Erin Maloney

January 2008


Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Erin Maloney: I’ve been making glass lampwork beads for nearly four years.

What got you started making beads?

To this day, I am still unsure as to how I originally came across searching “lampwork beads” on eBay, but one day I came across the most stunning and unique glass beads I’d ever seen!  I thought it would be so fun to learn how to make them so I jumped right into it, wasting no time!

Were you interested in making beads before that?

I really wasn’t aware of the term “lampwork” before stumbling upon it on eBay.

Did you have an artistic or craft history before that?

How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all? 

Art has always been my passion! My artistic interests and talents date back to when I was just four years old. I often think back to when I was four and I now wonder "how could I have been so appreciative of "art" at such a young age?" Somehow, I was! I was drawn to all things imaginative and creative, and inspired by it. Because of my extensive interest in all art and design, my studio has been geared toward many things over the years…painting and drawing, clay, paper maché sculptural work, stained glass and now…flameworking!

Did you take a class?

I enrolled in a beginner’s class, titled "Introduction to Lampworking" at a local bead shop.  Dwyn Tomlinson was my instructor.  After merely four hours of guidance, it was then that I finally realized that my artistic soul mate was, in!

What has surprised you most about working with glass? 

I find that melting glass can put me in the most calming and tranquil state of mind.

Whose beads inspire you the most?

There are many artists around the globe that have inspired me!  I think that is how artists of all kinds learn and grow.

Did you intend to sell your beads when you first started? What got you started selling them? 

My initial goal was to make a living out of something that I love!  I’m so happy to be able to sell my work to people all around the world!

Do you make beads for friends? 

Of course I do!  My friends and family are very supportive of my work.

What does your spouse/children/family/friends think of your beadmaking? 

When I finally vocalized my vision to focus on lampworking full-time, the people I love couldn't have been any more supportive! My parents thought it would be a great creative shift for me, my younger sister Sarah couldn't have been more excited for me and my loving fiancé (and best friend) of eight years, Jay, was equally supportive. He helped me to realize that life is all about doing what you want to do, and to have fun while you're at it!

What sort of set up do you have for making beads?

I have a Nortel Minor Bench Burner.  It is hooked up to my natural gas line and an oxygen concentrator.

I have a very large digitally controlled kiln, so that it can accommodate large sculptural pieces if I choose to move toward larger glass forms in the future.

What type of glass do you use?

I’ve dabbled in all different kinds of glass!  I mostly prefer to work with soft glass.  I use Moretti/Effetre, Vetrofond, Lauscha, and Uroboros/System 96 glass rods. 

Do you have any favorite colors (or combinations) of glass rod to work with?

One of my favourite colour combinations is antiqued ivory and transparent teal and/or turquoise.

Do these colors (or combos.) create a special reaction when used in a certain way?

Many colours react nicely with antiqued ivory (ivory glass with silver foil).  I especially like the look of the transparent turquoise with the antiqued ivory because it reminds me of the sand and the sea meeting.

Do you have a favorite beadmaking book or piece of instructional material (video, etc.)? 

I can’t say that I have one favourite.  I’ve read a lot of books and magazine articles, and watch many demo videos over the years … and they have all helped me tremendously!

Are you a “set person” or a “focal bead” person?

My preference on making sets as opposed to focal beads changes every now and then.  I tend to focus on making sets for a few months and then I’ll get tired of that and move onto making individual focal beads for a while, and then I’ll go back to designing sets again.  It really depends on my mood!

Have you developed a “signature” bead, a unique type of bead that is recognizably yours? Tell us about it, how you developed it, etc.

Describing my specific style is difficult because it is ever-changing.  I’ve had customers tell me that all of my beads are so unique and one-of-a-kind!  I’ve also had customers tell me that I have a very distinct creative style! 

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?

I struggled with stringer control at first, but with much patience and a lot of practice, I’m now more confident in using stringer detail work in my beads.

What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?

I am still finding it difficult to make very heavily encased beads without bubbles!  I’m still working on it though!

The easiest? 

I enjoy making lentil shaped beads.  I love the look and feel of the lentil shape, as well as the surface area for decoration while making the beads.

