I'm almost back down to earth after the most wonderful weekend at the 4th annual UK lampwork festival, the Flame Off 2011.
I was both thoroughly honoured and utterly horrified to be invited to join the elite team of Demonstrating Artists this year, along with my lovely friend Kaz Baildon, Marshall and Caitlin Hyde of Corning, New York and Michi Suzuki, a Japanese glass artist living in France.
The demonstrations take place on the first floor at Towcester Racecourse, in a lovely bright room with seating for about 300 people. Don't get me wrong, I'm a proper show off and love any opportunity to strut my stuff on the torch, but there's a lot of very clever glassy folk in a Flame Off audience - and then there's the Madonna-style mic and cameras too!
The images are beamed to screens dotted all around the building, there's even a screen in the coffee area.
Kaz was first up (phew, I was so glad it wasn't me up there!) and she did a great job. She was so relaxed and even stayed calm when the bead release broke and she had to think on her feet! Well done, Kaz, you're a pro!
After Marshall and Caitlin did their thing, it was soon my turn - I can honestly say that I don't remember a time when I was more nervous than during this 45 minutes.
For my first demo, I made one of my large Seaside Heart beads, a complicated undertaking (about as complicated as I get, anyway!) with lots of components and techniques. I also squeezed in a little stamped button, to show off the new button tool that has been made for me by Beadpress. These tools sold out very quickly but the good news is that more have already been made and will be available from my website very soon.
Michi's bead was so intricate and her demo was definitely enhanced by Marshall's commentary!
On Saturday we did it all again (my second demo of buttons and a toggle bead was much more relaxed, phew!) and we also took part in a 45 minute Q&A session which had been typed as Artist Queen Time (instead of Question Time!) so we got off to a fun start!
As well as demonstrating, we all had sales tables at the event too so it was a very busy few days, and I was having such a great time that I decided to stay on for the Sunday bead fair as well.
I was lucky to take a class with Caitlin on Thursday and enjoyed watching her work on one of her signature mandala beads, she has such a beautiful voice and gentle style. Marshall is so much fun and has a unique stance at the torch - he doesn't like to sit down, I think he needs to be ready for anything! I bought a bunny like Caitlin demonstrated on the Saturday, here it is with my Marshall monkey that I bought at Stourbridge last year.
I spent most of the three days up on the first floor but there was even more fun going on downstairs, with traders tables, the coffee area, Frit Happens forum meeting point and lots of torch benches set up where newcomers can have a go and old hands can show off! Take a look at Richard Downton's fantastic photo album for a brilliant taste of the Flame Off.
I have to say how much I love my life/job - everybody I meet that is in any way involved with this wonderful glassy world is just so friendly, sharing and passionate about all things beady. And I also must say a very very big Thank You to all at Tuffnell Glass for organising the Flame Off, and for inviting me to take part - Thank You TG, it was a true honour xx ... now, when can we all do it again?!
Back home now and its time to update the website and get to work on some new beads.