By Nicole Valentine-Rimmer
I think my real fixation with wearable art started in grade 10. I took sewing and was determined I’d be a fashion designer one day. I designed and made my own graduation dress, but my sewing skills were basic and I found the whole process frustrating.
From that day forward I played with various mediums, I dabbled in paper arts for several years. Polymer clay grabbed my interest for a short time frame, I moved onto clay thinking I’d be able to make pendants for jewelry. Clay was a pliable medium I enjoyed but always felt like something was missing.
One day I stumbled upon lampwork beads on ebay. They literally took my breath away. I still remember the first beads I saw, a heavily encased set of simple purple beads made by a seller by the name of BlueHealer. I was hooked!
For about 2 years I bought lampwork beads and assembled them into my jewelry pieces. I loved glass and the way light travelled through it bringing life to each piece. I started to wonder if it was something I could learn myself, wouldn’t it be nice if I could custom make beads for my customers. Offering them special order options would be nice ………… wouldn’t it? Lampworking can’t be rocket science …………. can it?
I hastily signed up for a beginner class held locally here in Victoria. My first class did not go well, the studio was small and instruction was brief. Glass popped off the ends of rods, torches popped and flared, beads cracked but I was still intrigued. Lampworking wasn’t rocket science, but I knew I needed a lot more practice before my beads would be of the caliber of that very first set I purchased on ebay! I bought a small beginner set up and torched in the alleyway of our barn for almost an entire year before buying a “big girls” torch. I moved into my husband’s garage with my new minor burner, propane and oxygen and started furiously torching almost every day after work. Needless to say my husband did not appreciate the intrusion into his garage, he’s an old car collector and my torch was perilously close to his cars!
The next week my studio was started, it’s still one of my favorite rooms in the house. I had the opportunity to take a two day private class with Andrea Guarino and Micheal Barley. Both full time beadmakers it was just the inspiration I needed to know this was finally my calling.
I torched after work casually for several years. I expanded my setup, purchased a kiln so I could properly anneal my beads, bought many pounds of glass and tools, boy did I buy a lot of tools!
Over those years I took all the classes I could afford. I was fortunate to learn from Kimberly Affleck, Larry Brickman, Jennifer Geldard, Amy Johnson, Cynthia Archer, Teresa Laliberte, Sherry Bellamy,and Akhiro Okhama. Each and every one of these instructors helped shape me into the beadmaker I am today. Classes pushed me outside my comfort zones, helping me expand my skills and getting my creative juices flowing. I still enjoy classes, watching another artist work is always a treat, everyone has unique and different ways of working glass and I always come away with new ideas.
Glass calls me, almost every day. I find ideas in the countryside we travel across a lot. My garden and it’s riot of color provides me with color palettes I’d never have thought of on my own. But most of all glass and beads cause me to smile every time I sit down to work it. I’m thankful I get to do something that brings me such joy, and hope that I can continue to smile ………… and work glass for many years to come.
The SATeam blog features artisan handmade creations by the etsy starving artists jewelry team. SATeam members create handcrafted jewelry and beads. More information about our team and its current etsy shop owner members can be found at SATEAM.etsy.com.