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Nikki Lynn Carollo — The Sheep Goddess

by: Dwyn Tomlinson

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Since January 2003

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: My father had always wanted to learn stained glass, so I got him a stained glass class for Father's Day in 2001. He taught me what he learned, and we both did that for a while - but while perusing our local glass shop for supplies, I noticed the lampworking supplies and became interested. So, he returned the favor and got me a beginning bead making class for Christmas 2002. I was hooked and mesmerized just watching the teacher show us how to make stringers! (Yes, she had me at stringers…)

Roy G Biv Sheep

Beading Times: Were you interested in making beads before that?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I was interested in beads, as I made jewelry, but not how to make the beads. I had used gemstones and semi-precious stones, but really not too much glass.

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Yes, I've taken 2 classes with Edy Seaman so far, and Sheryll Hubbard gave me a lesson on how to make her fabulous face beads - I still have a long way to go on that!

Sponge Bead

Beading Times: What has surprised you most about working with glass?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: How quickly the glass goes from molten hot to hard but still hot! There's such a narrow window where it can be manipulated, and all the different minute but crucial stages as it changes that it can be worked with to different effects. It fascinated me from the start.

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Sheryll Hubbard and Jim Anspach have been so fabulous to me. We all belong to Wet Canvas and found out through there that we live near each other. Our friendship has grown so much I can't believe how deprived I was not knowing them sooner than this. They've shared so much of their glass knowledge and are there to support me when I'm down and cheer me when things are going well. They've been amazing friends and a treasure to have met - and all because of beads! The eBay BBMB (Beads, Beads, and More Beads) group has been supportive and wonderful as has WC (Wet Canvas.)

CC the Pink Sheep

Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I know it's a given since I do sculptural work mainly, but I do want to be Sharon Peters when I grow up. I also admire Emiko Sawamoto's beads - especially her beckoning cats. There are so many others - Jared DeLong, Michael Barley, Roger Child.

Flat Sheep

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Yes, I sell through Artful Hands Studio in Painesville, Ohio as well as on eBay under nlcbeads.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Absolutely! They make wonderful gifts, and I have been known to just hand off ones that people especially like. So much of this art form is about making other people smile.

Beading Times: What does your family and friends think of your beadmaking?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: My family has been so supportive - my aunt reads my auctions on eBay every week and emails me to tell me what needs to be changed, or mention that she was the inspiration for that one, thank you very much! My dad not only got me started with the class, he always has a bead with him hanging in his car to show off. My grandfather is normally a quiet guy, but I have heard him go off on fairly detailed explanations at the drop of a hat about how I make my beads. One of my best friends, Brian, makes me anything he can to help; he made the torch holder, the mandrel holder, and has generously provided some of the tools I use - out of his toolbox, and please don't tell him they're missing! I'll give them back as soon as I'm done, I swear.


Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I'm still basically with what I started with, a trusty Hot Head torch. I have changed from 1# MAPP canisters to a bulk propane tank, which I couldn't imagine being without. I am currently batch annealing beads over at Jim & Sheryll's - they won't let me buy my own kiln as it's a great excuse for us to get together and laugh all night on a weekly basis.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Mainly Moretti glass and Fusion bead release. Foster Fire is unstoppable for barrel beads, though, so I do use that also. I adore dichro and I am fast becoming a Val Cox frit addict, also.

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Usually Moretti, but I'm not averse to playing with new things. Vetrofond black stringers are always on my work area, and if I find an unusual color in Vetrofond or Lauscha, I'll merrily throw that in the mix.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I am hooked on making swirled lentils. I use a white base, then stringers of all sorts of colors - I tend to like the blues as they have such a wide palette - goldstone stringer, then spot-heat and swirl it together with round-nose pliers. I leave lots of bubbles for sparkle, and encase it with clear.

Beading Times: Do you make sets?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Rarely. I tend to be too easily distracted by the other colors of glass available and veer off after about 2 beads. It seems that making too many of the same bores me, but… How many sheep have I made now?

Beading Times: Which do you prefer to make, a pile of beads or a single perfect bead?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: A pile of perfect beads! Ideally, torch time would allow for a variety of beads in one session - frogs, sheep, cats, optical illusion beads, frit fun.

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.
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Without question, that would be the sheep. I am fully aware that I'm not the only beadmaker making sheep, but… Mine seem to be developing a cult following of sheep groupies. It started so innocently. I make cat, cow, and pig heads, like many other beadmakers do. I was doing a demonstration at Artful Hands and someone came up and asked if I could do a sheep. Since I was a captive beadmaker, I tried to make one there and was pleased with the results. So much, in fact, that I made another one… The first two were white sheep heads, but by the third one, I realized it had potential to work very well as a whole white sheep body with a little head in front. The third one was, up until that point, the cutest bead I had ever made. Naturally I had to do something to counteract that cuteness - life is all about balance - so I made a black sheep with evil-looking eyes. They were the perfect pair - Dotty the innocent white sheep and her big brother George (Baaaaaaad to the bone) who bossed her around. I posted them on Wet Canvas and the response amazed me. To steal and maim a quote, "To think it all started with a sheep."

