These images are exactly how I saw beads when I thought about them – until I started designing jewellery with them and then going on to make them. The images shown above are of mass produced beads.
Mass produced beads are often made in countries where the standards in the work environment represent a serious health hazard for the worker and at a wage that keeps the makers in poverty. The beads are then sold on to retailers, such as hobby and craft outlets. They usually still contain bead release (have a look next time you are in a hobby/craft store), and we know from a previous blog that bead release can contain aluminium silicate and crystalline silica, which presents the buyer with nuisance dust and an inhalation hazard. Plus, finished items of jewellery made with these beads often leave dust on skin and clothing.
Mass produced beads are inferior in that they are usually not annealed (the process of heating and cooling the glass to stabilise and strengthen – see my other beady blogs) which means the glass will remain brittle and easily breakable. In many cases, the beads are not shaped properly, which can leave sharp edges, which is a result of daily quota requirements as a first priority, rather than terrible bead-makers. There is no real incentive for a retailer of mass-produced beads to make efforts in quality control or to be in any way accountable for the integrity of their product, as their personal reputation is not at stake.
Lampwork Artists, however, have invested heavily in their studio and equipment, make their own tools and have spent considerable time as well as blood, sweat and tears, learning and perfecting their art and take pride in their work. Each time a lampwork artisan sells a bead or a piece of jewellery made with our hand-crafted beads, we stake our personal reputation on the quality of our work. We also constantly strive to provide unique and innovative designs and invent new techniques to express our ideas and provide even more choice.
Ok, that’s the ‘rant’ part over! I hope you found it informative. Let’s take a look at some lampwork beads….Yum!
I love the organic looking effects that can be achieved using silvered ivory, dichroic, silver-glass ‘twisties’, ‘frit’ and a pair of pliers and ‘pokey’ things (plus a knowledge of the reactive qualities of the glass used)!
So many possibilities – so much glass, so little time! I love my job…..
So when you think about beads, what pops up in your imagination now….? Don’t you think that the word ‘bead’ is too small 😉