Archived Featured Bead Artists
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Slava Popov


by: Dwyn Tomlinson

This month's lampworker makes "beads" that transcend beadmaking and step into the world of sculpture.

Beading Times: Where are you from?
Slava Popov: Iím Russian and currently living in both Russia and Canada, sometimes Iím thinking that Iím living on the edge of two worlds.


Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Slava Popov: I have been working with glass for almost 2 years. Beadmaking is currently the main form of my glassmaking, though more and more often I find myself involved in other forms of flameworking (like borosilicate sculpture, for example). 

Beading Times: What got you started flameworking?
Slava Popov: Itís a question that I donít know the answer to myself. I remember it was in the fall of 2001 when I suddenly decided to go to the library and find some books about glassmaking. The mysterious element in all that was that before that, I did not even think about glass, nor did I attend any art glass exhibitions, nor did I meet any glass artists or watch anything about glass on TV. So Iím not able to explain that sudden impulse or urge to find some information about glassmaking. As far as I remember, my only experience with art glass occurred many years ago when I ran across a catalogue of the exhibition of one Russian glass artist ( I donít even remember his name, in spite of all my attempts to recall it). I do have some artistic background though. In middle school, I attended art school for 3 years where I studied painting, drawing, sculpting and history of art. Unfortunately I dropped out without completing the final year.  

Beading Times: I'm thinking that the art school background, and having that experience help quite a bit in understanding how to do a convincing rendition of an animal. Is that correct?
Slava Popov: Yes I think so, Russian art school is not the same as in the States. In order to get there one needs to take rigorous entrance exams. Though these schools are supposed to educate kids from middle school they provide very good fundamentals in all aspects of artistic painting, drawing and sculpting including human figure, movement, and composition (Many graduates of these schools draw better than graduates of American Art Colleges at the University level)

Beading Times: Were you interested in making beads before that?  
Slava Popov: No, as a matter of fact I have always considered glass beadmaking as a step to sculptural flameworking.


Beading Times: So for you, is it fair to say that the mandrel is just a convenient way to hold the glass, and the fact that it is technically a bead is incidental?
Slava Popov: That's exactly what I wanted to say. On the other hand, recently I came to realize that many people buy my works because they have a hole, so that they can use them in jewelry.

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Slava Popov: Yes, at the very beginning I took a class in Detroit. It was all about basics of beadmaking and I already knew many techniques but I was glad that I attended the class because I got experience working with oxy-propane set up (at that time I had a Hothead at home)

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor?
Slava Popov: Mentor? No, I donít think so. Iím primarily self-taught and the beadmaking class that I mentioned above was the only time when I received any sort of instruction. 

Beading Times: Whose work inspires you the most?  
Slava Popov: I find works of Loren Stamp, Luccio Bubacco, and Milon Townsend to be very inspirational. Though their works are not beads in technical sense of this word (with exception of some works of Stump) the techniques they use or subjects of their works or undeniable talent of these artists give me a boost to pursue my own path.

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?  
Slava Popov: Oh yes, Iím selling via two on-line venues: my web site and ebay.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Slava Popov: Not yet, very few of my friends know about my glass

Beading Times: What does your spouse think of your lampworking? 
Slava Popov: My spouse? I donít have a clue. I guess she likes some of them, especially my borosilicate spiders.

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.) 
Slava Popov: I have National 8M with medium and big tips.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.  
Slava Popov: As for the bead release — my favorite brand is Sludge Plus because this one is the strongest (I would like to try Super Blue Sludge; I was told that itís even stronger than Sludge Plus). In a bead release I value only the ability to withstand my handling of the bead — if one is doing bead 4 inches long I guess the only prayer of the beadmaker can be for the bead release to not crack in the middle of the process!

Beading Times: Amen to that! What type of glass do you use?  
Slava Popov: For beads I use primarily Moretti/Effetre because of its availability and inexpensiveness. Sometimes I use boro glass like North Star or Colormax as well, but itís all very expensive stuff.

Beading Times: How do you approach making one of your sculptures.
Slava Popov:  All of them are sculptures first, and only then beads. So, when Iím working on my animal beads Iím bound by the animalsí natural looks and shapes rather then by my personal preferences. I'Ďm limited by nature -- after all I want my Pug bead to look like a Pug and not like a frog.

Beading Times: You have obviously developed a signature style. Are some of your beads — and I hesitate to use the term "bead," sculpture seems more appropriate — more popular than others?
Slava Popov: I donít know. Some of my dog beads are very popular, like Pugs and Pembrokes. What is truly unique about my beads is that I do portraits of animals. Pretty often people commission me to do a portrait of their beloved pets (as a rule, dogs) asking me to do it as close to original as possible.

