a tour of the weenie factory

Weenie beads!!!!

I know what you’re thinking.

What on god’s green earth is a weenie bead?

They’re my really teeny tiny little lampwork spacer beads. ‘Spacer bead’ just means a plain round bead in a solid color that people use as accents in their jewelry designs. The average size of a weenie bead is about 4 x 7 mm.


Here they are!

weenie spacer beads by Uglibeads

They look ginormous!

Until you see this:

weenie spacer beads by Uglibeads

Or this!

teeny tiny beads by Uglibeads

Those were the original weenie beads, made in February 2014! Yes, 4 of them fit on a dime!

(you can find the weenie beads – and lots of other good stuff too (when I’m not sold out!) – in my Etsy shop! Click here: http://www.uglibeads.etsy.com)

Anyway. I had a little contest on my Facebook page, and to enter, you had to guess how many weenie beads I could make in one hour. The guesses were wildly different – from under 20 to over 200! I realized, reading the guesses, that unless you are a beadmaker yourself, it’s very hard to conceptualize the time that goes into making even a simple bead. And even more difficult to figure out is all the time that goes into that bead after it’s made and before it gets to you.

The correct answer, by the way, was 45!

Now, if you’re doing the math, you’re thinking – 45 weenies per hour, times $1.50 per weenie (I sell them in sets of 6 for $9) – that’s $67.50 per hour! WHOA!!!!!!!! Time to quit the day job and start making beads for a living!!!!!!!

There are a lot of people who see lampwork beads selling for a lot of money and think… I could do that too – and it looks like a dead easy way to make a living. Work at home in your jammies, make fun stuff all day, mess around on Facebook… what’s not to love? Thousands of new folks take up lampworking every year and many, MANY of them dream of quitting their jobs and living on their bead money.

There are also many people who look at lampwork beads (even those who buy them regularly!) and don’t quite ‘get’ why they are so freaking expensive. They are expensive. They are. I know.

Here’s why.

Using the weenie beads as an example, I’ll run you through what goes into the making and selling of the SIMPLEST of simple beads.

The last time I made weenies, I made 135 in 3 hours so we’ll use that as a guide. First let me say that of those 135 weenies, there were 30 that I couldn’t sell in pairs, because they didn’t match in size. So we’re talking 105 successful weenies. I don’t usually sell the leftovers. I give them away.

Recipe for a weenie:

Step 1: dip mandrels – 6 minutes = 0.057 minutes/bead

Step 2: make beads – 3 hours = 1.71 minutes/bead

Step 2.5: anneal beads – 5 hours – but we’re not going to count that since I can do other stuff while I’m waiting…

Step 3: clean beads – 47 minutes = 0.45 minutes/bead

Step 4: organize into matched pairs = 10 minutes = 0.095 minutes/bead (if you’re a visual kind of person, you can learn about that adventure in a short video I made – click here to watch)

Step 5: string beads onto cord for display/photos = 15 minutes = 0.143 minutes/bead

Step 6: photograph beads for listing – 10 minutes for 6 beads = 1.67 minutes/bead

Step 7: list beads for sale – 6 minutes for 6 beads (since I have a template I can copy and use again) – 1 minute/bead

Step 8: shipping – 60 minutes for 105 beads = 0.57 minutes/bead

TOTAL time per bead = 5.7 minutes

(If you add etching, which I offer to do for free – for now – add another 45 seconds per bead, but we won’t count that)

So for every minute I spend at the torch, I spend THREE times that doing all the other things that need to be done before I can ship the beads. In the end, the actual hourly rate for the weenies is $15.79/hour. This does not include:

– time spent ordering glass and shipping supplies, refilling propane, etc.
– time spent researching and developing the design
– time spent marketing my work (it is a LOT)
– time spent communicating with customers (also a lot)
– time spent practicing my technical skills (years)
– money spent on classes to improve my skills (an average 1-2 day class is $300-$600)
– market research time (and I’m talking serious time, not surfing Pinterest for 5 hours)
– raw materials including glass
– tool costs
– torch – minimum of $150 for an entry-level oxygen/propane torch
– kiln for annealing – $900
– oxygen concentrator – $400-600
– specialty eyewear – $90
– ventilation – at least $100 – typically $300+
– propane tank, regulator, hoses, flashback arrestors – $275
– etching liquid for complimentary etching – $90/bottle
– electricity
– propane
– computer costs
– camera
– photo editing software
– Etsy fees
– PayPal fees
– advertising costs
– rent
– insurance
– taxes

Lampworking isn’t looking like such a get-rich-quick scheme anymore, is it? 🙂

And you know what? Weenies are my MOST profitable beads. Most of my beads are priced at about $30/hour for torch time. Now you have some idea of how far down that goes after all the extra work that goes into that bead. Often we’re hovering at less than minimum wage ($10.20/hour where I live).

