where i actually talk about beads

I was perusing my previous blog posts and I realized that I almost never talk about beads here. I talk ‘around’ beads, but never really about beads. I’m sure people land here, and see that it is a beadmaker’s blog… then they read a few posts, and think, “Huh?” Where are the beads?

I really should talk more about beads, being a… beadmaker… and all… The thing is, I don’t know if bead talk is at all interesting for people who don’t make beads themselves – and I know that’s most of you. Maybe it’s helpful to have a little insight into the technical details once in a while? I hope so.

The last few days I’ve been absolutely obsessed with this color chart I found on Pinterest a long time ago. I’ve been meaning to experiment with it but just now got around to actually doing it. The chart shows beads made in colors that ‘spread’ and do other interesting things when they’re combined. After playing with them for a few days I have a few points that might be helpful, if you want to play with these colors too (and you should – they are a blast to work with!)

Here’s a small photo of the chart I’m talking about:


Click here to see the original pin so that you can get a larger copy to work from.

It looks like the person who did all the work putting this together was Candice Mathewson. Check out her Etsy shop, she makes lovely beads. She lists the colors she used under a photo of each combination, so you can see how the colors work together. Obviously a ton of work went into this, and I think it’s so generous when lampworkers share this kind of information with each other. So, many thanks to Candice!

Here are the beads I’ve made so far. I think I’ve tried almost all of the combos on the chart – and I like them all! You can see how there is a spreading effect that gives a nice definition between the colors. There are no lines here – just dots that do their thing when they’re melted in and heated a bit.


After experimenting for a few days, here are a few notes that may be useful:

1. The purple used on these beads is called ‘EDP’, which stands for Evil Devitrifying Purple. Apparently the ‘old’ EDP and the ‘new’ EDP are not the same. People say that the old stuff is far superior. But it’s long gone. I tried both, and honestly I couldn’t tell the difference. Because I only had one rod of the old left, I just used the new stuff, and I think it looks totally fine.

2. EDP can be a tricky beast to work with. If you look at it the wrong way, it ‘devitrifies’, which creates sort of a yukky grainy white schmutz everywhere. Not pretty. I tried a few things to avoid the devit situation: a) I read on the Frantz blog that turning down your oxygen so that the centre candles of your flame are slightly longer helps. I work with a concentrator, so I tried turning my propane up slightly once the dots were melted in (before that, and it just fried them)… b) try to avoid ‘flashing’ the bead in an out of the flame as much as possible – nice, consistent heat is the way to go… c) getting the bead nice and glowy again before you put it in the kiln can help, and d) somebody mentioned somewhere that if you blow on it (rapidly cool it) before you pop it in the kiln, you get a nice color. Seriously. Just don’t burn your lips! I did all of the above, and the color came out nice and bright, with no devitrification. So some or all of the above must have worked.

3. I tried and tried, but no matter what I did, I could not get my rubino / gold pink to strike before I put it in the kiln. It still came out a nice bright pink after annealing. I dunno. Remember to work the rubino nice and cool so you don’t burn it and get a bunch of nasty little bubbles.

4. My opal yellow wasn’t playing nice, so I replaced it with CiM Stoneground. Worked like a charm.

5. I tried some of the color combos on bases of colors that aren’t in the chart – orange, coral, etc. Got some ok reactions, but the ones on the chart are nicer, I think.

6. These colors seemed especially prone to getting little ‘kiss marks’ from where they touched the kiln floor. So I tried lining my kiln with fiber blanket – which didn’t help much – the fibers just stuck to the beads… I resorted to cooling the beads much longer than usual before I put them in the kiln. They’re pretty small, so this worked out fine.

7. I attempted a large focal with a combination of several different areas of these patterns. I found it nearly impossible to avoid the devitrification problem, because I couldn’t really keep the bead uniformly warm throughout.

8. I tried etching a few of these beads, and I definitely prefer them shiny.

9. These beads are an example of small beads that are very time consuming (and hence expensive) to make – each bead took me more than twice the time that a bead of this size usually takes. The reason is that you have to be very careful with these colors, and melt slowly, otherwise you get a mess. To me, they seem worth it because I appreciate the work involved in making them (and, I just love the way they look).

10. They’re addictive. I’ve already spent 2 full days working on these color combos, and I could keep going forever. Seriously. I’m now taking my favorites of the bunch and making Big Hole Beads (for Pandora and Trollbeads bracelets) with them. So far I’ve made 6 or so and I want to keep every single one.

Anyway, a few days of time well spent. I’ll definitely be adding these to the regular rotation.


11 thoughts on “where i actually talk about beads

  1. Hi Julie!

    As a non-bead-making member of your readership I am fascinated by this post! Okay, I might not understand everything (anything) but so what? I love the passion you have for the process. And as an obsessed bead-buyer I am curious about what goes on behind the scenes in making these little lovelies. The beads you made with a dark background remind me of the old Venetian millefiori beads that I have always been drawn to. I understand that these beads are no longer made — something about a lost art. Perhaps you are rediscovering it? I love that you are absorbed, experimenting and ever-evolving in your art!! 🙂

    • Hi Lisa! I’m so glad that you found it interesting!! I have a book about the old venetian techniques. What they were able to make with such primitive technology is just fascinating. In the hundreds of years since we haven’t even come close to that level of technical skill! Truly amazing.

  2. I love reading this behind the scenes sort of post! I never got into bead making enough to run into EDP, although I remember people talking about it way back when. 🙂 What does “strike” mean in the context of getting rubino to strike?

    Also I love that you’re playing with new things! Art experimentation is some of the most fun parts of creativity. I need to remember to do that more. 😀

    • Rubino is one of those colors that kind of ‘blooms’ when it’s heated, cooled, and then heated again (that’s striking). It can be very fussy. The original rod is usually a nice rich pink color, but when you heat it the pink disappears. If you’re lucky, it strikes nicely and when you reheat it you get that beautiful pink back. Sometimes not 😉

      I find myself not playing with new things enough… I have all these cool ideas in my sketchbook, and I find most often I gravitate to things I’ve already done. It’s harder when you know you have to sell stuff…

  3. So much science behind the beautiful art process and final product. You are lucky to be blessed with so much talent in both fields. Thx for sharing!

  4. So the beads cool before they go into the kiln? I thought they had to go straight from flame to kiln so as not to cool in between?!
    I too am very fascinated by the process even though I am not a lampworker – one day if I find a local school, I hope to at least try it out.
    Till then – yay for Uglibeads – and a few others. … 😉

    • Hi Kirsten!! So they do cool slightly – usually you wait until the ‘glow’ disappears – when they come straight out of the flame usually there is a red hot glow. If you put them in too hot they can droop and lose their shape, which is not good! Or, if you set them on the kiln floor as in this case – they can get a little ‘kiss’ mark (dent) from touching the floor of the kiln. So in this case, I waited just a hair longer than I normally would – maybe 2-3 seconds – before I popped them in the kiln 🙂 Then, eventually I got smarter and just made a special rack to lay them on so they’d never touch the kiln at all. Live and learn!!! xo

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