rounding the corner

You know that place where the finish line is finally within sight, and you just need to GET THERE? Your legs have no feeling in them, you’re sucking wind, sweating profusely, you want to throw up, or maybe die, and you start to make these really elaborate bargains with yourself and anyone who will listen…? That place?

That’s me. I’m there. Rounding the corner, nearing the end of the weenie race.

(for the new folks, I offered a made-to-order sale in my Etsy shop not too long ago for my ‘weenie’ beads and sea glass bead pairs, and it was… ehrm… popular. So I’ve been working on that for about a month…)

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here are some weenie beads – teeny tiny spacer beads in all sorts of beautiful, unusual, and sometimes rare colors:

Weenie beads by Julie Wong Sontag

And here are the ‘sea glass’ beads (they’re not genuine sea glass, made by Mother Earth, they’re lampwork beads with the look and feel of sea glass, made by me!)

sea glass beads by Julie Wong Sontag - Uglibeads

4 hour days at the torch, every day.
No weekends off.
Discipline.
Focus.
Total weenievision.

But the last few days, I’ve been entering that euphoric place where you realize you’re going to finish this thing.You’ve been pacing yourself, checking your fancy Garmin robo-watch every 5 seconds, and you’ve timed your glorious final stride across the finish line perfectly. That big goal that you’ve been training so hard for… it’s so close you almost taste that huge post-race bottle of ice cold water.

And then,

weather advisory

Oh AHS, I see your Heat Advisory warning, and I raise you. I’m going to sit down, turn on my 960 degree kiln right here beside me, and light my 5000 degree torch flame, right here in front of me, and turn on my oxygen concentrator, which is like the hottest heater you can imagine blowing hot air on my feet while I work. Because, you see, I’m absolutely hellbent on finishing these beads.

If I just leave all the curtains closed and torch in the dark (yes, I can almost make a weenie bead with my eyes closed…) it will be ok.

Or not.

There are places I didn’t know it was possible to sweat. Like, in your ear for example. I don’t know where that ear sweat actually originated, it may have some from somewhere else, but it’s a thing.

About an hour, 40 weenies and 7 glasses of ice water later, I was feeling maybe done for the day. Or forever.

scary studio selfie

Oh, why yes… I am a master of the scary studio selfie. Thank you for noticing.

That was me shortly before I melted into a puddle on the floor. I look really happy.

So, yeah.

And they say it will be even hotter today.

I read this great line, I can’t quite remember where, but I feel like it was probably Danielle LaPorte (a kind of wild, inspirational-modern-guru type lady, I like her) – and it went something like, ‘No matter what – oh wait, ok I just found the exact quote on a sticky note. I wrote this down a couple of months ago, and I look at it every once in a while to remind myself to chill the frick out. Here it is:

Danielle LaPorte

So – if you don’t finish the race today, don’t worry – you will.

And if you finish two minutes, or two hours, or two days later than you thought you would… Guess what?

You win.

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the heart of the forest

I’ve been muddling with my daily routine in the interest of having more time to work on things that fall more squarely in the ‘productive’ sphere than things of the more time-wasting variety. There are so many habits that take up a huge amount of time that are so easy to fall into. Some I’ve managed to (mostly) kick to the curb – scrolling through my whole Pinterest feed every day, for example. The latest in a series of triumphs is getting a handle on checking in with Facebook. I used to feel compelled to see what was up every hour at least. I’m free of that now (thanks to a couple of new tactics that are working well) and not to exaggerate, but I feel much more alive, like all that extra time means possibility. More on that later, maybe.

There are only so many hours in a day and it’s important to fill them with things that make our hearts sing. Things that help us to feel connected to the earth and the sky and the people and the wonder of it all. Yes, that feeling can be found on Facebook – some of the time. But not all of the time.

Blogging is still a tough one. It is one of those productive things I aim to do more of. Because, I like it. A chronicle of someone’s artistic journey – their thoughts, perceptions, observations… a backstage pass to what goes into making art and living a creative life. I find that so interesting and valuable. We read, we find something of ourselves in other artists’ realizations and struggles, and we don’t feel so alone. I have a hard time getting there. But I’ll keep trying.

Maybe I just have to let go of that part of myself that is so bleeping WORDY. As if that will ever happen. But a challenge is good sometimes.

Speaking of challenges.

