Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?

Patsy Evins: I started in 1998.

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

Every summer I would take weeklong classes in the lapidary arts at William Holland School. I had signed up for a fused glass class and it cancelled a couple of days before I was supposed to go.  I told them to just put me in anything because I had already arranged my time off and prepaid expenses. They put me in a lampwork class. I didn’t even know what it was at the time.  After I made my first bead, I knew I was in love with the medium!  I called my husband up the first night of the class and told him I wanted to change from painting to lampworking.  (We had just spent $5,000 the month before doing the Art Expo in NYC to promote my paintings and giclee prints. I was in 4 art galleries regionally at the time and I wanted to expand nationwide.)  He just told me we would talk about it when I got home. It’s always easier to talk about something if you can see it so I bought all the equipment and glass I needed at the end of the class to show my husband. Obviously I won the discussion. 

Were you interested in making beads before that?

I had taken a couple of fused glass classes where I made pendants with Bullseye and dichroic sheet glass. I was not aware of lampwork beads until I took the class.

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

I started taking private art lessons when I was 10 years old so I guess you could say I knew pretty early what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I received a BFA in Painting and Drawing from University of North Texas. I continued my studies for 2 years at Lyme Academy of Fine Arts focusing on mastering figurative and representational art disciplines. (Cool info-Old Lyme, Connecticut was noted as being an artist colony for American Impressionists as early as 1899.) I then attended Silvermine Art Guild in New Caanan, NY for 2 years and focused on abstract art.  I was fortunate enough to have teachers there who were represented by New York City galleries and privy to New York City’s art world.

Because of my art background, I was able to focus on lampworking techniques and not worry about learning design, composition or color theory when making a bead.  I found the lampwork techniques challenging enough.   

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

These are some paintings from my previous art life.

What has surprised you most about working with glass?

I think the difficulty of mastering glass techniques has been the most surprising to me. In other mediums like painting, it is pretty simple to master brush stroke techniques. With lampworking, one has to master techniques starting with the basics, like how to use gravity to make a bead round or the flame’s temperature to keep a bead from cracking. There doesn’t seem to be any shortcuts. I have found that the more techniques I get under my belt, the more clearly I am able to express myself and create beads that are more sophisticated.

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

I took classes from Deanna Griffin-Dove in the beginning. She taught basic techniques, which was what I initially needed. She was very sharing and nurturing with her knowledge, time and teaching abilities. I have taken classes from Loren Stump, Andrea Guarino, Kate Fowle and a few other lampworkers. Much of my learning has come from observation of nature and my artistic training background.  My 15 years as an established artist in art galleries has taught me to strive for high standards in my artwork.

Whose beads inspire you the most?

The artists Dale Chihuly, Paul Stankard and the Blaschka’s glass flowers at Harvard Museum have been very influential for me. I have seen many of Chihuly’s installations and they are truly breathtaking. My love of flowers connects me to the exquisite beauty of Stankard and Blaschka’s florals.

As for my fellow lampworkers, I am always amazed each time I go to a bead show to see how creative and diverse so many lampworkers'  beads are. 

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

Yes, I sell my beads, mostly individually.  However, many of my floral, sea life and abstracts beads can be easily slipped onto a chain.

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

I was already in art galleries with my paintings, I saw lampwork as just another medium for my artistic endeavors. It was more difficult selling beads because when I got into glass, many art galleries were not into beads or aware of the lampwork bead as an art form. 

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

I did the Intergalactic Bead Shows for about 8 years and graduated to the larger bead shows like Bead Fest, Bead and Button and Tucson Shows.  I have always stayed with bead shows and not ventured into craft shows because I think finished jewelry is better for craft shows.

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

My biggest challenge is being too sensitive about my artwork. My husband always dealt with my art galleries. It always felt like someone ripping out my heart when one of my paintings was rejected. My husband used to say that if a painting was not good for one gallery, it would be perfect for another gallery, and he was right. He was able to not take things personally and stayed totally professional with galleries, which I was not able to do. 

How do you feel you have benefited from the experience?

Doing bead shows has forced me to learn how to not take rejection of my beads as a personal attack on my self-esteem. I have found people to be genuinely interested in the creative process of my beads and I feel very fortunate to be able to share my love of the sea and flowers with others. I always tell a buyer a little story about how or why I created the bead they have decide to buy. I think there is a little magic in the bead they buy because it’s birthing originated from love.

Do you have any tips for first time exhibitors?

Make the booth as professional as possible and try to reflect your personality in the setup. I am a colorist so you will see a lot of color at my booth. I usually bring a couple of my paintings, which are always conversational pieces to help people understand my artistic history.  It also helps buyers to remember my booth and my beads.  I’ve taken some classes on how to sell and learned that the first impression and the first contact will make or lose the sell. The first thing I always say to the looker after I have giving them a minute or two to browse is, “IF I can help you, just let me know” and then I move away. I have found saying IF allows them to look with no pressure and because I don’t hover, they feel comfortable enough to look.

