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Lampwork station

When we lived in Delaware I had my lampwork torch set up in the basement of an 1860s row home, with the hood venting through a removable pane in the nearby window.  It was dark so I could see the glass color as it melted, and it was cool even in the summertime (which is important when you’re working near a torch).  And then we moved to Virginia.  Now our house is a suburban colonial.  Melting glass in a carpeted bedroom (my studio) is not an option.  The basement is finished except for a below-grade (no window) storage room, so I couldn’t just recreate my former setup. We now have a garage (thankfully) but there is no place to vent a hood except for large openings like doors, and if you are venting bad air out a large opening, the fumes are going to come right back in.  So for 3 1/2 years I pondered but did nothing.  Then a series of events happened to get the ball rolling…

Mom & Olivia watching the glassblower

1.  On New Year’s Eve we went to the local First Night celebration, and included in the entertainment was a demonstration in the studio of a new glassblower.  I was so excited to have a real live glassworker right in town here.  A few days later I talked to him on the phone to inquire about renting studio space since it is close to Olivia’s preschool. 

2.  The next week I met lampworker Hope Gibson when we were in St. Croix.  The most important thing I brought home with me is her motto, “Relatively Close.”  Her beads may not be perfect, but they’re gorgeous and she doesn’t sweat the small stuff.  I have pockets of perfectionism here and there, to the point of not being able to try certain things if I don’t think I can do them perfectly.  Lampwork falls into that category, and I need to constantly remind myself that I am not going for awards; I just maybe need some blue beads.  (Hope’s other motto is “Be bold, eat chocolate, wear art” and I have taken that to heart as well.)

Helping Mommy buy downspouts

The local glassblower never called me back about studio space, and that turned out to be exactly what I needed.  I still had all my equipment (torch, hoses, kiln, oxycon) from our old house, so I finally decided to have a contractor install a window in the garage with sashes the size of a box fan.  Then I got a great idea for glass rod storage from Kerry Bogert using vinyl downspouts.

And right after that I found out I was pregnant and spent the next few months (first trimester) exhausted and napping whenever I could.  I had lost my steam, and all I had really needed was some new bead release. (Bead release is the stuff that keeps the glass from permanently adhering to the metal rod around which you are winding the glass.)  But…

3.  Two weeks ago I drove through the Finger Lakes region on my way to my in-laws’ house.  I stopped in at Artizanns in Naples, NY and found this awesome bracelet with wonky, earth-toned beads.   Wonky=irregularly shaped, and in this case it was fabulous!  Very organic, where lampwork is often bright, cheerful, and perfect.  It made me want to make beads — earthy, sloppy ones.  So I ordered some new glass colors (first time trying Creation is Messy) and fresh bead release.  I still need to test out the hose connections and pressure, then do an incense test on the ventilation. 

So… I’m closer to making some lampwork than I was six months ago, but I’m still not there yet.  Not to mention that school is out so Olivia is home every morning and I am trying to work ahead making jewelry to sell in the fall when our baby is due.  Glass rods don’t go bad, just the bead release.  So if I don’t get to do everything on my studio to-do list this year, so be it.  I’m in the season of Having Small Children and that’s what’s important right now.  I’m down with OPB (other people’s beads).