Sitting at the torch one afternoon, I was listening to CBC Radio (Canada’s public radio station) and the program was all about the life of Canadian painter Emily Carr. It was interesting stuff, because I’ve always been so drawn to her work. I had the good fortune to see many of her paintings at the Vancouver Art Gallery one afternoon a long time ago, and I remember that day well. Just sitting on a bench surrounded by these deep, dark, woody, damp, moody things was a deeply spiritual experience.

Emily Carr
 ‘Forest, British Columbia’ – Emily Carr (1932)

So I was listening to this show, and they were interviewing people who had known her during her life. People remembered her as odd, uncompromising, kind-hearted, and passionate about the things that inspired her.

Emily Carr

When I look at photographs of this interesting, strange lady, I love her but I am also kind of scared of her and based on what I’ve heard, it sounds like that is not far off the mark. She was ousted from a short-lived teaching position at the ‘Ladies Art Club’ in Vancouver for her rather un-ladylike habits – smoking and swearing at her students. In her day, clearly, she was a real badass.

Most Canadians, reflecting on her legacy, will probably think of her paintings depicting First Nations iconography. Her first visit to an aboriginal village was in 1898 to Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. There were other visits throughout the years to other villages in Canada and Alaska. She documented the sculptural arts she saw in these places – the beautifully carved totem poles, in particular.

Emily Carr, Big Eagle, Skidegate BC, c. 1930.
 Big Eagle, Skidegate BC, Emily Carr (1930)

Her work was beautiful, but it was also meaningful and purposeful. Through her paintings, she educated the public about the incredible, impermanent beauty she saw, and she said in one of her lectures:

“I glory in our wonderful west and I hope to leave behind me some of the relics of its first primitive greatness. These things should be to us Canadians what the ancient Briton’s relics are to the English. Only a few more years and they will be gone forever into silent nothingness and I would gather my collection together before they are forever past.

She started her most iconic work at the age of 57, the deep dark forest paintings that I mentioned earlier. She had her first solo show at the age of 64. Sometimes I think about the fact that I’m almost 40, and I mourn the ‘lost years’ – creative years – when I was busy pursuing other interests, and not making anything at all. I think of all that could have been made had I not given it up for so long. It is a mournful feeling – I can’t describe it any other way. But then, Emily’s story just serves as a reminder that any time is the right time to create. Wherever you are, whenever it is, just start now. She had a creative dry spell 15 years long (while she busied herself running a boarding house), yet went on to do incredible work and to earn a place among Canada’s great painters when that dry spell ended.

Emily Carr, Self-portrait
 Emily Carr, Self Portrait

Believe it or not, this is really a post about a bead. For those who don’t know Emily Carr’s work, I felt it necessary to share some of her fascinating story. She was a total expression of a singular creative vision – the way she dressed, the way she interacted with people, the way she painted. It’s inspiring – and reassuring – to know about other creative people who were relentless in embracing their eccentricities.

But.

The bead.

As I continued to listen to the radio program, I became totally possessed by the need to make a bead inspired by one of her paintings. I chose one called ‘Heart of the Forest’. The lines, the complexity and layering of the color, the movement, the primitive brushstrokes, the light and the dark… it all said something to me. And maybe… about me.

Emily Carr 'Heart of the Forest'
 Heart of the Forest, Emily Carr, 1935

I propped the image of the painting up on my worktable and frantically plucked glass rods from my jars. When I was done I probably had 25 colors out on my table. I really should have taken a picture of that. It was a sight to behold.

I wanted to make a hollow bead, because for me, those are the most soul-stirring beads I make. Something about the shape, the weightlessness, the large, receptive surface. Of course, once it began, it was a totally in the zone bead, all compulsion and flow. Sometimes your hands and your heart do the work and you just get the hell out of the way.

Julie Wong Sontag hollow bead
Emily-hollow-5

After all was said and done, it wasn’t a close representation of the painting – not that it was meant to be. The way I was able to apply the colors was much more crude than I had hoped. Glass doesn’t move the way paint does. But the spirit was there. It was special.

It became a special bead on more than one level after it was made. A few days after I made it I saw that the monthly challenge on the Art Bead Scene blog was an Emily Carr painting. I love those moments when you realize that people you don’t know are on the same creative wavelength, finding inspiration in the same things. Synchronicity is maybe my favorite thing ever.

A little while later, during one of my online sales, I showed a photo of some beads I had yet to list. Just a crummy 3 second shot with my phone.

11131909_10152822046013175_2035838224_o

Do you see it in there, the Emily Carr bead?

