Interview with Vanessa Strayer. Her Role: Glass bead artist

Last updated: November 17. 2013 5:46PM - 1597 Views
ROSANNE BOWMAN 419-993-2150 • info@limanews.com



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1. What kind of jewelry do you make?


I make torch-worked glass beads, and fused glass. I also make bead sets to sell. That's a lot of what I sell. I also design jewelry.


2. Where did you learn to make glass beads?


I'm primarily self-taught. I learned from books, tutorials, YouTube videos. People are so generous with their knowledge. I was the kid they'd have to drag away from the glass blower at the fair. I've always been fascinated by glass.


3. What kind of equipment do you use?


I use a dual fuel torch that uses propane and oxygen. I also have a minor burner glass torch.


4. What are the beads made out of exactly?


They are made out of Italian glass rods. I would say they are about the diameter of a pencil. They come in all different colors, and some have special kinds of metals in them. There're a lot of companies that sell specialty glass, but most of them are in Germany or Italy. I get all of my glass online.


5. What is the process of making the beads?


To make a bead, I start with this stick called a mandrel. It is dipped in clay liquid to keep the glass from sticking to it. You take the glass rod and heat it, and then you start winding the molten glass onto the mandrel to shape the bead. You have to keep moving it or it will drop. I was a dental hygienist for 30 years, so that helped me to learn to do two entirely different things with either hand. I took one lesson in person because I was having trouble balancing the glass on the mandrel. I needed to see it in 3-D, but once I saw him do it, then I was able to replicate that. For the fused pieces of glass, the pieces are cut and layered, and then I put them on a kiln shelf. They are fused at 1,400 degrees.


6. Do you start with a design in mind or do you wing it?


I usually have an idea ahead of time, but some of the best things I've done are an accident. One piece I was ready to trash, and it ended up winning a prize.


7. How long does it take you to make a piece of jewelry?


A bead can take anywhere from five to 30 minutes. For the actual jewelry, I'd guess a couple of hours. It depends on what I'm making. A bracelet might take 45 minutes to an hour. A set would take probably two to three hours.


8. Is this a hobby or do you sell this?


I do sell it. I have a vendor's license. I do custom orders on Etsy and eBay. I was making decent money selling on eBay. I was mostly selling bead sets to jewelry makers and that was my primary money maker. This is more of a fine art thing. People don't realize how it works. It takes hours and hours of practice, years sometimes.


9. How much time do you put into this?


Probably over 10 hours a week, but I'm excited to start hitting it hard again. I took some time off and have gotten back into it recently.


10. Is this dangerous? Have you ever burnt yourself?


You can if you are not careful. You have to pay attention to safety and have proper ventilation. When you work with heavy metals, you need to wear a mask because of the fumes. I burned my thumb once and I caught my fingernail on fire. I always wear my hair back.

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