Saturday, October 16, 2010

Leaf Tutorial

I make leaves a little differently than anyone else I have seen - so I thought I would share.

The picture above is of the quick set of instructions I drew for myself in one of my bead sketchbooks.

1. Make a simple, fat oval bead that will fit comfortably in your lentil press. I use a pair of stainless steel ice tongs, which is nice because every leaf gets to be a little different in size.

This is the step where all the decorations are applied. A band of color around the middle will become a vein down the center of the leaf, and a sprinkling of frit never does any harm.

2. Get everything in your oval bead nice and evenly molten and then press your lentil.

Flame polish off all the chill marks.

This would also be a good time to fuss with the bead holes if they look a little wonky or uneven.

 3. Now it's time to start making your lentil into a leaf.

Begin by spot heating what will be the stem end of the leaf. Grab a little bit of the glass along the edge and pinch and give a slight pull to form a little nub for the stem.

Flash the whole bead through the fire to rewarm it so it won't crack during the next step.

Now spot heat the glass on the other side of your lentil - on both the front and the back - so that you can stretch it out into the tip of the leaf. When it has a nice glow going - grab the leaf, front and back, about one third of the way up towards the mandrel and gently pull. Don't squeeze your tweezers too tightly, this is just a little pinch and pull. I like to use non-serrated and very, very pointy tweezers.

4. If you want a plain leaf - you're done sculpting the glass. Just do a really good job of annealing your bead and pop it into the kiln without admiring it for too long.

If you want to make a serrated leaf there are a few more steps.

First, evenly reheat the bead so that you don't have any cold spots from all that shaping you just finished. Next you need to make some deep dents into the side of the leaf to begin to form the points. I spot heat the edges and then push in with the blade of a knife - see diagram.

Once you have made all the grooves flash the bead again and give it a good even heating - you have a lot of different stresses going on in there.

At this point it's looking pretty good, you can leave it like this but I like to sharpen up the tips of the points a little bit.

5. To define the tips of the serrations you can gently, gently spot heat them and grab them from the side with your pointy tweezers and give them a little pinch. Don't heat them so much that that you melt away your dent, just enough heat to make it soft enough to give it a squeeze.

Have a dish of water handy for plunging your tweezers - by about the third point they will be starting to stick to the glass because they are getting over heated.

Don't forget to flash the bead around through the flame after every point or your leaf will crack right along the back of the mandrel.

Now give the whole bead a really, really patient annealing and into the kiln it goes.

This trio of leaves have a base glass of light topaz with a thin encasing of Double Helix Aurae that was heavily reduced.
This is a side view of one of these leaves, you can see they are pretty substantial. They work great in bracelets because they lay so nicely against the wrist.

This snapshot give you a pretty good look at the way the stem end of the bead is shaped.

left: Double Helix Gaia on a base of Effetre transparent Grass Green and Light Teal
middle: transparent grass green and raku on a base of Petroleum Green
right: transparent Olive, Emerald and Straw Yellow

I would love to hear if anyone out there tries my tutorial.
Show me some pictures in your blog and I will send you one of my leaf beads.

Any questions? I have not written too many of these little tutorials and am not sure how detailed to be. Just ask, I will fill in any blanks.


Gardanne said...

Very nice tut, I like the way the bead hole goes, makes for a different look. I sometimes make my leaf notches with a little snip with scissors. I read somewhere once that the bonsai scissors work great for cutting glass and are probably a lot less expensive than the scissors I purchased.

Amy F said...

very cool - i love seeing sketchbooks of other people!

Narrative jewelry said...

Many, many, many thanks for sharing this new technique Lucinda. Your are just, so creative and inventive. I gonna try this tuto this afternoon.

Unknown said...

I love this technique. I've always made my leaves off mandrel or on a spacer. Thanks to Lori of Beadnerd for sharing.

Babette said...

Way cool. I've never seen them done this way. Of course! Makes perfect sense. Thanks a lot for sharing - how very kind of you! Just in time for Fall and the colors you used are right for what I need to be doing.