Natalie Ruby

March 2008


Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Natalie Ruby: Five awesome years!

What got you started making beads?

Bonnie Bavin (boss and friend) of Bavin Glassworks (Invermere, BC) really made this dream a reality.  We both attended an inspiring afternoon workshop with eight other local women and I was instantly hooked!  Bonnie felt the same and brought all we needed  to set-up a lampworking station at the Gallery.  I took advantage of this opportunity to perfect my art of beadmaking, often staying as late as 2 a.m. to play on the torch.  Not too long after that I found out I was expecting my first child and quickly realized that if I wanted to continue to make beads, I would have to set up my home studio.

Were you interested in making beads before that?

From the moment that I saw my first glass bead I wanted to make them.  I still have that bead as a reminder of that wonderful feeling!  As a child I always enjoyed stringing beads but the art of glass (especially blown glass) was always astonishing.  Because of that passion, the Bavins took me under their wing and taught me the art of glass blowing, later opening the door to lampworking.

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

As a child I always had that creative flair!  Before discovering my passion I dabbled around with stained glass, and even a little mosaic but it wasn’t until I worked with the Bavins’ that I got the opportunity to play with glass in a molten state. I entered the glass world as a glassblowing apprentice, an art that I still pursue today.

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

(see flower box at bottom of page)

Did you take a class?

I have taken two lampworking classes that have been very rewarding - in addition to learning new skills, it has provided inspiration for my bead making.  Each summer I take a glass blowing workshop and if something new interests me, I try to take it. I have tried stained glass, precious metal clay, silversmithing, blacksmithing, mosaic, wire wrapping, and a little metal work.  In the future I would like to take a class in enameling, and fuseing but with two small children, it is often difficult to get away. 

What has surprised you most about working with glass?

The colours and how they react together! I mostly work with bright colours. I especially love the glass when it is in its molten state. I find it exciting.

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

I consider myself to be very lucky because I am surrounded by some very talented glassblowers and lampworkers in my community.  Each bring new ideas to their designs keeping things fresh and exciting! I absolutely love Sharon Peters work!  Her stuff is so great, it blows me away.  Not only is it fun but you can see how truly talented she is.

Whose beads inspire you the most?

It really is hard to name just one but I would have to say Linda Lawrence.  Her use of colour is simply amazing!!

Do you sell your beads?

I sell my beads in a variety of places but primarily in my hometown, Invermere, BC.  Here you can find my beads for sale at the gallery I work in (Bavin Glassworks) and we also have a gallery at Panorama Mountain Village.  My jewelry is also sold at Silver City (Banff, AB) and Craft Connection (Nelson, BC).

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

It didn’t take long to turn my passion into my job. I am very fortunate to work for wonderful people who support me as an artist.  With support from family and friends, I have to say that it has all come pretty easy.

Do you make beads for friends?

Yes, I am happy to say that my friends and family can usually be seen wearing my beads.  Each year at Christmas all the women in my family get a new piece from me. They shake the box and say “What could this be?”

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

They all like it. My daughter is four and already she wants to make beads when she grows up - she is so cute! For Christmas she got her very own bead box from her Grandparents and she is so excited. It looks just like Mommy’s except it is smaller and for her own beads. We often sit at the table and put jewelry together - it truly is great fun!

Luckily my profession is one that I truly enjoy and it is very flexible - I work a lot in the evenings and on the weekends.  It is nice to be able to work and make beads at home because it allows me to be at the torch whenever I feel inspired.  My shop is in the garage I have two torches (sometimes I have a friend come and play) a stereo, a television, couch and a wood stove.  It is a great working area because people can visit or my husband watches sports and keeps me company.  In the summer I open the door to the shop and the kids play in the backyard so it is like being outside.  The woodstove does come in handy during the winter!!

What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)

I have a minor torch I work with propane and I have an oxy concentrator. I love my Kiln, I have a Jen Ken, and the idea is to use it to fuse one day.

What type of glass do you use?

Mostly morretti

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

My shears are definitely my favorite tool!!  They are wonderful and I couldn’t live without them.  And my kneeling chair - if you have to sit for long periods of time, it is definitely the way to go.  It saved my back!!

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

I have a bookshelf full and I enjoy flipping through when I need to be inspired, but have no favorites in particular

Do you have a favorite technique?

I like pulling stringer, and using it to decorate my beads, I also like twisty dots. Lately I have been using gold leaf. I enjoy it all.

