Today is yet another treat as we peek into Kelley Wenzel’s studio space and talk fire and beads – gorgeous beads. But first…have you ever been to Kelley’s shop? Be prepared to drool profusely! In addition to creating fantastic egg beads, headpins, buttons, and more, Kelley is a wonderful photographer as her blog so often showcases.
Kelley and I once made a video as she walked me through the process of creating a bead. It was a blast and I immediately developed a new respect for this art. (I clearly struggled in the video, so don’t be too harsh on the poor student.)
As usual, I’ve been sidetracked with fun links. Let’s get to the interview! Hope you enjoy.
I play with fire, which is one of the most exciting things I get to do on a frequent basis. I have two surface mix torches (which mean they both have fuel and oxygen coming into them, but the two don’t meet until they come out of the torch) which are around 2000F degrees hot (give or take a hundred degrees depending on how the flame is adjusted).
I use only one and am lucky enough to have a good friend come keep me company at the other occasionally. And here I sit, to melt glass to make beads, buttons, headpins, worrystones and anything else that I can make melting glass. I work with soft glass, which has a lower melting point than boro (the equivalent of pyrex) that is used for sculptural work or glass blowing.
Not really, although I try to organize my glass by color because organization makes me happy (my closet is organized by color, too). I have been known to sit and stare, just admiring a well organized space (after it is newly cleaned/organized) and return frequently to gaze. I know that it may not last long, especially if it is my torch space.
When I pull out new rods of glass from my cabinet, I always leave one hanging out beyond the tube so I remember where to put my rods back when I’m done using them. This is one of the few things that I am pretty diligent about doing every time at the torch, with the exception of clear and ivory rods because I am always using them. Or for shorts (little ends of rods left over from when they become too short to hold onto without burning my fingers), which perpetually clutter my torch table.
Not enough space. Or more that I’m a pack rat and keep so many things that I probably don’t need, but the what if’s keep the unused items in my overhead cabinets. What if I do another show and need that extra table cloth? What if I finally get around to truly organizing these cabinets and then need all these IKEA boxes? What if I change my packaging and want to use a different ribbon to tie a bow on it before shipping?
Level of importance: design aesthetic or functionality?
Definitely functionality. I work in a small space, so it is tough to squeeze everything in and then have it all within easy reach. I do still manage to have things on my walls and the shelf behind my torch that make me happy (fyi – it’s no fun trying to melt glass when unhappy. the glass doesn’t play nice, I get burned, my floor gets burned, I gnash my teeth and end up kicking myself and mumbling about why I even bothered when I knew a foul mood would not be conducive to playing with fire) like postcards of my local glass society. My aunt’s glass society in Phoenix. Wired words that I bought on Etsy. A cat clock with a tail and eyes that remain still, waiting for a new set of batteries to make them twitch. A pot of flowers. And of course, glass. Glass rods of all colors and jars of frit spread out all over.
Is there something that you’re constantly having to work on overcoming and what have you done/do you do to rectify this situation?
I am constantly trying to find new ways to use existing colors to keep my budget in check. Many of the glass colors (opaques and transparents) can be purchased for under $15 a pound. But the pretty colors (oh, how I love my silver glass rods) can cost $80-100 a pound. I try to use those sparingly as a result. I have given up on keeping the mess to a minimum on my torch table. There are shorts everywhere, as well as little droplets of glass immediately below my torch from where I melt off the ends of dirty/smooty rods. I also struggle to keep up with email, but it is typical for me to have upwards of 1000 emails in my inbox.
I prefer the natural light coming in through my windows and rarely turn on the overhead fluorescent lights unless it’s just too dark for me to see the colors of the rods I am picking up. For photographing my beads, I only use daylight because I feel that everyone has daylight and want my beads to be well represented when I sell them online. I know monitors vary and change colors, but if my customers take my beads outside and look at them in sunny or cloudy weather they should see my beads exactly how I saw them and try to photograph them for listings.
It was originally set up in a quarter of our garage space. It was freezing cold in the winters and hot n buggy in the summers (I said many little eulogies for the wayward bug that flew into my flame). It was dirty and oftentimes cluttered with the kids toys/bikes/roller skates and a general hazard to make my way into to sit down. I was so over-the-moon happy when we renovated part of my office to create a torch table and cabinets for storing all of my supplies. I no longer had to worry about being in the garage while the kids were sleeping in the evenings and them not being able to easily find me if they got up. Or being able to hear the dogs barking if they heard a noise (because my ventilation is incredibly noisy). I work from home and it is hard seeing my torch all day long out of the corner of my eye and only five feet away because I know what I’d rather be doing. But it is also nice just knowing that it is nearby and inside (out of the nasty weather) and that keeps me going. I keep talking about torching over my lunch hour, but I always seem to work through my lunch hours and torching mid-day just never happens. One of the genetic downsides to being a work horse, I suppose.
Moving my studio inside from the garage has made it so much easier for me to get motivated to hop on the torch. I don’t have to bundle up in the winter or strip down in the summer and slather myself in bug spray. I don’t have to move half the contents of the garage to make my way to my torch. Or clean up long leggety bugs before firing up my torch. Just having a calm, climate controlled studio has made such a difference in my attitude about finding time to melt glass. Moving my studio inside restored all the fun to me that there should be in playing with fire. Because watching a solid rod of glass become molten and then control that glass as it flows and hardens as it cools and then flows again with reheating is still thrilling to me.
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Have a terrific day.