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Roman Glass | Borosilicate Glass

"Textures" series with borosilicate glass beads by Kristen Frantzen Orr

Textures are lightweight, mobile pieces that marry distinctive metal components with incredible lampworked beads. Their surprisingly-light caress on the skin, gentle sounds in motion and ever-changing nuances of iridescent color combine to make wearing Textures a sensuous experience.

The metal work, by Pam Chott, is primarily sterling silver with occasional accents of gold-filled or copper elements. Some Textures exhibit the lively colors of metal patinas that have been carefully developed using a controlled version of the oxidation or tarnish which occurs naturally on sterling silver. After the desired shade is achieved, a fine coat of museum quality conservatory wax is used to protect the color. As a piece is worn its fluid movements will smooth the higher areas of the metal and over time the burnished metal emerges, blending with the patina colors for an overall softened look similar to worn blue jeans.

Making beads for the Textures series involves multiple labor-intensive processes. Designed and handmade by Kristen Frantzen Orr, the beads are made of colored borosilicate glass integrating the colors of earth, fire, sky and sea. This special glass, similar to Pyrex, melts at much higher temperatures than the soda lime glass traditionally used to make lampworked beads and thus adds significantly to the time at the torch.

Kristen applies the molten glass onto a steel rod (mandrel) held in the flame and turned as the bead is developed in an arrangement of patterns, layers and colors to achieve the design and effects she envisions. During construction, the variable colors and iridescent qualities of this glass are influenced by the length of time in the flame, flame temperatures and gas ratios used. After construction, these characteristics are developed further in the kiln by controlling the time they are held at various temperatures during the slow cooling process known as annealing. The beads are placed in a programmed kiln that slowly lowers the temperature, eliminating the internal stresses that otherwise would make the glass more apt to eventually crack or shatter. The bead hole is left when the mandrel is removed from the cooled glass.

After the beads are made Kristen and Pam "cold-work" many of them by hand - slicing, shaping and polishing to reveal the complementary internal patterns while preserving the unique surface treatments. The borosilicate beads show an exuberant interplay of color and light with intriguing iridescence. To reveal the distinct vitality of these amazing beads, full spectrum light (such as the sun's light) is best.

The Collaboration

Collaborative work with glass bead artist Kristen Frantzen Orr has added new perspectives to my work and to the way that I work. Facing the challenge of designing fine jewelry that incorporates flameworked glass beads while maintaining the visions of two different artists has been very enriching.