I think the moral of the story is that artists don’t do the work they do for the money. They do it because they love it. They do it because they can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s possible that they’re not wearing the fanciest clothes, driving the fanciest cars, or living in the fanciest houses. But for people who choose to live their lives creatively, making beautiful objects for others to enjoy, the reward goes far beyond material wealth.

Ok. So we will not get started on people charging very little for their beads because it’s a hobby and they just want to buy more glass with the money they make. If that is you, please don’t sell yourself short. If you don’t value your art, who will? It’s a bit of a sore spot with full-time beadmakers. When our customers see those low, low, low prices, sitting beside our much higher, fair-wage prices, it’s confusing, and it does not reflect the true cost of what we do.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at beads made by a full-time lampworker, considering the investment you’re about to make, take a moment to appreciate all the time that went into those beautiful objects. They were made not just with minutes or hours, but years (and maybe even decades) of love, dedication, and skill. Whether they become part of your creative process or part of your personal collection, you’ll get great enjoyment out of them and so will future generations. Beautiful art glass objects will remain on this earth for a lot longer than any of us will. Cool, isn’t it?

So whatever it is you’re paying for those beads you love so much…

It’s worth it. And so are you.

xo — julie

*this is an old post, but since it’s making the rounds again, I thought I’d mention, for the sake of the beadmakers in the crowd:

since I wrote this article (over a year ago) I:

a) raised the price of my weenie beads from $1.50/bead to $2/bead

b) implemented a surcharge for etching (after all, it takes time!) – $0.50 per bead

c) now sell the single (unmatched) beads in mixed sets

Take the time to re-evaluate every once in a while. You deserve to be well compensated for the good work you do, and the best customers out there want that for you too.


what’s on my work table

New conundrum: when you make beads and headpins and stuff, how do you decide what to keep to use for your own jewelry and what to set aside to sell? I don’t know how other component makers find that balance, but I’m curious.

I made some headpins and earring pairs last week. They reminded me of little cotton puffs with the fuzzy patches of ivory. Don’t ask me how these colors ended up together on my work table. I have no idea – but they worked together. I couldn’t resist keeping a pair of headpins and a couple of the round beads to play with for some new earring designs.

So far, works in progress, just experimenting, playing, fussing.

Cotton headpin earrings in progress

I got these really cool boro ‘vertebrae’ beads (top left) from a beadmaker who does amazing things with color – Kristan Child. Such a great shape! They’re much more blue and purple in real life, picking up on the colors in the headpins. I’m not sure what direction these are going in but they’re sitting on my table waiting for inspiration to strike. Some funky wire-wrapping?


I paired these roundy cotton-ish beads with purple eggplant-ish ceramic drops from Petra at Scorched Earth. I like the beach pebbles too but I’m not sure. Still playing, but I feel a kind of serene, earthy, grounded thing going on.

Do you ever feel like your energy is totally off? I mean, not your creative energy, but your energy in general? I’ve been in a weird, slightly aggravated phase lately. I’m not sure what it is. Some cosmic planetary misalignment? The weather? Not enough nature in my life? Too much time hermited up in my apartment working?

I’m trying to breathe, be calm, be introspective. So far I haven’t discovered the mystery of it all, but I’m working on it.

because you’re worth it

I’m not about to wax philosophical about hair dye (but thanks, L’Oréal, we are TOTALLY worth it).

Most artists who sell their work would tell you that their least favorite part of the process is pricing their work. Yes, ME ME ME, I hate pricing too. It makes me feel uncomfortable in a whole rainbow of ways. There are many complex reasons why it’s such a challenge. Not valuing your work is one of the things that every creative person fights. The ‘I’m not good enough’, the ‘will people really pay money for this?’. You want people to be able to afford your work if they love it. Maybe it even feels like you get so much joy out of what you do it seems kind of ridiculous to charge money for it. But if you want to keep a roof over your head and food on your table, the money part is something that you can’t ignore.

Of course, you look at what else is out there that’s similar to what you do and you compare your prices to what other people are charging. There will always be people out there charging more and less than you do. It’s kinda sad when you see someone who clearly undervalues and undercharges for their work. Other artists often complain that this makes it hard for people who are ‘serious’ about selling their work to charge a fair price.

