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Intermediate Beadmaking - Dots! (Mainly)

We mainly covered dots and variants of dots in this class. These are notes to help you continue practicing at home. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I am typically easier to reach via email.

General safety

1. Pull your hair back, wear natural fibers that fit close to the body (hot glass loves jumping down shirts) since they’re less flammable, wear closed-toe shoes.
2. Always be aware of where you are in relation to your flame. Don’t reach into it, under it, or through it.
3. Glass and tools remain hot after you use them. Keep this in mind - keep them sorted so the hot end is always facing the same way. Use the same end of the glass rod every time so only one side is hot.
4. Keep water nearby for glass bits, cooling tools, or burnt fingers.
5. Proper ventilation is important - you should have an air outflow and inflow.
Prep work
1. Clean any glass before using it. Clean your hands as well. This will help make cleaner beads - especially with transparent colors.
2. Pull off any scummy ends by heating them and pulling them off with pliers.
3. Dip mandrels in bead release - let air dry or slowly introduce to the flame to flame dry as you use them. Check the bead release to see if they need to be air dried.
4. To pull a stringer, heat the end of a rod to a gather. Remove it from the flame for a few seconds to let it “skin” over. Pinch a small part with pliers, and pull it. Make sure you have a secure grip with the pliers, pull slower for a thicker stringer and faster for a thinner one. Flame cut the end. If it’s too long, you can flame cut it into as many manageable parts as needed.
5. Silvered ivory stringer - heat the end of a rod of ivory. You want it warm, not molten. (Dark and light react differently.) Take a small piece of silver, wrap it around the warm rod, and burnish it in. (Burnishing is pushing it so it’s all firmly attached to the glass.) Melt it into a gather, and pull as you would a normal stringer. This will be more fragile than a normal stringer.
6. Quick stringer - if you’ve forgotten to pull stringer before starting a bead and don’t have a spare hand, heat the end of a rod to a gather, heat the tip of the mandrel (where the bead isn’t) and touch the gather to that and pull away as you would to form a stringer. Flame cut away from the mandrel, let cool before picking up, and use as needed.

Basic round bead

1. Heat the mandrel to glowing.
2. Heat the glass into a gather.
3. Make a small wrap on the mandrel, keep adding glass and letting it melt in to shape the bead. Patience, steady spinning on the mandrel, and adding glass a bit at a time will give you a good bead. A narrow footprint is best to start with as the glass will push down to create dimples on either side of the bead.
4. Keep the mandrel level, and in the “sweet spot” of the flame. There’s a diagram in my first article about bead position in the flame.
5. Spinning the mandrel slowly will allow heat to penetrate to the center of the bead. Spinning it quicker will let it heat the surface only.
6. Once you feel the bead is complete, heat it to glowing (still spinning the mandrel) but not molten. Remove it from the flame, still spinning, and let it cool until the glow is gone under a table. Place it in a fiber blanket to cool.

Basic dots

1. Make a basic round bead.
2. You can make dots with a rod, commercially pulled stringer, or your own stringer.
3. Let the base bead cool so it is hot, but not molten.
4. Heat the end of the rod or stringer. The more glass you heat, the larger your dot will be.
5. Touch the molten glass to the bead. Press into the bead so there is a firm connection. If a dot is undercut, or not attached, it can come off.
6. You can space dots out evenly, or place random sizes at random spots.
7. Ways to space dots evenly:
    A. Mark the mandrel with pencil gently so you know where you would like the dots to be.
    B. For 4 evenly spaced dots, you can place your first dot, turn the mandrel so that the dot is at the top of the bead, and place another dot in the center area facing you. Turn it again so that dot is at the top, place another dot, and repeat one more time for 4 dots.
    C. Another way to do 4 evenly spaced dots is to place a small dot of glass on the mandrel - not touching the bead. Place a dot on the bead, and turn the mandrel until you can’t see the glass dot on the mandrel, which should be the complete other side of the bead. Place another dot, then split the difference between the two for your remaining 2 dots.
8. Once you’ve placed all your dots, start spinning the mandrel a bit slower to let the glass melt in as much as you’d like.
9. If you would like to layer more dots over your initial ones, you can use a transparent and totally cover the initial dot, or an opaque and add a bit less glass so there’s a ring of the first color around the second. You can keep stacking dots of smaller sizes and let them melt in as much as you’d like.
10. Make sure the dots are all firmly attached and smoothed - no sharp parts - before you consider the bead finished.

Poked dots bead.

1. Make a basic dot bead with opaque dots.
2. Melt the dots in completely, and let the bead cool to hot but not molten. Add transparent dots over the opaque ones.
3. Let the transparent dots melt in completely.
4. Let the bead cool to hot, not molten. Spot heat each dot until glowing, and poke it with a pick or mandrel.
5. As you spot heat each dot, pick spots on opposite sides so you don’t overheat one side of the bead.
6. Whenever you poke dots, poke towards the center of the mandrel and the center of the bead so you don't misshape the bead.
7. Once all dots are poked, use another transparent - the same or a different color, or clear - to cover the poked holes. Heat the glass to a gather large enough to seal the air bubble in on all sides with one push. You do not want the glass you are adding to have a point, it will fill in the air bubble then.
8. Melt the second transparent layer in completely. The air bubbles will round up inside the bead.

Simple floral bead

1. Make a basic round bead.
2. Add opaque dots in clusters of 3 or 5. (Odd numbers seem more natural for flowers.) Make sure to not let the dots touch as they will melt in together then, and give them room to spread out a bit.
3. Melt in the first layer of dots, add transparent dots over them and melt them in.
4. Use a thin stringer to make centers for the flowers.
5. Let the bead cool to hot, not molten.
6. Spot heat the center of each cluster of dots.
7. Push the stringer into the center - this will draw the “petals” together. Leave a dot of the stringer color in the center.
8. Melt in the stringer as much as you’d like - it can remain as definite slightly raised dots, or be completely melted in.
9. Reheat the entire bead thoroughly before putting it in the fiber blanket or kiln.
10. Color combos we used and liked include white with any transparent over it, ink blue over periwinkle or sky blue, purples over pinks, etc. Different color combos will create different results.

Simple frit bead

1. Have frit in a non-meltable container ready to use before starting. Frits are very concentrated colors, you only need to use a little at a time - they will spread across the surface of the bead.
2. Make a base bead of whatever color you’d like.
3. Let the bead cool to hot, not molten. Reheat just the surface of the bead. (If the whole bead is molten, rolling it in frit can misshape it.)
4. With the surface of the bead hot, roll it in the frit. Don’t overdo it - you can always add more.
5. Melt the frit in - make sure it’s firmly attached to the base bead. You can melt it all the way in, or partway.
Encasing with stringers - method by Mary Lockwood (Moth)
1. Make a smooth base bead. Remember the encasing will increase the size of the bead.
2. Use a clean clear stringer to encase with. Pull off the end as it’s likely to be scummy.
3. Starting at one hole, wrap the stringer around the bead in one continuous motion. The bead should be out of the heat, and the stringer in the “sweet spot” to melt as it goes on the bead or immediately prior.
4. Do not go all the way to the mandrel with the stringer, but close to it. You can use a tool to push the hot glass closer to the edge of the bead.
5. Once the entire bead is covered with clear glass, slowly melt it in. You can touch up and add more glass if the base bead is “creeping” through the encasing.
6. This technique allows a thin encasing, perfect for florals that take many layers.

Encased floral bead.

1. I use an encased frit bead to make my floral beads.
2. Layer white glass, frit, and encase it.
3. Choose a flower color - opaque base and transparent second layer.
4. Build the flowers as shown in the floral bead steps, omitting the stringer center.
5. Once the flowers are melted in, make sure the bead is hot, not molten.
6. Spot heat the center of each flower, and poke it with a pick or mandrel. Move quickly so the pick does not get stuck. This pulls the center of the petals together to give a floral look.
7. Encase again with clear. Make sure to trap the air bubbles as you do so.
8. Reheat the bead with even heat, turning the mandrel at a steady rate, to smooth out the encasing.

Adding cubic zirconias

1. Prepare the CZ’s by using the flat ends of 1/16” mandrels.
2. Use any glue (Elmer’s, Aleene’s Tacky Glue) to glue the flat part of the CZ to the mandrel. Let dry thoroughly.
3. After poking the center of the flowers, spot heat each section and push a CZ into it using the mandrel to handle it. With enough heat, the CZ will “stick” and the glue will melt enough that the mandrel will slide away.
4. If any black residue is left from the glue, reintroduce it into the flame and it should burn off.
5. Encase and finish as usual.

Organic - ivory, silvered ivory, and intense black.

1. Ivory is a very reactive, “soft” color, ideal for organics on a HotHead torch.
2. Use more heat than you normally would, with little fear of burning the glass.
3. Build an ivory bead - any shape, but the glass may be shifting as it overheats.
4. Add random silvered ivory stringer, melt in.
5. Pull very, very, hair thin (or thinner) intense black stringer. I pull this off the end of the mandrel because it’s too thin to use pliers with.
6. Lay the intense black over the bead, melt in.
7. Heat, heat, heat the bead. You will be able to watch the intense black and silvered ivory spread. If you get the base bead hot enough to move, the glass will shift and encourage the colors spreading.
8. When you’ve decided the glass has spread enough and you like the pattern, reshape the bead to it’s final shape.
Using presses
1. Make sure the press is clean from the last use. Bead release can break off into presses.
2. When shaping the base bead, measure against the press size to see how much of the mandrel should be used. The width of the initial (pre-pressed) bead should be a bit smaller than the press size to allow it to spread.
3. You can also push polymer clay into the press for an ideal sized bead, roll it into a ball and bake it so you know how much glass to use.
4. When you have enough glass on the mandrel, make sure it is smooth and evenly spaced around the mandrel to make it easier for the press to work.
5. Remove it from the flame - you want it hot enough to move easily, but not sloppy hot.
6. Put the bead into the press, press with the top half. Do not hold the bead in the press too long as it will cool and crack.
7. Check to see if any bead release flaked off onto the bead surface when pressing - remove it before reintroducing into the flame.
8. Bring the bead back to the flame. Spot-polish each side to remove any chill marks.
9. If you need to add more glass to the bead holes so they’re not sharp, add a bit at a time and focus heat on that area to melt it in.

Suppliers are listed in my web links for both frit and presses.

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