Archived Featured Bead Artists
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AMY JOHNSON

TANK fire + metal
#103, The Case Goods Bldg.
55 Mill St. Toronto, ON M5A 3C4
647-430-8589
416-821-1269

www.ehmeglass.com

 

by: Carol Yntema

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Amy Johnson: 10 years

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Amy Johnson: I collected and made things with bought beads for a long time first (first craft sale in grade 7) and then worked in FIMO for a few years, which really developed my sense of color. Then  on a family vacation I discovered that you could make beads by hand out of glass, and I began a year long search to find a place to take a class. At this point I was in about grade 10 or 11 of high school.

Beading Times: Were you interested in making beads before that?
Amy Johnson: Yeah I guess, because I made FIMO (clay) beads first for a few years.

Beading Times: Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?
Amy Johnson: I have always been into arts and crafts since I was a little kid.  My mom used to say she could never keep enough supplies in the house for me! At college I took Crafts and Design majoring in glass blowing, so now I guess I have a “real” arts/crafts background. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I started to make glass beads and jewelry full time. That was 5 years ago.

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Amy Johnson: First class was with Kristina Logan in Montreal (2 days), Second class was also with Kristina Logan (Corning, 2 weeks). I attended Sheridan College's 3 year glassblowing program. Loren Stump (Sheridan College, 10 days), Donald Freidlich (goldsmithing manufacturing techniques/design, Long Beach, California, 3 days) and Flameworking & Fusing (Bullseye Connection, Portland, 7 days)

Beading Times: What has surprised you most about working with glass?
Amy Johnson: Its endless possibilities…I’m never bored. I feel like I could live forever and still never try everything I want to!

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Amy Johnson: Yes, Kristina Logan, and Beth Williams. I met them both at an ISGB conference in Corning shortly after I started glass work, and they both took an interest in me. I continue to look to them when I need advice or run into tricky situations with my business. I also really admire them because they make good work, and are both successful craftspeople. I also really admire when someone who would be considered an expert in their field is willing to openly share information.

Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Amy Johnson:
Terri Caspary Schmidt - beads
Luccio Bubacco - flameworker
Giles Bettision – glass blower
Kristina Logan - beads
Lucie Weir - beads
Stephanie Sersich - beads
Dustin Tabor - beads
*Cynthia Archer – metal smith (my partner)
*Nicholas De Ginova – graphic artist illustrator
Stephen Rolfe Powell – glass blower

*Non Bead Inspiration

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Amy Johnson: Yes, over the last year I have started to sell loose beads again. I had been concentrating on making finished jewelry over the last 3 years and not really selling beads. This is a nice change, or addition to my work time, and I am enjoying it a lot!


Beading Times: Did you intend to sell your beads when you first started? What got you started selling them?
Amy Johnson: Not particularly….I got into it as a hobby, but never really expected to go to college for glass blowing or continue the flamework as my career. I thought I was going to be a graphic designer.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Amy Johnson: Yes, I LOVE making things for specific people…it is my favorite way to work…and probably half of my ideas are generated that way initially.

Beading Times: What does your spouse/children/family/friends think of your beadmaking?
Amy Johnson: My family has always been extremely supportive over the years and it has really made things a lot easier because being a full time artist/ crafts person can be very stressful, mostly in the money dept.

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Amy Johnson: TANK fire + metal, (my studio) is equipped for up to 8 torches to be running at one time. I have several minor bench burners, several lynx GTT torches and one phantom GTT torch. The torches all run off compressed Oxygen and Propane. I have a tool box annealer, and an arrow springs kiln. I teach all level classes at TANK and also bring in guest artists from the US to do special workshops a few times a year. In 2006 watch out for Dustin Tabor to come black, Lucie Weir, and my partner Cynthia Archer Martin will be coming here so we can teach a collaborative glass and metalsmithing class. Hopefully more to come!

This is Amy working with Dustin Tabor in her studio summer 2005 making a skull and crossbones.

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Amy Johnson: Mostly Moretti, but I LOVE Bullseye glass too. However,  it is expensive and a pain to get from the United States so I don’t use it as much as I’d like to. Also on occasion I use Czech, Lauscha, Vetrofond or Boro.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Amy Johnson: I really love my new Timberwolf (steel I think) marver that Stephanie Sersich sent me. It is great because it works similar to a brass shaper, and it’s thin so good for getting in between beads if you are doing multiples on a mandrel. I also am diggin’ my brass “val cox” marver from Zooziis Tools that I traded with her when she was in my class at ISGB.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Amy Johnson: I love doing detailed or involved things. I’d much rather make a more involved bead that takes half an hour or an hour than make lots of little tiny beads. I like doing detail and sculptural work the most I think…but it’s also very important to be able to try new stuff on a regular basis…and I think I have a really wide range of skills to use so that I don’t get board.

