Archived Featured Bead Artists
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by Carolyn Jankovskis


 

Kerri Fuhr


Aldergrove, BC, Canada

email: kerribeads@kerrifuhr.com
website: www.kerrifuhr.com


Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?


Keri Fuhr: I took my first (and only) lampwork class in September 2000.


What got you started making beads?

My friend and teacher, Walt Pinder, was making these really cool little beads by melting glass.....so I had to try it!  Little did I know that this would start me on a new path and eventually a new career!


Were you interested in making beads before that?

I  have always loved beads but never knew I could ever MAKE them!  When I was little one of my favorite things to do was sit at my grandmother's kitchen table and go through her jewelry box.  I loved her strands of pearls, antique jewelry and all the vintage beaded pieces she had.  I have been collecting various types of beads ever since - old glass trade beads were always some of my favorites. Now I collect beads from other beadmakers.


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

My entire family is artistic.  My mother is a painter and musician, my brother is a steel sculptor and I was an art major in school.  I tried my hand at many different mediums - but I especially enjoyed drawing.  I won an international competition with one of my dragon pen and inks in 1991 and now I enjoy "painting" dragons on some of my beads in glass!


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

Here is a photo of my pen and ink dragon from 1991....and also a photo of one of my dragon beads from 2007....

 



Did you take a class?


I have taken many art classes but just the one beginner's beadmaking class from my friend, Walt.  Other than that, most of everything I do I learned through trial and error and helpful tips from my peers.



What has surprised you most about working with glass?

The versatility!  Virtually anything you can imagine can be made with glass. It's truly an amazing medium.  I am always delighted by the new types of glass being created and the myriad of materials that can be used with glass.  Enamels, glass frits and metals are just a few things that can make all the difference when designing an original piece.



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

Walt Pinder has been a terrific mentor - especially in my early beadmaking years.  It's great to have the support of a friend who also has so much to teach!


Whose beads inspire you the most?

Sigh......so many!  Where do I start?  I find inspiration in everyone's beads - even in those just starting out.  Everyone has something unique to contribute to our craft and sometimes the simplest beads can yield the most surprising insights into what can be achieved with this medium.  I am especially inspired by artists that take one or two specific techniques and really run with them.  Kristina Logan's  achievements with the simple dot, Andrea Guarino's off mandrel work and Michael Barley's organics are such eye candy.  I also am mesmerized by Holly Cooper's ability to recreate ancient looking beads (on a hothead torch no less!) and the wonderful enamel work done by Jennifer Geldard.  I am also really fortunate to have close friends that are exceptional beadmakers.  Michelle Lusk of Caliente Glass does amazing electroforming on her beads, Debra Kallen is a master of precision and creates the most exquisite glass chocolates and Stephanie Cannon creates beads that when you hold them look like a miniature tide pool in your hand. I really could go on and on.....there are so many amazingly talented bead makers out there and especially right here in BC!


Do you sell your beads?

I certainly do!  It's my full time job.


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

I started out like many new bead makers just giving my beads away.  I still donate a lot of beads and jewelry to charities I support.  But after a year or so of people wanting to actually buy my beads, I started selling them.  After all, I had to afford to keep buying glass somehow! :)


Do you make beads for friends?

Yes, of course!  


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

I am very fortunate in that I have a very supportive boyfriend who is behind me 100%!  He loves my work and is very encouraging.  I also have a very supportive family I can share my successes with and an amazing network of friends that I have met through doing glass beads.  



What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)

I use a Nortel Minor torch with a Devilbiss Oxy Concentrator and a tank of propane.  I have a Skutt digital bead kiln (which I adore!) and more tools and accessories than I can count!  I work in my home studio/office and am working on having a building on the property converted to a bead making studio as well.


What type of glass do you use?

I mostly use Moretti/Effetre but also use a fair  bit of 96 glass as well.  Caliente Cane is fabulous and one of my absolute favorite glass brands I use and I am just starting to play with Gaffer Glass as well.  Then there's Double Helix....they are constantly coming up with new types of glass to tempt me....and I always cave in!  I'm sure I have enough glass here in my studio to last me a year or two!


