Prior to signing up for a weekend workshop on making glass beads, I had never heard of "lampworking". I just figured glass beads magically appeared out of factories, never thinking that I could actually MAKE glass beads. Off I went to my workshop and by the third bead, I knew that I had found my True Love - glass!
Lampworking has been practiced for centuries and got its name from the oil-fueled lamps used to melt the glass. With today's modern equipment, "flameworking" or "torchworking" are more appropriate names for this technique nowadays as torches and not lamps are used. Any way you call it, there is FIRE! Lampworkers today use gas fueled torches (propane or natural gas) often mixed with oxygen to increase the temperature of the flame in order to melt glass rods around a steel mandrel. Once the beads are made, they are placed in a digitally controlled kiln to slowly cool the glass (anneal it) so that they are strong (annealled glass is actually all around you - from the glasses you drink out of to the windows on your car!).
With roots in Murano, Italy, lampworkers create all kinds of glass art; from tiny beads to large sculptural pieces, one is limited only by their imagination (and skill!). The possibilities from working with glass as an artistic medium offer the artist such possibilities!