Glass Collaboration: Learning in the Process

angelinabeadalina practice scarabsRemember when I told you that Cleopatra was being a pain in the neck? Well, she was my part of a collaborative project with another glass artist, Michael Mangiafico of FiG Studios. The idea for this first FiGalina ( a FiG + a Beadalina= a FiGalina) was for me to create a very regal Cleopatra to be adorned with a very real looking scarab by FiG. This is a great idea! This is also an idea that has forced me to learn new skills in order to do my part to bring it to life! I have to admit to whining about learning most of these new skills, too, because they are things I had happily avoided until now. Since I’m confessing that much to you, I might as well own up in a little more detail, huh?

First, there is the matter of “practice, practice, practice” and the way it relates to being able to re-create beads on demand. I hate practicing, I really do. I formed this opinion as a beginner, after reading that lampworker’s adage that you should make 100 spacers before you move on to other things. Egads! How boring! Honestly, I am terrible at spacers, so I probably should make 100 of them someday and get that behind me.

The problem I faced with this project is that I would need to re-create sculptures as we worked on bringing our sketches to life. Michael would have to make some of the smallest scarabs ever, and I would have to make some of the largest torsos and heads ever, if all the components were going to fit together.

michael mangiafico scarabBefore the Cleopatra idea took over, we started another idea. For that particular theme (I’ll show it to you when we get back to it), I made at least three different torsos with the same look to them but in progressively bigger sizes. I breathed a sigh of relief after I finally got one that should be a big enough palette for FiG to use. Then the Cleopatra and scarab idea took over. The bobble head Cleopatra (yes, I really did that out of proportion one into a bobble head, I was so frustrated) was only the beginning– I had to make her at least three times after all was said and done. Talk about practice, practice, practice!

The second hurdle I had to jump in order to do this project was learning to reheat a tiny component and then attach it to the sculpture I’m torching at the time. I know that many of you have done this, and I know it shouldn’t have scared me. However, I had a long list of excuses for not trying it: my kiln is on the left, I’m clumsy, what if I set my hair on fire leaning across the flame to get something out of the kiln, yada, yada, yada. I even included this list of excuses and a request that Michael be the one to do any attaching components in one of my first emails to him about this project.

All was going according to my plan. I mailed Cleopatras to FiG Studios. Michael quickly returned them to me, along with some spectacular dichro scarabs. Notice I said all “was” going according to my plan. . . until the evening my clumsiness forced me to learn to attach a component to a bead. I let a Cleo head roll off a pile of tissue paper and collide with a torso and scarab Michael had made. I think I actually cried because I’d let my clutziness break someone else’s hard work. Then, I turned on the kiln, and I practiced. Carefully following the written instructions Michael had emailed me, I attached three broken pieces of rod to three quickly melted globs of glass. For each one, I carefully pulled the warmed up pieces out of the kiln, heated the underside, attached it to the big glob, and then drew on stringer legs. Practice, practice, practice.

Then, the moment of truth came, and I actually attached that scarab body and drew on legs. Whew. Here’s a view of the practice lumps still on the mandrels. You can see more of the finished sculpture in the FiGalina Collaboration page of my gallery.

figalina collaboration

Angie Garren, aka AngelinaBeadalina, melts glass and avoids practicing spacers in her home in southern Illinois. You can see more of her work in her gallery at, and you can purchase her work at Etsy (or by email at if something that isn’t in the Etsy shop strikes your interest).


One Response to “Glass Collaboration: Learning in the Process”

  1. rose h. Says:

    FiGalina – I like that!
    I have never done a collaboration like that. I think I would be so terrified that I would mess up their work that I would never get started. Good for you for getting past that hurdle.

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