Beading Times: You have some magnificent sculptures of horses as well. Part of your moving away from beads and into bigger, sculptural work? Can you talk about these?
Slava Popov: As I said, the cost of working with boro glass, especially on large projects is often prohibitive so I have sometimes to substitute it by working on larger scale with soft glass. My horses are an example of these attempts. I'm going to try real compositions made with soft glass that will include human figures (probably something from mythology)in the nearest future. The example to follow in this field is without any doubt Lucio Bubacco who is the best soft glass sculptor in the world (Nobody can even get closer to his level of art). The major technical difficulty for me is that in contrast to Lucio I don't know the secrets of his " anneal in the process" technique so it would be difficult if not impossible to get rid of a mandrel as a support system. But with a hole in the bodies any composition could lose aesthetic value.

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome? 
Slava Popov: The problem of cracking. Cracking is the biggest challenge for me because my beads are not uniformly round like majority of all other beads. My beads have extremities like legs that cool down much faster than the main body of the bead. Besides, my beads are big. To keep them uniformly hot in all places is almost impossible and requires immense concentration, stamina and physical effort.

The largest bead is the hardest one to make. The larger the piece, the more difficult to keep it uniformly hot, yet it is critical because small decorations on its surface cool more quickly than the main body of the bead and are prone to popping off when heated again.

Conversely, the easiest one is any small animal with short hair.


Beading Times: Which are your favorites? 
Slava Popov: I like my Pug beads and also borosilicate spiders

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years? 
Slava Popov: My beads are now much more sophisticated then they used to be, with more details, and as I hope sometimes Iím even able to catch the character of a particular animal, not only its appearance.

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now? 
Slava Popov: Yes, I keep my first sculptural bead and even posted it on my web site. It's so ugly and small that I sometimes get pleasure just looking at this thing and thinking about the progress I made since I first started sculptural beadmaking.

Beading Times: You have a fair number of dog breeds on your site. Do you have a dog - a live model, so to speak?
Slava Popov: The funny thing is I don't have a dog, but I do have a cat, Persian, and I love him. As for dogs I have plenty of pictures of dogs of all imaginable breeds in different poses, so usually I don't have a shortage of models. Sometimes though I would prefer to have a live dog model, but anyway I don't know how to make it to keep the pose that I need.

Beading Times: Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Slava Popov: I just donít know. I donít have any "trade secrets" like many beadmakers who are doing traditional conventional beads. My task is very simple Ė Iím trying to reproduce in glass a living creature. There are many ways to achieve this goal, but usually I start as a sculptor because first of all I have to create a form or shape. This stage is pretty much self-explanatory: I add or remove glass using my glass rods and other tools, trying to achieve a likeness of my animal model.

When Iím done with the shape, I often have to proceed further and to coat the body of the bead in fur. At this stage, Iím acting more like a painter. First of all, I have to mix color stringers for coat or fur. In contrast to painting, mixing glass colors is much more difficult. First of all, I donít see the true color when the glass is hot, but even when it is cooled down, the color on the surface of the stringer is a little different from the color inside the same stringer. When I have the stringer for the coat, I can apply it to the body of the bead.

Finally, I have to rake the coat in order to produce its shape (Different long haired dogs, for example, have different coats). I rake the coat with a glass stringer, so Iím not only creating the coatís texture, but also adding additional color shades (the raking stringer is in a little different color than the coat itself) because some glass from the raking stringer gets mixed with coat in the process of raking .

Beading Times: Have you "invented" any new tools, or recycled something that wouldnít ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking? 
Slava Popov: No. In my work, I actually use very few tools: knife, graphite paddle, tungsten pick and tweezers. I donít have any need for anything fancier than that.. The important tool is the glass rod itself. When the end of the rod is molten, I use it to add more glass to the bead, but when I need to shape the bead, I often cool the end of the rod and use it to remove excess glass from a bead, or to rake it or for many other procedures.

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

Beading Times: Where do you want to go next with your lampworking? Or where do you see it taking you?
Slava Popov: I would like to work with boro glass making sculptural compositions. What I don't like about working with soft glass is that the scale is very limited and it's virtually impossible to introduce any significant artistic idea. Though many people call my beads art in reality it's not so. From my point of view the difference between art and craft lies in presence or absence of artistic idea. Technical execution should be perfect in both but only idea makes a piece to be a real art. I have a couple of boro works but unfortunately I'm not able to take decent pictures of them. I guess I need much better camera plus special equipment for photographing glass plus special skills to do that. I was trying to have a professional takes pictures but it turned out to be so awfully expensive that now I don't even think about that. Besides, working with boro is extremely expensive. Absolutely everything is much more expensive than in soft glass lampworking. The color boro glass is around $50 per pound ($8 for soft glass). You need much bigger torch, which consumes much more expensive tank oxygen (don't even think about using oxy concentrators), much bigger kiln, etc. Now I see why there are so few people who are completely in sculptural lampworking.

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads Ė what do you use to get your pictures? 
Slava Popov: I have a digital camera Kodak DX 3900 which is usually adequate for taking pictures of my beads.

Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on?  
Slava Popov: My web site is where you can find link to my ebay auctions, also I welcome private commissions so feel free to email your requests. My email is

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