In 2007, I began my journey into lampworking. Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to set up two very different personal studios. I moved into my current studio in 2014, after needing a larger space. The studio is tucked away on the second floor of an old tyre factory, which was built in the 1950’s in the former industrial area of Richmond in Victoria, Australia.
The two biggest challenges I face in my studio are extreme temperatures and dust. Temperatures range from 5 degrees celsius during winter nights and up to 50 degrees celsius on summer days. In 2016, I put up UV and heat reflective film on the windows and installed a portable air conditioner, which has helped keep the studio at more moderate temperatures. However, there has been no solution to the endless dust buildup, in fact it has gotten worse as the building ages.
Every few years I move everything around in my studio, as my work habits and practices shift. In late 2016 I remodeled the studio to make better use of the space. Updating the studio was a great opportunity to shift things around after four years in the same configuration, it felt like a whole new space. In 2019, I reorganised everything again to reduce the clutter.
From 2007 until 2015 I worked exclusively on a Nortel Minor Burner which was connected to a second hand 5lpm DeVilbiss Oxygen Concentrator and tanked gas in BBQ bottles. During that time I also batch annealed all of my beads in a custom made kiln by GE & GE kilns and cooled everything down in an old orange crockpot full of vermiculite. In 2010 I upgraded to a new 10lpm Commercial oxygen concentrator (overkill for a Minor Burner but I knew eventually I’d upgrade my torch). I replaced my Minor with a second hand Nortel Mega Minor Burner in 2015. At the same time I decided to retire my GE & GE kiln from bead annealing and replace it with a second hand Paragon Bluebird XL kiln, so that I could go flame to kiln. By lampworking standards, my torch and kiln are not fancy, but I really enjoy working with Nortel torches and I tend to stick to what I know.
After a decade of batch annealing I finally got tired of my large beads sometimes not making it through the vermiculite cool down process. I moved away from making small beads fairly quickly in my lampworking journey, favouring larger hand shaped beads or cigarette shaped beads. As my beads got longer and larger the chances of cracking in vermiculite increased. After having one too many beautiful beads crack, I upgraded my kiln and saved my sanity. I occasionally batch anneal still, particularly if I’m doing ten or so spacer beads on one mandrel.
I’m an advocate for working within a budget. I used to be on a really tight budget but I gave up a few of my other crafts in the last few years and put all my spare cash to this one fantastic obsession with glass. I’d also prefer to spend money on glass than on clothing, so there is that too. I’ve always made beads for my own finished jewellery designs, which I’ve then sold either on commission through galleries and stores or directly to customers. I rarely sold my beads on their own. However life changed after giving birth in 2018 and in 2019 I began selling my individual beads. I absolutely hate taking photos because I’m an awful photographer, which is also another reason why I don’t have a lot of photos of my older beads. I’m slowly getting better at digital photography (because I have to) and I have a better catalogue of what I have made now.
I have a fairly good collection of tools, presses and glass from a number of different suppliers. I suppose after twelve years I would have a little bit of a collection going. I’m always buying second-hand bits and pieces and like to experiment with making my own tools from found objects. I’m a hoarder of glass and tools. I rarely sell something even if I don’t like it, I make that admission sincerely.
I love my studio space and I worked hard for it. It took a solid six months of gentle haranguing to convince the owners to rent me that room (they were worried I’d burn the place down). It took a really long time to save up for a hotter torch and a decent kiln, because I was adamant my bead making should pay for itself. I put a lot of planning into this studio to get it “just right” for me because I didn’t want to repeat the mistakes I made with my first studio.
Over the years I’ve put more and more thought into how I want the studio space to feel. I love being grounded by nature and I love working in an idiosyncratic space that houses my collection of vintage bric a brac as well as my lampworking and soldering gear. The temperature range in my studio is too extreme except for the hardiest of plants, such as cacti. Most of the cacti that was in the studio have since been rehomed at my house, where they grow a lot better. My studio is an extension of my self and like myself, it is a constant work in progress.