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by Carolyn Jankovskis

Dawn Scannell

Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Dawn Scannell: I’ve been lampworking for two years now.

What got you started making beads?
When I was a little girl, I had a fascination with my Grandmotherís button collection. She had coffee cans full of wonderful buttons that I would dump on the floor and sort them out into little piles of colors and size and create little pictures on the floor. As an adult, I realized that beads had the same soothing effect on me. I wanted piles of beads and I thought the best way to have them was to make them myself.

Were you interested in making beads before that?
I actually started making beads in 1994. My medium was polymer clay. Hand sketched kitty beads were kind of my specialty, but it eventually started to take it’s toll on my eyesight. In July of 2004 I decided to try my hand at lampworking. I’ve been in love with the flame ever since.

Hand sketched Polymer clay beads

Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?
I feel like I’ve been an artist all my life. I started crafting with my Grandmother at a very early age. We made lots of crafts for the rummage sales at her church. Later on in school I got interested in drawing and painting and had a sketch book with me all throughout my teen years. As an adult I continued crafting and tried just about everything under the sun. I guess it would be better to just say that I never learned how to knit. Everything else, you name it, I tried it. None of which really had anything to do with beads. The great thing about beads is that you can make them, then make something out of them, and wear it! How cool is that?

Did you take a class?
No, I haven’t taken a class yet. I have lots of books and find loads of tutorials online. I would really like to take a class one day.

What has surprised you most about working with glass?
How addictive it is! I’ve been at the torch just about every day for the last two years and I can’t see myself ever getting tired of it. Every day there’s a new color combo to try, or a new technique. I’m having the time of my life and earning a living while doing so. I feel so fortunate every time I light the torch.

Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
I would have to say that would be my friend Robin. Just by chance I happened to meet her online about three years ago. We have corresponded ever since and become very good friends.  Something she said to me one day really helped me to put things in perspective and her words gave me the courage to take a chance in becoming a full-time artist. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Whose beads inspire you the most?
Wow, that’s a tough question. There are so many talented artists that inspire me. If I had to pick a few I would say that I love Kim Neely’s beads for her use of color and her designs are always so perfectly balanced. Kandice Seeber makes the most gorgeous flowers and she has such an awesome eye for color combinations. Her scroll work is pure perfection. I also love the wonderful freeform beads by Anastasia. Her beads are always fun and very unexpected.

Do you sell your beads?
Yes. I sell exclusively on ebay. It’s the perfect venue for me because it allows me to make beads that I love. Then I put them out there and hope that someone else loves them too. I find custom orders too confining and tend to avoid them if I can.

Did you intend to sell your beads when you first started? What got you started selling them?
Yes. I chose bead making as a career and intended to sell them from the start. There have been many beads that I wanted to keep for myself along the way, but I always tell myself that I can make more for me at a later date. (That’s what gets me through my bead separation anxiety.) It’s a rare occasion that I would make beads for myself. I have only made about five bracelets for myself in two years, so I think that’s pretty good.

Do you make beads for friends?
Oh yes! For friends, family, the girls at the post office, my veterinarian’s wife, my dentist’s assistant. Pretty much, anyone who will stand still long enough for me to give them a bead. I probably have about 10 cell phone charms in my purse right now, ready to whip out at a moments notice.

What does your spouse/children/family/friends think of your beadmaking?
My friends and family think it’s great! They are all very proud of me. My Aunt Diane was right by my side the first day I made beads. I was ready to cry, and if not for her being there, I probably would have. My husband has been amazingly supportive. He actually let me invade his garage space for the first year, and then we had our porch closed in for my brand new air conditioned studio after that. He built my workbench and helps me by making little tools that I need like my favorite brass poker. Now I have to admit that his eyes start to glaze over when I yammer on about my beads but at least he makes the effort to seem interested because he knows how much I love what I do.

What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
I use a Nortel Minor torch with propane and an oxygen concentrator. My kiln is a Chili Pepper by Jen-Ken.

What type of glass do you use?
Moretti / Effetre, Vetrofond, Lauscha all of which is considered to be soft glass.

Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
My most favorite glass to work with is called “Raku”. It’s actually an Opaque Iris Orange glass manufactured by Reichenbach in Germany. It starts out the color of coffee with cream in it. A very unassuming looking brown, but when introduced to the flame and worked just right, a whole rainbow of colors can be coaxed out of it. Although I can control the results to a certain extent, it’s always a thrill to pull my Raku beads from the kiln to see how they came out.

Do you have a favorite technique?
I love to encase beads in clear. I think it adds so much sparkle and depth.

Are you a “set person” or a “focal bead” person?
Despite my B.A.D.D., which is short for Beadmakers Attention Deficit Disorder, I’m a “Set Person” because that’s what sells the best for me. I make lots of little test beads before deciding to make a full set and sometimes I have to bribe myself to get through the whole set. Most often I will put on a music CD and tell myself I can’t have a break until it’s over. Or I won’t allow myself to play or experiment until a certain set is finished.

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 guess I would have to say that would be my seashell beads. The first one happened quite by accident. I was super heating a large bicone shaped bead and lost control of it. Just before it dripped onto my bench, I picked up my little blade tool and stuck it into the molten glass to keep it on the mandrel. Once the glass cooled, I noticed that it looked like a seashell so I made a spiral on the top and popped it in the kiln. The next day I pulled out the coolest looking seashell… totally inappropriate colors of black, turquoise and ivory! I decided to gather some “seashell colors” and made my first set that day.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Having worked with polymer clay for ten years, I had to learn to shape the beads with tools rather than with my hands. That could have been a painful learning curve, but I think my former experience in shaping beads may have actually helped in the long run.

What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Ones with lots of perfect dot placement.

The easiest?
Organics with swirls and whirls and controlled chaos.

What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Anything with Raku. Dotted, threaded, rolled in frit, you name it. As long as there’s Raku used in it, I’ll love it! I especially like using Raku against a black background. It really makes the colors pop!

Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Yes. I have my very first bead hanging in my studio to remind me that if I’m having a bad day at the torch, it will never be “That Bad” again! Heehee! I also have what I call my “Jar of Shame” which probably contains most of the beads I made in the first few months. They look really cute in that little globe shaped bowl, until you actually look at them close up.

How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
The biggest thing is that I’m much more consistent in making beads of the same size. I count gathers, and sometimes use my little marble molds to check the volume of glass as I make the bead.

What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Well, the first time I thermal shocked a rod it scared me so bad that I shot backwards in my chair like it was rocket propelled! I had no idea that an office chair could roll that fast! But my worst scare came when I somehow managed to ram a white hot molten glob of glass into the palm of my hand. Eeeewwww! I can still remember the sound. I’ll leave out the other details, but I will say that it was so hot, it never blistered. It healed fast and amazingly enough, didn’t even leave a scar.

Have you had any “glass epiphanies” while working – some revelation or understanding? What were they?
That’s one of the wonderful things about working with glass. I have those “Ah Ha” moments every day. Whether it’s a new color reaction or how to get a certain shape, it’s always an adventure.

Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
I love making Raku rainbow dots. I do this by adding a dot of raku to the bead. I heat the dot and mash it almost flat which chills it and turns it almost black. I let it cool slightly and then spot heat the dot again, just until the edges of the dot start to well up, and then I quickly mash it again and add a drop of clear over it.

Have you “invented” any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn’t ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Well, hubby made a very cool brass poker for me, and I also have a pair of stainless ice tongs that I flattened and use for mashers.

Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Sure! I love my new studio! We enclosed our porch in the rear of our home and tied it in to the central air. I have a nice cabinet for storing my glass and frit, and I use an Italian style range hood for ventilation. My workbench is made with two bathroom vanity cabinets and an 8 foot length of kitchen countertop. I run my propane hose through the window to the tank outside, and use a little wooden adaptor that allows me to close the window so I don’t loose any of my cool air.

How much time do you spend making beads, in, say, hours per week? Is it enough?
I usually spend about 7-9 hours a day at the torch in the summer, and around 12-14 hours a day in the winter. I take Fridays off to photograph my beads and get them ready for auction. The rest of the afternoon I treat myself to a nap with my two feline studio assistants.

What about photographing your beads – what do you use to get your pictures?
I use a Kodak Easy Share digital camera. “Easy” being the operative word here. Then I crop and edit my photos using Corel Photo-Paint.

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 and my ebay ID is art_insomnia.

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 sell beads only, and do so exclusively through ebay. I tried the local craft shows, but found that ebay is a much better venue for me.

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?
Well, it’s all about making a living, but I’m very fortunate to also feel very passionate about what I do. I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. I spent 20 years working in manufacturing, always knowing in my heart that I just wasn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the age of 40, I took the biggest chance of my life to walk away from a good paying job and become a full-time artist. I haven’t ever looked back and wish I had done it much sooner.

Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Of course I would love to improve my skills and techniques, but as far as where I want it to take me, I would have to say that I’m already there. I can do what I love, when I want and generate income. Life just doesn’t get any better than that! I’m exactly where I want to be.

Do you have a favorite bead, a “best bead.” Can you share a photograph with us?
Sure! My best bead is actually two sets of Raku and Black Encased Seashells. I just love the rainbow of colors against the black, and the sparkle of the crystal clear encasement.

Photos by: Dawn Scannell

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

Copyright 2006 Carol Yntema. Photos by and copyright by the interviewee, unless stated otherwise.

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