Thursday, August 9, 2007

Modern and easy to wear

Michigan jewelry artist Kristin Perkins has been drawn to the pure and natural beauty of glass all her life. Her jewelry is among the most contemporary that I have seen. While the colors make them fun to wear, the geometric glass shapes or silver shapes that she uses to accent them make them very modern and easy to wear.

Kristin makes each of her distinctive glass beads using a process called lampworking. Lampworking is an ancient term referring to melting glass and forming beads and other small glass sculptures by oil lamp. Glass bead makers now use a special torch to melt the glass, but the term lampworking continues to be used today for this type of art.

To make her beads, Kristin uses colorful rods of glass and heat them with my torch, which is fueled by natural gas and an oxygen generating machine. When the glass becomes molten, she winds it around a steel rod that has been coated with a clay-like mixture that will later allow her to remove the bead from the steel rod.

Kristin shapes beads by evenly applying the glass to the steel rod, keeping the molten glass constantly turning, and allowing gravity to do most of the work. What is not achieved by gravity can be done by using graphite and steel tools to attain the desired shape. Rods of glass in other colors are used to decorate the surface of the bead. Once the bead is complete, she properly anneals it in a kiln. Annealing is critical to the glass bead making process because it allows it to cool down slowly, which removes stress in the glass that could cause it to crack.

As a jewelry designer, she considers her lampworked beads very special because each bead is created with an end use in mind. Kristin is a trained silversmith, so she has the advantage of customizing each piece exactly as she envisions. What further differentiates her work from other lampworkers is the use of clear or transparent glass in every piece so that the fascinating properties of glass become the focus.

Her prices are extremely reasonable: $34 - $50 for earrings; $56 - $95 for pendants; $95 for cuff links. Contact Gallery Fifty for our current selection: 231-932-0775.