Archived Featured Bead Artists
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Jennifer Gurganus

Ma, USA

foofarawbeads@mindspring.com

by: Dwyn Tomlinson


Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Jennifer Gurganus: Two years

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Jennifer Gurganus: A co-worker brought in a bracelet that she had purchased off ebay, from Jillie Beads, and I instantly fell in love with the beads. I started purchasing them online and making jewelry of my own. I found that when selling the pieces that I was creating with these beads, that people wanted to know more about the beads themselves, so I started learning all that I could about lampworking. Before I knew it, I had purchased my kit and was making beads of my own.

Beading Times: Were you interested in making beads before that?
Jennifer Gurganus: No, but I have always been fascinated with glass. I grew up near a beach on the southern coast of Maine. My favorite treasure was beach glass. To this day, I have a piece in my house at all times. I can also remember being a small child and visiting my Great Grandmother's. She had some beautiful blue and orange vases in a small window in the hallway. I always loved the way the sunlight danced through those and onto the steps.

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Jennifer Gurganus: I've been holding off taking a class until I was ready. I'll be the first to admit that I don't like being told what to do or how to do something. This has probably helped me because I find that I do things a lot differently than other artists do because they were all taught the traditional method. I also wanted to make sure that I was comfortable enough in my own skills and would be able to find the right type of teacher/mentor before I started down that path. I am happy to announce though that I have just sent in my deposit for a class this July with Kate Fowle-Meleney. I really think that her knowledge will add an entirely new dimension to my work.

Beading Times: What has surprised you most about working with glass?
Jennifer Gurganus: How relaxing it is. I love nothing more than watching the glass move and take form. Well, playing with the finished product isn't all that bad either.

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor?
Jennifer Gurganus: All of the wonderful artists at Wet Canvas have been more than just mentors. It's really like a family there, no question goes unanswered, and no good job goes without a pat on the back. The techniques that I have learned from the other artists have helped my work reach a new level.

Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Jennifer Gurganus: There are so many wonderful artists out there. Currently, the artists that just make me salivate are Kim Neely of Bluff Road Glass, her color choices and execution are phenomenal, and Corina of CorinaBeads. I own several of Corina's beads and continue to marvel at the size and intricate details.

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Jennifer Gurganus: Yes on ebay, as well as on my website and I hope to be doing shows soon

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Jennifer Gurganus: All the time. Most of the time I just have beads lying around and they always seem to walk out the door when friends come over.

Beading Times: What does your family think of your beadmaking?
Jennifer Gurganus: My husband thinks it's great as long as I'm happy and the bills get paid and my children are fascinated with the process. My seven year old has recently started trying to make some beads. He got frustrated making round beads and decided he liked square ones better because it's fun to smoosh the glass.

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Jennifer Gurganus: I recently upgraded from a Hothead to a Bobcat torch and love it! I use bulk Mapp gas and I have a Paragon kiln.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Jennifer Gurganus: The tools, oh the tools! I am a bona fide tool junkie! If it's out there, I have to have it. I am currently fascinated with all of the brass stamps that are hitting the market. I love to take them and see what else they can do.

 

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Jennifer Gurganus: I use primarily Morretti/Effetre, Vetrofond and Lauscha glass but have plans to play with Bullseye and Spectrum. I would really like to try boro too, but that's down the road a ways.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Jennifer Gurganus: I love making Lentils! I think it's the shape, short of saucerish, it just looks and feels so elegant. That, and I get to use a tool!

 

Beading Times: Has having the bead presses changed the way you work at all?
Jennifer Gurganus: The bead presses have allowed consistency in some of my hand shaped beads. It is possible to make a lentil without a press, but making enough for a set all the same size was nearly impossible before the presses. Additionally, some of the presses make shapes that are not possible without the presses, such as the pillow press and the bead squeeze. Also, just because a press makes a particular shape doesn't mean that you need to keep it that way. Quite often I use a press to make the initial shape of a bead and then stretch it to create another shape that would also not be possible without the presses. I find that it helps me to explore new shapes and designs, although I will also admit that it can also get me in a rut if I'm not careful!!

Beading Times: Is there another shape you would like to see come out as a bead press?
Jennifer Gurganus: I'm very interested in two holed shapes for the larger presses. I think it would really help the jewelry designers to keep the beads from flipping. I know that these are in the works and cannot wait!!!! As far as for shapes, that's between me and my tool makin' friends. Wouldn't want to spoil the surprises!!!

Beading Times: Do you make sets?
Jennifer Gurganus: The majority of what I make are sets. On rare occasions, I may do a focal. I have found in just the last couple of weeks that I am enjoying focals more than I have in the past; however I still feel the need for a well rounded set.

Beading Times: Which do you prefer to make, a pile of beads or a single perfect bead?
Jennifer Gurganus: I prefer a set of perfect beads, but if I have to choose, I would take one perfect bead over a pile a wonkies any day

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.
Jennifer Gurganus: I don't feel that I have developed my skills to a level that I would even want to try and have a signature bead at this point. I'm hoping that when the time is right it will just come to me.

