I didn’t even know that lampwork glass beadmaking was a ‘thing’ until I watched the fabulous Diana East at the torch flame make a bead before my very eyes at Art in Action 2003. This was my thunderbolt moment!
I booked on a weekend course that November, and was hooked right from the start. After doing a second course a couple of months later I knew I’d found what I hadn’t known I was looking for, and my journey into beadmaking was well and truly off the starting blocks.
I set up a workshop in my parents’ back garden – a shed was built and furnished with a torch, a kiln, a stash of glass and a little load of ‘goodies’ such as metal leaf, wire, millefiori chips, enamel, frit, and all sorts of other things I was desperate to play with to turn the beads in my imagination into glorious, perfect reality.
The glorious, perfect reality? Well, my first hours in the workshop were frustrating ones. I had felt that after those two courses I knew the basics and could launch myself right into the prettification of these little glass lovelies I was turning in the flame – but I was wrong! And felt silly. And ashamed. I was forgetting that all new things need PRACTICE.
I reined myself in, and spent evening after evening down the garden in the workshop doing just one thing repeatedly: heating glass in the torch flame, winding it round the mandrel, shaping it in the flame, popping it into the kiln to safely anneal, and then starting the next one. And the next. I was beginning to improve, and this new hobby of mine was becoming an obsession!
I’d pared it all back to being all about the ‘little and round’ – and that’s still my favourite shape of bead to make today. I realised fairly soon that there is no 100% right or wrong way to do things – as long as I was safe, I was comfortable, and what I was doing was working for me. Fifteen years later, those are the most important three things I tell my beadmaking students!
When I moved house I built another workshop, this time with two workstations, and this meant I had the space to teach other people how to let fire inspire them to make their own beads. It was then a bigger leap when I moved house again – because this time I made a very big decision: to rent a workshop. It’s kitted out with four workstations, and I find I can run more courses more often for more people, as well as making beads for my jewellery-making customers, and my own collection of jewellery for sale.
My workshop is at Village Works, which is a lovely collection of other creative businesses. There is a dressmaking studio and sewing school, a flower school, a photographer and a wood engraver. It’s close enough to home for it to be a 3-minute commute on foot, but with enough separation for me to be able to leave my work behind at the end of the day. The pub is halfway – which especially in the summer can often mean a much, much more time-consuming commute home!
Turning a hobby into a business is a really big deal. To start with, my ‘business premises’ were in the back garden, so my location costs were relatively minimal. But renting the workshop, and of course having to have all of the other things like telephone, broadband, power, a different kind of insurance to my original ‘working from home’ policy, banking and the other things that get rolled up into what my accountant calls ‘cost of doing business’, does of course add up.
But I’m making a go of it. And I’m very proud of my workshop, and my work, and my ever-growing band of new beadmakers I have had the privilege of tutoring in this captivating craft. So, if you ever get the chance to let fire inspire – or indeed to be captivated by your own ‘thunderbolt moment’ with a new passion, whatever that may be – I’d recommend you to go for it!
Thanks for sharing, Rebecca! Be sure to check out her sites. 🙂