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

The bead release I really like is by Frantz.  It holds up well for the large hollows and focals I do and dries quickly either in or out of the flame.  I go through gallons of the stuff!


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

Well, Corina's Passing the Flame is what I consider the "Bead Bible" and it's still a great reference for me.  While I don't do a lot of beads in that style, there are invaluable tips and techniques in there that are great to refer to.  1000 Glass Beads is a beautiful and inspirational book and of course, Cindy Jenkins books are real treasures too.  There are so many great books out there now and they all have something wonderful to teach.  I'm sure I have pretty much every glass book ever written and enjoy reading them time and time again.


Do you have a favorite technique?

Hollow beads are among my favorite beads to make and I like to challenge myself to make them bigger, more elaborate and different from what others are doing.  I also make hollow vessels with the same hollow bead technique that I use to make my beads.  

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

I have really become more of a focal bead person - especially in the past two years.


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

Probably the most recognizable style of beads I do are my dragonfly focal beads.  I have been developing this particular style for two years and still love making them.  Each dragonfly has it's own personality and I am always challenged by each one.  I have also been working on expanding my artistic skills by creating focals with other creatures on them and trying to portray them as accurately as possible.  Bears, wolves, ravens as well as landscapes are really enjoyable for me to make.  These new beads are inspired by the rugged West Coast wilderness I am lucky to live near.




What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?


Hmmm......probably staying disciplined and doing production.  Now I love it and it has increased the quality of my beads tremendously.  It's easy to get bored and move around to different types of beads and styles without truly mastering any of them.  I did that for years and loved it, but realized that to be truly successful in any craft it is important to specialize.  Now that said, I do have several styles of beads I do but I do each of them A LOT and have spent countless hours at the torch perfecting each particular style.  


What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?

The ones I don't feel like making at the time! lol! Sometimes a custom order will be for a bead I am just not in the mood to make that day.  That's where the discipline of this craft comes in.  


The easiest?

Whatever I am inspired to make at the moment.


What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?

I love them all!  However, there is a certain hypnotic quality to hollow beads that fascinate me. I could easily make those for days on end....and I do!  But then there is the sudden urge to create a raven in a particular pose, or a new color of dragonfly, or a wolf howling under a full moon.....and away I go!  That bead then becomes my new favorite!


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

I do have them and it is fun to look at them from time to time.  I even enjoy looking at beads I made only a few years ago and it's inspiring to see how far I've come since then.  It inspires me because if I can continue to cultivate my skills at this same rate over the next few years, well.....who knows what I'll be making?  It's very exciting!


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

They started out like most beadmaker's do.  Small, very small, in fact, and round.  Lots of pretty colors and designs, but mostly round.  Then came the bead presses.....what fun those are!  Then the cool shapes appeared in my beads......rectangles, perfect little lentils, neat little squares.  I still love those styles and enjoy making sets for my shows with them, but now I gravitate more towards larger, freeform focals that have an almost talismanic feel to them.  My current beads are enormous compared to my early ones and I am continually inspired to go bigger!


What was your scariest beadmaking experience?

I have been fortunate so far to not have too many.  A few burns, of course - I do have my share of "badges of honor" a few scars on my hands and arms from careless moments in front of the torch!


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

My favorite tool of all time is my inexpensive bent steel pick.  That little sucker has been with me for 7 years and I love it!  I use it for every bead I make - to fine tune a scroll design, get a bit more detail on a dragonfly, pull a tree branch a bit further across a  bead landscape and many, many other uses.  I guess my tip would be to not overlook the inexpensive and simple tools for the fancy - shmancy ones.  Don't get me wrong - they are all great and I'm sure I have nearly every tool out there, but that simple little pick is absolutely indispensable to my craft!


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 mostly bead in silence so I can concentrate, but occasionally I put on some good tunes to keep me going.  I love Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Michael Buble' especially.  I also like a lot of middle eastern music (I used to be a bellydancer) but it makes me wiggle in my chair too much!


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

OK, well of course persistence is the main thing we will all tell someone new!  That, and try everything and take every class you can!  I couldn't afford all the classes I wanted to take in the beginning so I learned from my peers in my local beadmaking group, the Pacific Pyros, and from all the great forums and groups on the internet.  How lucky that we have so much information available to us in this craft!  Now that I can afford it, I am endeavoring to take classes from the beadmakers I admire so much.  Even though I have my own style and am successful with what I do, there is an endless amount for me still to learn and I look forward to expanding my skills for years to come.


