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Aardvark Art Glass — Cathy Lybarger

Wisconsin, USA

by: Dwyn Tomlinson

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Cathy Lybarger:
Since March of '99 or 2000. I forget which.

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Cathy Lybarger:
I'd been running a stained/fused glass business for a number of years and I was getting kind of burnt-out on it. When a large (and really great) bead store opened up next to me, I figured I could kind of sponge off their customer flow by selling focal beads for individual projects.

Beading Times: Stained glass? Have you tried using the scraps for beadmaking?
Cathy Lybarger:
I have used some fusing scraps (Bullseye '90) for beads but never got into trying much else on account of the unknown c.o.e's of all the other glasses.

Beading Times: Were you interested in making beads before that?
Cathy Lybarger:
I wasn't all that interested in bead making until I picked up the first Cindy Jenkins book. I bought a minor burner and a kiln about a month later.

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Cathy Lybarger:
Yes. I took a three hour Beginning Bead making class at a local stained glass studio, The Vinery. I had worked there for several years before opening my store.

Beading Times: What has surprised you most about working with glass?
Cathy Lybarger:
How focused you have to be when you're working with it. It really takes your mind off everyday problems.

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Cathy Lybarger:
Denny Berkery, my old boss at the Vinery Stained Glass Studio, helped me out a lot. Not so much in a bead making capacity, but with my stained glass business. Denny never views other glass workers as competition and he was always willing to help me out if I got in over my head on an installation.

Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Cathy Lybarger:
Early on I wanted to make beads that looked just like James Alloway's marbles. I saw his work on ebay and spent hours trying to copy his lattacinos. I also spent a lot of time trying to copy elements of Josh Simpson's work, back when I was in my "Woohoo! I can encase things!" phase. I also enjoy the work of Sharon Peters, John Olson, Patti Walton and Leah Fairbanks to name a few.

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Cathy Lybarger:
Oh yeah. Through my store and on Ebay. It's my job.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Cathy Lybarger:
Very much so. I also make beads for my dentist, dental hygienists, doctors, veterinarians and pretty much anyone else who's in a position to help or hurt me.

Beading Times: What does your family and friends think of your beadmaking?
Cathy Lybarger:
They are all for anything that keeps me off the streets.

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Cathy Lybarger:
I have a Nortel Mid-Range torch (oxy-propane), a Jewel Box kiln (for beads) and a larger Skutt Digital kiln (for bigger stuff). My studio is located in the rear of my store. For ventilation I use a range hood (from Menard's) and a series of fans to suck up fumes and take them outside. Air intake comes through a window in the bathroom. My husband had to cut a hole in the wall so the fresh air would reach me. Health before appearances, we always say.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Cathy Lybarger:
If I weren't already married to a person I would marry Sludge Plus bead separator because it is so fantastic. Great for very large, involved beads. Also, when choosing a glue to hold jewelry findings to glass, please consider J.B. Weld Steel.

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Cathy Lybarger:
Moretti, Northstar/Glass Alchemy and Bullseye 90 when I'm doing dichroic stuff.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Cathy Lybarger:
If you crush the ice before putting it in the blender you'll make a better margarita and your blender won't blow up.

Beading Times: Are the margaritas part of the beadmaking process?
Cathy Lybarger:
Well... sometimes. (Kids don't try this at home. The decorative paper umbrellas are extremely flammable.)

Beading Times: Do you make sets?
Cathy Lybarger:
Nothing that matches. I do make groups of "companion" beads to go with some of my ebay masks. I call 'em sets but what do I know?

Beading Times: Which do you prefer to make, a pile of beads or a single perfect bead?
Cathy Lybarger:
Single perfect bead. When I make one I'll let you know.

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.
Cathy Lybarger:
Well, those mask/face beads are pretty recognizable. That whole thing started a year or two ago when I learned how to make eyeball murrine. Early masks were smaller, more irregularly shaped and shinier than my present ones.

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Cathy Lybarger:
Finding new things that I enjoy making that people will enjoy buying. Since I make beads for a living I can't spend a lot of time making things without the express purpose of selling them in mind. The problem is finding something interesting enough for me to make it over and over again without getting sick of it.

Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Cathy Lybarger:
Designs which are large, sculptural and easy to screw up, that I've succeeded in doing once and do not care to do again.

Beading Times: The easiest?
Cathy Lybarger:
Designs which are large, sculptural and easy to screw up that I've never attempted to make before. I love figuring out how to make things.

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Cathy Lybarger:
I love inside-out boro beads-like the kind John Olson makes. I've seen how they're done and I'd rather buy them than make them myself.

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Cathy Lybarger:
They've gotten a lot bigger since I got the Mid-Range.

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Cathy Lybarger:
I might have a few of them but I think most of my beads from that first class broke. I was trying to make a lizard bead, which of course did not turn out, right off the bat. My husband Don who took the class with me made some great beads. I use his for my examples of first beads.

Beading Times: Does your husband still make beads?
Cathy Lybarger:
No. Don does stainless steel welding (installing and maintaining micro-brewery systems throughout the midwest.) Though he's used to working around torches (and booze) he never latched onto the beadmaking thing. I think he took the class with me because I wanted him to. He's a swell guy.

Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Cathy Lybarger:
Well, the other week I was working on a borosilicate sea-creature and I had two hot tentacles on punties in either hand. When I leaned over to look in the kiln one of the tentacles got too close to my head and burned off a chunk of my hair. I burn my hair fairly often. It's something you never get used to — probably all part of evolution's plan.

Beading Times: Have you had any "glass epiphanies" while working — some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Cathy Lybarger:
The day I realized that encased stringer does not melt into a bead like regular stringer does was pretty big. I think I was trying to copy a sunflower bead from a picture in the Cindy Jenkins book when that happened. (Most of my epiphanies occur when I'm trying to copy something from a picture.)

Beading Times: Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Cathy Lybarger:
I have a few tips:

  • Iguanas make good companion animals for beadmakers because they are naturally inclined to examine small things held in front of them. My iguana Iggy seems genuinely interested in all the beads I show her — especially if they're yellow and shaped like a banana.
  • Marry someone who can provide you with health insurance.
  • Take pictures of your work before you sell it!


Beading Times: Have you "invented" any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn't ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Cathy Lybarger:
I'm really proud of my stringer-organizer. (My stringers are the only part of my life with any order at all.) I made the organizer out of test tubes I purchased from American Science and Surplus. Simply glue 16 or so test tubes (small ones- 3-4 inches tall) around the outside of a small solid or heavy object such as a square votive holder and there you go. One tube for each color. It's so compact you can fit several in your work space and spend hours sorting your cased, silvered, reduction frit, striped, mixed, pastel and transparent stringers.

stringer storage and organizer

Beading Times: Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Cathy Lybarger:
o.k. My studio is located in a little cubby hole in the back of my store.

torch set up



Beading Times: How about the rest of the store?

lizard condo

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads — what do you use to get your pictures?
Cathy Lybarger:
I have an Epson 3000pc camera. I photograph my beads under two 500 watt tungsten bulbs inside one of those white cube tent things they sell on ebay. Me and my pal Cindy Palmer set up a little community photo area at her gallery (Full Circle Galleria, 920 East Johnson St. Madison, WI.). Anyone who wants to use our set-up can as long as they provide the camera.

Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on?
Cathy Lybarger:
I have Ebay. My seller id is aardart

Beading Times: What about shows, in stores or other venues? Do you sell the beads by themselves, or already made up into jewelry?
Cathy Lybarger:
I sell through my store, at a few shows per year and on Ebay. I sell both loose beads and finished jewelry in my store (mostly finished jewelry).

Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Cathy Lybarger:
Right now me and my pal Cindy are working on putting together a place in Cindy's gallery where people who take my classes can rent time on hot head torches for their own projects. Conceivably, people will be able to make beads, photograph them and put them up on ebay all in one place. Hopefully we'll have more lampworkers to talk to and more money for our own glass habits. That's the plan anyway.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite bead, a "best bead." Can you share a photograph with us? My favorite bead is actually a bead assemblage. It's a little Birdlet. The crest, feet and beak are boro and the eyes and feathers are Moretti. (7 inches tall, about 50 beads.)

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