Wednesday, 23 May 2012

700 beads!

I have a little task to be getting on with, its going to keep me rather busy, but as Anna Clifton put it, it is very exciting!

Anna contacted me just over a week ago to ask if I would be interested in working on a fantastic commission she has received from Edgbaston High School.  You bet I would!

The piece is to be a 2.4m high framed sculpture to be displayed in the school's new entrance hall.  Anna explains all about it in her own blog

So while Anna gets on with lots of metal cutting, bashing and soldering, my job is to make beads as a backdrop for her housemartins, leaves and triangles.  Originally we thought I'd need to make 640 beads (yep, six hundred and forty beads!) but to be sure there's enough, I'm actually going to aim at around 700.  Daunted?  Rather!  Oh, and the beads need to be 16-20mm wide and made on 4mm mandrels.

I thought it would be good keep the Midlands connection going, so I ordered 5kg of clear glass rods from UK glass makers Plowden & Thompson in Stourbridge.  Did you know that 2012 is the 400th anniversary of glass making in Stourbridge?

I expected to start work on Friday 11th May and the beads need to be ready by the beginning of August, AT THE LATEST!.  I think I need to pace myself or I may completely disappear under a mound of clear beads, so I've worked out there's 70 days until 22nd July, which gets the job finished before my birthday and leaves some time in hand to make any adjustments.  I should be able to manage to make ten beads a day for 70 days, shouldn't I?

Well, best laid plans and all that.  I missed the glass delivery on Friday so didn't actually get started until Monday.  The P&T glass is fantastic - its 93 COE so my two oxycons come in handy, but the glass is lovely to melt.  Its not shocky or scummy and is incredibly tolerant of getting a little cool.  In fact, I'm getting two beads to a mandrel with no trouble at all. Good job actually, as of course, this week my Etsy shop has come to life with orders for beads made on 4mm mandrels.  Doh - good job I ordered another 15 mandrels then.  

Anyway, I got off to a great start on Monday with 22 beads made, and around another 16 on Tuesday.  The extra mandrels have now arrived so there should be no excuse for falling behind.

Slight problem though, in Anna's brief she said "I don't think the beads need to all be perfectly round and I'm happy for them to be a bit cloudy" - two descriptions that aren't necessarily as easy as they sound.  To make sure the beads are big enough, I need to use a tool to shape them and my biggest round shaper is a CG beadroller donut that goes up to 18mm.  Some variation in size is required - I'm managing that by not being too perfectly precise with the roller, producing the occasional bead that's a little larger or smaller than the cavity.  But this glass is incredibly clear and shiny (I reckon it gives DH Zephyr a run for its money) so the finish may be too bright for Anna's requirements.  

Maybe a very light etching would work, but I'm giving tumbling a go first of all.  The tumbler has been running for about 3 hours now, with around 20 beads in there together with steel shot and a load of garden gravel.  I didn't clean out the bead release before putting them in, I'm really hoping that tumbling will roughen em up and clean em out ... we'll see!

Oh, and I see Anna's blogged again :0)  (I made the beads in her photo with the last of my scummy old Effetre 004)


  1. Looking good Julie.

    I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished piece.
    (though I don't envy you making all those beads...

  2. Really interested to see the outcome of the tumbling Julie.