Carla Di Francesco

May 2008


Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Carla Di Francesco: Almost five years now.


What got you started making beads?

I was searching for beads on ebay to create a fancy curtain of red, orange and pink beads with my little son. Then I saw some beads with a triangular pattern and that did it ! That was the first time in my life that I had ever thought about beads. WHO makes beads? I recognized that they don’t grow on trees… so HOW is it possible that there is something like what I saw in those pictures on ebay? I was totally shocked by the idea that someone could create those amazing beads. BUT HOW ???

Were you interested in making beads before that?

Nope... or maybe I was but I didn’t know it. Actually I never was a typical girl… playing with dolls or something… so I never had beads... I was hanging around with the boys, playing football, cruising around on bikes, building tree houses and stuff like that… but I always painted… everywhere and on everything.  I remember some years ago, before beadmaking came into my life, I was in a shop and they sold beads... but more the Czech or Swarowski style beads, and I felt like a little child in a candy shop… I had to buy them just to have them… even now I don’t have any intentions of making jewelery (and no talent too), so I just bought those beads to look at them… I was enchanted!


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

I was always painting, as long as I can remember… but more like doodling, on all my schoolbooks, shoes, pants, arms, legs…my friends ;-) … and I always was the one who had to paint if there was something to create for a birthday or other like event…

Later I made decorations for clubs and bars together with my friends… and I was always dreaming about a house, totally colored, mosaic, crazy lighting and such... I was always searching for ideas to build new kinds of illuminations, I think I really bored all my friends because I never stopped talking about that house I had on my mind, and I was always taking pictures... ever since I could hold a camera in my hands... and I always was the one who had to take the pictures... for family, for parties, for whatever... and when the beads came into my life, I finally had a great reason to shoot ;-) ... and I especially love flower close-ups too.

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

Here’s a painting of my dog... he`s such a thankful model ;-) Just a big black nose... and the rest is just wild brushstrokes!

Did you take a class?

I started beadmaking with Isi Merkel, she`s an amazing bead artist, teacher and friend. When I took my first class I was so excited that I was talking all the time (poor Isi). I actually wanted to know about the equipment… how to use a gas tank without blowing up my house and all that. When I went home, I knew I had to buy a torch and almost instantly I was hooked up... and I had to take another class soon... and try not to talk so much ;-)

I took another class 3 months later with Isi. That was the next level so to say, trying to find out the secrets of encasing and triangle patterned beads (I think the triangle beads were my reason to begin beading and they are still ;-)


Next I took a class with Jacky Teuchert-Rimkus, another really amazing German beadmaker. She is such a perfectionist and lovely person! That class was about reactions and fuming, not so much my stuff, but I think it`s always good to learn more than what you can see “on your horizon”.


Then I took a class with Brad Brandolino aka Anakin, but more to see how he was creating those unbelievable “airtrap” marbles, not so much to create my own… I don’t know why …. I don’t want to create marbles because I want my stuff to have a hole… for whatever reasons I actually don’t really know (I told you I am not making jewelry ;-) anyway, Anakin is a brilliant teacher and it was such an impressing experience !!


I think mostly I am self taught, I had all those beadmaking books at home, but I was just always looking on pics, I never read any instructions... (even if today my best advice for my students is: read it, you can save precious time… even though I think you waste precious experiences by not trying to find out on your own).


And I took a class with Stephanie Sersich 3 days ago, she`s my “bead-queen” ever since I discovered her work in the beginning of my bead life …. And now, after watching Stephanie work and trying her techniques…. I feel like an absolute beginner again!


What has surprised you most about working with glass?

The addiction, the meditation, to have found something that I wanna do down the line ! I can do just that one thing without thinking about what else I have to do or better “could” to do else, this surprises me the most,

I HAVE TO STAY THERE FOR HOURS AND HOURS because I WANT TO!... and of course... how my world has turned upside down.... to have made friends all over the planet with the same love for glass... that amazes me so much !!


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

My father for sure, he was the one who always bought crazy stuff and nice things from all over the world, a great teller and an exact observer, censor with a special kind of humor… and he is still.


And Niki de Saint Phalle, an artist who lived between 1930 and 2002. Through her work she explored female roles in society and myth, basing many of her disquieting and joyful depictions on personal experience – if there is such a thing - she`s my soul-mother … and she created a garden in italy, the tarot garden, full of “houses”, like the one I never stopped dreaming about…


Whose beads inspire you the most?

I don’t know if they inspired me, but these are my favorite lampworkers:

Dustin Tabor, Stephanie Sersich, Michele Goldstein and Terri Caspari Smith.

Do you sell your beads?

I try, sometimes ;-) I think I am the worst business woman in the world, mostly I give them away or I want to keep them for myself. Sometimes I try to, just to tell myself that I am seriously trying to be adult.


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

I didn’t, but my boyfriend tried to convince me…. So I put some beads on ebay, but I didn’t sell,  those beads were awful and I tried to be really expensive…. Then it took a long long time till I tried it again… This time I`ve sold them, lucky me ;-)


Do you make beads for friends?

This is my favorite thing to do. I love to create for a special person, I believe all those things about the spirit in glass if you think of someone while creating.


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

My son is convinced that I have a bead in my head instead of a brain…

So do the rest of my friends…. But I think they love it… they`re proud of me.  In the beginning no one believed in me… they thought this is one of those many things Carlee starts and after a while she will have something new.


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

My favorite torch: The Isiheat, a german torch for beadmaking.

Oxygen concentrator (I have tanks too but I prefer to work with the concentrator while I work with softglass), propane, and a swedish kiln by Uterm.


