Cutting Edge Bead Design

wmc070926a1b.jpgA little while ago I found myself with a rather large molten wad of glass at the end of my mandrel.

I had lost myself in thought as I added rod after rod to the “bead”. Of course I was giving very little thought to what I was going to do with all this hot glass.

So when the mandrel finally got heavy enough to force my attention on it I found myself mushing the mass of glass into a cone… I even started to take out some aggression on the poor thing.

wmc070926a2b.jpgAfter a little while I had a very off center, very large bicone…. and no interest in finishing the shape.

I spied a knife sitting on a plate left over from lunch (this is not an admission of eating in my studio, by the way). I took the knife, wiped it clean on my pants and started carving into the bead.

I liked the way it felt. I liked the way it looked. I liked how it forced a bulge into the straight line of the bicone. I liked that it left a distinct crease with detailed and sharp angles at the bottom of the valley it created. I just liked it! It felt good. So I kept going. And then I coated it with enamel and reinforced the shape with using only my knife from lunch.


I went on to fall in love with the results of the hour and a half I spent creating that bead. I loved finding the process. I love the beads that result. I love seeing people react to the different-ness of those beads. And I really loved discovering the perfection of my butter knife! It totally lacks serration so there’s no threat of unwanted texture. While the “cutting” side is thin and sharp for fine lines the other side is thick and square to make wonderful sharp, thick indents in the glass with crisp edges. And the cutting side is gently tapered towards the end of the knife which allows me to roll off the bead so nicely… I’m so pleased that this perfect knife has serendipitously found its way into my work!


OK. Back to the beads.

After that first journey with the knife I started to look at different ways to affect shapes with it. And I started to think about size, which of course matters. In order to really have fun carving into the glass and to have enough to really get it moving around in a way that excites me, I seem to need a good amount of it. So part of my challenge in this design is to keep the size down… or at least stay aware of it. And therefore my beads in this series tend to be quite large, 60-70 mm (2.5-3 inches) long. But that’s part of their statement. Though I have to admit I’m still working on knowing exactly what statement these beads fulfill.

wmc070926a5.jpgSo far, for me, it is an exciting process that produces exciting and sensual shapes which hold color and simple graphic design well. And I intend to keep enjoying it!

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


3 Responses to “Cutting Edge Bead Design”

  1. angelinabeadalina Says:

    Great beads, JC! And, hooray for the butter knife…it’s one of my favorite tools, too 🙂

  2. Ellen Says:

    JC – you’re wondering about the statement these beads are making? I have it – “absolutely fabulous” – that’s what I said when I saw them. That’s my statement and I’m stickin’ to it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. tracybeads Says:

    I love these shapes JC! They remind me of temple spires (or whatever the architectural term is).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: