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by Carolyn Jankovskis

Vickie Miller

Hippkitty Beads

Camano Island in Washington state.

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Vickie Miller: I have been making beads since 2004.

What got you started making beads?
I was making jewelry back in 2003 and while doing an internet search for components I ran across Corina Tettinger's website and fell in love with lampwork beads. I decided I had to try my hand at creating these tiny treasures myself.

Were you interested in making beads before that?
I had never even heard the term "lampwork" before I saw Corina's website.

Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?
I've always been into arts and crafts. I come from a long line of creative women and I can't imagine a life without some sort of creative outlet.

Can you share a photo of some of your other works with us?
I didn't learn to photograph my work until I started making beads so I don't have photos of any other creative projects. Wish I did!

Did you take a class?
I haven't taken any lampwork classes but I have seen a few demonstrations in person by a few well known beadmakers such as Amy Trescott, Corina Tettinger, Kimberly Affleck, Robin Poff, Scott Bouwens, and more whose names escape me at the moment.

What has surprised you most about working with glass?
I am surprised that unlike some of my other creative pursuits I never get tired of making beads. There are just so many different directions I can explore I can't imagine that I'll ever tire of it.

Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Back when I first started making beads I was at a gathering of beadmakers and I met Amy Trescott. She asked me if there was anything she could teach me or help with and spent quite a bit of time showing me different things. She is such a sweet and giving person and have I learned so much from her.

Whose beads inspire you the most?
Today?...probably Teresa Lalliberte...tomorrow I may have a different answer.

Do you sell your beads?
Yes, I sell bead sets as well as finished pieces.

Did you intend to sell your beads when you first started? What got you started selling them?
Yes, I inTended to sell my work from the beginning because I gave up my 40 hour a week job to make beads and I needed the income to continue to do what I love.

Do you make beads for friends?
I no longer give beads away but I do make gifts for friends.

What does your spouse/children/family/friends think of your beadmaking?
I think my family and friends are very proud of me.

What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
I have a Minor Bench Burner with an oxygen concentrator and an Aim Bead Annealer kiln with a digital controller.

What type of glass do you use?
I use Effetre soft glass.

Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
I love Lausha clear glass. I have used other clear glass and I go right back to Lausha.

Do you have a favorite beadmaking book or piece of instructional material (video, etc.)?
I highly recommend Corina Tettinger's "Passing The Flame" for beginning beadmakers. It's expensive but well worth the cost. I still use it from time to time when I need to be reminded of a certain technique.

Do you have a favorite technique?
I love the "watercolor floral" technique. A little furnace glass frit is used with soft glass to make custom colored canes that are then used, (sometimes with fine silver and/or other reactive glass mixes), to make complex floral designs that can look like a painting. Hence the name "watercolor florals". I've spent many happy hours experimenting with different color combinations to come up with some amazingly beautiful beads.

Are you a "set person" or a "focal bead" person?
I am mostly a "set" person. I think because I am also a jewelry designer I create bead sets with a certain finished piece in mind.

Have you developed a "signature" bead, a unique type of bead that is recognizably yours. Tell us about it, how you developed it, etc.
Some time before I started making beads I designed and created handmade purses using brightly colored cotton fabrics. They were very popular and so I decided to try my hand at glass purses. The little purse beads have handles that are strung with seed beads. My little purses were an instant hit on Ebay and I think I'm most known for these little purses.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
The first two years of my beadmaking career I pretty much ignored most everything else in my life. My home, which I take great pride in, suffered, as did some of my personal relationships. Today I think I do a pretty good job of juggling everything I need to get done. My husband and I love to do projects together around the house. We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel project right now and I care for my 7 year old grandson everyday while his parents are at work. I have lots and lots of friends that I try to spend time with also. It's a busy life but I love it and I wouldn't change a thing.

What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
The hardest type of beads for me to make are sculptural beads. Beads that require planning ahead of time. I do okay if I take the time I need to plan properly.

The easiest?
The easiest beads for me are floral beads. I seem to want to add a flower to every bead I make.

What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
My favorite type of bead to make is complex floral beads with lots of layers of interest.

Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
I do have the first beads I ever made and I take them out occasionally to remind myself of how far I've come.

How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
My beads have changed quite a bit over the years. They started off very simple and colorful because those were the beads that I preferred to use in my designs. Now I use lots of different shapes as well as designs that are much more complex.

What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
My scariest beadmaking experience was when I let a friend sit at my torch and make a bead. After making her first bead and putting it in the kiln she reached over and picked up the rod of glass that she had just used to make the bead and trIed to pull off the little curlique at end. I watched her do it and heard the sizzle when her finger stuck to the hot rod. I could have cried! I think I did cry!

Do you have a humorous beadmaking experience or moment to share with us?
Not one that I can think of.

Have you had any "glass epiphanies" while working – some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Finally realizing that the flame of my torch is adjustable and I can turn it down when doing fine detail work like applying stringer.

Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
I was reading a thread today on "Lampwork Etc.". The discussion was about how to get bead release on the middle of a mandrel. The idea here is using the middle of the mandrel to make your bead rather than the end. If you make your bead at the end of the mandrel you limit yourself to using one hand when creating your bead. One side of the bead would be more difficult to decorate unless you are ambidextrous. If you use the middle of the mandrel to build your bead you should be able to grab either end decorating one side and then grabbing the mandrels other end to decorate the remaining side. I have always used the middle of the mandrel method. I just dip the mandrel halfway up. I think trying to only dip in the middle leaving both ends bare would be much more trouble than it's worth.

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 can be noise sensitive at times and need complete silence but at other times I listen to music. My music taste is quite eclectic. I have Corrinne Bailey Rae, Delbert McClinton, Loreena McKennit, Michael Bolton, Diana Krall, and KC Tunstall on my mp3 player right now.

Do you have any advice or encouraging words for someone who is just starting out in glass?
My best advice would be to learn to enjoy the experimentation process because no one can do it perfectly the first few times. Be willing to learn the basic techniques and how the different glasses react with one another. You also need to learn what inspires your creative process.

Have you "invented" any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn’t ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
No, I don't think I've invented anything that hasn't already been used before.

Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
It's pretty messy and not the greatest photo....

How much time do you spend making beads (in hours) per week? Is it enough? 
I make beads 6 to 8 hours a day about 4 to 5 days a week. Is it enough? It's never enough!

What about photographing your beads – what do you use to get your pictures and do you have any tips or tricks to share?
I have a Sony Cybershot camera and I use a tripod and a photo "cube" setup. I enjoy editing photos. I use Photoshop and I practice quite a bit when I have the time.

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 have my own website . I sell beads on Ebay. My user name is "Hippkittybeads".

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 my finished work at local art shows. At this time I do 2 per year. "Art By The Bay" is located on the island where I live, Camano Island, and it's held in July. I'm getting ready for this show as we speak. July 21-22, 2007. I also do a holiday show in November that's called "Yuletide Treasures" and it's located in Marysville, Washington. I enjoy meeting with people and hearing their reactions to my work in person.

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?
Beadmaking is both a job and a passion for me. I'm so lucky to be able to say "I love what I do". My beadmaking does not support us but is a supplementary income and will come in handy when my husband retires in a few years.

Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
I plan on teaching in the future. There is not much offered in my area as far as classes go.

Do you have a favorite bead, a "best bead." Can you share a photograph with us?
My favorite bead is always the last bead I made.

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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