Friday, July 3, 2009


When I first started lampworking, I took classes with Di East, Kristina Logan, Andrea Guarino-Slemmons, Michael Barley and Aki Okihimo respectively. My last attendance at a lampworking workshop was Aki's in 2006. After each lampworking class, I end up duplicating the instructors' beads for endless weeks. One might suspect I was copying their beads outright. Which, let's be honest, we are! Well, why does that happen? Very simple, these instructors are showing us exactly how to make their beads! Oh for heaven's sake, why else would I be lampworking their beads??!

After attending my last class with Aki, I decided to stop taking lampworking classes. Why? Well, for one thing, the classes come with a hefty price tag and my main reason is, I wanted to develop and mature my work. Whatever style I would like to have, can only happen when I work at the torch on my own. The alone time is important. I once checked on how long it took me to stop producing an instructor's beads after the class, it was about six weeks.

What am I talking about here? It's called breaking away aka going cold turkey. Now, as I last mentioned, I took a workshop with Kate Fowle on copper electroforming last month in Milwaukee during the Bead & Button Show. You can imagine how many days I spent agonizing on how I was going to be duplicating what Kate electroforms. You see, I have attained a level where I wish not only to learn the techniques but to use it in the way I see fit with my own development.

In Kate's class, we had to paint the grooves on a bead (Kate had lampworked for each one of us the same bead with grooves) with a conductive paint. Kate made the same bead for everyone so that we all have the opportunity to learn the same technique - I found this extremely useful because the class is focused on the same subject and questions.

Now after all my equipment arrived, I spent another week wondering what sort of bead to make for electroforming. Well, what do you know, I made a bead with grooves on it - yeah, just like Kate's though I have an entirely different design on my bead. Still, I wasn't quite keen on the groove-y issue since it screams Kate Fowle! Kate Fowle! at me whenever I look at it. Then, the next difficulty came, remembering how to do the same stuff we learned in class! Oh man, what a trip, I was freaking out and had my notes, Kate's notes, Kate's CD with step-by-step photos set up next to me and I kept going back and forth, checking for the umpteenth time to make sure I had it right. Oh I must admit, on top of that, I had emailed Kate for advice too. See, how I covered every visible/possible angle??!! Like a headless chicken running around the yard, not knowing that the head's already rolling around in the dirt...

My previous blog entry shows the groove-y bead in its original copper form. I have since applied patina on the copper and here's what it now looks like. Pretty cool, eh? Not like a gold tooth filling anymore, huh?

Ok, back to the theme of the day - breaking away. Why on earth did I make a similar style bead with grooves like Kate's? Well, for one obvious reason - I want to duplicate the procedure from the class since it was not a 100% hands-on experience; Kate had done the dirty work for us, ie she hooked up everything, prepared all the copper sheets and wires plus putting the bead into the electrolyte. In duplicating the procedure, I was now going through the same hands-on experience Kate did in class. The bead with grooves meant in a way one worry less for me, I can concentrate on the how the rectifier works, what to connect where, time the electroforming and make notes about the procedure. As with all electronic equipment these days, the manuals suck and you can't tell which end is up and which end is down - and I was nervous using it. I am obviously moving out of my comfort zone and can't stand the thought of not being in control of the situation; in this case, the recitifer. Yeah, anything new or foreign and the human being (me in this instance) freaks out about it.

Both photos show the same bead, without patina on copper

Well, after the second Kate Fowle! Kate Fowle! groove-y bead being successful and I am now feeling on top of the world, I made a Taj bead to experiment with. The part which I had electroformed actually has the designs made with stringers and dots beforehand. I applied the conductive paint on the designs. This is the bead I experimented on - photos show copper before patination.

Top view

The other top view of the bead

With the Taj bead being successful, I decided to make larger Taj beads but left the part to be electroformed bare. I applied the conductive paint directly onto the bare glass without drawing the designs with a felt marker as I felt it was redundant to draw the same designs twice. I have placed them next to the usual sized Taj bead in the photo so you can see the difference in size. These new focal Taj beads are quite big - about 2.4x2.5cm (about 1") in diameter. I have not yet applied any patina on the two focal beads. I shall update my blog when I have done so.

Top view

Looking at the copper designs lead me to making disc shaped beads for the Taj series. Last night I made one such bead - with one side blank, ie no stringer or dot work while the other side has the Taj stringer/dot work. Will again show the bead in my next blog.

The other side of the large Taj focal beads

This is what I mean by breaking away - make full use of what I have learned into my line of work. I am delighted I have cold-turkeyed from Kate's bead so fast. Believe me, nothing beats how awful and awkward like hearing oh, looks just like Kate Fowle's beads!!