Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Mike Shelbo: About 5 years or so.

What got you started making beads?

Teaching lampworking lessons. Beads were often requested by students as a beginning study.

Were you interested in making beads before that?

Not really.

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

I have been working with hot glass in the furnace and lampworking for a decade and before that I was into painting and drawing and it all translates together.

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


Did you take a class?

I started in hot glass at Palomar Community College in San Marcos CA.  I learned my early lampworking with Tom Licon and as many books as I could get my hands on.

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

Tom Licon had a huge impact on my education about glass and I studied with him for years outside of the school environment. Tom is a wonderful glassblower, tool maker, glass equipment inventor and builder, an amazing musician, and good friend.  Looking at my early work I see heavy influence from his techniques in bitworking and proper knowledge of the intricacies of manipulating hot glass, which has turned into my love for sculpture and stemware. To me Tom Licon is an underground maestro in our world of glass.  I wait patiently for him to surface to the level of prestige which he is due.

Whose beads inspire you the most?

Lucio Bubacco, hands down my favorite beads I have seen so far. Runners up Theo Keller with the DBB series and Andrew Jackson Pollack with his T&A beads.

Do you sell your beads?


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

Heck yes, every glass person is well aware of the boom in glass beads, and most at very least thought about gettin’ a little piece of that pie.

Do you make beads for friends?


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

My wife is a beadmaker and we make jewelry together, it's our bread and butter most of the time.

What sort of set up do you have for making beads?

Carlisle CC and Two National 3A with my Shelbo Whisper Tips in 5 sizes on 3 different stations. Oxy/Propane. AIM kiln.

What type of glass do you use?

Borosilicate and Soda Lime. No restrictions on COE.

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

I love it all.

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

Just tell them it's magic.

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

Shelbo Whisper Tips are the best new premix torch tips available.

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

Contemporary Lampworking by Bandhu Dunham should be in every torching studio whether you are hobbyist or professional.

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


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

For the current time I am completely engulfed in Beheaded Goblin Head Hollow Beads.  They came from a love for murine eyes and the want to create pieces out of pure colored glass as well as practice my sculpting techniques and focus on detail.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?

Completion of sculptures that were started long ago.

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

I found them in an old M&M mini container and they are just adorable.

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

Over the years I just branched out into different blown and mandrel beads.

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

Every day, My best advice is to write down ideas and epiphanies.

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

Get out into the world of glass and see what is going on. Go to a conference or a class and converse with your fellow glasspeople.

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 must listen to music at almost all times. I need a soundtrack that consists of all music without almost any bias.  Right now I am into instrumental beats and fresh sounds.

Do you have any advice or encouraging words for someone who is just starting out in glass? (Aside from persistence)

Read about glass everyday.

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

I have available to the public the best premix torch tips on the market, family made and developed specifically for glasswork, the Shelbo Whisper Tips.       Please see bottom of page for further information.

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

I just reworked my 2 car garage studio space into a more efficient workspace by adding new venting and energy efficient lighting, insulation and capped and painted walls.  A few changes were made to the layout of the workbenches and shelving to make for more efficient storage and access to supplies and glass parts, also to give an additional work station for miscellaneous projects.

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

Right now about 20 or so.  That is a small fraction of the total time devoted each week to making glass of some kind or another.

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 a crappy old 3.2 megapixel sony camera which has a really nice Carl Zeiss lens on it and I built a photo set up in my garage that has a photo grey backdrop and I am currently using a 400 watt PhotoFlood bulb and different light diffusion techniques.  My only tip is that each piece needs different lighting and possibly different camera settings.  The more you photo the more you learn. My photos as of the last 6 months are far better than they ever have been and they are mostly of my Goblin beads.

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 like Etsy. I hate Ebay.

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

Yes. yes. yes. yes and yes.

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?

Both. I make money to support my family and I strive to build a body of work to represent myself artistically.

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

I have been around the world. I'm ready to go again.  I'm still working on what I want to say when I get there to the future.


NAME: Mike Shelbo



Mike demonstrating at GAS 2005 in Australia.

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