Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Maxine Chivers: I initially took a course in Feb 2006, bought my beginners torch kit and mucked about. I did have a little break in between to have daughter #2. After that there was no stopping me!

What got you started making beads? Did you take a class?

It took me about 6 months or so of trying to find out about classes, suppliers in Australia, etc (bearing in mind I had no idea exactly what I was looking for). My husband restores classic cars and hotrods, and one day he was at a vintage Harley workshop across the road from his business and spotted a ton of glass rods. The owner of the business explained that his wife had a business selling lampwork supplies and also conducted classes. Funny how all this time it was right under my nose!

Were you interested in making beads before that?

What initially piqued my interest, was that I picked up an issue of a beading magazine (can’t remember which one) and it had in it an article on Lampwork and what it was. I love colour and was mesmerized by the picture of all the different coloured glass rods. That and working with a flame… my husband had been trying to teach me to weld so anything with a flame he thought was good!

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

When I was little I really wanted to be a cartoonist. I love drawing and doodling cartoon characters (whether or not I was any good is debatable). In between work and family though, I always felt I needed an artistic outlet but one never really found me. That changed the minute the glass found me. A large number of my beads are cartoony and oddball. I guess that comes from wanting to be a cartoonist.

What has surprised you most about working with glass?

I think the fact that as you are making a bead (say for example, melting in dots)  you don’t think anything is happening. You wait and wait.  Then all of a sudden, the dots melt and the bead is transformed into something you did not expect. That could be from the dot spacing or the reactions between certain colours. I like how you can take a ‘happy accident’ and go off on a completely different track that you thought you were going to go down.

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

I have several artists whose work I covet… erm… admire. I was fortunate enough to take a Jim Smircich class here last year and his techniques have greatly encouraged me to look at how I utilized the glass, tools and heat. I love the work of Sharon Peters, Cathy Lybarger (Aardvark). I Also like Bronwen Heilman’s use of recycled glass and enamels – something I have only dabbled in but want to try further. I also like Holly Cooper’s stuff and anyone else who uses a hothead torch.

Whose beads inspire you the most?

You mean I have to choose one? Oh boy I can’t! … I guess I would have to say Sharon Peters and Cathy Lybarger – I can’t choose one! I like the characters of them both. I don’t take myself too seriously and I hope that shows through my pieces.

Do you sell your beads? Do you sell the beads by themselves, or already made up into jewelry?

I tend to sell them by themselves. Most of my pieces I would say are focals. I like the fact that people will take a bead of mine and turn it into something that is really their story. I am like a tiny fish in a huge pond when it comes to jewellery, and only occasionally do really basic pieces... think I am better off leaving that to the experts!

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

I really started doing the ‘character’ type beads to amuse the heck out of myself. I would be half way through a really goofy alien bead and just start laughing… regardless of anyone else being in the room or not – I kind of imagine myself looking like a mad scientist – white lab coat and all! I started posting pictures in the various forums’ “Show & Tell” threads, and started getting people contacting me asking if they were for sale…. from that point on I though I may have been on to something that people actually want. I also started getting weird and wacky custom orders – LOVE the challenge of these too!

Have you ever taken part in a bead or art/craft show?

I have recently started entering competitions and started looking at various art/ craft shows. When the general public thinks of art shows, they tend to think of oils hanging on the walls with maybe the occasional sculpture – I’d really like to see glass and lampwork promoted as a well known art form. I definitely don’t want it to become a ‘lost art’.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered? What did you enjoy most?

Biggest challenge… stepping out of my comfort zone. That would also be the most rewarding. When people say “oh you can’t do that on a HotHead (single fuel) torch, I say “Why Not?” I mentioned about these wacky custom orders I occasionally get. I absolutely get a huge buzz from making something for someone I didn’t think would have been possible. I tend to curse and/ or stress a lot when doing these, but a favourable end result makes me proud for stepping from my comfort zone. The baseball bat, glove and ball was one of these as well as the leaf peepers.

How do you feel you have benefited from the experience?

I would say my techniques have expanded – necessity being the mother of invention, etc. I have also met and learnt from so many wonderful people… newbies and experienced alike.

Do you have any tips for first time exhibitors?

Do it do it do it! Go on, you know you want to! Exhibit that is. I entered my first major show earlier this year and while I did not place, I took the experience and said “right next year I will try a b and c”. It is daunting and sometimes you feel like you are taking the short walk off the long plank, but hey you don’t know you can swim until you jump in!

Do you sell your beads in stores or other venues?

Yes probably 80% on line, the rest being through the very occasional stall/ through friends or relatives. I do however ALWAYS wear a piece of my work when I am out shopping, etc. I do get a lot of compliments and I ALWAYS have a stack of cards on me… so word of mouth would be another way of getting my stuff out there.

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 have a website It is basic at the moment, but I wanted to have an access point to bring all my online venues and blogging, photos, contact point, etc. together. I sell on ETSY and ARTFIRE under girlfriday1962, so you can find me there too. Oh and I recently made my (very cheesy) YouTube debut, after a couple of customers asked how I actually make a bead… I am under girlfriday1962 there also.

What do your friends and family think of your beadmaking?

I think they thought it was a hobby but it is so much more than that… now they break a glass at a party or find an interesting bead and they will tell me about it. Yep… they now know I am certifiably obsessed with glass!

