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by Carolyn Jankovskis

Manuela Wutschke

by: Carolyn Jankovskis

Germany, in Ratzeburg – near Hamburg

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Manuela Wutschke: I learned the basics in my first class at the end of June 2004 and one month later I set up my studio starting into the biggest adventure of my life with a bobcat, one concentrator and a bunch of glass.

What got you started making beads?
Serendipity? I don´t believe in coincidence, I think the time was ripe.
Searching the Internet trying to find a unique glass vase I discovered lampwork beads and it was like finally finding myself. This moment changed my life.

Were you interested in making beads before that?
No, I didn't know about them before. I wish I had discovered them 20 years ago.

Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?
I graduated in Geography and German Literature and worked for several years as a teacher. Always being interested in the arts I finally attended an art college by correspondence over a 2 year period and improved my skills in aquarelle and acrylic painting. But I was missing something.  
I felt an urge to express myself in three dimensional forms and to involve my hands more and in an other way than it was possible while painting. I was looking for a material able to capture the light – light is elemental and glass seems to obey effortlessly the force of my inner pictures. It's a medium where you can get a better balance between idea, technique, form and color and I feel like getting a better expressivity in my way of personal journeys. I tried to translate aquarelle paintings into glass and to make glass flow like watercolors and create something fragile. My glass is my canvas now and I love it because it has a creative energy of its own getting in a symbiosis with my own energy. Mostly my beads are inspired by art books and paintings or pottery. 

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

Well, we have the A. Paul Weber Museum in Ratzeburg and I have the possibility to work on his original press - it's a museum press but still working. I love to work on it although it's very time consuming and I have to grind the big stones without machines. But sometimes I take my time and  make Litographs thinking about how many generations have touched this press.


... and I love sewing but I have no more time for it. I started to make clothes for my dolls as I was a little girl and the first one was from the best dress of my mother - I've cut the bottom of it and you should have seen her face when she dressed up for a party ....

Did you take a class?
I love classes and looking at other beadmakers and the way they work. I have taken a lot of classes because I wanted to get a variety of skills in a short time. A good technique is very important to get your own ideas to become reality and moving on to the next level. To get a good class I traveled a lot through Germany, to Ireland and the USA. It's like having holidays.

What has surprised you most about working with glass?
The various aspects of expressions you can get, the possibility to “draw with light” showing and closing parts of your work to create interest.
But what I love the most is the surprise in the morning when opening the kiln – I don't ever want to miss the emotion it brings – that short moment starting the day looking at a miniature artwork showing it's true cascade of colors. Even after 2 years it remains a mystery and it fascinates me as much as in my beginnings.
Yes, it's that NEVER KNOWING WHAT YOU GET – every bead is my first bead. 

Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
I can't be creative in a group. I need to have a free mind going my way.
I have a best friend – she doesn't makes beads but she loves beads and sometimes she sends me inspirational pictures. She is something like a mentor not trying to influence me.

Whose beads inspire you most?
There are so many wonderful artists – I can't say that I have a favorite but I remember starting beadmaking and discovering Michael Barley's beads. I could spend hours looking at his beads and I admire his art of blending colors creating a small wonderful zen-world. I wished that I could get a class with him – and I've got it.


Do you sell your beads?
I sell my beads mostly on ebay (my ID is manuelas_lampwork_beads) and from my website which is

Did you intend to sell your beads when you first started? What got you started selling them?
Oh no, I'm very critical of my beads and I never thought that somebody will like them. But there where more and more people asking about buying them.

Do you make beads for friends?
Sure, all my friends own beads from me. I love to make gifts and it's funny looking to their eyes exploring a bead and asking every time – wow, how did you get that flower in there?


What does your spouse/children/family/friends think of your beadmaking?
My husband is my biggest fan and he supported me from the beginning. Every bead I make is a beauty in his eyes. No, seriously, he loves beads and their mystery and now he has started to make beads too.
My daughter has a scientific education not carrying much about art – she finds them way cool but during her last visit she started making her first beads ;-)). And … my friends just smile about my enthusiasm.