There is one thing that kind of gets my goat about pricing lampwork beads. Charm bracelets. Pandora, Troll, etc. First, let me tell you that I got one for my birthday, and I will fully admit that I’m into it. I hardly ever wear jewelry when I’m just doing my thing during the day, but I do wear this. It’s really sturdy, really comfortable, and I don’t even have to take it off to shower.

Although I make my own ‘big hole beads’ to wear on my bracelet, I also buy the ‘real thing’ too… once in a while. What I find amazing is that people do not even BLINK when it comes to paying $30 – $50 for a single glass bead made by one of the big charm bracelet companies. A bead that is produced thousands and thousands of times over.

I bought this one yesterday:

Trollbeads Scirocco bead


It’s an ‘authentic’ Trollbead, and it cost me $35 including tax.

Trollbeads Summer Meadow

This bead is $45. It’s nice and everything. But look how plain it is! Did I mention that it’s $45?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking the commercial bracelet brands – after all, I buy their stuff too, and I love it.

But here’s the thing – I’ve yet to see a lampworker charge more than $30 for a bead that’s made for these bracelets. Why is that? They’re made very lovingly, and usually they’re one of a kind, or made in very small series – so they’re much more unique than the ones you can buy in a store.

Why the price difference?

I think it’s really about perceived value. If you walk into a jewelry store to buy something, you just expect to pay more.

When you compare the price of one of these beads to other types of lampwork beads, this is where it starts to get interesting.

I listed this bead on Etsy today:Galaxy Focal bead by Uglibeads

I decided to charge $35 for it, and to be perfectly honest, I feel pretty guilty about it. That seems like a lot of money for a bead. But it’s complex – it has many layers, it has two kinds of silver in it, and I used a color of glass that costs $80 a pound. And it took time – and skill – to make.

But you know, I read something really smart a while ago, and the gist was that you can either put your work in the ‘worth it’ category, or… the other one.

I’d rather be worth it. If I don’t value my work, why should anyone else?

I resolve to stop feeling guilty about charging fair prices for my work. My beads are special, they’re made with love, they’re often one-of-a-kind, and they’re TOTALLY worth it.


basic black

I made a set of black and white beads recently and had a few inquiries as to what type of black glass I used to get the totally black black designs on white:Black and white beads - UglibeadsThe problem that we beadmakers run into with black is that plain old Effetre black, when used as surface decoration over white, can get a ‘purple-ish’ look to it. The source of the problem is that Effetre black is not actually opaque – it’s dark transparent purple. So of course, when you layer it over white, it looks purple. In this pic you can see what I’m talking about. Or maybe you can’t. I just realized how small and useless this pic is:

black and white beads

See those purple-y lines? Kinda? Yep. When you’re going for a nice crisp black and white, those aren’t cool. I struggled with this for the LONGEST time until I wised up (thanks to somebody’s post on lampworketc.). It’s all about the Reichenbach Deep Black, people. Purple problems solved.

It’s amazing that you can be a beadmaker for so long and not know this. Years of frustration.

Reichenbach black is significantly more expensive than Effetre, so it’s totally fine to use Effetre as the base for your black and white beads. It’s only when you layer the black over white that you need to use the denser black.

Another option is to use Effetre Intense Black, which I have also used, but I must say I much prefer the Reichenbach. Some people have had luck with Vetrofond black, but I’m not a fan, as I had some cracking issues with it a while back. I did some research, and other people have had the same problem. So I steer clear.

In other news, I have a couple of projects that I am REALLY REALLY supposed to be working on this week. So of course, I’m playing with things that have nothing to do with these projects. The other night at the end of a midnight torching session these just floated down from the heavens. What could be more inspiring than avoiding your creative obligations…?

Galaxy Beads - Uglibeads

Galaxy beads, what??

Oh, and don’t worry about those projects… I’m like a diamond.

I shine under pressure.

Yes, you may roll your eyes now.

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.

out with the old, in with the new

Encased floral bead - Julie Wong Sontag - Uglibeads

As a beadmaker, after a while you start to become known for certain things. When you make the same kinds of beads over and over, your customers and fans anticipate seeing more of the same from you.

Since I re-joined the beadmaking world, what I sell on my Facebook page is mostly ‘flower beads’, like the one in the photo above. I’ll tell you a secret: the only reason I make them is because I know they make other people happy. It all started with my Mom. When I was a new beadmaker, my flower beads were the first thing that my Mom went absolutely nuts over. When I show her one and watch her reaction, I can tell that they make her heart sing. And what could be better than impressing Mom?

