I’ve been getting back into exploring the art scene here in Kuwait and decided to book a glass bead-making experience at YADAWI with bead maker Lubna Saif, who is also the co-founder of the platform.
Yadawi is housed next door to the Bayt Al Othman Museum, and has several workshop spaces within for decoupaging, macrame, printmaking and calligraphy as well as studios for artists, an arts and crafts supply shop and lastly a large glass-making atelier. Yadawi is the first center of its kind in the Gulf dedicated to glass arts.
The glass-making space has several work stations for bead-making as well as a section for glassblowing and making glass structures conducted by instructor Mohammed Alduwaisan of @Gizaz_art.
My workshop was a ‘bead making taster’, so I was going into an introduction to creating beads from glass.
First we started with a demonstration on how to use the glass rods and the various hand manoeuvres required when working with them under the flame.
Glass needs to be introduced to the flame gently by rolling the rods back and forth with your fingers whilst bobbing them in and out of the flame. This bobbing technique prevents the glass from cracking when inserted into high temperatures. The slower the hand movements, the slower the glass moves when beginning to melt. I had initially moved the rod around quickly to catch up with the glass drooping as it melted, but it turns out that this only makes the glass move faster. Therefore, there were several things I had to keep in mind whilst playing with the glass.
When it was time to go behind the flame myself, I tried my hand at pulling stringers first. Basically, I first learned how to create a “gather”, which is a mass of molten glass at the tip of a glass rod. Once the gather is big enough, I could use tweezers to pinch the glass and wait for the right moment to pull it. Timing is everything in this.
Making the bead
After a warm up stretching stringers, it was time to make the actual bead!
To make beads, essential equipment is required of course. A torch with a well-ventilated area consisting of a hood, a fuel source, mandrels, bead release, glass rods, tweezers, and most importantly safety goggles.
Glass bead-making terms
A ‘bead release’ is what each of these metal sticks (also called mandrels) are dipped in. As you can tell, the mandrels have grey coloured tips and once warmed up in the flame, the glass permanently sticks to them.
To get started, I selected the colour of the glass rod I wanted and held it in my dominant hand. I waved the rod in and out of the flame in order for the glass to adjust to the change in temperature and to avoid a “shock” (heating it directly will cause the glass to shatter/crack).
Then, the tip of the glass begins to turn red and that’s when I would start to roll the glass rod back and forth between my fingers for even heat distribution. This movement needs to be consistent to avoid the glass from drooping or cooling.
I take the mandrel (dipped stick) into my other hand and warm it up simultaneously, focusing on both of my hands doing two different things – one hand is rolling the glass rod while the other keeping the mandrel horizontally and moving it in and out of the flame and preparing it for the incoming hot glass rod.
Once the glass rod touches the mandrel, I roll the rod on to it whilst rotating the mandrel away from me. This sounds difficult but with practice, it becomes mesmerising and enjoyable to the point that one wants to make one more bead after another.
Once I am satisfied with the bead, I gently pull away the glass rod allowing the flame to cut the trailing string.
Meanwhile, I put down the glass rod but continue to heat the bead on the mandrel – shaping it to perfection and evening out any bumps or inconsistencies to make it rounder. The practice is similar to roasting a marshmallow!
At this point, I can also introduce a stringer to decorate the bead with dots, florals or swirls. As I mentioned above, a stringer can be compared to a delicately thin glass pencil that is used to draw lines or other details on the bead.
I learned how to create swirls in my bead as shown below.
After a couple of days, we released the beads from the mandrel and polished them from inside with water.
Now, it was time to take the beads home!
This workshop was three hours long and I got an extra two hours on another day to fully complete the learning experience. At the beginning, working with melted glass can be intimidating but once I learned how to handle and control the glass, it’s easy to get hooked and keep experimenting with the endless ways of making a bead. I had a great time!
My daughter also spent time in the other studio doing decoupage! 🙂 So we were both doing workshops alongside each other which was so much fun!