glass would drip off the mandrel. Trying to keep turning the mandrel was a bit of a challenge too. As for making a round bead, what can I say except that I had quite a few wonky beads. The class was good fun though with lots of laughter. It's really funny how everyone was making the same bead but they all turned out totally different. Then after the classes finished and I bought a Hothead Torch, the hardest step was lighting the Hothead for the first time. It was fine lighting a torch in class because there was someone else there to help. But at home, you're on your own.
2. Please describe your workplace. Do you have a dedicated studio space?
I work in the garage, having a space dedicated to lampworking and other warm glass work. My torch sits on a small table that is cluttered with glass rods, presses, tools etc. Natural light isn't the best so I have a table top lamp to give a bit more light. My kiln sits next to me but as it is often filled with other glass being fused or slumped, I put my hot beads into a hot slow cooker filled with vermiculite. At the end of my lampwork session, I turn the slow cooker off and let the beads cool down slowly before removing them from the vermiculite at the start of my next session. My beads are batch annealed at a later stage. The only problem with batch annealing beads is that when they are done, I have a lot of beads that need cleaning, not one of my favourite tasks. The picture below shows my glass storage using hollow plastic fence posts.
3.Which glass is your current favourite and why?
I really like Effetre 'Kiwi'. ( as the name implies, it is a green colour) It's one of their cool colours. I just love the streaky effect of it. Dark ivory is also one of my favourites, you can get lots of lovely effects out of it by super heating it.
4.What type of torch/es do you use? Can you tell us a little about it?
I now use a Minor torch and oxy concentrator. My first lessons were on a Minor and I was very happy with it. Initially I bought a Hothead Torch (pretty cheap way to start) but it was very noisy. Once I bought my Minor, I started to do a lot more lampworking. The Minor suits my needs - I'm really not interested in Boro glass for which I'd probably need a more powerful torch.
5. How would you describe your style?
I like organic beads. I've never really been a person that likes abstract art but find that with beads, I love the organic, abstract effect. For quite a while, I was making small beads but have now started to make larger focal beads. Part of making smaller beads was that it allowed me to stay in my comfort zone and not experiment with other techniques. Earlier this year I attended a Leah Fairbanks workshop and really enjoyed 'painting' flowers onto beads. I have been practising this style recently, making lots of complex twisties to use for flowers and stems.
An organic, raked tabular bead with silver glass.
6. When the ‘muse’ has left the studio, what do you draw on to re-inspire you?
When the muse has left the studio and I am stuck sitting at my torch wondering what to do, I make twisties. I make up lots of different colour combinations and find that as I am making a twistie, another colour idea comes to mind. I also get inspiration from looking through my lampwork books and will often revisit a bead style I have tried a long time ago but forgotten about.
7. If you could have a class with any well-known lampwork artist in the world, who would you choose and why?
This is a difficult question - there are so many great lampwork artists around. I'm really glad I did the Leah Fairbanks workshop as it took my lampworking to another level. I tend to learn best from watching demonstrations, not just reading about techniques in a book. I'd like to work more with silvered glass - perhaps do a Hayley Tsang workshop one day. At the moment I'm not really interested in fine stringer work so wouldn't take that type of workshop. That could change in the future though.
8. Do you have any other artistic interests and what are they?
I also do a lot of other glass work including fusing and slumping, making functional items as well as decorative items. These include plates, pendants, earrings etc. For my warm glass work, I use Bullseye glass, layering the glass into the desired effect before fusing it into one piece in my kiln. Then depending on the item, the fused piece might be put back into my kiln and then slumped into a mould.
I also have alpacas and have recently learnt how to spin their fleece. Evenings in front of the tv are spent spinning or knitting alpaca fleece into simple, small items such as beanies and scarves.
An organic lentil-shaped bead.
Floral bead inspired after a workshop with Leah Fairbanks.
A selection of large lentil- shaped beads. ( all photos property of Marianne Bradman.)
Thank you Marianne for your time and those very comprehensive answers. You can also see Marianne's work on her facebook page.