Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Amber Van Meter: Seven years


What got you started making beads? Did you take a class?

I’ve always been an artist but, after my first child, I endured a period of six years that was art-free. I reached a point where I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I needed to create!  After mulling over a few ideas, I decided to make some jewelry and found the most incredible handmade beads on eBay. After a year or so of buying the beads, I wondered if I could make them myself.  In a serendipitous circumstance, I mentioned to a co-worker that there were these great handmade glass beads I was buying and she said she knew someone who actually made glass beads. A week later, I was in Leslie Bitgood’s studio, made two beads and was hooked!


Were you interested in making beads before that?

I never thought I could make beads myself.  Who knew?


Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?

I think I was a painter from birth!  Most of my art was mixed media on canvas so I found it delightful that I could use different metals and other ingredients with glass and create miniature “paintings”.


Can you share a photo of some of your other works with us?

Absolutely.  This is “Banshee Dreams”, using water color and polymer emulsion on canvas.


What has surprised you most about working with glass? 

I love to experiment and I never tire of the many reactions you can get from mixing different colors of glass. Oh, and the fact that I can sort of make a living being a glass artist.


Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor?

There are lots of people who have shared their knowledge with me over the years and I am eternally in their debt.  I would say Leslie Bitgood (Crazy Woman Glass) has to be the most influential.  Her smooth approach to glass (and the tools used in making beads) gave me the confidence to give it a try without too much fear.


Whose beads inspire you the most?

I really appreciate the work of Jennifer Geldard, Ellen Black, Laurie Hyatt, and Kevan Aponte because they believe in experimentation and personal discovery.


Do you sell your beads? Do you sell the beads by themselves, or already made up into jewelry?

I do indeed sell my beads. I usually sell them loose or temporarily strung but I make finished jewelry pieces every once in a while.


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

I was never convinced my beads were good enough to sell but, after buying LOTS of glass and investing in a kiln, I decided I needed a return on my investment.  I sold my first bead for $5 and I was hooked on the idea of being paid for my art.


Have you ever taken part in a bead or art/craft show?

No, but that’s because I have three children at home. One of these days, I will attend and sell at a show.


Do you sell your beads in stores or other venues?

No, I’m exclusively online.


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 accept custom orders on my website: www.naosglass.com.  I also sell my work on eBay (just search for Naos) and on Etsy at www.na0sglass.etsy.com (that’s a zero for the “o”).


What do your friends and family think of your beadmaking? 

My husband is my biggest fan and the kids could take it or leave I think. Ha! My parents and brother are also very supportive. It was my Dad who hooked up my Hot Head for the first time and has made me a variety of helpful tools over the years. 


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

I work with a Hot Head torch and bulk propane.  I like 3/32” mandrels. My kiln is a Jen-Ken Bead Annealer. I use a variety of enamels, silver foil and shaping tools in my work but I would say silver foil and my BBQ mashers are used the most.


What type of glass do you use?

I’m an Odd Lot junkie so I tend to use rarer glass in my beads. The majority of my beads are made with either Effetre or Vetrofond glass.


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

I absolutely love Vetrofond Seashell Swirl or Odd Pearl Gray as a base for most of my beads. They hold up really well to lots of ingredients on top of them.


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

Both colors of glass LOVE silver foil, enamels and shards. I especially like Odd Pearl Gray with Italian Marble shards (from Avenue Beads) over it.


Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.

Etch-All!  I etch just about every bead I make!


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

I would say Passing the Flame, by Corina Tettinger. Sometimes, you just need to see what someone’s talking about to have the idea click in your mind.


Do you have a favorite technique? 

I like to blend enamels into my beads vs. sprinkle them over the surface. It’s a nice way to add streaks of color to the base glass.


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

I make focals but I will make sets if all the beads are different from one another.  I find it maddening to make the same bead over and over in a torch session.


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

I would say my Healing Hand focals are my signature beads. I have an interest in alternative medicine so it was a logical step to start incorporating some of my personal philosophies into my work.  I adapted familiar Reiki and Healing Hand symbols for my focals and worked with different colors of stringer to find just the right ones for the symbols.


What was your biggest obstacle to overcome? 

I think it was having the faith that I could create beads full-time and survive.


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

I still can’t make a decent hollow bead or encased floral. I made lots of spacers early on so they would have to be the easiest for me but I really don’t like making them.


What is your favorite kind of bead or technique? 

I love organics of all kinds.  If they look like natural stones, all the better!


Do you still have the first beads you made?

What do you think of them now?  I have a few and I have to laugh when I look at them or photos of my early work. They were simplistic compared to the techniques I use now.


How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?

Beads with raised dots and bicones were my passion when I first started. Now I rarely make them, preferring smooth, flat surfaces. I’ve progressed in color use as well, going from exclusively earthy tones to the occasional bright bead.


What was your scariest beadmaking experience? 

One time, my propane tank was intermittently hissing at the hose attachment after I attached the hose. I found out there was some gunk on the connector and fixed that but I thought I was going to blow up in the process even though I was outside and the leak wasn’t really that bad.


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

I once had a colony of Jumping Spiders on my work table that would wait for a bug to go through the flame then would jump down and have lunch. They were great companions for an entire Summer.


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

Oh sure!  The first time I understood where to heat my stringer in the flame, so it wouldn’t melt into a ball, was like the heavens opening up and angels singing – ha!…and discovering the difference between a striking color and a reduction color.


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

Believe it or not, flip through rug catalogs for color combinations and designs.  You’d be amazed at what you find.


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 have the sweet, loud sound of my Hot Head for company.


Do you have any advice or encouraging words for someone who is just starting out in glass? (Aside from persistence) 

Experimentation is the key. Give yourself plenty of play time and you’ll find some neat effects you can use while developing your style.


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

I’ve used a hollow mandrel to create interesting indentations in my beads.


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

Oh my… I’d have to clean up my work table but here are a few pictures of the mess at least!


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

I try to make beads at least 20-30 hours per week.  It’s never enough time.


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

I use an Olympus Camedia C-4000. The best investment I ever made was buying a photo cube. I always use natural, filtered sunlight for a light source and a grayish background to capture true colors.


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?

Both, though more of the first these days. Some days I just have to sit and make beads that I feel nobody would really buy… just experiments and new shapes. Doing so removes me from the feeling that I have to sell everything.


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

I really have no idea and that’s part of the fun I think.  I’m not quite sure I will do this as a profession for the rest of my life but, right now, I wouldn’t give it up for the world!


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

Yes, it’s called “Shelter” and I’ve been trying to recreate it for years now, to no avail.

 

NAME: Amber Van Meter

LOCATION: Scenic Colorado, USA