What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Torch, gas, kiln etc.)
I'm working on a Carlisle Mini CC with 2 oxygen-concentrators. I have a German Kiln with a Bentrup-Controller and I'm very happy with it.

What type of Glass do you use?
I'm working with Italian Moretti and Vetrofond Glass. I've tried Gaffer, Lauscha, Reichenbach and always go back to Moretti. I love its bright colors and the melting process and that it will take a very long time to reveal only a small part of the secrets of every single color and their reactions with metals and each other.

Do you have a favorite product, i. e. bead release, glass etc.
I like Fusion because I can flame dry it and don't have to wait, I can work my beads without breaking it and get them easily off the Mandrel.

Do you have a favorite beadmaking book or piece of instructional material (video, etc.)? 
I've bought every book and every video I could get to learn but .... from my beginnings, every time I couldn't get the shape of a bead - I watched "Smircich Makes Beads" again and again and every time I could make beads after that. It's the most watched video and I think everybody should see it - he has such an amazing control of heat!

Do you have a favorite technique?
I have a lot of favorite techniques because I'm very experimental, never making the same bead again. It's about what kind of bead I want to make. Once developing the idea I think about the best technique to achieve what I'm looking for.

Are you a “set person” or a “focal bead” person?
The first year I made almost focals. I was starting with a tiny bead developing an idea looking at the glass reactions and making my decisions while working. Making the wrong decision can ruin your work from one hour to the next but it was the best way to learn what the glass is doing, how and why. Making big focals gives you the possibility to play a little bit more blending one color over the other and adding design elements. These where my “soul-beads” – an emotional second frozen in glass.

My work has changed a little bit today. I still love to make focals but I discovered that you can “say” even more with a set putting the beads together like a puzzle. These are my “color-studies” and I love them.

Sometimes it's better to say something with one word, and sometimes you need to write a book ;-)

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 think that my beads are unique and recognizable in their own way and I never thought about a “signature bead”.
I guess that most of the people who know me from the beginning still remember my “Worry Dolls”. My daughter loved them when she was a little girl.
The children of Guatemala believe if you tell one worry to each doll when you go to bed, that when you get up in the morning your worries will all be gone. I made them when I started selling on ebay and I had a lot of worries about my first auction so I told them my worries. They had to be special and therefore I made a doll for every day of the week with a variety of clothing colors. They have no mouth so they will keep the worries as a secret.

What was you biggest obstacle to overcome?
My focals are big and it took me over a year to get familiar with them. It bothered me to hear each time that they are so big. I've tried to make them smaller, change my style etc.  but it wasn't good for me. I love big beads and today I'm happy with them.

What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Dot-beads without other designing-elements. It's absolutely boring to me aligning one dot near the next.

The easiest?
Abstract beads that allow viewers to make their own interpretations, and art inspired beads. These beads are keeping my imagination flowing and I loose the feeling of time.

I also love sculptural beads – seashells are so much fun to make.

What is you favorite kind of bead or technique?
Any kind of bead with a new design like beads with images taken from their context and combined with my emotional expression dusted with a little bit of humor, beads with unusual and unexpected colors and shapes.

Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Sure, I still love them because they are my first beads – you never forget your first love, LOL?

How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
I just feel I'm getting better as I begin to understand what I'm doing. That's very important because one idea develops the other – it's a never ending learning process while you convert your ideas into glass.
Having better stringer control I can now work more detailed and I hope you can see a technical progress.
Two things haven't changed: my slow way to work spending a very long time on every bead and moving every time after a focal or set to a new design. I feel bored  reproducing a bead and I usually don't take orders.

What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Lightning the torch the first time and the first night after I set up in the basement. I went down a few times into the basement to check on the gas.