In the end, I didn’t have time to list it, and truthfully, I wasn’t sure I was ready to let it go. Or if I would ever be ready to let it go. I just had the feeling that it needed to be appreciated in some special way and that maybe I was the only one who could do that.

The day after the show ended, one of my lovely, lovely customers sent me a note. She had noticed a particular bead in that crummy group shot, and was wondering whether it might be available. It spoke to her, sitting there, barely visible.

I knew right away that there could not be a more perfect person to own this bead. This person has the mind of a dramatist – finding scenes and dialogues in everything – beads and stones carry on an act in her mind as she looks at them. I knew that the story of this bead would be appreciated.

I teared up a little, trying to explain the inspiration behind it all. The whole process of creating the bead was so rare and so moving. And all the happy memories of that day spent wandering the art gallery many years ago – taking in the wonder of Emily Carr’s powerful work – came flooding back looking at it.

And the future owner of the bead said, “I bow before the Spirit Bead (sorry, not quite the right name, but there’s everything in this bead, not only forest, also sky, and insights, and even difficulties, when you fall and get up again, and everything in life has been worth it), and if she’s willing to undertake the journey, I would welcome her with the greatest enjoyment.”

You can see, this bead found its rightful place in the universe, as I believe all my beads do, somehow.

i can see clearly now

Double Helix Zephyr glassOne of the perks of taking a class in an actual beadmaking studio was that I got to do some shopping while I was there! I’d completely run out of clear glass, so I wasn’t hopeful about doing any encased focal beads for the trunk show. But I managed to pick some up over the weekend, so we’re in business.

For many beadmakers, the search for the ‘perfect’ clear glass is frustrating. There are many options out there, some better than others. The problem with clear glass is that if there is a flaw or scratch within the glass rod itself, it shows itself in the beautiful clear casing that you’ve worked so hard on. That sucks. Nasty bubbles, ‘scum’, generally gross looking problems, all can ruin a beautiful bead. If you order plain old Effetre clear, that’s likely what you’ll get. The next step up is Effetre ‘Super Clear’. I’ve recently tried some, and I can’t say that I was all that wowed with it. Compared to the amazing clear I now use exclusively, it’s not that impressive.

We’re lucky that there are many more options in glass now than there were 10 years ago. Now, there is an amazing clear glass made by Double Helix, an American glassmaking company. I swear that their clear glass, Zephyr, will change your life. If you’re – ahem – willing to pay about $44 CDN a pound (compared to $12 for Effetre Super Clear). I’ll admit I was skeptical about this ‘magical’, frighteningly expensive clear glass, but after trying it out, I wouldn’t even consider using any other clear. It’s that good. Aside from the fact that it really is crystal clear without any scum or bubbling (hence no tedious stripping of your molten rod before you can apply a gather to your bead) – it melts like BUTTER, so encasing a bead is much, much faster. It’s just so easy to use. To me, it’s totally worth the steep price tag because it makes things stress-free and efficient, and my encasing always looks beautiful. I can’t say enough good things about it. I’m sure it’s made from Unicorn tears.

If you make the switch to Zephyr but still have a bunch of crummy clear glass you need to use up, there are a bunch of things you can do with it. The easiest might be to use it as the core of a bead that you’re going to cover with an opaque color – which has the added bonus of sparing your more expensive glass. If you’re going to etch a bead made with clear glass, I don’t think the imperfections will matter much. Here’s one other thing you can try: some say that pickling your clear glass does help, and I’m sure that’s true (read a discussion on LampworkEtc. about it here). In the past I’ve soaked mine in vinegar for a good long while, and it seemed to greatly improve things.

So now that I’ve acquired two whole glorious pounds of Zephyr, I’m looking forward to sitting down to make some beautiful galaxy beads, encased prairie beads, triangle beads… uh… flower beads…

I also treated myself to some raku frit that I’m looking forward to playing with. It does really interesting things, turning different colors depending on how you work it in the flame. Something new to experiment with is always fun.

I’m off to the torch today to see what I can do with my newly acquired beadmaking skills. Stay tuned.

nailed it

Picfx-14

Just admiring my pretty red manicure as I make beads… 

Here’s a fact: making beads is MUCH easier than painting your own nails.

While we’re at it, here’s one of my beadmaker pet peeves: if you’re going to show a photo of the beads in your hand to give an idea of how big they are, for god’s sake, CLEAN YOUR FINGERNAILS. While you’re at it, maybe trim them too. Gross, dirty claws are so… gross.