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

I would say I am mostly a set person. I make focal beads, more for my pendants, but I always have a plan, or a whole series for my beads. It’s rare that I only make a bead once. I like to create a design and then use them in a series of pieces. It really depends on my mood that day.

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 my daisies, they are my babies. I find them to be unique. I’ve been making them for years. They are my signature piece.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?

Being my own boss. Staying motivated and on top of things. When you primarily work for yourself it takes a lot of energy to stay on task. I have two small children, and even though I have support from my hubby, I still find it hard to be in the studio, and stay focused. It’s a lot of juggling.

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

Although it may sound silly, cylinder beads are my biggest challenge. I have such a hard time getting them to come out looking how I envisioned them that I rarely try anymore.

The easiest?

One of the dot beads I do for bracelets or earrings is probably the easiest. I make a core bead and then add nine dots, and follow by layering dots on top of dots. The beauty of this bead is that the layers don’t have to be perfect -once you melt them in, the bead looks great! I often recommend it as a great technique for beginners.

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

Yes, I still have a few of my first creations but not many. I think they’re fun to keep around because it is nice to see how far I’ve come since I first started.  It seems so long ago now.

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

Well they are better, that’s for sure. Throughout the progression of my beads, I can still see that they are mine.  The difference now is that when I have a vision, I can usually pull it off.

What was your scariest beadmaking experience?

When I first started, I was very excited and that led to me being careless. I was wearing a fleece sweater one day and I reached in front of my torch to grab something. Well, you can just imagine what happened! The sweater was garbage and I stopped playing for the rest of the day. It really is too bad… it was one of my favorite sweaters.

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

I enjoy working with silver foil. I use stamps from scapbooking, and put the foil in between two sheets of paper, stamp it out and use the foil image in my pendants. The trick is to encase the foil in one shot. It took me a while to figure it out but I soon got it.

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 do listen to music. What I listen to really depends on the day or who is with me in the studio. I also watch TV when I am working because I find that it keeps me going. When I am in the house I don’t often get time or silence to watch it so when I am in the studio for a while, watching a television show really helps to keep my butt in the chair.

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

Practice, practice, practice. I suggest practicing a technique until it is mastered. People who are new at lampworking too often don’t have a plan before they start. They sit down and layer, layer, layer… get the point.  Before they know it, their vision is lost, and at times they end up frustrated. Choosing colours carefully is also important because if you pick a group of colours that work nice together, liking the final bead is inevitable. Have a technique and a plan in mind. If that doesn’t work, put that bead away and try again. It will come- just be patient!

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

I use a magnetic bar on my bench to hold all of my metal tools. I like it because not only are my tools always handy but it makes for a tidy workspace, which is really important!

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

It depends on the season. In the summer months 40 hours plus, and that isn’t even enough.

We are very busy at Bavin Glassworks and the demand for beads is high.  Things definitely slow down a little in the winter but with the Gallery and studio at Panorama Ski Hill, sales remain steady. I can’t seem to get ahead. I have so many ideas, but the days in the studio are not long enough.  Maybe one day I will learn the magic trick.

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

My good friend Kim Rae Sanderson takes my pictures.  She is very talented.

Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on? If so, what is the url/id info, etc. 

My website is but I really do need to update it. The marketing and paperwork aspect of my business is, unfortunately, usually on the back burner. Again, I just can’t seem to stay on top of it. That’s another thing that I have to work on…. I’m trying.

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

All of my work is already made up into pieces that I sell at a few galleries and I also plan to start selling at a variety of art shows. I go to the One of a Kind Show in Toronto every year and I absolutely love it! That show is definitely on my list of To Do’s.  Over 500 artisans of all different mediums present their work there so it usually takes me a few days to make it to each booth. Again, if I could somehow get a stock pile of my work, I would definitely participate but that will be in the future.

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?

Right now, it is my living and it is wonderful.  How many people can say that in addition to keeping their own hours, they can do something they love to pay the mortgage?! I recognize how very lucky I am!

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

I would like to travel – just take my beads and go! Do some shows, take some workshops and try some new stuff. I will continue to practice new techniques and create new and exciting designs. I love making beads and blowing glass so in the future I would like to incorporate the two…. the possibilities are truly endless!!!

name :   Natalie Ruby - Ruby Designs

location :  Invermere B.C.