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by Carolyn Jankovskis

Melanie Moertel

Bamberg, Germany

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Melanie Moertel: Since October 2003.

What got you started making beads?
I found a website of a German lampworker (I was searching for glass jewelry, not especially for beads) and was fascinated by her work from the first moment.

Were you interested in making beads before that?
No. But in creating jewelry and in glass generally.

Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?
Yes, I have. I have been painting and I worked for 7 years as graphic designer, and that helps me a lot. Not only with creating my own corporate identity, but also in doing beads.

Did you take a class?
Only two for doing the first steps.

What has surprised you most about working with glass?
I can’t say that anything really surprised me, also working with glass was something completely different and new to me at the beginning.

Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Nobody, sorry.

Whose beads inspire you the most?
Great question. The most inspiring artist for me is Alicia Abla, but I also adore Julie Wong, Akiko Isono, Kimberly Affleck and Jennifer Geldard.

Do you sell your beads?

Did you intend to sell your beads when you first started? What got you started selling them?
Yes, because don’t like keeping things.

Do you make beads for friends?
Yes, I used to. My friends and family members have received many bead presents in the last three years, so I think this year I have to think about alternative ideas for their birthday presents.

What does your spouse/children/family/friends think of your beadmaking?
They love it and I get help from my friends whenever I need it.

What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
I have a bobcat, an Isiheat (which is a German torch) and a chillipepper kiln. I have three different bead releases and use them depending on what I want to do. For rings f.e. I only use Sludge Blue and for normal beads Foster Fire heavy duty. I have a self made ventilation system and – very important – a great chair with lot of possible settings.

What type of glass do you use?
Mostly Moretti and sometimes Lauscha.

Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
I have no favorite products, but favorite glass colors: I love to work with avocado green and coral.

Do you have a favorite beadmaking book or piece of instructional material (video, etc.)?
Yes, I love the book "100 Glass Beads", it's a wonderful collection of awesome beads and fantastic photos.

Do you have a favorite technique?
As my beads are often like tiny paintings I prefer to work a lot with stringers in different sizes.

Are you a “set person” or a “focal bead” person?
I like to do both, but at the moment I do more sets than focals.

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 have developed two bead designs which are at least in Germany are recognizable as mine. The first one (op-art cubes) I discovered at my very beginning by fortuity when layering transparent glass on white dots and the other design was very hard work. I had a custom order about a marble bead and didn't want to say that I have no idea how to do that. So I tried for about four weeks and finally got the style I wanted to have.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
To buy the complete equipment, especially when you are a beginner and don’t know how things are exactly called or where to get them, that was the hardest thing for me.

What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
A big round bead with more than one layer of encasing.

The easiest?
A spacer.

What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
I love doing beads in irregular free formed shapes and detailed patters with lot of stringers and twisties. I like the contrast of these two style elements.

Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
I only kept the very first one I ever made, which was a small red bead with 8 blue dots going round the body (and after three years in the cigar box all dots are still alive). For the first bead it was quite good but it is also uneven and not really beautiful.
How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Yes, definitely. When I started I made all the techniques I learned in the classes and in books. I think and hope my style will always change or grow, otherwise beadmaking would become boring over the years.

What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
I have had none so far.

Have you had any “glass epiphanies” while working – some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Probably tons of them. The important thing I learned for myself is to practice a lot, read a lot of books and combine those techniques shared there with my own experiences.

Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Always make a test bead before you start creating a set to see if the colors fit. And I always prepare enough stringers (at least 3 different diameters per color), murrinis and twisties before I start.

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?
Of course, music is very important for me. I love Moneybrother and Adam Green e.g., but also some German punk bands which you have probably never heard of.

Do you have any advice or encouraging words for someone who is just starting out in glass?

My advice to newbies is "don't be afraid of making mistakes and learn from them".

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

Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Yes, of course.

How much time do you spend making beads, in, say, hours per week? Is it enough?
I’m a full time lampworker, so “doing beads” doesn’t only mean sitting at the torch, but also answering emails, preparing auctions or website updates and shipping beads. I would say, actually working at the torch is about 40 hours per week.

What about photographing your beads – what do you use to get your pictures?
I have a Kyocery M410 and it took me about two years to figure out, how exactly the setup needs to be to take good photos with this camera. I tried several ways and light setups, but the best way it works for me is my windowsill before 12 a. m. and a light grey or white background.

Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on? If so, what is the url/id info, etc.
Yes, I do. It’s including an English translation.  

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 used to make jewelry and sell at shows and stores until some month ago, but I stopped it. Now I mainly sell beads on the web, either on my site or on ebay. Of course I still love doing jewelry and I make a piece from time to time, but just for the fun of it. I have a small studio at home where customers can visit me to buy those pieces.

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 100% a job and it’s 100% passion.

Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
I hope I will always have fun doing beads and I know there are so many techniques to learn and other types of glass to discover, it won’t get boring in the future.

Do you have a favorite bead, a “best bead.” Can you share a photograph with us?
Of mine? No, sorry. Every set is my favorite set and I always want to make it better next time.


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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