Archived Featured Bead Artists
Ania Karolina Kyte, Amy Waldman Engel
by: Dwyn Tomlinson
This month Beading Times speaks with Barrie Edwards.
Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Barrie Edwards: About 2½ years
Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Barrie Edwards: I teach silversmithing classes, and was approached by one of my students who wanted to learn, but didn't want to do it alone. So I went along with her to Frantz Art Glass in Washington (4 hour drive there, 4 hours back LOL!! Talk about obsessed!). We bought everything we needed to start, and off we went!
Beading Times: Wow, you just plunged right in then! Were you interested in making beads before that?
Barrie Edwards: Nope, I was a certified bead snob! Because I make precious metal and gemstone jewelry, I foolishly thought beads were beneath me! (I'm sorry, I've changed my ways! Please forgive me!!! LOL) Once I saw actual handmade beads and the process, I was enthralled! It involves playing with fire!! Right up my alley! I love soldering, so I figured it was just another torch to learn!
Beading Times: Did any of what you had learned from jewelry-making or soldering translate well, or help you learn faster, do you think?
Barrie Edwards: I never had any fear of working with an open flame. After teaching beginners about beadmaking (did I mention I teach classes?!), I now think my experience with working with different gasses gave me the confidence and respect to use oxygen and propane without fear. I think the use of potentially dangerous gases and an open flame are the biggest fears most newbies have I skipped those parts!
Beading Times: That's great that you didn't have to get over that! Just the sight of the flame is enough to intimidate many people, never mind having to light it! If you came to this comfortable with the gases, torch, flame, etc did you ever have a scary experience?
Barrie Edwards: I was in the middle of a big production run with a woman I was working with at the time. We both had hot beads on the go, two Hot heads going at the same time (talk about loud!), and I thought the dog was leaning against my chair scratching because the chair was moving. Then my husband yelled at me to look up (I was really focusing on that bead!), and I noticed that the whole room was swaying! We were in the middle of an earthquake!! So we very calmly put our hot beads down (didn't even wait for them to cool enough for the fiber blanket!), turned off all the gas in the room, and went outside! By that time it was over, but I was really shaken for quite a while! I still have that bead too!! Of course it's all cracked!
Beading Times: Ah, the joys of living near a fault line! Did you ever get around to taking a class?
Barrie Edwards: I spent the first month melting glass onto mandrels, having never seen the process in person, then my student and I convinced Corina Tettinger to teach us a class. She generously offered us a weekend at her home in Friday Harbor. Turns out I was one of the first students she ever taught!! Unfortunately, the woman who came with me (my jewelry student) was not very adept, and it turned out very frustrating for Corina and I both — I wanted to do florals, and canes, and dot control and all those wonderful things that Corina is so wonderful at, and the woman with me couldn't even make a round bead!! But I got to watch a Master, and that is how I learn best! Then I went home and practiced!!
A year and a half later, I dragged her up here to BC to teach her first group class away from home — there were 8 of us, and we had a blast!! Not to mention we learned a lot!!
Beading Times: Now that is an enviable experience! Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor?
Barrie Edwards: Tell me about them. I really would have to say Corina. She is so generous with her knowledge of the craft! That first class I took with her, she had to beat into me head 90 degrees!! 90 degrees! Meaning of course to apply the glass to the mandrel at a 90 degree angle, or you get more glass on one side than the other. I still hear her German accent and 90 degrees. LOL!
Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Barrie Edwards: Well, of course Corina's, but Kim Neeley of Bluff Road makes incredible beads.
Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Yes! I sell on Ebay (Ebay ID firstname.lastname@example.org), through local craft and gift shows, and to my silver jewelry students — they're my biggest fans! LOL!
Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Barrie Edwards: Sometimes, but more often my best prototypes go to my Mom.
Beading Times: What does your family think of your beadmaking?
Barrie Edwards: My kids can't stop bragging to their friends — I love that! But my husband of 20 years (Randy) has always been supportive of my work as an artist. I quit the real working world to make jewelry and teach jewelry classes, and now this bead thing comes along, and he's just as supportive of that, if not more so. In fact, just a couple of months ago, he started making beads, himself! He's the only student I've ever had who gives me a hard time!! LOL! But now we're both making beads together, and it's much more fun!
Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Barrie Edwards: I use a Nortel Mid-Range torch — no Minor attachment (incidentally, at our workshop here in BC with Corina, she made the comment that they were all driving sports cars (Minors and Lynx) while I was driving the SUV!! LOL). I started on the Hot Head, and I can do everything with it than I can with any other torch — just takes a little longer!! LOL! In fact I teach beginners on it. I have a ‘T' size oxygen tank (read HUGE), that lasts about 3 weeks or so, mixed with propane of course. The kiln I use is actually the kiln I bought a few years ago for casting jewelry in. I batch anneal all my beads. It has an infinite switch, but I know it like the back of my hand, so annealing is a breeze.
Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Barrie Edwards: Well, I just discovered Lauscha clear glass for encasing!! Dreamy stuff!! I'm converted, I'll probably never go back to Moretti clear! LOL! As for bead release, I love the Flame Dry stuff, mostly because I hate to wait for mandrels to dry. I do have a very cool brass stump shaper that a friend's husband made for me, that I love!!! It has quite a small pointed nose on it, and moves molten glass beautifully!
Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Barrie Edwards: I use mostly Moretti, with clear Lauscha.
Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Barrie Edwards: I love to encase!! Especially florals!
Beading Times: Do you make sets?
Barrie Edwards: All the time — but it's hard!!
Beading Times: Which do you prefer to make, a pile of beads or a single perfect bead?