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Jennifer Gurganus: Finding myself in the glass. I find that I am always concerned about whether or not a set will be well received instead of doing it because it is what I want to do. I am slowly overcoming this and doing what I want when I want, but there is always that little voice that nags at me when a set starts to go outside the norm.

Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Jennifer Gurganus: Hearts, I have a love hate relationship with them. Basically they are my arch nemesis. I couldn't make a heart if my life depended on it. I have made two that have resembled hearts, but when I tried to duplicate it, disaster followed!

Beading Times: The easiest?
Jennifer Gurganus: Rounds and lentils. I have made so many of these that I could probably make them with my eyes closed. Although that could get pretty scary with that torch and all!

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Jennifer Gurganus: I'm currently addicted to lentils and pillows they just work so well in jewelry. But I'm starting to get more into encasement of beads. I'm finding that a thin layer of crystal clear just make the beads glisten.

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Jennifer Gurganus: Here is a picture of my very first set of beads that I sold on ebay in August of 2002. And here is my most recent set. Style, technique, intricacy, size, you name it, it's different!



First set sold on ebay, Amethyst and Amber. Along with the improvements in bead making came my knowledge and improvements in photo taking!


Recent set - A Summer to Treasure

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Jennifer Gurganus: Yes, they were basic rounds that I strung on a necklace. I pulled them out today and was appalled that some of them were not perfectly round and a couple had sharp edges, however I was also amazed that some of the beads were made with Evil purple and they were a beautiful orchid color. A lot of people have difficulty with this color and I will admit that I too have struggled with it, but it's behaving more and more for me these days.

Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Jennifer Gurganus: I had the blades of my vent fan fall onto my workstation while it was running and I was mid-bead. It fell out of the motor, shaft and all and hit a tray where I keep all of my short pieces of glass, sending small missiles made of glass at a high rate of speed everywhere. It scared the daylights out of me. I screamed and curled up under my table until I couldn't hear anymore glass hitting the floor. By that time, my son had come into the workshop; he wanted to know if I had burned myself again. Needless to say, it was a malfunction that the company quickly took ownership of and replaced the fan within a week. All was back to normal in the studio shortly thereafter.

Beading Times: Have you had any "glass epiphanies" while working - some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Jennifer Gurganus: Yep, when working on a really intense and time consuming focal, check your gas before you start. Wouldn't it be a pity to run out of gas just as you're finishing up the last detail?!?

Beading Times: Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Jennifer Gurganus: Never say never. If you have an idea, keep trying. Just because they say it can't be done doesn't mean it can't. You create your own boundaries, making them endless is the best thing you could do for your artistic self.

Beading Times: Have you "invented" any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn't ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Jennifer Gurganus: I have probably used every thing that is metal in my house other than the kitchen sink and I'm sure if I thought I could bring that into the studio I would use it!

Beading Times: Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Jennifer Gurganus: It's a work in progress, but it's getting there.

Beading Times: That's an interesting rack for your glass. What is that?
Jennifer Gurganus: This is a 3/4" piece of plywood that my husband drilled holes into and then put pieces of PVC piping into to hold my glass. He used 2x4's to create a base. It is extremely sturdy and heavy. My sister was then nice enough to snip a piece of each rod and hot glue it above where I keep it so I would know where every color is. When we moved recently, I just wrapped it, glass and all with plastic wrap and transported my glass that way. I had minimal breakage and didn't have to unpack my glass when it arrived!

Click for a larger picture

I also keep my colors of glass that I have larger amounts of in a shoes holder that I found at a store. It's the perfect size!

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads - what do you use to get your pictures?
Jennifer Gurganus: I have recently purchased a photocube which works phenomenally. I use a Fujifilm camera that we have had for a couple of years now. It's not perfect, but it does the job. I like to use sunlight if I can, but in the event of rain, I use three "reveal" bulbs from GE. They give the most accurate simulation of natural light.

Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on?
Jennifer Gurganus: I sell on ebay and from my website. If so, what is the url/id info, etc. My ebay ID is Foofarawbeads and my web address is www.foofarawbeads.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?
Jennifer Gurganus: I haven't ventured into doing shows or having beads in stores, but I hope to soon. I sell both beads by themselves and pieces of jewelry. I find a lot of times that non-jewelry making people love the beads but shy away from purchasing them because they don't know what to do with them. I am more than happy to make the beads they buy into a piece of jewelry for them for a nominal cost.

Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Jennifer Gurganus: Far beyond my imagination. Glass art continues to evolve and will continue to, I plan on being there every step of the way.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite bead, a "best bead." Can you share a photograph with us?
Jennifer Gurganus: I have a couple of sets that I have done that I really liked when I first made them and continue to be among my top picks now.


Beading Times is pleased to present a monthly article spotlighting a lampwork bead artist. If you, or someone you know is interested in being featured, please contact dwyn@beadingtimes.com.