Do your beads double dog dare you?

jc herrell glass cage beads enamels

The last time I contributed to WMC I wrote about my creative blocks as I had just come out of a pretty big one. What I found myself making on the other side of that block was a kind of bead that I think of as tube capsules.

These are brightly colored long tube beads with windows of transparent color under the enamel. And they feel so good to make, stretching the glass up and down the mandrel and creating a large area to cover with all kinds of colors, then to cage it in with some dark raised lines and then to finish the bead off with a few dots of some exciting color or luster…. the process just feels awesome for some reason.

But then I started to wonder what would happen if I focused on the lines instead of the color.

jc herrell bright cage beads

(“What if” is the start of a lot of my designing adventures.) And so I took a little designing side trip that resulted in a line of beads I’m really starting to enjoy.

And it was kind of scary at first. Fewer colors?? Oh, my. That sure does put a lot of pressure on the line, doesn’t it? I mean, if the color isn’t what invokes your reaction then the line needs to or nothing will. And in the best cases the line and the color will work together to make a really great statement. At least this is my theory on my current designs.

So stepping away from the comfortable place of pretty colors is just a little scary. And, frankly, making nice lines is much harder than making colors work well. So I felt a bit challenged. (But I like that…) And I started to make some beads that I really thought worked. The olive green one and bright orange beads in the picture to the right are my favorite of this collection. And, they are the most simple in color. Imagine that. I liked what happened. It’s like the color is able to speak freely and fully, without the distraction of other colors trying to get attention. I didn’t expect to like that, but I do!

jc herrell bright enamel lampwork beads

Yet, I couldn’t really stay away from fading and blending. I played with a subtle blue blend on transparent blue and created something of a woven pattern with the lines. In the morning I was pleased, but it wasn’t out of me and I thought the design needed to be cleaner, or a different color or something additional. I wasn’t sure what.

So I played more with the design and the trio on the left is what resulted. And in the end, if I’m going to be really honest, I never found what I was looking for in this design. I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish and it’s probably going to sit on a shelf in the back of my brain for a while. Someday maybe I’ll figure out what I want to do with this concept.

jc herrell lampwork bead cage bright
And of course I went for the reds, oranges and yellows. For me, these colors are powerful. I bring a design to these colors when I feel I really want to put them out there… with force. For me, nothing screams, “LOOK AT ME” like a red to orange/yellow fade. Creating in these colors feels like turning the volume up. And that feels great!

My design adventure was a fruitful one that ended up building skill. In fact, my favorite part of this design is the possibility for skill building as errors are so very visible and my learning curve is nakedly displayed in every bead. It’s intimidating to see errors but still know how very, very hard I tried. But it’s also like every bead is challenging, no… double daring me to get better at drawing lines. And it’s hard to walk away when your beads are double daring you…

JC Herrell is a glass artist who blogs from her home studio in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. See more from JC at or


4 Responses to “Do your beads double dog dare you?”

  1. tracybeads Says:

    Oh JC I LOVE THESE! The olive green one is one of my favs too along with the blues. That blue one on the right in the first photo looks like it would be perfect for a beadable pen. 🙂

  2. Ellen Says:

    JC – your beads are always so distinctive; I can spot ’em a mile away.

  3. kabsconcepts Says:

    HOT DANG JC!! THOSE FREAKING ROCK!! I love love love those grids. I do gridish plaid style beads… but no where near as complex and impressive. Keep going with them… I can’t wait to see where you end up next.

  4. jcherrell Says:

    Thanks, everyone! It’s nice when a new design is well received… in particular when I’m a little unsure of it myself. Thank you very much for the encouragement!!!

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