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: The fear of copying other lampworkers. There's a challenge to come up with your own work, but by the same token, so many of the things that are out there to learn from wind up everywhere. I remember reading Corina's book and making a frog off of her instructions. Someone asked me if I was going to sell it and I looked at them in shock, "What? I'm copying her, I can't do that!" Little did I know how many frogs were out there at that point, every one of them just a little bit different.

Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Florals look so beautiful, but every time I sit down to make one, I disappoint myself. I admire and lust after all the ones that look like they are depicting paintings in watercolor or oils, and mine? Crayon, at best.

Beading Times: The easiest?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Dots and applied stringer work seem to come easily to me. Sculptural - well, it depends on what it is, but I do tend to get more good results than bad.

Beading Times: The stringer kanji is very nice. Does is spell out something?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Yes... it spells out "Buy my beads in massive quantities." No, no, wait ... That's what I tried to find and couldn't. The characters (above) are: peace, friend, life, and moon. Peace always means a lot to me - peace in my life is one of my daily goals.

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Recently I like making what I call my optical illusion beads. It's a black base with dots applied and melted it. I thought it looked pretty interesting hot, but once it cooled and I looked at it again, the color and the black seem to switch places if you stare at it too long, so you can't tell which is truly on top.

But, I am a complete and total junkie for any rainbow-shaded beads.

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I'd like to think they've improved! I can get more consistent sizes now, which I like. As you can see through the before and after pics, they have also gotten a lot more precise and detailed. The creatures have developed more of a personality, too.

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Of course! I couldn't part with most of them due to how bad they were - even a newbie recognizes burnt glass! I'm glad now that I didn't since I can see how far I've progressed. However, I can see some colors I still like that I was playing with there that worked well, and how even some of the initial techniques were easy for me to do from the start.

Stealth sheep

Shearless Rider


Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I read that someone - I think it's Ofilia Cintala - spins her fish to lengthen them while shaping the initial bodies. Sure, sounds like a great idea, so I tried it. Oooooh boy. I didn't heat it evenly, so a piece of hot glass came flying off the end and landed on my shoulder. A definite thumbs up to all-natural fibers, and I now have a flannel that's has glass battle scars!

Beading Times: Have you had any "glass epiphanies" while working - some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: There have been different steps along the way as to how the glass works, different levels of heating it, and how every little thing makes a big impact on the finished product. Just like how slowly you turn the mandrel will affect shaping, how the different colors react together - it's a slow learning process with sudden leaps. I recently figured out twisties, and am pathetically happy about that.

Beading Times: Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I can teach you how to make sheep, but it's fairly self-explanatory once you see one. It's a base bead with a big dot, then 6 layered small dots, then 1 dot, then about 200 small dots, then 7 larger dots manipulated and shaped. Easy as spacers, really.

Beading Times: Have you "invented" any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn't ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: My favorite non-bead specific tools are my pliers - needle-nose, flat, and round-nose as well as a manicure tool normally used for pushing cuticles. It's all metal and small, so it gets into little places and is great for smooshing eyes and feet into shape. For lentils, I use a cheap set of metal teaspoons and push them into shape one side at a time. Frogs love standing on lentils, so this was necessary.

Beading Times: Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Sure ewe can see it - ooops, I'm sheepish about this one. I'm not quite technologically advanced to have a studio, per say. What I have is a table that was supposed to be a kitchen storage rack with all of my glass supplies on it, and when I have time to torch, I pull out the supplies and set up shop on my kitchen table.

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads - what do you use to get your pictures?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: A Canon PowerShot 160 with - and this makes all the difference - a tripod.

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.
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I sell on eBay at under the user id nlcbeads.

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?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I sell at Artful Hands Studio in Painesville, Ohio. It's where I took my first class and had requests the first time I demo'ed to sell there also - I have been amazed by how successful it has been. I sell beads just as they are as well as making some up into necklaces. I also sell necklaces assembled from other components.


Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: I'm just enjoying the ride right now! I have no interest at this point in changing equipment, so I'll keep plugging along and pushing the limits of my poor overworked HotHead. More sculptural, definitely, and maybe one day I'll conquer those florals!

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite bead, a "best bead." Can you share a photograph with us?
Nikki Lynn Carollo: Well, there's a catch - I have more than one favorite. They're clustered together in one photo, since I didn't want one to feel left out. I didn't even realize until after I took this picture how many of my favorites are blue! Some of the others I like are the rainbow ones (of course) and the kanji ones.

And here is some of the newer work:

Goth Fish

Bead Hog

Grape Jellical Cat

I Finally Got Florals!

Bad Tooth!

The Vampire Lambstat

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