April 17, 2005

Lampworking Field Trip

We had a great field trip last week. We went to see a woman who makes glass beads in her home studio. Serona works with a man whose wife does lampworking, which is the art of making glass beads. It was a very interesting and fun field trip for the kids. We arrived at her home and she welcomed us with homemade chocolate chip cookies! Then she showed the kids and moms all the beads and some jewelry she had made. The kids were able to sit down and look carefully through her glass bead collection and Ciaran fell in love with a poison dart frog bead she had. If it was not $45.00 we might have left there with it.

We then went down into her studio and she explained all her equipment. This trip may have even been more interesting for the moms than it was for the kids! We learned about how she uses an oxygen and propane tank and how they combine together and make a blue flame which she uses to melt the glass. She showed us her mandrel rod that she melts the materials onto and let the kids touch the unproccesed glass rods, she had many colors to chose from. She also showed them the kiln and some other materials she uses.

She put on her special safety glasses and demonstrated how to make a simple bead in one color. She showed how she warms up the rod and warms up the glass rod and then how she sowly turns it in the flame around the mandrel rod to get the bead formed. Then she put it into the kiln to dry. She them demonstrated how to make a multiple color and different shaped bead and ended with showing them how to make a multi-colored flower bead. It was fascinating for all of us and she made it look so easy.

Then she took the kids into another room and showed them how she removed the cooled beads (cooled 24 hours in the kiln) from the mandrel rods and how to clean the gunk out of the hole the rod made.

We went upstairs and each child and mom received three glass beads she made and an unlimited number of little beads to string together their own bracelet. Each child made a unique bracelt and sadly to say I was the clumsiest and ahd to restart mine three times as I dropped all the beads off of it. Of course I was wearing Sirah in a backpack and trying to help Ciaran and Rhia so you would think I would cut myself some slack. But I honestly think I am just a klutz in that area. About the only crafty thing I am good at is crocheting, but it still was fun and even I eventually finished mine.

Some of the families bought some jewely from her and she showed us how she makes rings out of her bigger beads as one of the moms picked out a bead and had her make it into a cool sunflower ring. Had the kids all been older she would have allowed them to try making a bead but we had many younger children with us.

The moms decided we need to set up a moms trip there where just we can sit down and try to learn how to make beads one at a time and where we can sit down and make nice necklaces or bracelets without the kids climbing all over us.

If you can find a lampworker in your area - do this field trip! A glass jewelry field trip is a great idea. It was fun, interesting and easy for all ages. I highly recommend being able to make a piece of take home jewelry if at all possible as I think that made it more real to the kids as well.

We prepared by reading some of the following sites and followed up with some of the others. Not enough to do a full lampworking lesson plan but a good start.

How to Make Glass Beads

Lampworking Overview

Lampworking Tools

Pictures of glass beads


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