Getting back into beadmaking, it was natural to gravitate toward something that makes my Mom happy – she’s been my biggest fan since the early days and I love to make things that she loves. There’s also the lure of the ‘Encased Floral Bead’, as beadmakers call them… they’re one of those things that a lot of people try to get the hang of in the beginning. It’s not easy to get everything just ‘right’, so when you do it feels like you’ve triumphed over a melty, hot substance that has a mind of its own.

I’ve made a bunch of flower beads now, and it’s been exciting because I get to send them out to family, to old friends, and to new friends – all over the world. They’ve been a way to connect with people – just by bringing a little beauty and happiness into people’s lives. But you know what? The more flower beads I make, the less I want to make them. They don’t make MY heart sing. Sure, when I look at one that works out perfectly, I feel happy and proud, and I really, truly do like making them.

But lately my creative spirit has been pulled in different directions. I’ve got a head filled with new ideas, stuff I can’t wait to try… and there are no flowers in there. Not like the ones I’ve been making, anyway.

So, a crossroads. Flower beads, yes or no?


I agonized over the decision – I mean, when you do this for a living, selling stuff is good, and when you make something that people like, and buy, it’s tempting to devote yourself to making more of that. But what if I could come up with new things that people also like (and buy), things that DO make my heart sing? That would be even better.

I discussed it with Mom, Chief Flower Bead Lover, and she said something about how they weren’t really ‘me’ anyway. She’s right. I’m happy letting them go, because I know there are hundreds of people out there who are known for making amazingly beautiful flower beads… and I’m not one of them.

I’m not saying that I’ll never make a flower bead again, ever. I’ll just save them for special occasions.

You’re wondering why I would decide to abandon the flower bead in the middle of my ‘flower bead every (other) day in May’ thing… It’s good timing actually – this makes the rest of the month a farewell tour of sorts. I’ll try to come up with some really good ones for you. If you’ve had your eye on a flower bead, the time is now! Each one will be made with joy and love, and extra special attention, knowing that there won’t be many more.

If you’re one of those people who bought one (or many!) of my flower beads, you should know that it’s because of YOU that I can’t wait to get up every morning and try to become better at what I do. You reminded me that beads are so much more than small, pretty pieces of glass. You got me going again, and for that I’m eternally grateful. And, you now own a special, rare piece of my journey as an artist.

Are you up for a new adventure?

“Sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction.” – Unknown

beeauty is in the eye of the beeholder

Julie Wong Sontag - Uglibeads

One day I was doodling, and I came up with a little drawing of a bumblebee. Who doesn’t love bees? I’ve always been drawn to them. When I was little, I went to a honey farm, and the owner explained to us that a bee would rather sting itself than sting a person. He held the bee in his hand, and well, it stung him. Nonetheless, it was the start of a lifelong fascination with these industrious little creatures.

A little while ago, I finally sat down to bring my drawing to life, and the finished product came out just exactly the way I had imagined it. Except cuter, maybe. Of course, I posted a photo of my new creation on my Facebook page and in a jewelry makers’ group I belong to. People went insane for these little guys. There’s something about them that just makes people happy inside.

Sometimes I wonder about making these ‘cute’ things. When I think about my goals as a beadmaker, being the person who makes ‘cute’ things is not on my list. I think, maybe if I stopped making things with eyes on them, people would take me more seriously. I mean, don’t we all want to be taken more seriously?

Everyone who creates things probably strives to make ‘art’. I don’t hesitate to call myself an Artist, because I occasionally work in other media – drawing, painting, photography, etc. Things that are considered ‘real’ art. I went to art school, and that’s totally legit, right?  As much as beadmakers like to insist – up, down and sideways – that we’re artists, the reality is that what we do is really more like fine craft. I see the term ‘artisan’ used a lot, and that seems fitting. Everyone has their own take on the art/craft debate, and I think it’s ok that we all see ourselves at different places on that spectrum. Call yourself whatever resonates for you. It’s your identity – go ahead and claim it.

There may come a day when I decide to stop making ‘cute’ things, but today is not that day. You know what? Little glass bees make people smile.

And that’s worth something.



Nothing makes a beadmaker’s heart go pitter-pat quite like a new tool. These were a birthday present from my sister – lucky me! They’re called ‘beadrollers’, and I ordered them from a small company called cgbeads. They are made of nice smooth graphite, and they have cavities of different sizes that you roll your bead in to shape it.

I was sort of on the fence about beadrollers. There’s a certain pride involved in shaping your beads by hand. But the fact is, when you’re trying to make beads that match perfectly in size, it’s an exercise in frustration. Usually I have to make 3 times the number of beads I’m aiming for to get two that match.

So, beadrollers.