Beading Times: Are you a “set person” or a “focal bead” person?
Amy Johnson: Focal beads and finished jewelry

Beading Times: Have you developed a “signature” bead, a unique type of bead that is recognizably yours.
Amy Johnson:
Tubey necklaces/ sucker beads
Painted (in circles)
Double Dutch Rings
Skull And Crossbones Rings (Bone Rider Army)


Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Amy Johnson: Hmm that’s a hard one….probably doing this full time without a part time job. I think one of my biggest accomplishments would be, feeling like I have enough to say or comment on with regards to flameworking and being a crafts person to give a presentation at the ISGB with Cynthia Archer Martin who is a Goldsmith, and also my collaborative partner. We work long distance through the mail so I think that currently this is the biggest obstacle for us. We spend a lot of time on the phone and emailing pictures etc and a few times a year we usually get together in person so we can brainstorm in the same place! She moved from Toronto to LA three years ago, so ever since then we have been trying to figure out how to keep making our collaboration working because creatively it’s the most rewarding way either of us has worked. Now she has just received her working permit and travel permit so it will be easier for us to get out there in LA and for her to come back here for work sessions a few times a year. YAY!!!

These are all beads where Amy collaborated with Cynthia Archer

Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Amy Johnson: Ones that don’t sell…I never have the time….and I like making outrageous stuff. Cynthia and I also like to make stuff with a sense of humor…but sometimes it doesn’t sell very well. There are too many practical people out there!!! I also like to work large compared to what most people comfort level is with jewelry. One of the most common comments I get is “ooh, that must be heavy.” The other thing is, I think a lot of people are afraid to wear bold colors. This to me is disappointing because I LOVE color and want to use them all…however, most people like something a little more understated. I am learning to find a balance…

Beading Times: The easiest?
Amy Johnson: Little beads…spacers etc., but I find that they are usually quite boring to make and also can be hard on your body because of the repetition.

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Amy Johnson: lots…I like doing something different every day. Recently I have been experimenting with copper. Drawing (pressing) a picture into a piece of copper sheet, then encasing it with glass and making it into a pendant. I like doing things that are tricky….and I usually have the most fun when something is still in the experimental phase because that’s usually when it’s the most challenging to make. I really enjoy making parts and picking them up again, I like the more involved processes, but unfortunately my time for those projects is limited because of how much time they take…usually they are harder to sell because of the higher prices.

Copper cameos in brown, black, and teal

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Amy Johnson: Yes, I do still have some of the first beads I made, and I always encourage people to keep their first ones because they are special. The very first bead I made was a little green one with a stripe down the middle and some dots on top.

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Amy Johnson: Yes very much. Basically since I started doing this full time (especially in the last 3 to 5 years) I have seen a drastic change in my work. Pure practice is what helps, the more you do the better you get plain and simple. My beads have gotten a lot more sculptural over the last three years, and also the designs are probably cleaner, and simpler though they are probably just as hard or harder to pull off than stuff I was making before that. Often the simple looking stuff is the hardest to make. For example the bullseye beads….to get a perfect one is quite tricky and required a very steady hand.

Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Amy Johnson: Hmm…? I don’t know…I burned my thumb in a Loren Stump class, and felt like I bit of a tool!

Beading Times: Have you had any “glass epiphanies” while working – some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Amy Johnson: Oh yes…all the time, mostly I find myself in a constant state of fascination because there are literally endless possibilities. I think the most frustrating thing to me….is knowing that there are some ideas that I just won’t get to for like 20 years!

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

Amy’s studio and a class at the studio in the summer (Cynthia Archer is in the green top)

Beading Times: How much time do you spend making beads, in, say, hours per week? Is it enough?
Amy Johnson: TANK fire + metal is open Wednesday to Sunday noon – 5pm so I am always here during those times pretty much. I usually work every day until I feel I need or want a day off. I probably work between 6-12 hours a day including all non-bead related work (paperwork etc)

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads – what do you use to get your pictures?
Amy Johnson: I have hired a photographer to shoot some of my work, traded with professional photographers, and I shoot the majority of our work using my Nikon Coolpix 5400 digital camera, which I like very much.

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.
Amy Johnson: Yes, www.ehmeglass.com

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?
Amy Johnson: Normally at galleries I sell only finished jewelry that I make with Cynthia, but at the studio I also sell loose beads, and I do beads shows sometimes too where I sell a lot of loose bead as well. Coming up I will be at the Bead Oasis show at the end of February in Toronto.

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?
Amy Johnson: I am pretty stubborn about only making stuff I like so even though I do this full time, I still really enjoy almost everything I make.

Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Amy Johnson: Everywhere! I hope to get to do more traveling as a result of teaching and participating in  shows/ exhibitions etc. I like my current situation a lot. I have a studio at the Distillery in Toronto which is a great area of historic buildings that have all been restored and converted into shops, galleries, theaters, restaurants and various other things. It is a pedestrian only area, so no cars which I like. It has a slower pace than the rest of Toronto. I like this because I grew up in the country so sometimes living in the city gets to me.

 

 

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still really enjoy almost everything I make.

Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Amy Johnson: Everywhere! I hope to get to do more traveling as a result of teaching and participating in  shows/ exhibitions etc. I like my current situation a lot. I have a studio at the Distillery in Toronto which is a great area of historic buildings that have all been restored and converted into shops, galleries, theaters, restaurants and various other things. It is a pedestrian only area, so no cars which I like. It has a slower pace than the rest of Toronto. I like this because I grew up in the country so sometimes living in the city gets to me.

 

 

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