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Greg Chase

USA — on the move

Greg@Chase-Designs.com

by: Dwyn Tomlinson


Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Greg Chase: Almost 7 years.

Beading Times: Where are you located?
Greg Chase: Well, this is actually a tougher question than you would think. We live in an RV (35’ Winnebago) and spend all of our time traveling around the US. Though technically we have a mailing address in TX, we started our travels in CA, and actually right now we’re in AL. Well, you see the challenge.

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Greg Chase: That’s kind of a tricky question. I took glass blowing in college, so I was somewhat familiar with molten glass. Then I’d done a little off-mandrel work working for Beadazzled crystal in the 80’s. But I guess what really did it was an art fair just down the street from us. There was a marble/beadmaker there that had a whole write-up on the process. The next weekend we picked up a starter kit and I was hooked.

 

Beading Times: Were you interested in making beads before that?
Greg Chase: I never even thought about it. I was intrigued by marble making, but beads were completely foreign to me.

Beading Times: Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?
Greg Chase: That’s another tricky question. Like “when did you first know you were an artist?” I always seemed to be making something with my hands. I suppose it was in high school that I first decided art was going to be my future. I started with woodworking, then ceramics (which I hold a degree in) then a whole series of art media which I really don’t remember, and finally stained glass. Stained glass is really what put me over the edge as far as I HAVE to do this. I did stained glass for quite a few years. Then of course I found hot glass and it quickly replaced all other media as my primary art form.

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Greg Chase: I’ve never taken a lampworking glass. My experience with the educational process has shown me that the only way I really learn something is to teach myself. My comment on my formal education has always been that I have an art degree, but I think I’m becoming a reasonably good artist anyway.

Beading Times: What has surprised you most about working with glass?
Greg Chase: How accessible it is. With all of the really great books out there, and the wonderful online forums, and the just absolutely amazingly helpful beadmakers out there, it’s really quite easy to get started. And of course with ebay it’s actually possible to make a living out of my passion. This is a first in my artistic endeavors.

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Greg Chase: I can’t say that I have a mentor. There have been some really great beadmakers that my wife and I now consider close friends. We try to visit them as much as we can in our travels, but I’d have to say my artistic style is pretty much just finding its own way.

Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Greg Chase: Well Loren Stump and Paul Stankard are my favorite artists, though they aren’t really technically bead artists at this point. I do try to expose myself to as many different bead styles as I can.

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Greg Chase: Yep, it’s our primary source of income at this point. I sell pretty much just on ebay at this point, though I have sold in galleries, online web page, and even tried one sort of show.

Beading Times: Did you intend to sell your beads when you first started? What got you started selling them?
Greg Chase: I really can’t say that I ever started working with an art medium with the intentions of selling my work. I’ve always wanted to sell my work, but my experience has been that it’s very difficult to make money at making art. Most of the time, being an artist has been a very expensive occupation for me. I started looking at beads on ebay fairly soon after I started making beads. At that time, I think there were only about 100-500 beads at any given time, with almost all of them had bids. It was really quite exciting to realize that I could actually sell my stuff without all of the hassle of approaching galleries, going to shows, etc.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Greg Chase: I do make beads for specific people occasionally, usually for fellow beadmakers. There are very few of my non-beadmaking friends who have any real interest in beads.

Beading Times: What does your family think of your beadmaking?
Greg Chase: Well, fortunately, my wife is a fellow beadmaker and artist in her own right. There are long expanses of time where her beads sell better than mine. So I guess I’d have to say she thinks I should really be making more beads. We don’t have children which has freed us up to live a more bohemian lifestyle. I think the rest of my family think I’m a little off, but then they’ve always thought that anyway.

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Greg Chase: I use a National 8 torch, oxygen concentrator, small aim kiln and a variety of hand tools and presses. As we live in a RV and travel full-time around the country the studio has to be small so we can pack it up when we travel.

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Greg Chase: I use Moretti soft glass pretty much exclusively. I’ve looked into Bullseye, Uroborous, and others, but as our studio needs to be pretty well contained, these other glasses will need to wait till we have an actual free-standing studio.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Greg Chase: Ummm, not really. I pretty much use whatever we have at hand.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Greg Chase: I feel like my technique changes every 6 months or so. I do tend to gravitate to sculptural work, but I still consider myself on a path as opposed to having arrived.

Beading Times: Are you a “set person” or a “focal bead” person?
Greg Chase: Well I do both, sometimes at the same time. I really enjoy making multiple bead creatures like iguanas and dragons. I do make a lot of single bead focals and creatures, though I also make sets of creatures as well. It really just depends on how I feel on any given day as to what I create.

 

Beading Times: Have you developed a “signature” bead, a unique type of bead that is recognizably yours. Tell us about it, how you developed it, etc.
Greg Chase: Well, yeah, sort of, though I really don’t make them much. I really only showed them a couple of times online and really only sold a couple and that was years ago. And yet everyone we meet still knows me as that guy that makes flashing mardi gras girls. I really don’t know where I came up with the idea. I just really liked the play of ideas of a flashing girl bead flashing for beads.

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Greg Chase: I can’t really think of any major obstacles. It was a challenge reducing the studio to something that would be portable for our RV lifestyle. For the first 2 years we were on the road, internet access was a challenge as we had to hunt down connection locations. About a year ago we invested in an internet satellite dish so things have been much smoother since lately.

Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Greg Chase: The sculptural beads make me hold my breath for extended periods. Trying to keep the whole bead hot, but not too hot and lose the detail, while adding more detail can really be a challenge.

