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Margaret Zinser/ MZ Glass

Tucson, AZ

by: Dwyn Tomlinson

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Margaret Zinser: It will be two years at the end of December.

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Margaret Zinser: Ultimately, my boyfriend, Matt, is responsible for this obsession of mine. We're both creative people and have a great habit of fostering each other's creative minds, especially when it comes to gift giving. So, for Christmas in 2001, he gave me my first torch (a HotHead single fuel torch), glass, supplies, and eyewear. And Cindy Jenkins' book, You Can Make Glass Beads. Musn't forget the book!

Beading Times: Were you interested in making beads before that?
Margaret Zinser: I had some exposure to lampworking prior to getting the starter kit. I have had a long fascination with glass objects and jewelry, but hadn't figured out that it was something that I could do in my HOME. In an Ohio artisans' shop three years ago, I spoke with a stranger who was waiting for his starter kit to come in the mail. We had a long and detailed conversation about beadmaking, and afterwards I was hooked on the idea. Many thanks to that stranger!


"Mineralogicals" teardrop focal (aventurine)

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Margaret Zinser: You see, that's where Cindy Jenkins' book came in very handy, along with a few others. I didn't take a class until just this September (after 20 months of beadmaking) when the Southern Arizona Glass Addicts (glass fuser and lampworker group with which I'm involved) held a workshop with Bronwen Heilman. What an experience! — Bronwen is an extraordinary artist and teacher, very generous with both her time and advice. But up until two months ago, I relied on the occasional demo, books (including Jim Kervin's More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Glass Beadmaking and Bandhu Dunham's Contemporary Lampworking), and online message boards like Wet Canvas ( and the International Society of Glass Beadmaker's Forum ( for technical advice and critiques.

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Margaret Zinser: I admire many artists, though I don't have anyone that I'd specifically consider a mentor. I've received tons of technical advice from Bronwen Heilman and other Tucson lampworkers, and from the kind, generous, online communities at Wet Canvas and at the ISGB Forum.

Beading Times: Whose beads inspire you the most?
Margaret Zinser: That's a tough question! To name a few: Jim Smircich, Bronwen Heilman, KB Glassworks (Brian Kitson and Andrew Brown), Michael Barley, Jared DeLong, where do I stop? There are so many more…

And, of course, beads are not my only inspiration. I'm currently in graduate school, working on my Master's in Entomology (yes, BUGS!) so I get a lot of color ideas from the amazing palette of the insect world. I also get a great deal of inspiration from fossils, gems, and minerals (especially turquoise, yowah opals, and amber).

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Margaret Zinser: Yes! I sell most of my beads in online auctions on In addition, I have both loose beads and finished jewelry at two shops in Tucson. It's a very welcome supplement to my graduate student salary.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Margaret Zinser: I do! I'm very proud of my lampwork, and I love sharing it with friends and family.

Beading Times: What does your family and friends think of your beadmaking?
Margaret Zinser: They're all extraordinarily supportive, especially because many of them reap the benefits in finished jewelry! My parents are hilarious — we typically list auctions on Wednesdays, and I can always expect a call from them with comments on the new batch on Wednesday nights!

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Margaret Zinser: I use a Glass Torch Technology Lynx torch with tank oxygen. I LOVE my Lynx, and couldn't recommend GTT torches more highly. I anneal my beads in an Arrow Springs AF99 kiln with digital controller. My studio is in a small room at the back of my house, ventilated with a 230 CFM fan fixed in a window. Though the ventilation is adequate, I'd like to update that soon, since I'm using powder, enamels, and metals more and more.

Beading Times: Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Margaret Zinser: … this is after a major clean-up… usually much messier!

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Margaret Zinser: I use Alice's Bead Release, and am quite loyal to it. It very rarely breaks off the mandrel while the bead is in the flame, can be flame-dried, but, most importantly, I have no trouble removing beads once they have annealed and are cool.

I also use lots of reduction frits and gold aventurine. Both are great fun!

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Margaret Zinser: The majority of my beads are made with Effetre glass. I also use a few Vetrofond colors and Lauscha clear for encasing. I've dabbled in borosilicate (Glass Alchemy and Northstar) and Bullseye, but haven't done too much with these yet.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Margaret Zinser: I have too many favorites to pick one! Many of my beads contain oxidized copper (see instructions and comments on aventurine beads), reduction frit, and metals, either as wire, foil, leaf, or fumed; I love making beads that use techniques incorporating any of these materials.

