Thursday, August 27, 2009

My growing obsession: glass lampwork beads

There are certain artisans and crafters I've admired online, and it's always a bit of a thrill to meet them in person at a craft show or event. Over the last couple years, I've become more and more interested - obsessed even - with glass lampwork beads; the whole process and technique and the finished product absolutely fascinate me. Although I enjoy working in polymer clay, the end result in bead form is less sturdy and long-lasting than a properly annealed glass bead.

On Etsy I discovered an artist named Ikuyo, who makes the most breathtakingly lovely beads; I love the colours she uses, the shapes of her beads and her trademark murrini (glass cane slices) in her bead designs. She also sells on ebay, under the username "ikuyoglassart".

My sister Nancy bought several beads from Ikuyo, including this pair that was in my list of faves, that she had sent to me as a gift - is that a sweetie of a sister, or what?
Here are some of my favourites of Ikuyo's sold beads on Etsy:

In Ikuyo's Etsy shop you can see that she lives in Coquitlam, BC, which is the suburb of Vancouver where my brother, Mike, and his family live. I contacted her before going to Vancouver at the end of July, to find out if her beads were available in any Coquitlam or Vancouver shops. Unfortunately not, but funnily enough, she lives around the corner from my brother and is good friends with his next-door neighbour! Small world. So she generously invited my sister Nancy and me to her studio in her home, to see how she makes her magical beads. We were so excited!

My crafty niece, Mariko, also came along, since she was as curious as we were to see how Ikuyo creates all that loveliness. Above you can see Ikuyo using the flame to make a bead. Since I'll be taking some lampworking classes (finally!) this fall, I was also interested to see how her studio is set up and what kind of ventilation I would eventually need. Not quite sure how I could pull that off in our little apartment, but I'll worry about that later.

Here is Ikuyo with her giddy fans/groupies. My brother Ron has said several times that Japanese women (or nikkei women, which are those of Japanese descent living or born outside Japan) are all the same height - it just might be true. Mariko is lucky enough to have some of her mom's Scottish genes and has surpassed the 5'2" ceiling.

Ikuyo let us look through her stash of finished beads and to our delight, we were able to purchase some, and she gave us many as gifts. So generous of her! Look at all my lovely beads! We stayed there a really long time, rummaging, oohing and aahhing. Sistah Nancy alleges I elbowed her out of the way when I spotted a bead I wanted. Although I can safely say I did NOT use my elbow, I don't totally deny trying to dominate the bead-foraging space...

Another wonderful glass artist...
At the Powell Street Festival, where Nancy and I were crafty vendors, we have also ogled the gorgeousness of Minori Takagi's beads. You can see them in all their intricate splendour here.

In 2007 at the Powell St. Fest I fondled her beads. In 2008, I returned to see her, only to fondle her beads once more. But earlier this month, August 2009, I had decided before I even got to the festival, that I was going to not only fondle every one of her beads, but make a purchase. I bought not one, but the TWO lovelies you see here. I love wearing them. And fondling them.

This fall...
Along with some jewellery classes on wax casting and basic metal working, I'll be taking a lampworking class or two in the coming months. I'll let you know how it goes. Either I'll embarrass myself and set my hair on fire, or I'll fall in love with lampworking and become even more obsessed.

Either way, yikes.


stephanie said...

i'm so glad you are updating your blog again!

Nance said...

So much fun to read your blogging!!! Good job sistah!