The end.

magic milk

On my sister’s recommendation I watched ‘Magic Mike’ last night. Well, I tried, anyway. You do get to see Channing Tatum’s naked butt several times, and by several times, I mean many times. But even that couldn’t save it. Really, it wasn’t even worth having on for background noise. That bad.

You know what is magic though? Milk. I have a new milk trick, and it’s not spraying milk out my nose. It has to do with etching beads.

When you see beads that are ‘etched’, it just means that they’re treated with a strong acid that eats away at that nice shiny glassy surface. It creates a silky, matte finish that’s very tactile and smooth. Some bead designs really come alive when they’re etched, and etching totally transforms transparent colors – making them look like beautifully weathered sea glass.

BHB-sea-glass-A-2

When you take the beads out of the etching solution (or cream), after you wash them off with lots of water, it’s a good idea to neutralize the acid, or, apparently, it will continue to eat away at the glass over time.

Most people use a little baking soda in water, which reacts with the acid to produce stuff that isn’t harmful to you. When you dunk your newly etched beads in the baking soda solution, it may bubble, because the reaction produces carbon dioxide gas. The magic of Chemistry!

Aug-15-blue-lentils-2

I recently read that some people are using milk instead of the baking soda solution. While milk is slightly acidic, it also contains large amounts of alkaline minerals – calcium, magnesium, and potassium… which, I guess… works. My inner Chemistry geek is a little skeptical about the exact details, but it’s been so long since I studied Biochemistry or taught Chemistry labs that I’m not that fussed about it.

Anyyyyyyway. The milk fans say that dunking the etched beads in milk makes them sooooooooooooo soft and silky feeling. I rolled my eyes when I read this, but I swear it’s true. I’m a milk convert.

Some people report that the milk curdles when they do this. I haven’t experienced that, but heads-up if curdled milk makes you want to barf. After I do the milk thing, I run the beads under water again, and give them a good scrub with a toothbrush and some dish soap. And voila! Lovely, smooth, etched beads. 

If you have beads that are etched and they’re starting to look a little dull or dusty after a while, a quick scrub with a toothbrush and some dish soap should have them looking like new.

Milk. It does a body good. Depending on your dietary preferences and food sensitivities, of course. And etched beads too!

tiny tip: please release me, let me go

Fusion Bead release

Just hanging out, eating gluten free toaster strudel for dinner (I know, shame on me), and I spied my beloved bottle of bead release sitting on the counter. I’ve been meaning to say a few words about bead release. Ya, I know, boooooring. But the perfect bead release is sort of like the Holy Grail… Ye may seek and never find. What’s perfect for one person may not work for someone else, but I’ve finally found what works for me. If you’re just starting out, maybe I can save you some frustration.

For the non-beadmakers – bead release is a clay-like substance used to coat the mandrel (the stainless steel rod that a bead is made on) before you make a bead on it. It forms a layer between the hot glass and the metal so they don’t stick together. Thus, when the bead comes out of the kiln, you can actually get it off the mandrel. Here are what the beads look like still on the mandrel with bead release:

Beads on Mandrels

The bead release is dusty and powdery, and it has to be cleaned out of the holes using a dremel tool with an abrasive bit (under water, protect your lungs!). I use regular diamond whatever reamer tips (they’re cheap) but I’ve recently been told that the BeaDreamer is magical (and magically expensive – saving up for that).

There are as many bead release recipes as there are beadmakers. For good reason – if your bead release isn’t working it’s a major PIA. So there’s lots of experimentation going on to find the ‘perfect’ formula. All kinds of things can go wrong with your bead release, but the thing that’s plagued me the most is being nearly done a complicated bead with many many layers and tons of work in it, and having the bead release break. Seeing your lovingly crafted bead spinning around the mandrel with bead release flaking off is not a happy sight. Major sweatage ensues. Yes, there are a few ‘Hail Mary’ tricks that you can try in an effort to save your bead, but most of the time they don’t work.

Bead release breakage was happening to me so often that I finally began the search for a replacement for my old (and mostly ok for small beads) FosterFire. In my search, I came across a lot of weird and wonderful suggestions… blenders, chemicals, keeping the algae at bay (really!)… but in the end it seemed that a lot of people like Fusion Bead Release, and now that I’ve been using it for a while, I’m a convert. Here’s what I like about it:

– It has a nice consistency and when it gets a bit thick, adding water fixes it right up and it mixes well.

– It coats the mandrel with a nice thin, smooth layer of release, no bumps or gritty stuff. I think you could double dip very nicely though I haven’t tried it.

