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Soda Lime Times: Ivory - the missing tutorial


When my friend Diane Woodall, creator of the amazing online publication "Soda Lime Times" told me that the topic of the June edition was "Ivory", I immediately raised my hand to do a tutorial of sorts. And as so many times before, I was too busy with other stuff to get the tutorial to Diane in time to meet her deadline. So, I am adding it here to my website - I hope you are a subscriber of the Soda Lime Times to see all the other great tutorials and photographs Diane put together.

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time (and money) at Frantz Art Glass (which is about an hour and a half away from my house, way too close...), and discovered a group of colors that I didn't know about: 

The "Avorios" ("Avorio" is the Italian word for "Ivory"). 

You can see all the different colors on the Frantz Art Glass website, CLICK HERE if you're curious. I talked Mike Frantz into gifting me one rod of each color (yeah), and I had a lot of fun with it. Speaking of fun - Joy Munshower, sculpture extraordinaire, made a bunch of torsos for Mike, to show the "glory" of these colors. I stole the picture from FAG website:

When using the ivorys as a "regular bead", they look a little less spectactular. As you wind the glass around the mandrel, it mostly forms "lines", which looks kind of boring.

I remembered a technique I learned from the fabulous Kimberly Affleck many years ago: a way to make the ivory "sing".

So, I want to share this technique with you. I call it "Letting the glass run". The idea is to a) heat the glass a lot and b) move it around. In itself, it doesn't create a  particularly fantastic bead, but this type of bead makes a beautiful background or "base" for all kinds of designs. I purpusefully did NOT show any decorated beads, because I believe that the less you see, the more your own creativity can soar. 


1. Make a good size footprint on a 3/32nd mandrel. The bead release should be dipped fairly long (at least 3 inches). The goal is to make a fairly large ROUND bead, not a donut shaped bead. The width of this bead should be about 3/4 inch. I used Avorio Lapis Medium for this demo.



2. Turn and twist the rod as you wind on the bead. The more "movement" you can create, the better the bead will look. I also "zigzag" the rod from left to right. Make sure the glass is very hot, otherwise you might break the bead release.


3. Build up enough glass for your bead (if you do this a few times you'll know how much glass you'll need)...



4. Now heat the "blob" into an even round bead (it's okay to use a bead shaper or marble mold for this step, especially if that keeps the bead from "creeping up" in the middle. )


5. You can already see the glass creating interesting effects, but it's the "running" I'll describe below that creates the "Avorio"-Magic. This is a lot of fun to do, but it's not easy! Well, it is, don't listen to me. Focus on the fact that it's fun...

Heat the left side of the bead, while tilting the mandrel left side down

6. As soon as the glass starts to melt, let if "run" down the mandrel, while turning the mandrel back and forth (please marvel at my professional graphic....!). If you don't turn the mandrel back and forth, the pattern on the bead will "twist" in one direction. There is nothing really wrong with that, but I find it looks better if the pattern is not twisting. That's a matter of taste. 

7. The longer you let the left side run, the longer and skinnier your bead will be. That's your decision, but it might take you a few attemps to understand what works. The "group shot" below will give you an idea of the shapes you can get. Kimberly Affleck is famous for her superlong beads - she would make 5-6 inch long beads this way. I'm certainly less ambitious...

Once you have reached the lenght you want, let the glass cool off while continuing to turn it, then use a marver to "stop" the glass, cool it off more and shape it into a nice end. My brass "Mega Marver" is gently concave and helps shaping a gentle curve, but you can certainly use a regular graphite marver for this step. 


 8. Now repeat the same process on the right side of the bead...remember to turn the mandrel back and forth to prevent the pattern from spinning.

 9. As in step 7, keep turning the mandrel, allow the glass to cool off and then shape it on a marver. 

10. It's very likely that the the bead will be slightly "off" at this point, that's okay. Just heat the centerpart of the bead and marver it. Try not to heat the ends at this point .....that's a very important part when shaping a bicone or oval. If the ends and the center get hot at the same time you'll be working this poor bead forever. 

If the ends are uneven, you can reshape them, but only shape one end at a time, leaving the other end cold. 

You can see the interesting patterns this way of shaping creates:


More beads with all the other Avorio's Mike gifted me, for the life of me I couldn't remember which bead was made with which glass. I guess you might have to try all of them.....;-)


Have fun playing, and as always, I would love to see pictures of what you made! Flame on.....and don't burn the assistant!