Thursday, June 4, 2009

Beads of Courage: Butterfly Beads

Marcy Lamberson has blogged about Robert Simmons' new take on butterfly beads using white enamel and copper leaf. Robert's beads are the top picture. He's the National Director for Bead Donations for the Beads of Courage program. He also is a wonderful person and an excellent teacher--only Robert could tell a group of lampworkers about the chemical composition of etching fluid, and its dangers (this stuff can eat down to the bone!), and have all of us raring to go out and etch some more ... carefully.

Butterfly beads are given to parents whose children didn't survive their illness. The problem with many sculptural butterfly beads is that, while they are beautiful, they can also be delicate.
Unless the wings are carefully attached, they are likely to chip or snap off. It's not a problem if the parents want to display the bead, but many want to wear it and keep it close.

Robert has made an excellent tutorial on making these beads; you can see pictures at the Southern Flames website.

The second and third pictures are of both sides of my first butterfly bead. I rather pretentiously named it "From Bonds Arising," and added copper mesh to signify the prison fence of the body that the child has escaped. The bead can be wired so that it can be worn as a pendant.

If you do not want to use enamels, I have found that adding copper leaf over a dot of Opal Yellow will give a lovely green color, as seen in these beads from last year. I think if you add a dot of Opal Yellow where you want your butterfly to be that you can achieve a similar look. If you want to use fine 40 or 42 gauge copper sheeting, the butterfly will turn a lovely shade of pink if you use it over Reichenbach frits in the pink and red family, as seen in this focal (it's a dragonfly, so just imagine it as a butterfly, k?).

Robert's tutorial (and my tips) are freely offered to the lampworking community. Please consider making--and donating--some of these butterfly beads to Beads of Courage.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I'm Finally Back . .. with Chunky Discs

*whew!* It's good to be back, having some time to torch. The semester is over, the cold that laid me out flat for nearly two weeks, sleeping 20+ hours a day, has gone, and my Memorial Day guests are a very pleasant memory.

The first day back at the torch I didn't make much of anything of note; as always, I was trying to get my mojo back. I spent some time experimenting with copper inclusions, and will post about that later in the week. Yesterday I decided that the time had come to conquer my chunky disc press. I'm pretty good with presses in general, but my results were pretty hit and miss. However, I had some of my sister's (That Frit Girl) fantastic specialty blend frits to play with, and I was determined to master the press.

We went toe to toe, and at first it looked as if I was going to lose, again -- Press 3, Andrea 0. I started with plain pale turquoise, because I have a *lot* of that glass. A couple beads were too wonky (so before the bead release flaked off in the press I turned the gather into a tube for Beads of Courage), but then perseverence, or maybe that steely glint in my eye, paid off. (I think the steely glint is due to perspiration ... it gets hot in my kitchen nook!) I got three nice ones -- a little dimply, but within the bounds of "artistic" :). Then I decided to press my victory and I tried frit, using "Sedna," which I really love. The problem with using frit and a disc press, of course, is where do you dip? For once I think I need to make a deeper frit tray; all mine are shallow. Anyway, I solved the problem by carefully rolling a layer of frit into the bead, adding more pale aqua, and then adding frit--watching for that 10% rule!

I finished the session, not with disc beads, but with some flat bottomed crunches. I love the shape; they lie so nicely on a bracelet or necklace! But they are a pain to make if you want precise sizes, as I first shape them in a Cattwalk tab press and then crunch them. The advantage to that process, of course, is not just consistent sizes, but the lack of those strongly indented ends. Mind you, those ends work really well with a Swarovski crystal nestled into them, so I make those too. Anyway, these beads are made with my sister's frit blend, "My sister's socks." It makes referents a tad awkward, because I always feel I should call them "my socks." Anyway, she made the frit for me, to match the cheerfully mismatched, candy-colored cotton socks I like to wear. This is a fun blend, and I thought the fun crunch shape was a good match for it.

It's time to torch! So I will leave you with a new picture of an older set:

ry hit