Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Astrid Riedel: I started in August 2003


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

I was browsing in my favorite bookshop and found a book on bead making, well I was so exited, I got onto the internet to find out where I could get the equipment and glass. I had to import everything. I had never heard of or seen any bead making and was not aware of anyone making beads in South Africa, so classes were out! I ordered the books by Bandam Dunham and looked for any other material I could find.


Were you interested in making beads before that?

No, but glass has always interested me, and I would love to have taken glass sculpting or glassblowing as a vocation, but eventually I decided on another career as Goldsmith, which I enjoyed extremely much for 15 years or so, and still make something now and then, but glass bead making has taken over my every spare minute!


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

From when I was in kindergarden I was creating things, and I have done quite a few different hobbies before glass bead making. I started sewing my own clothes in high school and still do it now and then for a special occasion. I did oil and watercolor painting for a good 10 years, loved that too, other hobbies were decoupage and drawing with pen and ink. I think I have incorporated the feeling for color, balance and the jewelry making side of things into my beads.


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


Pen and ink drawing.




What has surprised you most about working with glass?

It amazed me to see something as rigid as glass, become so fluid in front of my eyes, although now at times I forget that I am actually working with glass, I find it interesting how the different colors don’t just blend away into each other, but that it all stays beautifully in place.


Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell us about them.

I think first of all when I found out about Wetcanvas in 2005, I found a lot of useful  info which helped me a tremendous amount. So everybody who added their expertise there are my mentors.


Whose beads inspire you the most?

Well there have been many bead makers in 5 years who inspired me, I would say that Melanie Moertel, Manuela Wutchke, Anastasia’s beads and Jayne (badgerbeads) have stood out as my inspiration.


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

I do sell the beads, I have made many sets and made them into necklaces, On Ebay I found it easier to sell them as loose sets, but lately I have concentrated more on focal beads, which I sell on Etsy.


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

I think I did because I just could not see me keeping all of the beads for my self, there has to be motivation to keep making more, and selling is very rewarding it lets me know that people like what I make and as an artist you thrive on this.


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

No, there are not many in S.A and at this stage it just does not peak my interest.

Do you sell your beads in stores or other venues?

I did sell through an art gallery, a boutique, and jewelry shop in S.A, a glass gallery in Holland and an exclusive gift store.


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 mostly sell on Etsy and Ebay ( just click on the links to direct you to my listings).


What do your friends and family think of your bead making?

My friends think it is amazing and always wonder how it is done! Most of them only know the Chinese mass produced beads, so I really have to explain that they are little works of art. My family, especially my husband is my greatest fan, and almost always loves what I come up with.


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

I have an ISIHeat burner from Arnold in Germany. I use propane and a 20kg bottle of oxygen. My husband made me a  kiln (Yep, he’s quite handy to have around!)


What type of glass do you use?

I use mostly Moretti glass and Lauscha for encasing, but have a little stash of Double helix and some other speciality glass too.


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

It just depends on the mood for the day, At times I feel like I have a double personality, because I swing from one style to another!

I think I gravitate mostly towards organics or earth colors, but now and then grab some bright colors too. Lately I also use a lot of enamels in my beads.


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

I love using silver glass, silver leaf and copper leaf, and the reactions you get are the wonderful surprise you get with each bead you make.


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

I am a set person turned focal bead person!


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 love making something different everyday and am not the type of person to repeat anything too often, I get bored too quickly when there is no challenge. This does not really make for a good signature bead, although you probably can see a trend in the way I work, something that others can see better then myself. I think my sculpted swan beads are the closest to being or becoming my signature bead, and perhaps the totem pole owl beads.


What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?

In the beginning it was encasing the bead and making hollow beads, wow, that was difficult!


What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?

My favorite kind of bead,  is one that has a “depth” to it, and lots of texture to keep me looking at it. Perhaps something just pleasant to the eye, the shape, the form, the complexity or the beautiful simplicity of the design.


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

I was cheeky and sold even my (almost) first beads, but I have a box full of ugly attempt and mishaps, they remind me that I am hopefully getting better. ;) I can’t believe I sold those early beads…. I was so proud of them then.


What was your scariest bead making experience?

Well maybe not scary but stupid, I put my hand in the flame and the burn took 3 weeks to heal, but you bet I carried on beading, even had to give a class, it was a good warning for others! Believe me it hasn’t happened since!


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

Funny but painful, I was blowing on a bead to cool off the “raku” and make the colors pop, and yeah you guessed it I kissed the flaming hot glass, I had a big blister on my lips for days!!!


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

You know, as you get to understand the glass more and more, you have these revelations, and the light bulb moments of aha that is how it is done!


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?

Strangely enough I really don’t need any music while I work, its just me the flame and the humming of the extractor.


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

Be careful once you start you can’t stop, it can lead to an obsession!

Otherwise there is soooooo much info out there on the forums to help you with techniques, you will succeed if you are passionate about glass and beading.


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

No, and I use a handful of tools, and have only one press!


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

Yes, I’ll quickly clean up ……

Its on top of a double garage, A really pleasant room.





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

As much as 5 hours per day I think and I even do some on the weekends, for me it is enough as I have still one child at school and homework needs to be done……….


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

This is something that is an art on its own, and with much trial and error it has improved. I use a Sony Cybershot 8.1 Mega pixels (with steady shot, that helped me a lot too). The biggest improvement for me was the light (shutter speed) setting on the camera, I photograph every thing on manual, on macro setting and play with light settings, then there is a lot you can adjust on the computer I discovered that after you resize you images, sharpen them again, it makes the world of difference.


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?

Firstly it is my absolute passion and I am fortunate that it is not a “job” although this last year I have treated is as one, I have given it my all, because I started selling on the internet, and this keeps you really busy, also with photographing and listing your work every where to get exposure. But I LOVE it to bits, never bored for a minute, and as a bonus I have gotten to know people on the glass forums from all over the world.


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

I will keep on making beads until nobody wants a bead anymore!  If that would happen and I hope it never does, I would move on to do ornamental work, but I will definitely stay with glass.


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

It always seems that every latest bead is my favorite, but I could show a couple of sets I really like…






NAME: Astrid Riedel

LOCATION: Pretoria, South Africa