– It air dries quickly (within a few minutes) or flame dries in a few seconds – and I haven’t had any trouble with breakage either way.

– I can dip mandrels and use them weeks later and the release still doesn’t break.

– It holds up to large focal beads with multiple layers of encasing – and I am not particularly careful about pushing and pulling on the glass.

– It’s been perfect on every size mandrel I’ve tried – 1/16″ up to the 3/16″ for big hole beads.

The only small drawback I’ve noticed is that it can be tricky to get the beads off the mandrels. Really tricky. Especially with a long focal bead. Which make sense – the bead release doesn’t break when you’re making the bead, but it doesn’t want to break up when you’re trying to get the darn thing off the mandrel either. I’ve bent more mandrels in the past 2 months than I did in 4 years with my FosterFire. I just remind myself that I’d rather lose a 60 cent mandrel than a bead that’s worth $30.

So there ya go.

*This post is not officially endorsed by Grumpy Cat or Boo.

tiny tip – where old stringers go to die

stinger disposal

There are all kinds of little tips and tricks that make life as a beadmaker easier… I feel a bit dumb sharing some of them because they seem so obvious and simple. But if I didn’t know about them after many years in the bead world, maybe some of you didn’t either.

One of those things that is a pain is disposing of all those sharp nasty stringer bits that you’re done with. I used to dump mine in a bowl of water, but then I always had to deal with this nasty, swampy bowl full of sharp glass bits. Wait for the water to dry up, brush the nasty bits into some container so they wouldn’t rip a hole in the garbage bag… Ugh.

Then I read someone’s suggestion to get a big plastic bottle and drop the stringer bits right in there. Genius! It’s like my favorite thing on my work table. When it’s full, you just put the lid on and throw that sucker in the garbage.

I’ve also heard of people using those big tough dog food bags… that seems like a good idea too, though maybe a bit large to put right on your table.

I do have little jars that I keep hundreds of decent, usable stringers in (why??? I don’t know), but this is for the ones that I’ll never use again. Too short, etc.

Are you loving my geeky ‘nebula’ photo filter? The plastic stringer bottle really is that cosmic and magical.

one for one

July-11-beads-of-courage-bug-and-turtle

It’s me, back to the cute beads again. You probably know all about my weird relationship with cute beads. I blogged about it a while ago (here) so I won’t bore you with the details again.

I think I’ve finally found a way to make peace with those gosh-darn-it-they’re-so-cute little critters. From this day on, they’ll be made not just for their ability to make people smile, but also, for their ability to – well – make people smile. Hear me out.

It’s always nice to feel like you can give something back to the world. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do to in that department. Looking at various charities… reading… thinking… waiting for something to grab me. After thorough exploration of the options, I realized that what I was looking for was right in front of me.

I like and appreciate and support businesses who’ve worked some kind of charitable giving into the way they do things. One model that I really like is the ‘one for one’ approach. When someone buys something, the company gives one to someone in need. TOMS does it with their (awesome) shoes. Warby Parker does it with their (awesome) glasses.

You might be thinking, who really NEEDS a bead? Well, actually, there are people who do. Brave little people, undergoing treatment for serious illnesses in hospital, need beads. There is a wonderful program called Beads of Courage that provides beads to these children in an effort to support and encourage them, and to celebrate milestones in their treatment. More information on the program is available at their website here: http://www.beadsofcourage.org. There are a lot of different facets to what they do for the kids, their families, and for health care providers involved in their treatment, but the basic description is as follows:

“The Program is a resilience-based intervention designed to support and strengthen children and families coping with serious illness. Through the program children tell their story using colorful beads as meaningful symbols of courage that commemorate milestones they have achieved along their unique treatment path. Upon enrollment each child is given the Beads of Courage bead color guide with a detachable membership card. Their Beads of Courage journey begins when each child is first given a length of string and beads that spell out their first name. Then, colorful beads, each representing a different treatment milestone are given to the child by their professional health care provider to add to their Beads of Courage collection throughout their treatment as determined by the Beads of Courage Bead Guide (available from Beads of Courage, Inc.)
The Beads of Courage® Program is available for the following:
  • Cancer and Blood Disorders
  • Cardiac Conditions
  • Burn injuries
  • Neonatal ICU Families
  • Chronic Illness

The amazing thing about this program is that the most special beads that the kids receive are handmade by glass beadmakers. Those of us who love beads know that there is a certain kind of joy that comes from adding something new and special to your collection. Imagine if you were lying in a hospital bed, being poked and prodded and monitored and fussed over, feeling crappy and sad… and then… and THEN… somebody brought you a whole bunch of cool handmade glass beads to choose from?