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

Currently I have a Hot Head torch (single fuel) with a 9 kg gas bottle. I also run a Paragon Bluebird XL kiln with an easy to use digital controller – love it! I DO have a lovely hot pink GTT Cricket torch sitting on my desk staring at me, and I hope to get the little darling hooked up to oxygen very soon!

What type of glass do you use?

Mainly Moretti/ Effetre, but I also like the soupiness of the Japanese Satake glass. I have dabbled in silver glasses, but am saving those for the Cricket.

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

Simple colours (love black and white) and simple layered dots… I find them refreshing to do really. I kind of do this to ‘unwind’ after a custom order, stressfull day, etc. I also love Sunny Mango glass… very versatile and pretty.

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

Not particularly. I tend to like clean and simple lines in my beads. And as for the Sunny Mango… I just love the colour, very fun.

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

I really love my local suppliers bead release. REALLY easy to get off mandrel. I also love my Smircich paddle with the hole in the side and… don’t laugh… my 1960’s butter knife! Use it a lot for sculpting.

Do you have a favorite beadmaking book or piece of instructional material?

Oh, Passing the Flame would have to be it. It should be a staple in every lampworker’s cupboard. I am also a fan of e-books and have bought a fair few online!

Do you have a favorite technique?

Am really digging off mandrel at the moment. I do leaves and chillies (chillies being my current fad). I like the freedom it gives and helps me out if I forget to dip mandrels!

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

Oh definitely focal… I can’t concentrate enough for a set! Having said that I should challenge myself to make one….

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

Hahahaha… I would say I have a tendency to put googly eyes on a lot of stuff… in fact I made beads the other night with NO eyes and no one believed me… I guess the googly eyes  developed by layering more dots to get more cartoon looking eyes.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?

Confidence in myself to do/ try a new technique… am currently arguing with encasing at the moment… will let you when I slay that beast.

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

Hardest? Would say beads within a bead… I like these though and am persisting with this technique. The easiest would be my off mandrel leaves or chilies. They don’t have to all be the same… least they aren’t in nature, so I figure it is easy to make them NOT look alike.

What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?

Alien doodlebug beads. They aren’t big and don’t have to all look the same – I like to give each one it’s own personality.

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

Oh yes… I look at them every now and then when I get frustrated with something I am trying. I remind myself how far I have come.

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

I suppose they have evolved…. different styles and techniques and classes have influenced me. They are getting bigger which I know will be a good thing!

What was your scariest beadmaking experience?

That woulld have to be a shocky rod where the end popped off and stuck to my fringe. I thought “what’s that funny smell?” Didn’t take me long to realize it was my smouldering hair! Luckily it was only a minor red mark on my hairline!

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

Oh gosh there are lots. I enjoy taking part in challenges on the various forums. One particular challenge was a one word challenge. The word was LIGHT and the job was to produce a bead inspired by this word… I took it literally and made a lightbulb… funny this was one of the first times I had made a blown piece, so I got to learn technique too!

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

I think it would have to be finding the elusive ‘sweet spot’ in the flame… I had a lot of these in Jim Smircich’s class… that and HOW to read the heat in molten glass… literally I would sit in class and go “OOOOHHH, I GET IT!”

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

Don’t throw away your ‘failure beads… you never know what you could learn or develop from the mistake… like the ‘happy accidents’ I mentioned before.

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?

Oh I listen to all sorts, but I am a big fan of Martin Denny, Dave Bruebeck, Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald and anything pre 1962! Rather Ironic really considering how loud I have the music to listen to OVER the comforting roar of the HotHead! Incidentally the 1962 refers to the  year my vintage Triumph Motorbike was made!

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

Don’t put pressure on yourself. Relax, enjoy and if something doesn’t work, go do something else and come back to it later with a fresh mind and more experience. Gee, I sound like I know what I am talking about!

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

Apart from my butter knife, my favourite tool is an old pinstriping brush of my husbands, The hair has long fallen out but the metal oval shape piece that used to hold the hair is great for shaping and stamping.

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

Gosh, I have a before and after picture of how messy my set up can get but I’m not sure if you want to see my 1960’s laminate table (covered with fire resistant metal of course) and my old coffee jars of glass rods!

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

Anything from 4 to 6 hours a week. I tend to start a session and end it when my first bead goes awry… then it is time to retire. Is it enough? NEVER! Having said that, I won’t torch if I can’t think of anything I want to make.

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

Natural light has worked for me… I tend not to use props as it worries me the bead will get lost… either that or my photography skills aren’t good enough to use props properly!

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?

I would LOVE it to be a job but que sera sera… I never started with the intention of selling the beads, but if people like my work enough then I say go for it! Most of the beads I develop I don’t do with anything in mind… a lot of the time it is to amuse myself or to go “ what would happen if I did  XYZ?” I tend to go with the flow and if I pick up a good solid customer base along the way then that is brilliant.

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

Love sculpting so I guess I would see it as leading me down that track.  Would love to try glass blowing too… partly because of the challenge and also I don’t want any form of glass work to become a lost art.

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

That’s like asking to pick a favourite child! I have a few favourites for different reasons.


NAME: Maxine Chivers


Central Coast NSW Australia

Mobile Phone 0418430963