Do you sell your beads in stores or other venues?

I have periodically sold in high-end bead stores and museums.  Because my beads at bead shows are priced lower than retail, it’s difficult for me to give stores that come by my booth an additional 40%-50% discount. Therefore, I focused on individuals at bead shows mostly until 4 years ago when I moved to Texas. I stopped doing shows to allow time to settle into our new home.

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 have been pursuing selling my beads on the Internet the last 2 ½ years.  It’s very time consuming trying to stay up with being noticed by search engines.  I’m really more comfortable in my studio, torching.  Since my son has been home from college, he’s trying to teach me how to up load and maintain my 2 storefronts.

I also started blogging. My goal is to share my thoughts about how I create my beads, what inspires me and what influences make my beads uniquely mine. I hope to help people understand and appreciate lampworking better as well as the artistic creative process. I spend about 3-4 hours on each blog and I try to do one each week.

What do your friends and family think of your beadmaking?

My husband and I started dating at age 16 and I was already planning to major in art when I pursued college. He has been very supportive working the business side of my art career all through  our marriage.  My son is a talented artist and silversmith.  He has taken beadmaking classes and has been very helpful in all the technical issues that come up with lampworking.  He has also co-created with me most of the jewelry on my website. I usually develop the jewelry designs and he makes them happen. You can check out “What’s Up” to view more of our collaborative jewelry that has received recognitions and honors.


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

I use a mini CC with 2 oxygen concentrators and a propane tank. I also have a holding tank to store the oxygen, which gives me a more consistent, even flow. I have a Lynx and Minor, but prefer the Mini CC  because I use pink glass a lot and the Mini CC has a cleaner flame that produces less reduction on glass.  My kiln is a Parragon that can do multiple things like fusing glass.  It has a digital controller, a must for any lampworker who wants a life besides stepping down a kiln for hours everyday.

What type of glass do you use?

I use Effetre mostly but do not hesitate to use other COE104 compatible glasses.  I also use the silvered glasses.  I think one could spend a lifetime experimenting with these glasses. Too bad we don’t have 9 lives like a cat!

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

My favorite color is pink, purple, turquoise, lime, yellow, orange, blue and red (in that order). However, that being said, if you look at my website, you can see I have a weakness for any color in general.  In the painting world, I was known as a “colorist”.

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

My favorite colors are Complementary and Tertiary color combinations. Complementary colors are any colors that are opposite on the color wheel. Like yellow and purple. These are the most dynamic or contrasting colors to juxtapose next to each other.  A tertiary color is a primary and secondary color on the color wheel mixed together. I especially like these colors to play with-like pink, lime, and periwinkle.  I do not tend to use primary colors together on a bead very much.  I think making beads that experiment with harmonies on the color wheel could use up another life of that cat. 

As far as reactive colors, ivory fumed is quite beautiful.  It gives a web effect.  Ivory used with the silvered glasses have great reactions as well. Because I am always trying to create a different look for each bead, I try not to repeat color combinations too much. I also get bored really fast with color combinations. I guess my favorite color rod is ivory because it has so many variants in usage.  I also like to fume. Andrea Guarino’s class is a good class to take on ivory reactions.

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

I love Bucket of Mud bead release.  I can really bend my mandrels manipulating the glass and this release has held up. I use Aether clear.  I have tons of scummy clears that are worthless, but Aether clear has been reliable though expensive. 

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

I think the tutorials atLampwork.etc are the best things to jump start creativity.  When I need inspiration, I usually check out the tutorials. The lampworkers who share their ideas are lifesavers. I would rather buy a technique idea, master it and then mutate it to become part of my arsenal to express myself than spend months trying to come up with a new technique. It’s like the striped stringers that are used in making petals for flowers. It’s a basic technique that can be personalized by each lampworker to make it uniquely theirs.  

Do you have a favorite technique?

I don’t have a favorite technique because I don’t see techniques as an end product.  They are tools to help me express what I am visualizing in my mind.  I consider them my elements of design or building blocks in lampworking. In painting, I use line, texture, shape, color, etc to create my composition in my painting. With lampwork, the techniques help me do the same thing.

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

I love to do flowers, sea life and abstracts.  I have no patience for making repetitions of one bead.  I don’t think I could do 2 exact beads if my life demanded upon it. You might as well just kill me now!  However, I will make sets of beads to go with a focus.  They will each be different but the same colors will flow through all of them.

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 do many sculptural flowers like Irises, Orchids, Hibiscuses and my Art Nouveau florals that are unique because my inspiration comes from studying live flowers.  I have a large garden where I grow most of what I make in glass. Making beads from live flowers allows you to really get the details right. When I painted, I did a lot of floral so I’ve been studying flowers for years. My fish and sea creatures are taken from my experiences of snorkeling and living by the water most of my life. We had a sea aquarium for 10 years and my husband studied marine biology. I tend to express in glass what surrounds me in my environment and the things I love.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?