Barrie Edwards: Usually a pile of beads — makes you feel like you've accomplished something! But every now and then, I spend quite a while on a perfect focal, and it's a wonderful feeling!
Beading Times: Your Not a frog set is enchanting. Is there a story with this?
Barrie Edwards: Yup! LOL! Everyone was doing frog beads after Corina's booklet came out. And of course, my house is FULL of cats. So it was a natural progression to have a cat on a bead (just like doing a frog, but without the toes! LOL!).
Beading Times: Have you developed a signature bead, a unique type of bead that is recognizably yours. Tell us about it, how you developed it, etc.
Barrie Edwards: Hmm, probably my Everglades beads — I sent them in for a bead exchange I was in, and most people thought they were made of boro! It was a complete experiment, playing with cased stringers and silver foil. I love them in long rectangles, but the round ones sell very well.
Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Barrie Edwards: The biggest obstacle was, and still is time! Trying to continue with my silversmithing and make beads at the same time can be really frustrating. Could we please have another 4 hours a day pretty please??
Beading Times: I hear you! If I could, trust me, I would do that for you and me and artists everywhere! Speaking of having too much to do, do you incorporate the beadmaking back into the jewelry making at all?
Barrie Edwards: Of course!! Mind you, I haven't had a whole lot of time to explore it completely, but I do use quite a few beads that break in half (I do it on purpose now) out of the beads that break! It started with a purple and aqua floral that broke in half. It's the "ooh - aah" factor! LOL! I was so busy thinking how cool the bead was, I didn't get it into the fiber blanket soon enough! Then it happened to be sitting on my jewelry work bench, beside a specially textured piece of metal I had previously made (it has leaves and vines etched on it), and the new ring design was born. That particular ring is mine! They're big, and funky, but I've taken quite a few orders for them, and had a special request to put some in a store on 4th Ave, in Vancouver (one of my former jewelry students owns a high end, trendy clothing store). I use both halves to make stud earrings (bezel set beads), they're a big hit too.
Oh, and when Corina was here last year, she stayed at my place (lucky me! LOL) and saw a series of pins I had done for a customer, and had to have one!! I hang zipper pulls from them, which makes them completely interchangeable! And of course I make my own headpins, clasps, and what not. Eventually I'll have it all on my website for sale.
Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Barrie Edwards: For me, the hardest is HUGE beads! I have a bunch of wine stoppers I've been making beads for lately, and because they're so big, I have to cool them just so, so they can make it to the kiln to anneal. Fortunately with my SUV-like torch, I can get as big as I want, but cooling is the tricky part! The inside of my kiln is too small for my hollow mandrels, and I just haven't gotten around to cutting them shorter to fit into a hot kiln — I'll get to it eventually (need more time! LOL!)
Beading Times: The easiest?
Barrie Edwards: That's tough! A lot of them are easy!! Spacers of course, but I don't think they count!! Probably graffiti style beads. I love swirling tiny stringer around a bead!
Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Barrie Edwards: I have lots of favorites, but definitely encasing!
Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Barrie Edwards: Well, of course, they've gotten better! I was pretty spoiled starting out with Corina for a teacher, so my beads have pretty much always been okay. But now, I can make them faster, and more intricate, without ruining a bunch!
Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Barrie Edwards: I have a bracelet of black and white unannealed beads that I wore to my first class with Corina (she told me I didn't need her!! Silly woman!). Now I know they're not great, but they are respectable. Of course, they were the cream of a really bad crop!! Here's a picture of it, but remember I'd only been making beads for a month and no classes.
Beading Times: Pretty respectable indeed! Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Barrie Edwards: Hmmm, That's a tough one! There are so many! Okay, how about square beads! Make a perfect round bead (okay, doesn't even have to be perfect, just sort of round!). Take your squishers, and when you're ready to shape your bead (make sure it isn't really molten, let it cool slightly, still glowing, but not drippy), and turn the mandrel to face you, so you're looking down the end of the rod (bead closest to you), and squish one direction, then squish the other. Don't squish too much, you want to make sure that your bead is square, not tabular. But by looking down the end of the mandrel, you can see what your finished shape is going to be. If you squish when it's sideways to you (like when you're adding glass), 99% of the time, it will be more diamond shaped than square. If you have to reshape the ends, warm the bead up a bit, but don't lose the square shape, then use your squishers to straighten up your ends. Don't forget to heat your chill marks out of the bead once it's squished. Do it opposite sides at a time, or you will lose your shape.
Beading Times: Have you invented any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn't ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Barrie Edwards: I use many different dental tools for shaping and texturing the beads. I made my own mashers out of a big pair of stainless steel tweezers and brass plates I cut and soldered on (I love it, it's the perfect size!).
Beading Times: Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Barrie Edwards: It's messy! But okay!
Beading Times: Well, the very thought of a tidy creative space frightens me. What about photographing your beads — what do you use to get your pictures?
Barrie Edwards: I use a Sony Mavica FD87, and my high-tech photo set up is usually a gray binder I bought at Staples! I pull the binder out, place the beads on it, grab the camera, click, edit slightly in Paintshop Pro, and voila! I'm the queen of cheap! LOL!
Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on?
Barrie Edwards: Yes to both!
For my Ebay auctions the URL is
For my website, the URL is www.itsmystore.com/epiphany
And for those that love silver jewelry www.itsmystore.com/windermere
And for information on taking lampworking classes, email me directly! My students seem able to start selling their beads pretty darn quickly after classes, and it's not long before they become my own competition!
Beading Times: Thank you for your time! I've enjoyed chatting with you and wish you the best of luck with your ongoing bead making and jewelry making!
Beading Times is pleased to present a monthly article spotlighting a lampwork bead artist. If you, or someone you know is interested in being featured, please contact email@example.com.