What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?

As I stated above, my style often changes.  Right now I am enjoying making more organic designs.

Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now? 

Of course I kept them!  I look at them whenever I need a laugh!

How have your beads changed?

In four years time, I can confidently say that my beads are simply better quality now of course, when it comes to puckered ends and clean holes!  I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and if I’m not completely satisfied with my work, I will try it again!  Also, I tend to mix and match different colours that I wouldn’t have mixed before.

What was your scariest beadmaking experience?

I was making a sculptural rose bead once, which required each petal to be made individually ahead of time.  As I was trying to quickly transfer a petal from the flame directly into the kiln, the tweezers slipped and the red hot petal fell onto my shirt, burning all the way through, leaving a nice red “petal-shaped” mark on my tummy!

Do you have a humorous beadmaking experience or moment to share with us? 

Depending on what mood one might be in, the above story could sound somewhat humorous!  Luckily I don’t have a scar, so I can look back at it and laugh now!

Have you had any “glass epiphanies” while working – some revelation or understanding? What were they?

Figuring out how to work with copper leaf!

Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?

I learned early on that while making beads, it is favorable to be in a comfortable environment.  Make sure your studio space or place of work is fitting for YOU!

Do you listen to music when you work, or prefer complete silence? If you listen to music what is your favorite type of music or artist to listen to while you work? 

I often work in silence to keep focused.  I do tend to sing or hum a tune after working for a while at the torch!

Do you have any advice or encouraging words for someone who is just starting out in glass?

The lampworking community is a very tight one.  Like any business, there is a lot of competition, but when a fellow ‘beader’ is in need of advice, whether it is related to glass or a personal issue, everyone comes together and offers a solution or suggestion. There are social events where bead makers set up workshops and share ideas and develop new techniques.  I feel that becoming a part of these communities is advantageous to the growth and success of the artist as well as his/her business. I find the lampwork community always friendly and eager to help other artists, so don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and share your work!

Have you “invented” any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn’t ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking? 

I can’t seem to think of any right now.

Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?

Of course!  I also have photos of my studio on my website at

How much time do you spend making beads (in hours) per week? Is it enough? 

I spend about 15 hours a week at the torch.  I spend countless hours on other aspects of the business, such as updating my website, photographing beads, answering customer emails, recording inventory data, organizing my studio, etc.  I also do graphic design work part time as well.  This keeps me busy!

What about photographing your beads – what do you use to get your pictures and do you have any tips or tricks to share? 

I photograph all of my own beads using my Canon A85 Power Shot camera, in my homemade photo light box.  Sometimes during the summer months, if the sun if strong and bright, I’ll photograph my beads outside.

Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on?

If so, what is the url/id info, etc. 

I sell online through my website via custom orders.  I periodically list items on Etsy and eBay; username airwynnglass. 

Do you sell at shows or in stores or other venues? Do you sell the beads by themselves, or already made up into jewelry? 

I began selling my handmade lampwork beads and finished jewelry at small local shows and events so that I could work out any kinks before tackling the larger shows and exhibits. As I said earlier, I’m a perfectionist and I take great pride in everything that I do, which I hope is easily recognizable in my work.  Once I was happy with my set up at the local show level, I began to pursue larger and more prestigious venues to distribute my work.  My beads have been exhibited and sold throughout Canada and the United States at various glass shops and art galleries.  Pictures of my work have also been published in multiple magazines and art-themed calendars. I can be seen proudly standing behind my creative designs at many large shows such as the Canadian Bead Oasis Shows, The Whole Bead Shows and the beadFX Lampworker’s Trunk Shows, all located in the Greater Toronto Area.

Is this a job, or a passion? Or both? How much of making beads/playing with hot glass is about just making them, vs making a living? 

It is a pleasant mix of both my passion to create and my desire to earn a living.

Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you? 

I hope to continue to work toward selling my beads at even larger venues in the future, such as the One Of A Kind Shows in Toronto.

Do you have a favorite bead, a “best bead.” Can you share a photograph with us? 

Yes, I really love my “Peacock Shimmer” beads, especially strung together in an artistic way with the faux peacock feathers!  This is one of my favourite pieces!