There are many unique factors affecting the price of artisan lampwork beads. This article gives insights from a lampworker’s perspective to help the buyer understand the basic costs of making a handmade bead.
First, lampwork glass is expensive. Why? There are only a handful of glass manufacturers in the world controlling the price of glass. The major companies are located in Italy, Germany, India, Japan, Czech Republic overseas and Bullseye and Spectrum in the USA. Glass from other countries incurs a hefty import tax compounded by the rise of oil prices. Since lampwork glass is a specialty niche, production lines are small, causing glass prices to remain high.
Secondly, a startup inventory of glass can be in the hundreds and easily escalate into the thousands of dollars. Italy’s Effetre glass line has over 100 colors to accommodate the color ranges. Most lampworkers will work with glass from many manufacturers as long as the glass is compatible. Effetre and Bullseye are not compatible but both offer unique qualities that are desirable. If a lampworker wants to work in both, a complete line would need to be bought in both glasses. Glass prices start at $6.00 a pound for a basic color, custom colors cost in the $30+ range and silvered glasses top in at $100.00 a pound. A pound can be only 8-10, 20″ rods, a quantity quickly used up with any experimenting. Compound the necessity of buying large quantities of glass with the high cost of glass and you can see how quickly money is spent on supplies.
Why not mix the glass colors? Mixing colors in glass is based on chemical reactions while making the glass. With pigmented based colors, like in painting, one can mix white with red and get pink. Mixing a white glass and a red glass will not make a pretty pink glass. It is necessary to learn the chemistry as well as the mineral equations in mixing glass. Making glass colors is a time-consuming procedure that is done mostly by advanced lampworkers with chemistry backgrounds and who enjoy this aspect of glass. The average lampworker, due to lack of time or expertise, will buy each color of glass, including lighter and darker shades of a single color.
Thirdly, equipment and tools are expensive. Working in molten glass requires special equipment and tools that command a high price due to the scarcity of availability. Only in recent years, as working lampworkers develop tools out of necessity and self-produced them, is expensive equipment even available. A constant expense for working beadmakers is oxygen usage. Most will use a large oxygen tank every 3 days and with a hefty $25 price tag per tank, oxygen alone can cost $200 a month. A newer method of creating oxygen with oxygen concentrators has become popular. The initial investment is in the thousands, but if the lampworker is serious about a career, this has become a sound investment.
Lampworking is an expensive endeavor in all areas. It requires an abundant learning zeal, a deep pocket for expenses and a willingness to persevere into a field that is little understood. Because artisan glass beads are new to the art world, recognition and appreciation is slowly being gained through education. It is the passion of the lampworker for the love of glass that sustains the drive to make a career from lampworking.
Patsy Evins received a BFA in drawing and painting plus four years in private art institutions. In 1998, she changed her focus from painting to glass. Her studies in glass have been extensive with training from leaders in the glass industry. Her fine art lampwork beads have been featured in magazines, books and competitions, as well as in art museums and personal art collections. Click Here to sign up for special DISCOUNTS on Patsy’s beads! View artwork, Patsy’s Blog, and other articles at http://www.patsyevinsstudio.com.
need help makin a lampwork bead?
I want to know where I can go to get a glass rod or soft glass to make a bead please help need ASAP
can only tell you online sources as I have no idea where you might be able to go to physically to buy these things
Getting Started w/ Devardi Glass: Take II, Lampwork Bead Making Tutorial
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