Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Christina Burkhart: I have been making beads ever since the end

of 2003.


What got you started making beads?

I moved from California to Nevada for a while and although the dessert is beautiful, I needed something to fill in my creativity gap.  My good friend Thomas Sanchez got me interested. He set me up with a little studio, loaner torch and some awesome pointers. I have been hooked ever since! I have only had one “real job” since then and it only lasted about 5 months before I quit because it was taking quality time away from me and my torch.


Were you interested in making beads before that?

I grew up with both parents making jewelry and traveling to various art shows ever since I had my first tooth. I really wasn’t in to making beads or in to glass although I did think it was a fascinating field to work in.  Everything is so expensive so I didn’t even let it become an idea until I worked with it. Once I got to create with and manipulate glass I was addicted!


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

Ever since I was a small child I have been immersed in the world of art.  My parents and grandmother always supported my creative endeavors. Creativity in my family was as important as good grades in school.  I remember making clay figurines when I was 5, playing with watercolors and rock salt when I was 7 and making lost wax rings for my parents show case when I was 11. When I first went to college I was 16 and it was purely for art classes. I took almost every ceramic and pottery class I could, jewelry fabrication classes and art history class before I was 18. I guess you could say that because of this I was more apt to working with the flame. Anything goes in the world of art for me.


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

Most of my other works are in storage or have been given away.  I used to give all my nice pieces away to my favorite people. The only items that I have left are these ceramic vases.


Did you take a class?

Aside from my help when I was just starting out, I am mostly self-taught. I have never taken a bead making class before. Everything I have learned up to this point has been from trial and error or from talking to other glass artists about their experiences. There is really a wealth of knowledge out there you just have to be inquisitive and ask questions. I will never stop asking questions!


Many of my ideas and influences arise from the appreciation of other artists work, glass and other art forms alike.


What has surprised you most about working with glass?

I think that the most intriguing part of borosilicate glass is the reactions you can get from layering colors. They form effects that you would never imagine they would. Some of the effects you get in glass would be impossible to replicate in another medium such as watercolors or glazes.  I also appreciate the fact that the colors refract and reflect light so differently, especially the opalescent ones.


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

My mom has been the most supportive person in my life. She has taught me that I can thrive in anything I put my mind and heart in, and if I want, make a living doing it. She has taught me the importance of not believing in boundaries and rules when it comes to art. One of my favorite saying she has is “ If you never tried something because you didn’t think it was possible, then you would never have known you could do it!” This to me is the single most inspirational thing she has taught me. My father is also an inspiration to me. He knows many technical things that he has passed down to me as well as a great attitude for life in general. He has also shown me that sometimes the books are wrong. If you tweak your medium a little bit you can pull off miracles that some say are impossible!


Whose beads inspire you the most?

Everyone’s beads inspire me. I have an appreciation for even the simplest of them, even the beginner beads because they are the beginning to a bead making evolution. 


Do you sell your beads?

Yes, beads are my sole income. Right now I am trying to build stock so I can do some shows but my beads sell so fast!  I am selling most of my beads on ebay right now but I am trying to broaden my horizons. I love to meet people and be able to have one-on-one conversations with them which I am not able to do on the internet.


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

I have always been trying to make a living doing some thing creative that is all my own. With glass I have found a way to financially survive. I am so happy to be doing something I love and get paid for it.


Do you make beads for friends?

Are you kidding? My friends get pendants and beads for almost every occasion! My friend Ashley is going to have quite an extensive collection in a few years time.


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

My family and friends are so supportive, I don’t know what I would do without them. I am always getting glass supply presents for my Birthdays and for Christmas from my Mom. My Dad is always letting me use his lapidary wheel and jewelry cutting equipment anytime I visit. My boyfriend and best friend, Brian, has always been supportive of my glass art even though he has a “normal” 9-5 job. I am so joyful that he understands. I know that sometimes I look totally neurotic during my late night studio escapades!


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

I use an oxygen/propane set up with a Nortel SSQ torch. I was initially using this lost wax casting kiln that used to be my fathers which is a total relic, but I got tired of babysitting it when I was striking my colors. I have since gotten a bluebird XL made by Paragon which is the best kiln ever!  The controller was a little difficult to figure out at first though. I definitely had to look up the manual online.


What type of glass do you use?

I use Borosilicate glass because I just love the colors and the way the colors react with each other!


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

Gosh, there are so many favorites! They are all so spectacular it is hard to choose but I really enjoy layering Northstar’s amber purple over a highly saturated Northstar “exotic” or a Glass Alchemy persimmon over an Amazon.


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

Both combos get this beautiful ring of yellow around the area they touch. It makes for a really neat detailed effect.


