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Helen Simon — Helen's Harvest

Louisiana, USA

by: Dwyn Tomlinson

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Helen Simon:
I started with Polymer Clay in 2001. I've been melting glass since July of 2002.

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Helen Simon: I found Cindy Jenkins book, Making Glass Beads while browsing at my local library, and knew I HAD to make beads! I worked in Polymer Clay for a year in preparation, and I bet I checked out that same book at least 10 times, maybe more. After joining a Hot Glass internet list, someone suggested I work in Polyclay until I could afford setting up for glass. It was great advice, and I planned a way to finance my studio … selling homemade soap, bread, herbal & Rose bouquets at the local farmers' market.

Beading Times: My goodness! That was organized of you! Were you interested in making beads before that?
Helen Simon: I have always loved beads, although I don't wear much jewelry. My last medium before glass was Art Quilting, particularly painted quilts, embellished with beads. I actually made polyclay Day Lilies for one quilt in my pre-glass days.

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Helen Simon: I haven't taken any classes yet, but hope to.

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Helen Simon: Not yet, although a local Lampworker Jennifer Otte helped get me started. I have learned lots from both ISGB and WetCanvas!, two forums for Lampworkers.

Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Helen Simon: Go look at the highest price page on eBay beads made in US, and most of my favorites are there!

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Helen Simon: I sell them on eBay.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Helen Simon: Yes, I have a local Christmas Open House party for my friends.

Beading Times: What does your spouse and family think of your beadmaking?
Helen Simon: My husband says I'm an artistic genius, and my little son likes the extra money for video games!

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Helen Simon: I have an Evenheat Jewelbox Kiln, a GTT (Glass Torch Technologies) Bobcat torch, a Devilbiss Oxygen Concentrator, and I use Propane. I used Propylene gas when I started on my HotHead, which was a gift from my quilting friend, Debbie.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Helen Simon: I use a variety of Clays and Glasses now. My Husband mixes Purple Piffle with Alice's bead release, for a great coverage which holds up to my tugging, but releases easily for him … he often cleans my beads. My favorite glass is probably Gold Ruby, and all the Dichroics.

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Helen Simon: I mix Moretti, Vetrofond, and Lauscha glasses, and use Czech glass and Bullseye only with each other.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Helen Simon: I like to make sculptural beads, mostly botanicals. I've grown flowers and herbs for many years and crafted Wreaths and Soaps, so I'm familiar with my old friends.

Beading Times: Do you make sets?
Helen Simon: Sometimes.

Beading Times: Which do you prefer to make, a pile of beads or a single perfect bead?
Helen Simon: I prefer a big fat full blown Rose, but always add some foliage, so she won't get lonely, and for a natural look.

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.
Helen Simon: Last year I made Chickens, this year it's Roses — must be an annual trend — I wonder what's on the agenda for next year...

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Helen Simon: Fear of the Flame. I overcame it by buying a shield which really helps keep the heat off my face.

Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Helen Simon: Encased Flowers, or encased anything. I haven't learned those yet, but they're on my list of things to do.

Beading Times: The easiest?
Helen Simon: Tiny mandrel rounds...I usually use huge 1/8" mandrels, so it's a treat to use 1/16" mandrels.

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Helen Simon: Right now it's sculptural Roses, and I'm challenged to develop a "vocabulary" of many flowers. But I bore easily, and know my Beads will change significantly in this Grand Glassy Adventure.

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Helen Simon: The round ones are rounder, and I'm able to work smaller. I use transparents over opaques now for interesting colors, and sometimes mix special shades of glass. I've learned that every different glass has its own personality, not consistently, but varying with each batch. I have to work with each to see what I want to use the glass for — what a creative medium, more excitement than I've ever had. Many nights I don't sleep well in anticipation of opening my kiln in the morning, dreaming of my bead babies like a pregnant woman. I'm not alone in this excitement either, as many glass friends share these same emotions!

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Helen Simon: No, I sold most of them. My friends started ordering beads as soon as they saw them, although they were so primitive. What I didn't sell, I gave away to charity.

Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Helen Simon: Well, it did take me two weeks to get up enough nerve to light my HotHead torch...that was pretty scary. Then I got sunburned standing in the sun making beads, way too thrilled to stop.

Beading Times: Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Helen Simon: Sure, let me vacuum first.


Beading Times: What about photographing your beads what do you use to get your pictures?
Helen Simon: I have a Sony MVC-FD75, and use it outside, which seems to be adequate, although not ideal.

Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on?
Helen Simon: I do: my site is, and I sell regularly on eBay under US Lampwork, s    ellername=helensharvest.

Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with this glassworking? Or, if you like, where do you see it taking you?
Helen Simon: When I began learning lampworking, I desired to make my own beads for my artquilts, purses and jewelry designing, but I actually packed away my dyes, batting and seedbeads, to make room for my glass equipment. Lampworking has become a consuming interest in my life, one which I hope remains for a long while...

Because of the constant demand EBay requires for fresh design, and the quantity of listings to become "known" to the lampwork buyers — there are thousands of lampwork listings— I think my skill has grown more quickly than if I were just making beads to satisfy my own creative urge. I have been very blessed with great success, my husband grateful enough to do the housework, and I thank God for the bounty of ideas and opportunities He constantly provides for me.

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