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

I have recently started to play with household objects and tools to see if I can come up with something new but am still just playing around with that at this point.  I have discovered that brass stamps for scrapbooking are excellent to use with glass!  Fun!  When I get more time to just play at the torch, I will try other things as well.


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

Ha! That would mean that I have to clean it!  I will most likely add photos to my site of my new studio when it's done.  Stay tuned!


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

I spend an average of 30 hours a week at the torch.  More before a show of course, with 12 hour torch sessions being the norm the week before a show.  I don't think it would matter how much stock I had built up, I'm sure I would always try to cram more torch time in at the last minute!


What about photographing your beads – what do you use to get your pictures and do you have any tips or tricks to share?  

Photographing glass was a very difficult thing for me to learn.  It took years of practice and several cameras to get any decent results.  Now I have a good system but am still always trying new things.  I bought the full photo light kit from Tabletop Studios - complete with cool lights and tent and all the extra bells and whistles.  A good investment in my opinion!  I use a Canon Powershot A95 camera and a tripod.  Then I fine tune my photos with Photoshop Elements.  I find that to be the easiest photo editing program to use.  


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 use my website more as an online gallery of my work but have recently started to offer "made to order" bead sets and focal beads on my "available work" page.  These can be ordered by simply emailing me with what you want.  I also sell on ebay (ebay id: kerribeads) which is the best way to see what new creations I am coming up with.  Ebay is a great venue for trying new beads on the market as there is such a vast demographic and the feedback is excellent!  I have done really well with ebay and will always put my newest beads (especially my focals) there first.  I have recently set up an Etsy shop as well where I will feature focal beads and bead sets for people who do not have the patience for an auction format.  My website is  www.kerrifuhr.com, and my ebay and etsy pages can be linked from my "available work" page on my site.


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 beads at shows and I do two large bead shows a year here in BC.  The Fraser Valley Bead Show in October is excellent and this year was our best show ever!  I have participated in this show since it started 4 years ago.  The Whole Bead show now comes to Vancouver in May and I will be there with two of my fellow beadmakers, Stephanie Cannon and Debra Kallen.  The three of us share a booth at all our shows and call ourselves the "Fire Foxes"!  We have a lot of fun together and strive to create a great display to showcase our beads and jewelry.  I also sell my finished jewelry collections at several galleries in BC and throughout Canada.  These can all be found on the "Galleries" page on my website.  I also have a line of aromatherapy vessels that I create for various spas and aromatherapy shops.  These have also been very popular. Here are a few photos of my jewelry and aroma vessel collections.....








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?

There is a bit of a balancing act that takes place when you turn your passion into a career.  I have found that there are times when it isn't fun - like when the orders pile up and I am under a lot of pressure - but then again that is often when my best work is created!  I guess I work well under pressure although I'm sure my friends and boyfriend would say otherwise! lol!  Doing this for a living also keeps me driven to be the best I can be seeing that this has become a very competitive industry these days.  I strive to keep my work unique and that often involves trying new styles and allowing my work to evolve.  Then again, I also have to be careful to not change too quickly, as my galleries want to know that they can rely on me to continue to produce the collections that sell well for them!

 

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

Who knows?  This is an exciting adventure for me and I am really enjoying the journey!  The most important thing for me is to have fun - if I'm not having fun then I may as well get a j.o.b. and settle for a regular paycheck.  Each bead is a labor of love and I feel so fortunate to be able to do this for a living.  I hope to get my beads published one day in a bead book so that years down the road I might inspire some new beadmaker who is as fascinated by glass beads as I am.....


Do you have a favorite bead, a “best bead.” Can you share a photograph with us?

Well, my favorite beads are the ones I put on ebay and it's always bittersweet for me when they sell.  These are a few focal beads that I often wish I didn't part with, but I hope they give enjoyment to their new owners and that they are worn and not just kept in a box somewhere.....



 

Copyright 2007  Carolyn Jankovskis Photos by and copyright by the interviewee, unless stated otherwise.

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