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Dianna Craig (Platypus Glass)

British Columbia, Canada

platypus_glass@telus.net

by: Dwyn Tomlinson


Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Dianna Craig:
Just over 3 and 1/2 years.

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Dianna Craig:
In late 2000, my husband came home with a copy of Beadwork magazine... I was a fan of Bead & Button, but it was hard to come by in our small town; he reasoned that since the word 'bead' was in the title, it would be just as good. Flipping through the pages, a section titled Up Close caught my eye. A photo of glass chocolate candies made by Joella Johnson accompanied a drawing labeled "lampwork," in which an illustrated pair of hands applied glass to a mandrel in a torch flame. (I recognized the hands and torch; what they were actually doing was beyond my comprehension at that point.)

I was in awe; the candies were the coolest thing I'd ever seen, and the idea of somebody actually making them was even more impressive! Of course, I never thought for a second that I might pursue lampworking myself; the notion was ridiculous! I forgot about it.

 

In late 2001, my husband came home with a copy of Jewelry Crafts magazine ... I was a fan of Lapidary Journal, but it was really hard to come by in our small town; he reasoned that since the word 'jewelry' was in the title, it would be just as good. Flipping through the pages, some photos caught my eye ... a pair of hands, a torch — it hit me like a brick through a plate glass window.

Eagerly I found the beginning of the article, which profiled lampwork artist D.D. Hess. I read it with great interest; so that's what the lampwork picture meant! Again, I was in awe. I read the article 3 times before moving on to the next page, which as luck would have it (or clever ad placement) I was face to face with an ad for Cindy Jenkins' book Making Glass Beads. I ordered it that very day, that minute. And the rest, as they say, is history.

This long boring story about a short boring woman has a moral (the story, not the woman): my husband, who rolls his eyes over my continuing giddy love affair with glass ... who surveys my bowls, buckets, and boxes of beads with great distaste ... who openly yawns at the onset of another fascinating bead story .... the Fickle Finger of Fate points at thee!

Beading Times: Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?
Dianna Craig:
I'm guess I'm an artistically-geared individual, but not in any traditional sense For example, my living room was painted spur-of-the-moment with 3 bottles of acrylic paint (royal blue, purple, and yellow), some float medium, and a rag. There was no planning or forethought ... anything within arm's length can turn into some sort of Frankenstein art project, at any time. I'm the same way when it comes to making beads — grab yer torch and pitchfork... it's alive!

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Dianna Craig:
No, I've never taken a class. I learn best from my own mistakes. I've had many a revelation while skidding down the driveway on my face, so to speak.

Beading Times: What has surprised you most about working with glass?
Dianna Craig:
I'm shocked that after nearly 4 years, I'm even more excited about it now than I was in the beginning! At let me tell you, back then I was like a Christmas puppy with bathroom privileges.

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Dianna Craig:
Never had a mentor, really. I've had a Ment o , though.

Beading Times: That would make you the "freshmaker?" In spite of that — you make "when beads go bad." What got that started?
Dianna Craig:
Here's the story behind them: we were cleaning out the fridge, my husband asks the question "Do pickles go bad?" Five years later, I'm making beads, experimenting with ugly green glass that I hate. I didn't want to waste the glass, but I knew trying to improve the ugly bead would only make it worse ... so I decided to make it worse on purpose. I added some darker green bumps to it, and thought it kind of looked like a pickle. Clang! The question came back to me... "Do pickles go bad?" Right then, I made up my mind that yes, they go bad. Very, very bad! I liked the bead so much, I immediately made an egg, cheese, and a piece of moldy bread to go with it...

Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Dianna Craig:
I don't look for inspiration in others' beads, preferring to not be influenced by their work. I am, however, inspired by the weirdest things ... the cleanser aisle at the grocery store for example. Especially since dish soap and window cleaner starting coming in so many new colors!. My husband pretends he doesn't know me when we shop together, just because I'm holding a Windex bottle over each eye.

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Dianna Craig:
Yes, I wear a trenchcoat and sell 'em in a dark alley. And on eBay.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Dianna Craig:
Whether they like it or not.

