Making Glass Beads

I’ve had the pleasure recently of making a lot of glass beads which were distributed to Museum Members at the Members’ Preview opening of the exhibition Life on a String, that took place on Friday, May 17.

glass beads

Flameworked glass beads made for the Members’ Preview of Life on a String.

My personal glass work over the past 18 years has often been bead related and I’m fascinated by anthropology and the ancient history of craft techniques, so this new exhibit is of particular interest to me.

Flameworking beads is an intricate and close-up method of working with glass. Beads are fairly small objects so meticulous attention to detail is the challenge and hallmark of making a quality bead. Beads are considered by anthropologists to be among the earliest examples of symbolic objects made by people and symbolic actions such as production of personal ornaments are often cited as traits for identifying the beginnings of modern human behavior.

Museum Members trading the glass beads handmade by Caitlin Hyde.

Museum Members trading the glass beads handmade by Caitlin Hyde.

Beads exist in most cultures, in many materials, sizes and shapes and are used for different purposes including ornamentation, wealth, trade and spiritual practice. They are among the very earliest glass objects made by humans. Methods for making glass beads include fused or molded glass frits and powders, pressed glass, cast and carved glass, blown glass and mandrel wound glass, stretched canes and tubes of glass that are later cut into segments.

Life on a String: 35 Centuries of the Glass Bead is now open. I hope you have a chance to visit the Museum to learn more about these fascinating small glass treasures, and see a demo of how glass beads can be made at the torch.

Karol Wight and Caitlin Hyde

Karol Wight, executive director and Caitlin Hyde show off the glass bead necklaces that were raffled off at the Members’ Preview of Life on a String.

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Caitlin Hyde lives in Corning, NY, and has been making flameworked glass beads and small sculpture since 1996. She teaches workshops at The Corning Museum of Glass and across the country. Hyde’s background in illustration, textile design, and love of high contrast, rhythmic pattern are evident in her pictorial beads and assembled figurative work. “The desire to create and tell stories binds us together across time and space and culture,” says Hyde. “So I make beads about stories; not always overt in their meaning, but with the implication of narrative.”

3 comments » Write a comment

  1. Absolutely beautiful! It was a real pleasure to see you work in person recently. Great synopsis of bead art- thank you very much. Do you mind if I quote you? I love this segment of your article- “Beads are fairly small objects, so meticulous attention to detail is the challenge and hallmark of making a quality bead. Beads are considered by anthropologists to be among the earliest examples of symbolic objects made by people and symbolic actions such as production of personal ornaments are often cited as traits for identifying the beginnings of modern human behavior.”

    • Hi Linda,

      Thanks for the nice feedback. You are welcome to use the text, but I was paraphrasing from David Whitehouse’s excellent and concise book called “Glass, A Short history”. So it would be best to attribute that to him rather than me. By the way, I’ve admired your work for ages.

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