They sell these in all kinds of shapes – it was tough to decide on which ones to get. I settled on one for the ‘Pandora/Trollbeads’ type beads, and one for round round beads. Believe it or not, it’s actually not that easy to create a ‘marble round’ bead – naturally, they want to be kind of a donut shape.

I’m excited to get to the torch today to play with my new toys.

And you know what?

It’s Day 30.

a long way down

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 12.12.51 PM

I’m not sure whether I got off the horse or fell off the horse, but either way it was a bit of a rough landing. Here’s an important life lesson: it’s much easier to stay on the horse than it is to get back on.

I’ve been doing so well with my 30 day challenge – in fact, it’s almost over (Day 28 today!). But last week I had a bit of a fall. It always starts with a small stumble. On Wednesday I was REALLY feeling a day off. Just one day. Well, that felt good, so I didn’t work on Thursday. Or Friday. Not only did I not work, I kind of disappeared. No blog, hardly any Facebook… quiet. It was odd, but at the same time, oddly liberating.

When you’re running a business online, you have to put yourself out there… constantly. As an artist, you’re always kind of on the edge of your seat, waiting to see if people will like your stuff. On Facebook this is especially true since people can literally ‘Like’ what you post. I try not to worry about it too much. Some days you can’t help but sigh a little… Someone posts a bead and gets 225 Likes, you post a bead and get 4. But it’s important to remind yourself that you can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Many of the people posting beads on Facebook have been around, posting beads, for 5, 8, 10 years and have developed quite a following. Everyone starts somewhere.

Back to the days off, and the derailment of the 30 day challenge. Putting yourself out there all the time can actually be kind of exhausting. It’s a lot of work. In the end, it’s totally worth it – building relationships and communicating with people because of things you have created is just the absolute best. It might be better, even, than actually making things. But something you should know about me is that I am NOT an ‘out there’ person. TOTAL introvert. Every introvert who has to put themselves on display is bound to turtle at some point. Turtles, I know you’re out there, do ya feel me?

So I turtled. You know, I had about a day and a half of the ‘sads’. I just felt blue and I couldn’t tell whether I was sad because I wasn’t working, or if I wasn’t working because I was sad. But when that passed, I started to feel some mental creative space opening up. Energy started to flow… scribbling on Post-Its with little drawings of things I wanted to remember… new ideas. Exciting ideas. I think when you’re totally focused on a certain color palette or design scheme (which I usually am), there isn’t a lot of space for new ideas. So the slowing down, it’s a good thing.

I always say that creativity is cyclical. I really admire beadmakers who can put stuff out there, day after day after day. But for me, there is ebb and flow.

You know, I’ve always loved the ocean.



You’ve probably read my ‘About’ page, so you know the story behind my business name, Uglibeads. Making beautiful things is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to get through the ‘beginner’ stages, and all the work that goes along with not knowing what the heck you’re doing. Inevitably, there are some seriously ugly things just lurking in the recesses of your mind, waiting to be born.

Having recently returned to beadmaking after a pretty long absence, I believe in the ‘Uglibeads’ philosophy more than ever. But I realized that I’ve never shown actual examples of these ‘ugly’ beads I keep talking about. Since you’ve never seen them, you may think that they don’t exist. Let me reassure you that this is not the case.

For your amusement, I’ve selected a few of my fugliest Fuglibeads. The Fuglibeads Hall of Fame, if you will.

First, we have a bead that contracted some horrifying disease. Thankfully, it wasn’t contagious.


Next, an outtake from my series of wonderfully bright beads. Your eyes do not deceive you. Indeed, I made this deformed, dazzling pyramid of awesomeness.


I made this too. It’s from my ‘Dirty Earth Ball’ series.


When I look at these beads I just remind myself that it’s all part of the process. In all seriousness, it IS all about practice, and making lots and lots of ugly beads. Since I’ve been thinking about this whole practice thing, I took a photo of the very first beads I made when I got my own torch and set it up at home, on my apartment balcony (a Hothead torch – a little torch that screws on to a 1 lb canister of Mapp gas).  I was practicing stringer control. If you’re new to lampworking and you want to practice stringer control, for the love of god, do not choose WHITE. It’s the softest, meltiest glass there is, and as you can see, it’s hard to handle…


If you’ve seen the stuff I’ve been making recently (click here if you haven’t), you can see that practice makes… better. The mistakes and the Fuglibeads all add up to experience, and experience makes everything possible… Eventually.

In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for the next bead to induct into the Fuglibeads Hall of Fame. I know it’s coming, probably sooner rather than later.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass