Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Venerable Bead

There are no groups focusing on art quilts (however you define that term) in our rural middle-of-nowhere area.  So when I was invited to join VESTA, a group of professional artists and craftswomen, a few years ago, I jumped at the chance.  And one of the advantages of such a group is that each member brings skill and expertise in a different medium or technique.  Yesterday our monthly meeting took place at the home of a member who has been creating beautiful glass beads, and she had promised to demonstrate the process.  

Now I have an overactive imagination when it comes to disasters and so when she turned on the propane and explained she had to pep it up with oxygen, I was looking for how close I was to the door and already seeing the place in flames and the ambulances on the way.  And when she warned us that heating up the glass too fast made it explode into flying splinters I decided this was not for me.   But after she successfully created a jewel of a bead and turned to encourage one of us to give it a try, I found myself stepping forward.  

Making a bead involves keeping a glass rod turning over a flame.  You can't stop because the glass blob will follow the laws of gravity and drop off.  At one point I had to turn the glass rod and heat up another metal rod on which the bead will be wound, all the while keeping my fingers out of the flame.  In other words, I had to expose my lack of coordination to the entire group. Can she walk and chew gum at the same time?  Somehow the glass blob made it successfully onto the metal rod and I produced a reasonably round gleaming purple bead.  Flushed with my success I agreed to do another one, which immediately proved the first had been a fluke .  I managed to transfer a quite lopsided blob to the metal rod and had to work to get it evened out.    

And then, since no one else was leaping up to expose themselves to danger and ridicule, Kathy insisted I do a third.  Even bigger one this time, she said.  I was beginning to feel the rhythm of this but those shoulder muscles I use in FMQ were beginning to ache and so my last bead was indeed bigger but had some roundness issues.  
Certainly not enough beads to embellish a quilt.  But I gained an understanding of and an appreciation for the skill it takes to make even a simple glass bead.  And I have always loved the way light and glass produce magic.  Thanks, Kathy!

Oh--the title.  There was a medieval historian named Venerable Bede, who seemed to take himself way too seriously, and I always wanted to use his name in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.  So I can cross that off my life to-do list.  And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!


Susan said...

Beautiful! No doubt you will find the perfect project for your treasures!

IHaveANotion ~ Kelly Jackson said...

Ohhh I love the beads. I know what you mean about the fear of the flame and hot glass. I've seen it done and I too was fearful.

I thought I may be alone in the saving of words and phrases for just the right time....I enjoyed it....Thanks!!


Venbead said...

The Venerable Bead is my business name and I too melt glass to make beads and pendants. I got a google alert and I thought you were talking about me lol. That first bead is a thrilling experience! great job.