Monday, February 18, 2008

There's Nothing Quite Like It

I was completely prepared.

I'd wanted to make this particular bead -- a guitar bead -- for months. I wanted to make it so that it would be ready before Christmas, but that didn't happen... I admit that I'm a perfectionist, and I wanted it to be perfect.

You can see my best former attempt here.

This time, I consulted with the experts at the glass shop. They know a lot about glass, and Lisa who works there (and who has a fantastic name) always has a few tricks up her sleeve. She suggested a better turquoise glass that wouldn't be so reactive (you can see the gray spots in my former attempt). She also suggested that for the strings I pull a black and white stringer (thin rod of glass) that would look like strings. I chose to do black with gold, but same idea.

So I set out all my glass colors and fired up my torch.

I warmed up by making yet another caterpillar bead, which turned out just like I wanted it to. I layered about 6 different greens into the bead, segmented it into 6 parts using my razor blade tool, carefully keeping the whole bead warm -- remember, a warm bead is a happy bead, girls! Then I added his cute little white eyeballs, his black eye points, his black smile, and then all his little legs and his antennae.

Then I set aside the stuff for the guitar bead -- turquoise glass, black and gold stringer, white stringer for decoration, black stringer for the tuning pegs, and black glass for the head (the thing the tuning pegs connect to). I made the guitar body and shaped it until I was satisfied. Then I added glass for the neck and melted it in, shaping it as well. I added the black glass for the head. Then came decoration -- black for the hole in the middle, the black and gold stringer for the strings, and the white for the white around the strings on the body of the guitar. It took a really long time to get both those shapes right, and I made a rookie mistake -- I stuck one of my tools into the flame to shape the glass, which is a big no-no. You always, always heat up the glass, then pull it out of the flame to do the shaping with the tool. So I got my tool stuck in the bead for a few seconds, which is never fun, plus it messed up the shape of the white decoration for a little bit.
Anyway, the last thing I did was add the dots for the tuning pegs. A couple of them were a little too close together, so I had to fix them.

And then I did it. I put the whole bead in the backflame (the very end of the flame -- the coolest part) to heat it all up one last time, which is exactly what you're supposed to do... but I'd spent too much time on one end of the bead, and the other end got too cool. So when I stuck the guitar end back in the flame, even though it was way in the cool end of the flame, a big hunk of the bead flew off.

At this point I had almost an hour invested in this bead, and it was PERFECT. Or if it wasn't perfect, no one but me was ever going to know about its flaws. I almost said words unbecoming of a lady.

What was playing on my iPod at this point? "Takes a Little Time" by Amy Grant. Yeah, I'm familiar with irony.

So I stuck my almost-perfect guitar back together to take a picture of it before I throw it away in disgust. Here it is. Sigh. On the bright side, this turquoise glass looks much, much better than the glass I was using before...

And I guess as long as I'm showing you pictures of failure I might as well thow in a decent one too. Here is the caterpillar I made tonight (on top) along with one I made yesterday (whose face I unfortunately put on sideways to his feet, oops!).

And here are some other beads I've made in the last couple of days. I'm a big fan of purple. These are purple swirled with pink and glittery blue (although it's hard to see the glitter here).

Much easier to see the glitter in this set -- maroon with light gray and gold glitter. Pretty snazzy, I thought.

And last but not least, more purple. These were all experimental and aren't a set, just all random beads. I just put them in a picture together. The one on the bottom was a total experiement, and it didn't turn out quite the way I planned, but I learned enough to make the caterpillars, so it's all good. The one on the upper right would have been successful if it had been smaller. Upper left is pretty decent.

So there you have it. Since I will probably drop off a bunch of beads to go in the kiln for annealing tomorrow (beads have to be heated in a kiln to increase their strength before being made into jewelry), I was considering attempting the guitar bead again, but I just don't know if I have the heart again after that. There's nothing like the frustration of putting an hour into a bead and losing it in literally the last 1-2 minutes before you're done, and I'm not sure I'm ready to face it again tonight.


Cindy said...

Sorry about the guitar, but now you know everything about how to do it! You're almost there!!

Coach J said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about the guitar. I felt your pain, and almost said those unlady-like words with you. Bummer! On another note, those other beads are very good! :)
I don't know anything about making beads-I'm not artsy AT ALL!!-but I sure know how it feels when you've invested your heart and time in something, and it just breaks. {BIG sigh} Have you ever made any basketballs?? ;)

Flabbyironman said...

you're close. I bet you get there if not this next time, the time after that... and while I know it's been hard, I also know you've learned a lot from doing something more difficult. Just think what kinds of things you'll be able to pull off a year from now.