 

Beading Times: The easiest?
Greg Chase: The multiple bead creatures usually involve a number of simple graduated beads to form the neck and tail. Usually by the time I get to the point of making those beads I know I’m on the down hill run for finishing the set.

 

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Greg Chase: I really like sculptural beads. Though really any bead that forces the beadmaker to move beyond their comfort zone, I find interesting.

 

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Greg Chase: Those beads are long gone. I know they really weren’t very good. I kept them for quite a long time to show others that I really didn’t start out making great beads. Most of the people I’ve taught made much better first beads than my early attempts. I do try to sell my beads as soon as possible now as I know a year from now my beads will look very different, and I’m really only happiest with the beads I just made.

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Greg Chase: My beads are constantly changing. I get bored easily with any given style. I do tend to focus on sculptural work, though even that gets repetitious after a while. It does make it difficult to identify my beads as they change a lot, it causes a lot of confusion for my customers as they never really know what I’ll make next.

 

Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Greg Chase: Actually it was a marble that was the scariest, though I do consider marblemaking a part of my beadmaking business. It was one of my first attempts at marbles. It was really pretty round when it fell off the punty. I know it was round as it rolled really well off the table and onto the carpet. It was about then that I realized I really didn’t have a way of picking up an almost molten roundish blob of glass. I chased it around the carpet with the torch sparker for a while. It left a really interesting melted carpet marble track. I think I finally got it up using a couple of pairs of pliers. It was shortly after that that I put cookie sheets under the torch, purchased some marble hemostats, and started using a thicker punty.

Beading Times: Have you had any “glass epiphanies” while working – some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Greg Chase: The most recent “understanding” was watching how glass melts into itself. I was working with dots and stringers. Kind of laying out stringers onto the bead and then adding large clear dots in the negative space between the stringer. As all this melted together it formed a really interesting net affect from the stringer. I made a few beads using this technique, but really haven’t found a practical use for it yet.

Beading Times: Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Greg Chase: Not really, I don’t really think of myself as a technique kind of artist. My work involves a lot of heat control, and truthfully, a lot of practice. There isn’t really a quick and easy way of making what I make. I do find that a lot of beadmakers are intimidated by working off mandrel. It really isn’t all that difficult and it opens up a whole new area of detail in a piece.

 

Beading Times: Have you “invented” any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn’t ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Greg Chase: No, again not really. When I worked for Beadazzled I did find that thick machine bolts worked well for leaving grooves in glass for Pegasus wings.

Beading Times: Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Greg Chase: As you can see it’s a small studio. Everyone longs for something and no lifestyle is perfect. We long for a large stable studio. But I would never want to stop our traveling lifestyle just for a larger kiln and torch.

Beading Times: How much time do you spend making beads, in, say, hours per week? Is it enough?
Greg Chase: It varies on what else we’re doing. We take what we call "vacations," where we won’t torch for a week or more. But usually we’re on the torch 6 days per week for about 8 hours per day. Of course since there are 2 of us and only 1 torch, individually it’s only more like 4 hours per day. Is it enough? Some days it’s too much, some days not nearly enough, some days we’ve over-filled the kiln, some days there are only 1 or 2 beads in it at the end of the day. But for the most part, it is enough. My definition of success is making a living making what I want, when I want. I do feel we are currently successful.

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads – what do you use to get your pictures?
Greg Chase: It’s a pretty simple set up: a clear plastic box with photographic paper, a digital camera and a tripod. It’s really not ideal, but seems to work well enough for ebay. Again when we set up a larger studio, a professional photo set up is on the list of wants.

 

Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on? If so, what is the url/id info, etc.
Greg Chase: Our web site is Chase-Designs.com. Our ebay and justbeads ID is CDlampwork.

Beading Times: Do you sell at shows or in stores or other venues? Do you sell the beads by themselves, or already made up into jewelry?
Greg Chase: We pretty much just sell the beads on there own. We’ve tried making jewelry, though it really just doesn’t work well for us. We’re bead makers and leave the jewelry making to the jewelry designers. We’ve tried selling through shops and galleries, but again, it’s just not our strong suit.

Beading Times: 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?
Greg Chase: Absolutely it’s both. We do try to make beads that we think will sell. And we definitely will not try to sell anything we don’t feel 100% sure of the quality. But when we find we’re just recreating the same designs over and over, we usually end up having to take some time away from the torch to replenish our creativity. According to Deanna (my wife), I spend way too much time playing and according to me, she spends way to much time making beads she feels sure will sell. As for a passion, well, we supposedly just took the last week off of the torch. However, as we were visiting one of our favorite lampworkers, we ended up playing on the torch everyday.


Deanna's beads

Deanna's beads

Deanna's beads

Deanna's beads

 

Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Greg Chase: This is a really good question — that I really don’t have a good answer for. When we first hit the road and started meeting fellow lampworkers, I used to ask what their definition of success was. It varied widely, and many hadn’t really thought about it. Really, I just what to make what I want, when I want, and not have to worry about money. We live pretty simply, so meeting this definition has been easier than I would have thought. We have discussed teaching, selling at the big shows, getting a stationary winter studio for the cold months, and, well, getting published. But really it all revolves around making what we want when we want.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite bead, a “best bead.” Can you share a photograph with us?
Greg Chase: While I’m making them, they’re all my favorite beads. Every morning’s like Christmas, as I’m always excited to see what comes out. And I have yet to be able to take a picture of my creativity. (Though there are a few pictures out there of what some fellow lampworkers call the “mad scientist” at work.)

 

 

 

 

 


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 dwyn@beadingtimes.com.

Copyright 2005 Dwyn Tomlinson. Photos by and copyright by the interviewee, unless stated otherwise.

 

 
 

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 sandy@beadingtimes.com.

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