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Dianna Craig:
I use a Hothead torch with bulk propane, and my kiln is a Skutt GM10-F with a bead door and digital controller.

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Dianna Craig:
Soft glass, mostly Moretti, some Vetrofond. I'd like to try Bullseye, but it'll have to wait until the training wheels are off my torch.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Dianna Craig:
I really like Val Cox's line of frits and foils.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Dianna Craig:
Anything that doesn't end with "Stop, Drop, and Roll".

Beading Times: Are you a "set person" or a "focal bead" person?
Dianna Craig:
I think I'm an "eclectic ensemble" person. I don't think in terms of sets or focals while working; that all comes later.

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.
Dianna Craig:
Actually, there are two:

I think my style of cosmic beads is unique and recognizable. I was just fooling around one day, experimenting with this and that; didn't think anything would come of it. But what came out of the kiln made me suck in my breath... they looked awesome! Luckily, I was able to piece the 'formula' together (I don't plan ahead or write anything down). I've been making them ever since. A couple of sub-series have grown from the cosmics as well: Cosmic Plane and Bead Lightning.

The other would be the "beads gone bad" -- see story above. These are a fairly recent development and are mostly based on expressions like 'bad egg' or 'mean cuppa joe'.

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Dianna Craig:
I was afraid to express myself openly, for fear of what others would think.

Beading Times: You seem like the shy and retiring sort. What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Dianna Craig:
Plain spacers.

Beading Times: And the easiest?
Dianna Craig:
Plain spacers.

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Dianna Craig:
My favorite beads to make? I'd have to say it's a tie between cosmics and sculpturals. And if I have any technique, it's news to me.

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Dianna Craig:
Yes, I still have my first beads. I made them with a plumber's torch, mandrels cut from brass coathangers, and a bag of glass drops from the local dollar store. To this day, I look at them with pride and feel a sense of accomplishment, despite their ugliness.

I used to make beads to be... well, beads. Now I use glass to express exactly what I want to say, when I want to say it. The fact that it's functional as a bead is just gravy.

Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Dianna Craig:
It wasn't 'boo' scary, but unsettling: a small piece of hot glass landed on my arm, sauteing my flesh. I chose to ignore it (didn't want to ruin the bead I was making). I still have the scar.

Beading Times: Have you had any "glass epiphanies" while working — some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Dianna Craig:
The vastness of my curseword vocabulary came as quite a surprise.

Beading Times: Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Dianna Craig:
Try using a plastic popsicle mold as a stringer container... they cost about a buck each, and have 6-8 compartments for sorting.

Beading Times: Have you "invented" any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn't ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Dianna Craig:
It's easier to tell you what tools I have that were intended for lampwork. I have a graphite marble mold (I now use it as a frit-holder) and a double-sided aluminum marver (I now use it as a frit-holder). Everything else is improvised.

Beading Times: How much time do you spend making beads, in, say, hours per week? Is it enough?
Dianna Craig:
It's tough to calculate while wearing my shoes and socks... I'll get back to you.

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads - what do you use to get your pictures?
Dianna Craig:
I have a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P32 digital camera, and I prefer to use natural light when taking pictures.

Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on? If so, what is the url/id info, etc.
Dianna Craig:
I list a few things per week on ebay; my id is platypus_glass.

Beading Times: Do you sell at shows or in stores or other venues? Do you sell the beads by themselves, or already made up into jewelry?
Dianna Craig:
No, I only sell loose beads on ebay... but I'm open to suggestions.

Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with lampworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Dianna Craig:
To the old focals' home.

Beading Times: You're "set" on that, are you? Do you have a favorite bead, a "best bead." Can you share a photograph with us?
Dianna Craig:
Couldn't stop me if you wanted to... here's a photo with 3 different views of my current fave, Cosmic Egg .
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 dwyn@beadingtimes.com.

Copyright 2005 Dwyn Tomlinson. Photos by and copyright by the interviewee, unless stated otherwise.