I have decided to start a journal to keep track of my work in glass. As of writing this (March 2008), I am 23 years old, and I have been working in glass for a little over two years. It is addictive to say the least!
My setup: I own a house with two other couples (it is separated into three suites, so we all have our own space). Most of them play in a band with me (I play cello and bass guitar). We have converted the house's garage into a studio for our band, and a portion of it is taken up by my lampwork station. It's really awesome to share the space with a band (sometimes, I even get to torch to the accompaniment of our drummer practicing - I have to stick in my earplugs, of course!)
I have been making jewelry for years, not exactly professionally (although I sold stuff on occasion, much of it stuff that I'm not too proud of nowadays!) - but the real thing I loved about making jewelry was buying beads. I was just obsessed. I loved everything about beads, so I guess it was a natural step for me to start making my own.
One Christmas, my mom got me a FABULOUS present - a class in beginning lampwork. She took it with me. It was true love right from the start. I remember getting home from that class feeling ecstatic and... well addicted. I just had to have more. I got a hot head torch and some sheet glass (spectrum 96 COE was what I started with). I just had little MAPP gas canisters for fuel. It was soo frustrating compared to the magic I'd experienced in the class, with minor burners and tanked O2. But I kept at it for a week or so, then decided I absolutely had to have a proper set up. This was something I wanted to do.
It cost me quite a bit of money! I bought a minor burner, which is run off propane and oxygen. I was going to rent oxygen tanks, but my mom was kind enough to splurge and buy me an oxygen concentrator. Soon afterwards I came up with the funds to buy a small kiln, also. The kiln was what excited my mom the most, she had been really into the idea of doing fused glass for a long time. For me it was all about the beads.
So, I still use: - a minor burner - a barbeque tank of propane - an oxygen concentrator - an AIM kiln with a bead-door so I can stick 'em in as I make 'em.
Once I was annealing my stuff properly in a kiln, I felt like I was ready to start selling. My first stuff was actually pretty good for a beginner, I think, even though when I look back on it, I'm a bit surprised some of it sold at all! Meanwhile my mom was getting into fusing, making small pieces in my kiln, but obviously needing something bigger. Come mother's day, I talked my dad into buying her a biig kiln so she could really get into her hobby.
Soon mom and I had the beginnings of a small business going. She was turning out all kinds of crazy experiments with her kiln, and I was churning out kilns full of beads. I was still using the spectrum sheet glass, which I wouldn't really recommend. It can definitely be done, but rods are just better. I haven't used any of the 96 COE glass in rod form, although I've heard there are some gorgeous colours. Spectrum has a decent colour pallette, but it is limited.
Anyway, I have more recently switched over to the 104 pallette, and have fallen in love. What is awesome is going to my glass supply store, and just picking out some random things, colours I don't have yet, whatever, then going home and figuring out what they will all do. There seems to be endless combinations, and often, many different ways even to work one particular glass. It's awesome!
So now, a few years into running our business, which we have called "Two Glassy Ladies", we have some established product lines going on. Mom has given up on lampwork, I think what did it for her was the time she grabbed a still-hot bead in the palm of her hand, and got a nasty burn. I've had my share of burns too, but it never put me off. But that's me! We do lots of flattened wine bottles because they are just super popular. My main job with the wine bottles is the grunt work - ie washing them (which is a pain in the ass). Mom does all sorts of cool stuff with them, she makes little plaster molds that she slumps them over, and they end up looking really creative and awesome. We get together to dress them up with cutlery. A good friend of mom's, Shelley, has recently joined the business too. She is exceptional at shopping for the coolest cutlery and ribbon, to add the finishing touches to the bottles that really make them into gorgeous gifts. Mom also does wind chimes and art masks, and wall pockets, and other random things that I am probably forgetting. I mostly sell my beads online, although I have some jewelry in a few small galleries as well. I would like to branch out more, and start selling my beads and/or jewelry more at craft fairs. We'll see how this summer goes!