The thought of that kind of makes chills go down my spine!

So, from now on, whenever you purchase a ‘cute’ Uglibead, I’ll donate one just like it to the Beads of Courage program.

One for one.

And double the smiles 🙂

bead love

I’m not sure what it is about beads, exactly, but I do know that they’ve held a certain fascination for human beings almost as far back as you can go – according to one source, a pair of beads was made from shells and worn as jewelry 100,000 years ago. Since then beads have been made from almost every material imaginable, and used in many different ways. Beads have been worn for decorative, ceremonial or religious reasons, and as symbols of status or wealth. Beads have been used for prayer and meditation. Aside from their use as decorative or devotional objects, beads have been used as currency and were extremely important in the early economies of North America and other parts of the world.

The making of glass beads is thought to date back at least as far as early Roman civilization. The technique of making “lampwork” beads was perfected by the Venetians, beginning in the late 1200’s. Many of the family-owned glass factories operated on the island of Murano, and the secrets of the industry were very closely guarded. This is likely the reason that the knowledge of working glass to make beads did not spread worldwide until relatively recently. In reading Artist Bios of North American beadmakers who have been making art glass beads for a very long time, the early adopters (in the 1980’s and early 1990’s) tell stories of teaching themselves to make glass beads, and developing their own tools and materials. There were no books on the subject available. There was no online community of beadmakers sharing knowledge with each other. Eventually, things changed when small pockets of glass beadmakers began teaching others what they’d learned. In reality, a very small number of individuals are largely responsible for bringing contemporary glass beadmaking as we now know it into the collective consciousness.

One of the pioneers of the art glass bead movement in the US is Michael Barley, who was based in Port Townsend, Washington until his recent move to Portland, Oregon. Michael began his career in ceramics. In addition to his usual repertoire of ceramic objects, he found himself creating ceramic beads and incorporating them into jewelry. After meeting a group of glass beadmakers, he tried his hand at lampworking, and ultimately, this new passion eclipsed his ceramics practice. He has been making beads for many years, in addition to teaching, and developing new tools and techniques for other beadmakers.

I’ve long admired Michael’s amazing beads, and I always keep my eye on what he has available for sale, waiting for one of his beads to ‘especially’ jump out at me (every one of his beads is so unique and made with such skill and depth they all jump out at me, really). Every once in a while, I do add a new lampwork bead to my own collection. I don’t ‘do’ anything with it, I don’t wear it… I just collect it and enjoy looking at it from time to time. There are a lot of other beadmakers and bead lovers who do the same. I’ve been told many times by people who’ve purchased my beads intending to make jewelry with them that they couldn’t part with them and kept them around just to ‘enjoy’. As you may have guessed, I have finally purchased one of Michael Barley’s incredible beads, and I can’t wait to see it in person. I feel quite lucky, actually, as he doesn’t always have a lot of new work for sale online. Recently he’s posted quite a few new beads in his Etsy shop. There are still a few left to look at (or to purchase!) if you’re also a fan. Luckily I got a bit of extra money as a gift for Christmas (thanks to my husband’s lovely Grandpa) – good timing! Here is my new acquisition (image from the Etsy listing):

Michael Barley bead

I’m glad that because of Michael and others who blazed the trail, there is now a thriving community of glass beadmakers all over the world. It’s a fun world to be a part of. If you’re curious about making your own beads, or you’ve pretty much decided that it’s something you’d like to do, I’d say, 100%, go for it. I have not had a single moment of regret since I took my first beadmaking class in 2001. People are discovering and sharing new ideas and techniques on a daily basis, and the presence of online forums (such as Lampwork Etc.) as a resource for glass beadmakers has made it so easy for this flow of information to happen. Today’s open and accessible learning environment made it relatively easy for me to get my start in glass, so I have great respect and admiration for the people who had to learn things the hard way. Maybe it’s out of necessity that these early beadmakers have all developed such a special, unique, and recognizable style. Their inspiring beads show the rest of us what is possible. It’s a good reminder that in order to become a ‘master’ at anything, you have to be truly dedicated, and you have to have a passion for what you’re doing. And you have to stick with it. I’m sure that the best beadmakers in the world, including Michael Barley, all had moments of frustration and times when they wanted to give it all up. But they didn’t. And that’s what matters.