Friday, June 27, 2014

Just Bead It!

Glass Sculpture
One of my passions is glass beads and what better place to visit than the home of those little jewels in Czech Republic. Of course, some of the Near-Normal Travelers will say without equivocation that the best place for glass is the Moser glassworks in Karlovy Vary. And if your interest lies in that sort of art, you’ll agree. Glass making, particularly at this quality level, is no easy job.

Moser Glassworks have been around since 1857 and the pieces produced here have graced the tables of royalty, celebrities, and even common folks. Larger pieces are suitable for outdoor displays in stand-alone sculptures and water motifs. The pale purple sculpture in front of the main building in Karlovy Vary put me in mind of water splashing up from a pond; the pebbles at its base made me wonder just how sturdy this would be in a hail storm. It’s amazing that all of the pieces are blown rather than pressed, then shaped one at a time. Once the glass is cool enough to handle, other artists etch, sculpt,
Hippos for only $7,400
emboss, engrave or otherwise decorate the piece. Polishing occurs frequently with ever finer grit producing an extremely smooth surface. If any one of the artists makes a mistake, the piece is destroyed; you’ll never find Moser ‘seconds’. Perhaps this is why Moser glass has won numerous medals at international exhibitions of decorative arts. The actual area in which the glass is blown would be an OSHA nightmare in the states, but the artists seemed completely at ease with the heat, molten glass, and eye-searing light from the ovens.  We asked our guide about safety clothing, particularly shoes, and she replied that they wore shoes that were easy to remove if
Glass Production
hot glass happened to fall on their feet. The artists did have smoked glass lenses that they could put in front of their faces when they looked directly into the ovens. A few even wore shirts with sleeves. Producing a tumbler begins with blowing through a long tube to produce a ‘bubble’. That ‘bubble’ is shaped into the correct circumference by rolling the glass over what looks like an oven mitt. The glass then is doused with water to cool it a bit before being flattened on one end. A line is etched between the upper lump from the ‘bubble’ and what will be the finished tumbler. The mushroom top is eventually cut off, but only after the glass has rested for many hours in a cooling oven. It appears that three people working on one project can produce about a dozen tumblers in a day. No wonder this glass is expensive!

Bead Shop
Making jewelry from glass beads is one of my creative outlets. And while I’m not a fan of simple stringing I do enjoy bead weaving both on- and off-loom. In the years that I’ve pursued this hobby, I’ve learned to follow patterns and have even designed some original pieces. So what do you need to make beaded jewelry? Not much, just several needles, some thread, scissors and a few beads; well, maybe a lot of beads. After about 10 years I’ve progressed from a couple of plastic boxes to a whole roomful. Robinson’s is a great shop in Prague that gets its supplies directly from folks making the beads. Our charming hostess,
Renata Patek Robinson, told us about the modern factory and also about visiting some of the outlying areas where you can still discover the remnants of bead manufacturing that dates back a hundred years or more. I would have loved to have had the time to visit the Jablonec area with her. Renata is a gifted bead artist, creating one-of-a-kind pieces for her customers as well as necklaces, bracelets and earrings for the public. Her work has been published in Australia’s Digital Beading Magazine (Issue 8 - February 2014). We spent several hours with this delightful lady and touched every bead in the store! A number of beads even followed us home.

Just a small sample of the beads!

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