Lampwork Beads -
An Interview with LaMarido Lampwork
Earlier this month we caught up with Diana, owner of LaMarido Lampwork to talk with her about her beads, what influences her, and how she started creating her masterpieces.  
Make sure to visit the glass beads category for some of Diana's offerings.
JG: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got interested in beads.
LML: Professionally, I work as an art director with a marketing communications firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is through those years of discipline, that I appreciate and cultivate thoughtfulness to design. An excellent use of color, size and shape relationship, and imagination always transcends good design in the decorative and visual arts.  And, the idea of what a piece just
has to say to the beholder is constantly fascinating to me.  But initially, beads have always been symbolic in my life and part of my fondest memories. As a child I used to watch my grandmother pray with her rosary beads in hand. The glistening glass beads would slip through her fingers and she'd hold each with devout mediation.
    And as a new mother, my son, who's now a teenager, once dashed to his grandmother's jewelry chest, grabbed as many shiny beaded necklaces as he possibly could. He loved playing with them around my neck, so he thought he'd go straight to the source. Well, there were hundreds of beads bouncing all over the floor. For safety's sake, the chest was placed on a higher shelf. But, after that mad dash, I always wore a strand for him. He'd sit on my lap
and twirl them between his little fingers. He was just dazzled by them and to this day, he's still fascinated.
   Strands of beads, either of glass, pearls, wood or semiprecious stone are romantic, symbolic and oddly enough, they somehow become attached to their owners. Ever notice how a women never throws away her favorites strand of beads?  And for many a favorite marble or paperweight is worth sometimes more
their weight in gold. But, it was during the late summer of 1998 that a glass beadmaking explosion came upon my life. I was designing presentation boxes to house small bowls made by the renown
glass artist, Kathleen Mulcahy. She was demonstrating at a glass festival.  I was amazed and immediately smitten. After the demonstration, I came across two beadmakers twirling steel rods with glowing glass on the ends.  One beadmaker, slipped a mandrel into my hand. Well, a very poorly shaped miniature glass bead was formed.  I was humbled after my grand scale demonstration. But, that little bead was my first.  And I now know, that I would never even think that there will be a last.
In the fall of that year, I signed up for a lampwork glass course taught by Milissa Montini. She is quite known for her fusing and murrini work. So since then, I've been hooked.  From my elementary lampworking system at home which involved working on a hothead torch and crock-pot annealing, I moved up to a
Glass Torch technologies Lynx torch and a 14 cubic inch Jen-Ken glass annealing kiln.  And, while I work in another field during the day, there's hardly a night that goes by that my lamp isn't burning.
JG: Is there any artist that influences your creations?
LML: Upon taking my first class, I purchased the book Making Glass Beads, by Cindy Jenkins. And simply, Contemporary Lampworking by Bandhu Scott Dunham. I've found both of these books extremely informative in techniques and in representing current artists.  I am inspired by many contemporary lampworkers.  Kate Fowle, is a forerunner in experimentation and discovery.
What you have to love about her is that she shares her knowledge generously. To me, she is long distance mentor who provides an incredible amount of technical information to beginners and professionals alike.  I also have to mention Jim Smircich, his use of color is phenomenal, and his eye and hand control in making perfectly symmetrical beads is definitely something to
measure up to. Both of them teach extensively in workshops around the  country. And in Kate's case around the world. Tom Boylan, Stevie Belle and Kristina Logan, Karen Ovington, and the incredible Loren Stump also are glass bead artists, that to me, are the foremost pioneers in technique and creative artistry. And here in Pittsburgh, where glass bead-making is steadily taking
hold, I'm constantly amazed by Milissa Montini's intricate murrini work. She uses it to create exquisite cabochons and hollow beads.  There are many professionals and home hobbyists alike that I've not mentioned. Each one doing individually unique work. I think they all merit a watchful eye.  The possibilities of working with glass is endless.  It's what makes it so engaging.
JG: What is involved with making lampwork beads?
LML: Funny, when you look at a small glass bead, one might not ever think what might go into it. Here is a very basic idea. In one hand, the beadmaker is taking a 1/4 inch diameter glass rod and heating it over the torch flame so that it balls up and becomes a glowing orange. It's molten to the consistency of very thick honey. The ball is then wound around a heated clay coated steel
mandrel. The steel mandrel is coated so that it's able to release the bead upon cooling. Otherwise, the glass would adhere to steel. While one hand is rotating the mandrel to receive the glass, the other "glass" hand is carefully applying the glass onto the rotating mandrel. A degree of ambidexterity is helpful. The trick is to learn the effects of heat, gravity and surface tension while the glass is being applied to the mandrel and thus building upon itself. Through much time and patience, the beadmaker learns the effects of the elements at play to create the design, size and shape of
bead that they desire.  Once the basic skills of getting a nicely shaped bead around the mandrel is mastered, the options are endless. All glass beads need to be annealed in a glass firing kiln after their completion in the flame. This annealing process is actually a moderated cooling down process which stabilizes the glass.  It ensures durability and longevity. Sometimes glass beads are made by applying multiple layers of transparent glass over opaque details.
This gives them that "small world" aquarium effect, a la Kate Drew Wilkinson. Other times, the maker applies details with opaque or transparent, vermicelli size, strings of glass.  These "stringers" are used to create a variety of dots, patterns, feathers, and representational ornamentation. Leah Fairbank's flower gardens and Heather Trimlett's colorful and geometrically shaped beads
and signature teapots are excellent examples of that. Surface treatments such as fuming metals, electroforming, acid etching and the use of enamels are used to alter the appearance of the glass. And to that, Kate Fowle's work and discoveries are outstanding and pioneering. Many times, the clay mixture, otherwise known as bead release, is formed into a cylindrical mold around the mandrel for the base mold of a core vessel. Also, many beadmakers use
borosilicate glass tubes. The beads are actually blown into shape over the torch flame and then given design applications. Hollow beads are also created by winding the glass into two cylinders which meet in the middle until the cylinders are sealed together. This creates an air pocket which expands and pushes the glass into a round shape while the mandrel is kept in rotation. Without mentioning all of them, there are many ways that beads are created. Which, for the collector adds to the fun of discovery.
