I haven’t written a blog post in almost a month, but I’ve been enjoying life offline, working on an exciting jewellery collaboration and taking time out over midterm. We’ve also been fairly consumed by our home renovations. As you know, I don’t schedule posts and blog for the sake of it. We all work in different ways and I used to put myself under more pressure. My blog is a hobby after all. Now, I write when I feel I’ve something worth sharing – something I think you’ll enjoy too and benefit from – an experience worth writing about.
Note: this isn’t the jewellery collaboration.
(I mentioned on Facebook recently that a very well established designer and Irish company contacted me to design a piece for their collection… that’s for another day! It made my month, my year maybe.)
Normally, I get to Wednesday of midterm and if I haven’t been productive or achieved something worthwhile, I get annoyed with myself. Is anyone else like that? So this was a really fun way to spend an afternoon on my week off. On Monday I came across a flyer about Glass Bead Making Classes with Graham Reid. I’d seen Graham’s work in Shells Café and on Instagram as he’s just recently collaborated with Tiffany Budd to create a limited edition collection, but I didn’t know he did classes.
I’ve always loved jewellery making in every form and I up-skill as much and as often as I can. I’ve done a couple of one-on-one workshops with goldsmith Tiffany Budd too. Read review here.
So Graham’s classes are approximately 2.5 hours. Trust me: you will enjoy every minute. As mentioned, I’d seen some of his beads before, but never really thought much about the process. I’d actually no idea what it entailed, but I’ve a newfound appreciation for this art and the skill that’s involved in creating his mobile sculptures filled with Irish rainwater.
I just love learning new skills and stepping into designers’ studios and sacred spaces.
The glass blowing studio is located less than 15 minutes from Sligo town on the way to Dromahair (Carraroe side). It’s an old cottage that Graham has renovated – everything done by hand by Graham. He also transformed donkey staples to form his living space. His background is in architecture and he has many strings to his bow including surfing, sculpture, carpentry and trad music.
He was first introduced to glass blowing at the tender age of 7 at a market in Johannesburg, where he’s from. He later took a glass blowing module as part of his architectural degree in the US.
Graham started by giving me a brief History of Glass. The Egyptians discovered it and it’s believed that the Pyramids were once covered in glass. The glass we worked with was Murano glass from Italy. Murano is an island 1.5km north of Venice and it’s known as The Glass Island. Both Murano and Seattle are the world’s glass blowing meccas.
To create the glass beads we used stainless steel mandrels, dipped in ceramic paste (bead release) so the glass doesn’t stick to the mandrel, a specialist flame-working torch (butane gas) and Murano glass rods. Murano glass is a soda-lime-silica or soft glass, with a lower melting point than other glass like borosilicate.
With your left hand you hold the mandrel in the flame – using your thumb and forefinger to turn. With your right hand you hold the glass rod like you’d hold a pen and again you turn the rod in the flame. You’re holding both horizontally, but once the glass becomes liquid, you hold the glass rod vertically and rotate it around the mandrel. Repeat to create your circular bead. You choose the colours you want and decorate with dots.
Graham is a fantastic teacher. Watch this video for more.
Each bead you make is completely unique and you really don’t know how it’s going to turn out as the flame changes the oxides in the glass. Graham taught me how to trap bubbles too – with a tungsten rod and clear glass.
My creations are imperfect, but I love the way they turned out!
I’m going to add each to a separate chain. They’d make fab drop earrings too, if I’d two the same.
I can’t recommend a class with Graham Reid enough. In my opinion, it’s worth every cent of the €55 fee. Classes are tailored for 1-2 students. Bring your shades to protect your eyes!
You can also rent studio space with Graham.
To arrange a lesson, call 085 808 5005 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, visit here.
For updates, find Graham on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
I had such a productive afternoon. I loved every minute and I can’t wait to go back for another lesson to make Christmas gifts.
I hope you found this process as interesting as I did and learned something new.
Thanks for reading,