Back from having a marble class in Leicester! Sean and Gillian Hamilton-Taylor (http://www.hamiltontaylor.co.uk/
) came down to Di East's studio to do a test run of a multiple-day class that Di and Sean will be teaching at the International Festival of Glass this year. We were the guinea pigs :)
(Originally this test run was just going to be a Sunday class. Demand was high enough that they added an extra day!)
I am somewhat tempted to go to the full thing: that many nights' accommodation might be a bit on the expensive side, though. The IFG is held in Stockbridge towards the end of August.
Anyway, a lovely day was had by all! A couple of us had tried making a few marbles before - I'd made 3 at Tuffnell's open day last year - but there were also people who'd never done off-mandrel stuff before. It was all impressively laid back! There was a minimum of hot marbles being dropped and having to be chased about with leather gloves. It looked like everyone was getting good results.
We used steel punties instead of glass ones - I think this contributed to the calmness. Glass ones are definitely more prone to shocking, accidentally being melted etc. It means technically it *wasn't* an off-mandrel class.... but only technically :p
Glass punties with properly-done cold seals can be removed more cleanly, but that's a rather more difficult technique and I am sure would have led to runaway marbles all over the place! I've certainly had cold seals become hot seals or be knocked off exactly when you didn't want them to before... I'll be sticking to using the steel ones for my next go.
(Cold seal: one surface hot, one surface cold. Where cold = has been in the flame a little, but the surface is set and with no glow. They'll stick together, but can be separated by a sharp tap leaving only the tiniest of marks. If you get the flame too close, you risk melting the two pieces of glass together so they won't come apart. If you let everything get too cold or knock it, your marble can unexpectedly fall off).
We did some classic marble designs: twists, multi-directional twists and interior twisted ribbons. Not complicated, but the really good part was that Sean explained all the little tiny techniques for keeping everything tidy and precise. Marble-making's a lot more anal than most beadmaking - "proper" collector marbles should be perfectly round (obviously) but also everything should be perfectly spaced and they should contain absolutely no bubbles. We were working in 104 not borosilicate, so no bubbles was never going to happen, but the tips for the rest as he went along is definitely the kind of thing you take a class for. (This is why most marble-makers use boro: they have far superior clear to anything you can get in the other CoEs - clear boro is pyrex, essentially, and is what's used for scientific glassblowing and the like).
I got another marble mould at the end: I have one and brought it along, but it has slightly larger sizes than is convenient for making quick-ish test marbles. So I got one with three smaller holes too. When rounding off marbles, you do it with an indentation that is significantly smaller than the marble itself, using the rim rather than the whole cavity. So smaller moulds are useful for larger sizes than it appears at first. You *can* use a doming block instead, but graphite's much better than brass for shaping without dragging the surface.
More marbles will be on the agenda when I have a spare moment... February's a bit of a hectic month, and the weather means that I'm only torching at the weekend during the day, because it is way too cold to open the window and put the ventilation on in the evenings! The end of the month is also the deadline for the Glass Beadmakers UK annual competition, so I need to get something made for that: will try and get it done tomorrow - a prototype at least. This year's themes are Curiosity and Fauna.
I've probably gone into too many details that non-lampworkers won't care about, but hey. Now I'm going to find some pudding :)
Actually, I have an additional thought. Marble-making, unlike beadmaking, is where most of the mens are. Now, for bigger marbles, you need really BIG torches, so that's one consideration... and there's the obvious one that men are much less likely to wear beads, but I am also wondering if the way that there are things about marbles that can obviously be ranked as better than each other has anything to do with the appeal? With beads if you have an airbubble, that could be deliberate. Or it could be a happy accident and an artistic choice to leave it there because it enhances the effect. Or it could be because the maker can't do it without bubbles. With a marble, any bubble that is not *very* obviously placed as part of the design is a flaw. It is much more obvious when you have levelled up your skills in marble-making, as it were. Marble-making rewards persevering with the same design until you get it perfect. (I think there's a big technical fascination with *how* marbles are made as an initial hook, too. I mean, there they are, they're perfectly spherical and have all kinds of stuff inside you can view from all angles. You do stare at them and go "I wonder how they got that in there?").
Right, now for pudding.
ETA: this refers to lampwork in the UK and US. In Italy, men do make beads. And octopuses and insects and all kinds of things. It's there in the history and the industry. Over here, a lot of us are hobbyists and we tend to start in one area and specialise in it.