JG: Do you have a shop or sell at shows?
LML: So, how does that all fit in with someone just doing this a little less than two years?  Well, as a full-time working mom, I'd love to say that I'm producing a hundred or more beads a week and that they are all off to galleries and shows across the nation. Okay, someone wake me up now. But, I can say that what I love most about this craft is the ability for someone to learn it, sharpen their technical skills through course work, books and videotapes, and then let their imagination go. While each larger sized bead
can take 30 minutes to several hours, there is room for it to be a full-time profession for some, or for folks like me, an obsessive and rewarding past time. So for now, I'm quite happy with myself if I've produced 12 to 15 little beauties a week and have gotten them out to the world of collectors and designers.
I currently do most of my selling on auction sites, such as the JustGlass site. And currently, I have a few pieces on commission at the Waking Bear Gallery in Ligoneer, PA.  And, I always welcome a private commission. This is my first year that I'll be attending the Society for Glass Beadmaker's "Gathering" and I'm looking forward to displaying my work there. Anxious as well to see what everyone else has been up to!  Presently, myself and a group of Pittsburgh area based beadmakers are forming a membership group. Exchanging our discoveries, successes and noble attempts and bringing in speakers and demonstrators is our mission. Our aim is to become an official chapter of the Society for Glass Beadmakers.  For beginning and advanced beadmakers, jewelry designers, and collectors, joining the Society of Glass Beadmakers is the best way I know in getting acquainted and staying abreast with the craft. They are active national group of over 600 members. And, one can participate or just keep up their awareness in the field at a national, regional and local level. For more information you can visit them
JG: What is the most interesting aspect you find to collecting beads?
LML: To me, collecting glass beads must involve a natural inclination of appreciating the art of applying good design to the materials at hand. Glass is an incredibly fascinating medium. It beholds so many characteristics. Fragility, resiliency, longevity, mystery and magic. Observing how each bead's maker used the colors of the rainbow and elements from the earth is a
fascinating discovery.  With the craft having been around for nearly 5,000 years, it's been said that glass beads are mankind's first attempt to think abstractly.  And ever since then, it has evolved and reflected that a craft can many times be taken to the level of the fine art.  Each beadmaker's style is really so unique from the others. They harness endless ways to manipulate the glass and unleash their imaginations. They paint with it. Design with it.
Fume it. Etch it. And alter it even to the point where the viewer might second guess that it started out as glass.  I think for the collector, that ultimately is the lure. Historically, glass beads and glass core vessels relayed abstractions and representations, ideas and inspirations. And for those currently making them and collecting them, a wealth of technologies and shared knowledge has offered up many ways to make the variables and results
practically endless.
JG: Your favorite bead website and publications are...
LML: You can learn so much from information on the internet, subscription magazines and organizations. My favorites are  
The Glass Art Society
The Society of Glass Beadmakers
The Center for Bead Research
Lapidary Journal and Bead & Button are magazines that are indispensable as a source for inspiration, information and discovery of new glass beadmakers and their work.
JG: Are there any price guides or information new collectors can use to help determine what to pay for beads?
LML: To a new collector, I would make sure that the bead is properly annealed for durability and longevity. Any work from a nationally acclaimed beadmaker will be annealed. One also might look at how unique the bead is.  Is the maker nationally recognized? Publicized, or an award winner? What type of design,
surface treatments and color use does it involve? Does the idea or shape of the bead have integrity?  Is it free form and flowing? Or, was the design aimed for perfect symmetry. Cindy Jenkins book, Making Glass Beads is a good starting point for getting acquainted with the type of work beadmakers are doing. Also, a pictorial catalog from an exhibit at the Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY is available, in limited quantities, through the Society of Glass Beadmakers. This show highlighted the contemporary glass bead work of 37 SGB members. Across the nation there are many bead shops, glass galleries and bead shows that feature some of the hottest beadmakers' work. For instance, the annual Bead Bazaar will be taking place in Wheaton, MD, during April 14-16th. And the Whole Bead Show sets up in various cities throughout the year.
Upcoming shows include:
Cleveland, Ohio, June 30th-July 2nd. San Francisco, California, July 28th-30th and Honolulu, Hawaii, August 4th-6th.
At this point, I haven't heard of a guide for the actual pricing and selling of glass beads. It's a great idea. And, if I here of one, I'll definitely forward the information to the Just Glass Online Magazine.
JG: Is there a national organization for bead collectors?
LML: I would first recommend that a bead collector look up the  
Center for Bead Research. Also, at the Corning Museum website, one could research books through Whitehouse Books.  They have or will find for you specific books pertaining to collecting glass beads. For instance, through them, I purchased the book Magical Ancient Beads.  It is currently out of print, and was published through Times Editions, Singapore. A bit difficult to find. But through time and patience, they tracked one down for me. It permanently tops the coffee table stack.
JG: Thanks for visiting with us Diana!
LML: Well, I hope, from still a new face on the scene, that I was some help in providing  information on this "movement" to glass buyers and collectors. Many of the organizations, vendors and artists mentioned in this story can be found in my link's page at the La Marido Lampwork webpage Thank you for allowing me to
tell my tale.
Diane Dugina
La Marido Lampwork