MAKING BEADS WITH STAINED GLASS SCRAP. The beginning. 1998
Posted on April 21 2018
In 1998, while I was living in the country in Mexico, the buyer from a national chain of galleries, “The Nature Company”, Silva Raker, called and asked me if I could make beads for them from recycled glass. I told her it would be beyond my capabilities at the time to make beads out of bottle glass because of the co-efficiency problems, ( glass made by different companies has different chemical makeup and if you combine them, the glass cracks when it cools.)
There were many small companies in Guadalajara making stained glass pictures and windows in stained glass, small, inexpensive items for the tourist trade. So I visited some of them and found that in every case, there were boxes of scrap glass stashed under their work tables and they told me they would take the scraps to the dump every month because pieces that small were useless to their work.
Most of them were happy to give me as much as I could carry away.
When I got home, I tipped the glass onto a tarpaulin on the grass and hosed off the dust and dirt. Then I separated it into colors and went to my torch to work out how to hold a piece in the flame, melting it enough to attach to a clear glass rod and then finding the way to wind the molten glass onto a mandrel. Good, I soon got the hang of it. Then I took a couple of pieces and melted them together to see if that would work., mixing the colors. Oh yes, it was just a matter of time before I was able to train some local lads to make simple beads.
With five torches up and running, we were soon in production. The trouble was, I was early into the game of bead making at the time and had only worked with the Moretti Italian rods and no-one had explained the principals of co-efficiency to me yet. I could not understand why some of the beads cracked when I took them out of the vermiculite. (Yes, I was working on a job for a huge gallery chain and still did not have a kiln and was ignorant enough to go forward anyway. Those were indeed the early days of bead making both for me and other little pioneers!)
The truth was, I was working with Bullseye and Spectrum. Those were the two brands of stained glass being sold in Guadalajara at the time. They were not compatible, so the beads that worked were any that happened to be made completely with either of the two brands of glass. Every evening, I took the beads of my workers, cleaned out the holes and with the help of a bright light, threw away the cracked ones. Eventually I understood the problem, and as both brands of glass had different effects on the back, I was able to sort and separate them and get better results. It is true to tell and amazing to me now… I managed to come in on time with the Nature Company order of 450 necklaces with about 36 glass beads in each, the glass spaced with copper hishi and silver, hand knotted, on time! A miracle really. When I look back at my ignorance at the time and the blind courage of taking on such an order, I shudder!