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On Teaching, The Way I See It.

Posted on April 28 2019



(Electricity Between  Teacher and Pupil)


It is more difficult to teach one or two than to teach 10. So says a friend of mine. He says that a group supports itself.

This may be true in some instances, but personally, when it comes to teaching glass bead making I prefer a maximum of five pupils at a time.

On the other hand, I can teach up to twenty pupils to learn wire working and can lecture to a full audience on design and marketing.


Let’s begin with lamp work.


A sampler, made by you to use in all your beginner classes is a good idea.

I have made and given one to each of the establishments I have taught at, (PHOTOGRAPH) and I tell them that if anyone applies for a job as a teacher, they should give this collection to the applicant and then leave them alone to make a series just the same, in a relatively short time.


Begin with drops.


The very first thing a beginner needs to know, is how glass melts.  Showing her how to  hold the glass,  (PHOTOGRAPH)  and then how to approach the flame slowly so that the glass is not shocked is very important.  Teach her how to drip the glass and when she has that control, tell her to make a series of drops all the same size.

She will learn how it flows and is on her way.


Now she can make her first bead.

I make sure my pupils keep the rod at a right angle to the mandrel so that the straightness of the holes on either side of the bead is automatic. (PHOTOGRAPH)


Don’t let your pupil lose confidence in any way… keep demonstrating easy things in the beginning and then give her a chance to try what she has seen immediately, while you hover, gently explaining timing and any other information you see she needs. Then demonstrate again… put her back on the torch and always comment encouragingly on progress.

I like to give demonstrations along the way to get my pupils off the torches often to rest their hands.  Get them to walk around too Like any other occupation, new muscles in  neck, hands and arms are beginning to be trained, and can get tired or even a little traumatized if you keep a pupil on the torch for too long at first.

I supply my pupils with the same arm rest I use. PHOTOGRAPH

Make sure wrists are at the proper angle. Many bead makers start working in an awkward way and get used to it. Time passes and they wonder why they have repetitive stress or carpel tunnel. I have worked with my hands for untold decades and so far so good. I  have tried to re-educate friends who work with awkward wrists and hands to change into a more comfortable and health way of working  and have had no success.


Show a new student what they are going to learn, even before you allow them to try. After all, it is important to get the early disciplines before moving on.  I liken it to learning scales on the piano. If you allow your pupils to shoot ahead with the next phases too soon, you are apt to seeing lots of nasty unbalanced and messy beads, pupils who feel they know enough to go out and sell their work before they have mastered centering and balance.  Only plain beads until at least lunchtime!

Once you are satisfied that pupils understand how to make simple centered beads, you can move on but you must remind them that when they are at their own lamp working table at home, to start the day with some plain and simple beads to warm up, just as a piano pupil begins her day with scales.

Teach how to straighten a crooked hole by pulling some of the glass around the end with a dental pick.

I think it is wise to teach shapes before going on to decoration. The more shapes we can make available to our pupils, the more diverse will be their work right from the start.


Making stringers


 Now it is time for stringers.  This can be a lot of fun.

Beginners are prone to pulling lots of long thin and rather useless stringers if you leave them alone. Make sure they learn how to make them different lengths and widths.

When puntying up glass to pull a stringer, explain how the glass will cool at each end where the glass is attached to the punties.




This is of course an art in itself.  Start simply. Have the student make a simple bead, a bit larger than usual. Dots should be applied haphazardly to begin with.  The idea is to learn dot control, but the placement comes later.  Now it is about learning how to apply the stringer to the bead and flame cut it to form a dot.  Dots should be applied just outside the flame, bringing the bead into the edge of the flame in order to cut the stringer. Lots of practice here.  It is not necessary to use many beads at this time. When the practice bead is covered with dots, tell the pupil to melt them in until the bead is smooth again, and pick a different color for the next go-around. In this way, the learning can be easier, concentrating on dot control without losing time constantly making new beads. Demonstrate the usefulness of putting clear color over white dots.

Move on to dot placement and pulling dots into leaves and other effects, either with a pick or a fine clear and short stringer.

At this point it is not a bad idea to give a demonstration of the varieties of ways dots made with stringers can be moved around. The experienced bead maker does not necessarily have to work with stringers to make dots, but I’m moving too fast here. I learned from Loren Stump to make a nice large oval bead and then using a Dark Cobalt stringer, decorate it with a series of designs, like a sampler.

Show them good ideas, make a memorable bead.


Other notes:

Light is very important – find a way to make sure it is correct for  seeing extremely fine detail. (more notes here)

Drinking lots of water is a good idea.  The flame can also dry the face. Make sure that your pupils do not have any cream or grease on their hands.  Unclean glass will produce scum on the bead. Glass should be pre-cleaned with alcohol or water with a little soap and lots of rinsing. A bottle of 1\2 Windex ½ water works very well.


Rolling chairs work well for insuring that the glass worker can move fast if glass should fall into a lap.  It can happen.

 Metal buckets under the worktable, useful for dropping in cut off hot ends must never be used for paper or any other inflammables.




  1. What should you know about the teacher you choose?
  2. How long has your potential teacher been making beads?
  3. Make sure you have seen the teacher’s work before you sign up for a course, and that you are satisfied.
  4. Ask the teacher you are about to choose to put you in touch with others taught previously, or get a recommendation from ISGB.
  5. Check ahead of time to know what kind of torch you will be working with, and what brand of glass.






The teacher  must have perfect examples of each bead and style they will teach and be thoroughly familiar and experienced in making every one repeatedly.


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