Beading Times: Do you make sets?
Margaret Zinser: Occasionally, though most of the beads I make and sell are large, stand-alone focals. I do make sets when either I've decided that I need refresher practice on small beads or when I get "requests" for sets. I don't take custom orders, but I do try to honor the "wish lists" of my regular customers by listing auctions I think they'll enjoy.

"Zoologicals" set

Beading Times: Which do you prefer to make, a pile of beads or a single perfect bead?
Margaret Zinser: Easy answer! I'd always prefer to make a single bead with a good shape and weight that brings a new surprise in color or texture each time it's examined!

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.
Margaret Zinser: I have a variety of "signature" beads, all part of a set of series I've named "Mineralogicals," "Biologicals," "Zoologicals," "Botanicals," and "Meteorologicals." These series reflect my fascination with natural forms (and dye-enhanced natural forms, as a number of beads in my "Biologicals" series were inspired by dyed microscope slides).

"Biologicals" sunset colors lentil focal

One of the most popular, and one of my favorites, is my aventurine "Mineralogicals" style. Most of these beads are teardrop-shaped tabular focals that have a base of crushed aventurine and silver foil on a dark (usually black) background. As is the case with many of my favorite beads, I discovered the technique through a very fortunate mistake. Aventurine (or goldstone) is finely ground copper suspended in glass, so when it's vigorously heated, the copper oxidizes and yields a tremendous turquoise-green color and slightly pockmarked texture. When I figured this out, I started finding ways to highlight the effect, and that's how the "Mineralogicals" series was born.

"Mineralogicals" set (aventurine)

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Margaret Zinser: It still is an obstacle — TIME! I'm a full-time graduate student, so there's not much of it. I spend many of my free hours at the torch, but it's never enough!

Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Margaret Zinser: Small beads with detailed, precise decoration. The reason: decorating small beads well is difficult, and I don't really enjoy making them so I don't get the practice. I guess it's because, as a by-day scientist, I spend time doing detailed, precise experiments and looking at detailed, precise insects, so when I'm at the torch, I lean toward the abstract, organic, and free-flowing!

"Meteorologicals" focal

Beading Times: The easiest?
Margaret Zinser: My signature styles — because I thoroughly enjoy making them and because I get lots of practice! When I start a bead, I usually only have a general idea of what techniques and color I'd like to use. I leave the rest to the glass — it takes me where it wants to go. Most of my best beads are created in this open-ended manner.

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Margaret Zinser: That changes by the minute! I definitely prefer the organic and abstract over the precise and geometric, which is apparent in my work. Past that, my preference on a given day is rather unpredictable.

Abstract set (unnamed series)

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Margaret Zinser: The biggest change I've experienced is that I'm now more able to take an idea in my mind and execute it in glass, though I still have a long way to go. When I started beadmaking, I was more concerned with learning and the experimental process than with realizing an artistic end. But that's all part of learning a new medium, especially with one as rich and as variable as glass. My beads have grown in size as well, both because I like a larger "canvas" and because I can. The step up to the Lynx from a HotHead after about 6 months was so much fun!

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Margaret Zinser: I've given away many of the good ones and have deliberately "lost" some of the not-so-good, but I still have quite a few. Many are strung together on one long strand that I take out after a cruddy day at the torch. No matter how yucky the beads that come out of the kiln nowadays are, they're still leaps and bounds better than my first beads. That never fails to cheer me up!

Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Margaret Zinser: I've been fairly lucky (and careful) in avoiding major burns and cuts, so I've had no major catastrophes or injuries so far (knock on wood). I'd have to say that my scariest and most anxious moments have been while working on particularly large pieces that have been in the flame for over an hour. I get so nervous that the piece will crack or that I'll melt in scrollwork too much or mess up the piece in some manner.

Beading Times: Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Margaret Zinser: Absolutely! Here are a few tips for making crushed aventurine beads:

Beading Times: Have you "invented" any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn't ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Margaret Zinser: Sadly, nothing too far out of the ordinary. I am a bit of a tool-fiend (enough to have an unmentionable nick-name that reflects my tendencies given to me by few local lampworker friends), so I'm never lacking hemostats, tweezers, mashers, marvers, or pokers.

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads — what do you use to get your pictures?
Margaret Zinser: I'll be the first to admit that I don't take pictures of my beads. I much prefer to be at the torch! My boyfriend, Matt, takes most of the pictures of beads that we list online. He uses a Fuji FinePix 3800 digital camera and craft foam in varied colors (usually black and white) for the background.

Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on?
Margaret Zinser: I sell my beads on It's a great site, with exemplary and very personal customer service. My username is margaretzinser, and a search for "MZ" works too. Here's a link to my auctions

"Mineralogicals" Yowah Opal-inspired set



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