I also use a Bobcat, it’s a bit different to my Isiheat, designs come out different because of a wider flame, but for certain things I really like it a lot.

I have a Carlisle and a big swiss torch here for glassblowing too,

and I found out in the Stephanie class that the minor set up with oxygen tank is not so bad either.


What type of glass do you use?

Moretti, Lauscha, Vetrofond, Ornela and Bullseye.


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

I love the the bright and dense colors the most.


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

I love the black lines … the reaction between yellow and turquoise for example. This is what I really love for my “heart-beads”, I love that comic-book-look !

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

Bead release: Sludge dip`n`go (the grey one) … the best I ever had !!

Does anyone have the perfect clear in softglass ??? please let ME know ! I will spend all my money on that !!


Do you have a favorite technique?

Triangle and the extended versions of it.


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

Absolutely focal.


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 think the flames are my signature… and my so called “cosmic candies”, stars and heart-beads. When I did the flame-beads I wanted to make a bead as a lucky-charm for my lampworking friends ... propane and oxygen ... the reducing flame and the oxidizing flame .... that was my idea .... I almost went nuts... it worked, it didn’t work .... sometimes they were beauties, and other times they were just plain ugly, and I didn’t know why... it really drove me crazy ... I don’t know how many of them I did (300 perhaps) until I finally got the look and the colors I now use.

I know every mistake that might occur. I know which glasses don’t work for that kind of bead .... and I know how to keep the flames on the surface or let them blaze in the core ;-)

I really had a hard time by using incompatible glass .... weeks of work – all for the garbage ... but anyway, at least I learned something. With every failure I got one step further. Without all the trial and error I wouldn’t have learned so much about these beads .... and in the end, about the character of glass in general.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?

Triangular pattern beads... to find out how to "close" the sides of the beads, what today is my specialty ;-)


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

Off-mandrel beads, like Stefanie Sersich does and “inside out” in Boro.


The easiest?

Triangles ;-)


What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?

Still the triangular pattern and all the various versions of it, and my “cosmic buddies” (disk beads), they help me to center myself if I am nervous or stressed.


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

Yes I do, and I love them !!! I would never give them away ! Wanna see ???

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

I became a perfectionist…. What I`ve never been in anything before and what I’m still not in anything else. The beads got me !!


What was your scariest beadmaking experience?

To get on a plane to travel to Philadelphia (for the Female Flame Off 2007).

I hate to fly !!!


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

If my english was better, I could entertain you the whole night….


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

When I started to recognize that the flame is the best tool. Since that time I hardly ever use tools to create most of my beads… just the flame and the mandrel, that’s all.


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

Work slow and cold, that’s the best way to control, and the perfect way to bring out the crispness of the colors.


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`ve been listening to “Eat at Whitey’s” from “Everlast” the last year... non stop !!


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

Like I mentioned above… without all the trial and error I wouldn’t have learned so much about glass .... so go and make mistakes friends .... that’s the best education!!


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

My best tools come from the house builders shop… I will show pictures,

I don’t know in english how to name them… but you will recognize them by looking at the pictures. I bought stuff from glass-suppliers which was totally useless… like a rake-tool that always sticks in the glass... that’s garbage !! I bought a tool especially to poke… same thing, it always stuck in the glass.

I bought little screwdrivers in the hardware store... I don’t even have to cool them in cold water, they work anyway! PERFECT, and less expensive !

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

sure :-)

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

Actually I try to spend every free hour I have on the torch. I am a really early riser… 5:00 in the morning or so… I love that, especially in the summer. No one disturbs you…no telephone calls, no doorbell… (I just have to stay away from the internet… that’s dangerous).  I am totally fresh and full of energy at that hour and that’s the time when I create my best beads.


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

I finally use the Canon IXUS. Before I got that amazing little camera I used an old Minolta digi cam, and so I had to take at least 20 pics of one and the same bead… and I had to overwork everything with a graphic tool later... But since I have that little magic IXUS, everything works well !!


The best light is the early sunlight or the late afternoon light… always use the macro… try to find the perfect background… that’s a matter of taste maybe. I love to take pics on a white background, but I don’t like to display those pics on my black website (therefor I use dark or colorful backgrounds)… so I created a new site for my white pics… Carlee’s white pages ;-)


I don’t have a clue about photography…. People always ask me things about cameras and settings…. it’s all greek to me… I just shoot what I see, that’s my best advice, do it from the heart !


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

sometimes I sell on etsy or on ebay too..


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

Sometimes I sell at bead shows… but most of all I love to go there to shop for myself  :-D Gallery 908 in Philadelphia sells some of my beads too, but no jewelry, just key rings and functional work like butter knives.

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’s my job and passion… I am teaching a lot in my studio and other studios in Austria, Switzerland and Holland (2008). Teaching is just another good reason to spend more time on the torch and to meet people with the same love (and in the end to feed my little dog and my son, and pay the loan for my house!). So I would say it`s 70% passion and 30% job... I mentioned before that I am bad at business!

What I found out for me (in all parts of life), if you do it from the heart…. You are authentic, for me the best way to earn money (even if I maybe earn less than others) and the best way to be well.


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

I would love to do furnace work… but I think to do that I will have to leave Germany…. In the US there are so many more glass-art-education opportunities then there are here in Germany…. Unfortunately I don’t have the opportunity to do the 3 years long education for a scientific (apparatus) glassblower – that is the only way it is possible to get a glassblowers education in Germany. So I will have to wait till my little son is old enough to live without his mother and till I am old enough to live without my son ;-)


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

It’s not my best... but it’s my favorite :-)


name :   Carla Di Francesco aka Carlee

location :  Stuttgart, Germany