The term lampworking originated from artisans melting peices of glass over oil lamps. A lot of people have now adopted the term art glass, as it doesn't get as many funny looks when you show people a bead instead of a lamp. The art has evolved dramatically as technology advances and the colors of glass have become limitless. I use a minor torch which is fueled by a mix of oxygen and propane. I have hood that my husband and I built as well as vent. These are both critical to lampworking because many of the glasses and frits have carcinogenic byproducts. Once the beads are created they are cooled in the flame and go directly into my Paragon digital kiln for annealing. Annealing relieves internal stresses, resulting in a piece which should last for many years. Glass which has not been annealed may crack or shatter under minor temperature changes or other shock, such as dropping on the ground.
Preparing the mandrel - The beadmaker starts by dipping a mandrel, or wire (stainless steel welding wire, cut into lengths) into a release agent. Release agents are either clay based or man made, such as boron nitride.
Heating rod and mandrel - The flameworker selects rods of glass to heat in the flame of the torch. When both glass and mandrel are sufficiently warm, the beadmaker starts rotating the mandrel while allowing the glass to wind upon it.
Shaping the bead - Beads are shaped using a combination of heat, gravity and tools such as graphite paddles, mashers, tweezers, and picks. Presses to create shapes and indent patterns into the glass are also used.
Decorating the bead - Beads can be decorated by melting stringers, or fibers of glass on the surface, creating dots or lines. With a sharp pointed tool, feathers, hearts or other designs may be produced. Metal decorations of copper, silver, gold, palladium and platinum are applied as metal leaf, wire, mesh or fuming.
Striking - If silver based colors are used (striking colors), the bead must be heated for a few moments in the torch flame or kiln to allow crystals to reform in the glass. This temperature is slightly above the stress relief point.
Annealing - Once completed, beads should be heated to 940º-1050°F (depending on glass type), until the piece reaches its "stress relief point", held at that temp for a short time, then slowly cooled to avoid thermal shock.
Cold working - The cooled bead can be further decorated. Standard cold working techniques can be employed such as sandblasting, faceting and polishing. Etching the finished piece with acid leaves a matte finish.