Having enough time to do all the things I want to do in glass.  I love working in glass and feel I have hardly touched the surface of exploration of the medium.  I probably need to stop sleeping!

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

The hardest bead for me is a symmetrical bead or anything that has to be perfectly balanced.  Round drives me crazy! Lots of encasing and THEN making it round…… I just might as well throw it against the wall in the beginning and get it over with!

The easiest?

Sculptural Bead

What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?

Hands down….. Sculptural.

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

Yes, I do have my first beads.  I was so proud of them way back then.  A friend surprised me and glued them into a ball and I was so upset, I cried.  Now, when I look at them, I am amazed that I was sooo bad!

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

My interests have always been flowers and sea life. I do desserts when I have time. I love Christmas so I will do Christmas beads if I have time. What has changed is my accumulation of techniques over the last 12 years that has allowed my beads to become more intricately detailed. I guess you could say my work is more mature and reflecting a clear personal expression. 

What was your scariest beadmaking experience?

The scariest experience was the first day of my first class. I keep waiting for the torch to blow up or burn me. I can’t express how afraid I was of the torch and that big flame!  Must have been a childhood thing. Looking around my class that first day, I think there was a bunch of us with fright syndrome. One lady burned herself the 3rd day and we never saw her again.

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

I think my experiences with the public have produced many humorous moments.  I’ve been asked if the rods were made out of wax when I did demos.  After explaining how my beads are one of a kind, one man asked if I could do 5,000 of my intricate flowers in 2 weeks with a volume discount

Oh yea, I love the one time the lady looked at one of my time intensive beads and informed me that her sister just started lampworking and is doing beads just like mine. (I felt like throwing her across the room!)  Another classic was the lady who dropped the bead on the concrete floor and wanted to know why it broke.

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

I think my time torching is my opportunity to connect with a higher energy, source, God or whatever you call it.  When I am in the flow, time stops, and as I manipulate the molten glass, there is a beautiful dance between the flame and my soul. It feels like I have no limitations or boundaries and that all things are possible.  It feels like the molten glass comes alive and together we become one in a birthing of a new creation.

I felt the same when I painted and it’s why I love being an artist. It’s kind of like experiencing a little piece of heaven on earth!

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

Learn as many techniques as you can.  Spend some time examining your life and personality to decide what makes you unique. What are your loves?  What are you passionate about? Make lists. There is something very special in each of us that needs to be expressed. Use your lampwork techniques to make a statement about your uniqueness. How fortunate we are to be able to leave a piece of ourselves for posterity to remember.

Do you listen to music when you work, or prefer complete silence?

I listen to New Age (Spa) music on XM/Sirus that relaxes me. I’m a little hyper so if I didn’t, my glass would be all over the place.  I’ve even stopped drinking straight coffee so I can put details where I want them.

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

Lampwork is a wonderful medium to give birth to a creation that is unique yours…. like your child.

It is your opportunity to mold your creation in any way you want, using as many techniques that you can accumulate to express yourself.  Ultimately, you want your creation to be a reflection of who you are, your dreams, your essence.

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

I learned to put a lot of uniform bubbles in a bead by using a floral frog with metal spikes. I learned that from a marble class.

I like using lazy susans for my glasses. I hot glue pvc pipes cut at various heights to it. It’s easy to turn and get to all of the different glasses.

I bought magnetic strips for knives from IKEA and all my metal tools stick to it.  Makes them easy to see and grab.

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

That little ball of beads above the tools contains my first beads.

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

I try to spend 5-6 hours a day on making beads and no, it’s never enough time.  I hope I live to 150 and am still able to torch! Or maybe I could use the other 7 lives of that cat for torching.

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

My camera is a Canon EOS 20D digital. We use professional studio lights.  We lay the beads on a non-reflective piece of glass. The backgrounds we use are either a grey gradient photography background or white watercolor paper. We use a tripod for the camera. All the equipment can be bought at an online photography supply store.  The best tip is to use an 18% grey, white balance card to calibrate the camera for true colors before you start to take photos. Another great tip is to use polarized filters on your lights to get rid of reflections.

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 guess you can tell by now, this is a passion for me as well as a living. Because I don’t do production work and very limited commission work, I am free to follow my muse or whatever blooming flower that beckons me from my garden.

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

I work in series and revisit my favorite themes cyclically through out the year.  Each time I revisit a theme I improve it by learning new techniques to incorporate or experiment with new subject matter.  For example, I will focus on a new type of fish or sea creature I have never done before or a new flower.  My new series, Art Nouveau is a revisited theme I had worked with 2 years ago.  I explored new techniques and developed this new direction on the theme.  I am always influenced by the seasons and my vacations.

I would love to go to Italy and study with some sculptural masters.

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

My best bead is the one that makes it out of the kiln.  I try not to get too excited until then.  My favorite is whatever I am excited about creating at the moment.


NAME:  Patsy Evins

LOCATION: Hallettsville, Texas, USA