Friday, 25 July 2014

How I Made a glass focal

Recently Dakshin Chitra hosted a lampwork workshop by the famous Glass artist Mr. Srinivasa Raghavan and I somehow fought with my schedule to find time to take up a class. I had seen his demos atleast thrice in the past and he works with glass as though it was clay. Sorry strike that, I find it very hard to work with clay so the correct comparison would be to fabric.
For the last one year or so trends indicate that jewellers are starting to make their own components but going beyond metal and wire to work with either ceramics or glass. I was really hoping that this year I would somehow contact a ceramic artist and maybe develop some pedants or focals or I didnt think that I could learn to work with glass. The 11/2 day session with Mr..Raghavan changed my perspective.

 He did demos of simple objects which he thought we could replicate and then went on to wow us with his sea horses and swans. Once we got over the the initial fear (of handling molten glass and staring into fire) glass was pretty fun to work with. It will bubble and flow like water. Ofcourse what was simple to him was hard for us, so we all abandoned the idea of replicating his designs and just tried to work with glass organically producing whatever shapes we fancied.

Pieces created by Mr. Raghavan

Our Instructor was a glass sculptor so he wanted us to try focals or minis without mandrels or presses rather than beads but on my request he showed us how to make a flat disc bead.
Take a look at this demo video, where he makes a couple of glass disc beads in seconds. He makes it look so easy, but believe me, it isnt. As he says,  It is in the cooling as much as the heating something that we will understand only after years of practise.

We did focals with borosilicate glass tubes rather than beads and trying to make the loop was the hardest part, as it would break while turning or we would mush up the focal by over heating it. The most frustrating part of the whole process is seeing your pieces fall off the table and break as you are gathering them. After working with (read staring into) fire for a session (which was 15-20 minutes), It was difficult to see anything and people looked as though they had giant blobs of red and yellow colors on their faces. All of us were literally in tears with watery eyes and had throbbing headaches. I then realised how hard my dad has worked his entire life. Being an electrode and welding developer and engineer he has supervised welding all his life and even does so now at 65 something that is possible only when you are passionate about what you do.

Here are some of my creations. I sincerely hope that my lampworking friends and artists who read this blog arent offended by my crude attempts. Its not possible to even understand the medium in 2 days but it was an opportunity to learn about the effort that went into creating glass beads or components. Please pardon my bad photography, I am running on a crazy schedule here and this is all I could manage.
Day 1 Experiments - making small leaf charms and bar focals. All The other pieces I made on the first day broke :( The second is an experimental piece using the doodling technique I made on the second day, which I colored. Please come back here again next week to see what I finally did with it
Day 2 Experiments: I tried a leaf, tendril,flowers - color inclusion and focal with initials - D on one side for Divya and S on the other for Sayuri. The Last one is a Roman tendril inspired bohemian piece and it still needs a lot of work.

I do not know when next I would get an opportunity to work with glass, but If I do get one I am going to grab on to it and practise as much as possible.

I hope you find it interesting


  1. This must be interesting, looking like real fun! i have never seen someone doing this but I can now imagine..haha You can make objects for home decore..?
    well I hope you enjoyed a lot..

    1. It was tough but fun, something that I would definitely try again

  2. Even though I understand your strive to learn new techniques, this sounds very adventurous to me! Good for you! Is this your first time!

    1. Yes Rosantia, It was my first time working with glass and I got to spend about 70 minutes totally with the torch on both days put together. At first I couldnt see anything let alone make a piece but once you get a hang of it, it becomes easier

  3. I want to see one in a necklace! That looks like a great time.

    1. I am trying to make one for the ABS challenge, trying being the watch word here

  4. Wow !Fabulous Divya..i like your glass pieces may be whatever the shape glass look amazing and from 2 days workshop you made beautiful pieces :) ..intresting workshop..and the video is cool how easily Mr Raghavan has done glass beads amazing.. but really very hard to work infront of flame shaping glass.. looking forward for more glass pendants Divya :)

    1. The main thing is to get over the fear of fire and molten glass, it is not dangerous (but burns easily) the techniques are fairly easy. we were all like- lets make something first and then name it depending on the shape


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