My love of lampworking began in 2002 with a search for unusual items to use in my jewelry designs. While searching on eBay I found a wealth of lampwork beads to choose from. I was soon buying dozens of auctions a month. Most of them would make their way into one of my jewelry creations, but sometimes I wouldn’t be able to part with a certain set of beads and would stash them away for my own collection. I became friends with the artists who I bought from on a regular basis. I would talk to them about color, design and technique. They in turn would tell me that I should learn to make them myself.
I guess at this point I need to backup a little and let you know that I come from a family of lapidaries. For many years during my teenage and young adult life my mother and father were members of several gem and mineral societies. They began selling at shows a dozen or so years ago. As they will tell you, I never showed much interest in what they did. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the handcrafted jewelry that my mom and dad made for me. During the summer of 2001 my father hurt his back. I went with them to help sell and set up while he was recuperating. It was a lot of fun. Over the coming months I went with my folks to all of their shows and expanded my knowledge of jewelry design and jewelry making tools and supplies.
The turning point for me was in the fall of 2001. I am a CPA by trade, Controller of a large Hospital and Medical Center. I wanted to give my staff of thirteen women a special Christmas gift. While at my Mom’s house, helping prepare for a show, I had a thought, wouldn’t it be nice to give them a handknotted pearl necklace and earring set! My mom’s reply was “I don’t make thirteen of anything”. “If you want I will show you how and you can make them yourself”. I’ve always been crafty, knitting, crocheting, sewing and stenciling to name a few. But as my mom taught me to create jewelry I was hooked! I went on to make the thirteen pearl necklaces and my staff was shocked and amazed. From there my skills improved quickly.
One of the many skills my father acquired over his years as a lapidarian was bead making. First enamel beads and then lampworking. I loved the icicles my Dad made to sell at Christmas time. In the late summer of 2002 I asked my Dad to teach me lampworking. He said he thought I’d never ask! He set up two different torches, a Hot Head and a Minor Bench Burner and gave me my first lessons. I loved it. In my opinion the Minor beat out the HotHead by a mile. It was quieter and much less intimidating.
For Christmas that year they bought me a torch. We sell at Quartzsite Arizona every year and leave right after Christmas so I wasn’t able to fire up the torch right away. During the coming weeks my son worked on my studio, making sure the bench and ventilation were just right. I ordered a kiln, which is one of the most expensive single purchases for a lampworker. I actually ordered my kiln twice because I couldn’t make up my mind and ended up doing more research before I ended up with the same kiln I had ordered the first time. On March 1st 2003 I lit the torch in my own studio for the first time and began my wonderful journey into the art of taming hot glass. Now I am truly obsessed.
Working at the torch is so different from what I do at my “day job”. Being a Controller I spend the biggest part of my day supervising staff, reviewing numbers, making sure deadlines are met…high paced, high pressure. When I come home the suit is replaced with jeans and a t-shirt and the creative side of my brain takes over. I work on glass late into the night and can’t wait to get up the next morning to see what comes out of the kiln.