Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why do Artist-Made Lampwork Beads Cost More?

There are a lot of people selling "artist-made" lampwork beads out there, and the sheer variety can be extremely confusing for the consumer. In particular, the range of prices can generate consumer questions. Why can one seller list twelve handmade beads for $4.50 ... total ... whereas other sellers list five small beads for $25? Both say the beads are handmade ... and neither are lying. So why is there such a cost differential?

Infernoglassbeads has wonderful, clear post on the topic. So if these are questions that you have asked, or if you want to know about the start-up costs of a lampworking studio, or the cost of glass, or why "handmade" doesn't always equate to "artist" or "artisan" made ... take a look at this excellent post.

As far as the cost of materials and tools goes, here are some links so that you can see for yourself what lampworkers' materials and tools cost.

Presses: One good place for presses is Zoozii's. You can also google other excellent press manufacturers such as Cattwalk or Mike's Brass for Glass, or look at the entry for presses in The Glass Haven's Knowledge Base. Check out the press prices. I personally have eleven presses ... and I know lampworkers with many more. At $50-$70 a pop, that's a hefty investment.

Glass: Look at the variation of price per pound depending on what the glass does. All of these manufacturers are competitive in their pricing ... but each type of glass has its own qualities, and generally cannot be substituted easily.
Trautman Art Glass, Flame Tree Glass, FlameDame Glass

Kilns: Chek out these costs--Jen Ken Kilns, Chili Pepper.

Tools: Just poke around Arrow Springs' Catalog for a good idea of cost. Want a shopping list for outfitting a studio? You'll want about 50 mandrels, some bead release, tweezers, a couple of marvers -- minimum. And that's on a Hot HEad torch. Want to upgrade? Check out the torch costs- and remember to get hoses, fuel, a regulator, connectors, and an oxygen source. You can use a $200 tank (before you fill it with oxygen), or you can buy an oxygen concentrator. I have two of these.

Eye protection: You can't work without eye protection, and you'd better have decent ventilation, too.

Then there's practice time. I made beads for four months before I began to sell them .... and they were just tiny ones. There's always beads that go wrong that one can't sell. So factor in all that expense, and at least three months to a year before you can even begin to sell beads.

Can one cut corners? Yes--there's a lot of found tools, and I know lampworkers who practiced using bottle glass first. But all the same, this is an expensive craft!

I hope that helps further explain the cost of artisanal beads :)

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