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

Oh, yes. Pati Walton brought into her class some of her fascinating beads having 3-D-Flowers in them but she didn't teach how to make them. So... I went home, made an off mandrel flower on the tip of a long glass rod and put it in my kiln. Made my bead and then grabbed the flower from the kiln holding it on the far end (it was hot, hot, hot). Trying to put this flower into the bead I was so busy concentrating that I forgot about the hot rod and I slipped my fingers onto the hot part. Oh my, I have should have thrown this rod away but stood up and saved it and made my bead. This must be love - making beads with burned hands.

Have you had any “glass epiphanies” while working – some revelation or understanding? What where they?
Last autumn I had a gorgeous class with Michael Barley in Ireland. We had a great location working, traveling and having fun all together in a small group. I can not explain why but after this class I began to understand a lot of those simple things which helped me find some of the effects I was looking for. You have them in your mind but it takes time to realize that. My beadmaking was more intuitive before.

Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
I work a lot with stringers and twisties and I had a hard time over a year trying to spiral a thin stringer/twisty around a bead from one end to the other.
What works best for me: I heat the bead, put it far away out of the flame (let the flame just kiss the glass), then heat the tip of my twisty melt it on the bead and begin to just lay it down on the bead beginning from right to left.  Beginning from the right was the thing I missed (it was Kristina Logan showing that to me) and it's important because the flame will hold your bead just warm and the twisty wont melt in a weird way. It will be plastic and you can control it.

Do you listen to music when you work? If you listen to music what is your favorite type of music or artist to listen to while you work?
I have only an old radio and I listen to everything they play.... don´t laugh, but most of the time I'm talking with my beads ;-))))))

Do you have any advice or encouraging words for someone who is just starting out in glass?
Yes, experience by yourself and bring your own ideas into your work - everything is possible if you want it truly. Also, every bead is a beauty even if it is simple. Glass is magic. 

Have you “invented” any tools, or recycled something that wouldn't ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
I like to use a lot my old Mandrels for making twisties, plunged dots and for dragging my glass.

Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
I've just moved from my basement into my new studio and I'm really happy. The ventilation system will be done in two weeks, I have to paint my door and to buy a chimney to heat it over the wintertime. I feel so happy having my own studio in my garden. Usually I have everything laying on my table in a chaotic way but I enjoy these pics ;-))), but I haven't yet made a single bead in my new studio.

How much time do you spend making beads, in, say, hours per week? Is it enough?
I have a full-time day job and I try to make beads every day after work – I think I make beads about 35 hour a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. And no, it isn't enough, I'd like to have a little bit more time. I'm trying to get to the torch every day.

What about photographing your beads – what do you use to get your pictures?
I use my Sony DSC 717 camera and a portable Photo-Studio using Day-Light bulbs and a flexible Dome. Sometimes I like to take pictures outside.


Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell your beads on? If so, what is the url/id info?
I sell my beads mostly on ebay (my ID is manuelas_lampwork_beads) and from my website which is

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 usual sell my beads by themselves, unfortunately I don't have time to learn silver smithing although I would love it to design my own jewelry.
I have never sold at shows or stores, never had so many beads to offer. I spend about 0.5 – 1 hour for one bead taking care of every detail – I don't think I will ever have enough beads for a show – but perhaps I can make a “one-bead-show”!??  ;-)))

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?
It's passion, it's love, it's my way of life and I don't know if I would ever make a living from my beads because I enjoy making beads only when I feel inspired.

Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
I'm more concerned about new experiments and ideas than making plans. I will just let it happen.
I'm learning every day something new about glass and hope that it will never end keeping me busy working somewhere “between Earth and Heaven” for the next years. I'm just happy.

So you have a favorite bead, a “best bead”. Can you share a photograph with us?
My best bead is almost my newest bead. I made this one for the Lauscha bead contest.

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 Carolyn Jankovskis. Photos by and copyright by the interviewee, unless stated otherwise.

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