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

I really love the Heavy Duty Foster-Fire bead release. It allows me to work on a bead for a longer period of time without it fusing to the mandrel.


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

I honestly am pretty abstract and I love to come up with my own ideas. I usually find things out from fellow lamp workers if I encounter a problem, but that is rare thankfully.


Do you have a favorite technique?

I really enjoy making my three dimensional flower beads. When I finish one that turns out really well then it is so satisfying.


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

I am definitely a focal person. I love to make focals because you can really create a complex bead and get real creative. It is like making a whole new world every time and I just can’t get enough!


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

My galaxy beads are a signature of mine and I love to make them because each one always comes out different than the last. I love to add opals to them to create “moons” and the gasses emitted from the silver create all sorts of neat “space gasses”. I could really go on and on! I figured out how to make them when I ran out of dichroic glass one day and I have been hooked ever since. I also make these sea beads that are a blast but they are super time consuming. I actually have a how-to article on how they are made in The Flow Magazine’s women in glass edition. I figured out how to make these on a whim when I was bored and playing with implosions.


What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?

Putting down my glass rods!!!  I never know when to quit.


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

Blown hollow beads are a nightmare to me right now but mostly because I haven’t had enough practice. They come out all off center with a different gauged thickness. They really aren’t my forte.


The easiest?

Well, I would say good old frit beads are the easiest but they aren’t that much  fun for me. I love a good challenge.


What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?

I love the types of beads people make with all those dots! Gosh, how can they get them so perfect?


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

Oh gosh, they keep turning up everywhere!  In the laundry room, in drawers, even in my vegetable garden!

I love them because they remind me of how far I have come, and they really are lopsided which is great because now most of my beads are boring old symmetrical ones.


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

They have gotten more complex because it is not as hard to round them out anymore for one! They are always changing though. I get on all sorts of binges where I just have to make a certain kind over and over. Then out of nowhere I come up with a new idea and I just have to make another kind of design or shape. It keeps things interesting for me so that I never burn out.


What was your scariest beadmaking experience?

Well, one time I accidentally touched a live element in the kiln with my steel mandrel and got electrocuted pretty bad.  I have to say that I pay better attention now.


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

I think that the electrocution story goes here as well!


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

Everyday I have one. I can’t remember any that are more important than another but I think the color ideas are my favorites. I just can’t get enough favorite color combos.


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

My best tip is to experiment with your colors and kiln temperatures. You get the best colors when you experiment and all kilns are different.


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 usually work without music simply because I forget to turn it on. I am already so entertained that I just get started and keep going. If I do listen to music then it is usually classic rock or some CD that I have dug up from the Dark Age. I have many CDs like that.


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

My best tip is to be original! Beadmaking should be an art form, not a craft and it is important to express yourself. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas that no one else has done. It pays off a thousand times over in the long run.


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

Scissors to cut the glass is my favorite tool as well as pliers from the Home Depot and tweezers from the beauty supply store. My favorite tool though is the flame. I have all these tools and rarely use them.


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

I would show you a picture of my studio but it would most likely scare you or traumatize you because it is so cluttered! Ha ha. No really,I am serious.


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

I usually work around 25 hours a week if I have that much time. It is what I aim for but sometimes it is a little less. It is never enough, there just aren’t enough hours in a day.


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 backgrounds that I buy from various stores like the art store or Michael’s. Backgrounds are everywhere you look, you can really get creative with them. My favorite is the glossy black poster paper from Michael’s but I have been known to use my own ceramic plates as a back drop too. I usually take my pictures in full sun in the early to late morning because the light is best then. I always use a macro mode, it is essential!  Right now I am photographing with a Kodak Easy Share. It works really well for me.


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 usually sell on ebay. You can get to my store by following this link:


My website is always under construction but here is the link to there as well:


I also do special orders so you can contact me directly for those. If you wish to see good examples of my work then you can find me on at this address:


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

I have had my work in various galleries but right now I don’t. I usually sell just my beads although I have made jewelry out of it before as presents. The great joy of my work is seeing what people make out of what I have made! It is just fascinating.


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?

Making beads is definitely a job and a passion. If I didn’t make money doing what I do I would still play in my studio every chance I got.


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

It is hard to say where all of this will take me. I just know that I will never stop growing in the world of glass. I would love to start getting even more active in the beading community and start teaching lessons eventually. I see lampworking as an endless opportunity for me where I will never get bored or stop learning.


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

My favorite bead is this galaxy bead with the gilson opal cabochons in it. I can’t remember who bought it but it was around the tenth one I made of the galaxy series beads and definitely an all time favorite. Now I wish I would have kept it for myself.


NAME: Christina Irene Burkhart