By Brian Kerkvliet, Copyright 1995

At the 25th anniversary of the Glass Art Society conference held in Asheville North Carolina, this past May (13-14 1995), there was a great enthusiasm for flameworking and beads. It is this refreshing energetic enthusiasm that I want to talk about! It seemed to envelop nearly every conversation to some extent, with Issues ranging from anesthetics and inspiration to health, safety and the need to have good information out there. There was networking between scientific and artistic flameworkers as well as galleries and flameworkers, with positive outlooks for more showings of flamework in the future. A lecture given by Dudley Giberson: “Ancient Glass Bead Making Technologies (1500 BC) Reflected in a Modern Bead Maker’s Furnace”, explored old glass forming technologies in relation to technologies available today. Dudley shared his dream insights on how he thought beads and core vessels could have been crafted, as well as ways that he is exploring to create them today. There was a lot of action and excitement around the numerous flameworking workshops and demonstrations given before, during and after the conference, many of them utilizing Penland’s new lampworking facility. The conference was well-rounded, with the addition of a slide show put together by Shane Fero and Robert Mickelsen entitled, “Flameworking: A World Wide Overview”. They put forth a noble effort by soliciting slides from over 75 artists in 15 countries and coordinating them into a multi-media web illustrating the flameworkers of today. These connections in time will lead to a better understanding of what sculpting glass in a torch is all about, and how it has come to captivate more and more people.

Health and Safety Issues

During the discussion group, “Flameworking – the Red Haired Cousin of the Glass Movement”, it seemed the main issues discussed were those of critical health and safety as well as annealing practices. There was concern expressed for the quality of instruction given by teachers who have, themselves learned the skill less than six months ago. This phenomenon seems unique to the “bead zone”. In other glass disciplines, it usually takes instructors years to feel confident enough to teach. Many of the people who have been flameworking for 10 years or more, believe some of the “new” instructors haven’t given adequate information to their students in regards to these important topics. GAS members discussed how we can, (as concerned members), help facilitate getting “good ” information out there. One suggestion was that safety data sheets be compiled, and reviewed by several folks who know their stuff. These sheets would be made available to anyone who wants them. Some of the topics included proper studio set up, eye protection, ventilation, and annealing practices. A committee was formed to gather this information and accomplish the task of distribution . Another idea was to create a list of accomplished teachers. This would be available to eager students who wanted to be sure to get correct information on these topics in addition to learning how to work with the glass.

Is there any real way for you to determine if your safety glasses are adequately protecting you? This seemed to come up again and again, so a few folks got together and tried to come up with a way to solve the dilemma. There is some new eye protection on the market which is good for us, but how do we know which provide the best protection for the type of flameworking we are doing? To the best of our knowledge, no data sheets, compiled by an unbiased source comparing the different glasses to one another in actual working situations, exist. Conducting tests to observe these differences are being considered, and in time, maybe, we will get the facts gathered so people can have access to them!

All of these ideas, when completed, will be available as fact sheets and teachers lists, through the Rakow Library at the Corning Museum of Glass, Glass Art Society or by sending a S.A.S.E. to Bandhu Dunham, who is facilitating the compilation of these fact sheets.

Bead Critique at Penland

Penland Day was the grand opening of the schools new glass facility. Mary Roddy coordinated a show of beads at Penland during the studio opening. Roddy, a long-time patron and bead enthusiast, organized several exhibits in and around the conference area, including, Spirit Square and the Charlotte/Douglas international airport. These exhibits included works from over 35 of this countries prominent bead makers. She invited: Paul Stankard, a renowned flameworker and premiere floral paperweight maker, Susanne Frantz, curator of the 20th century glass collection at the Corning Museum of Glass, and Henry Halem, long time glass artist, instructor and author of the recent acclaimed book GLASS NOTES: a reference for the glass artist. In a free-form discussion group, they gave a general review and their interpretation of contemporary beads within the glass art movement.

Stankard stated that contemporary glass bead making is in its infancy He said many of the beads didn’t have to be beads, and perhaps they were better as small sculptures or paperweights. The final presentation is as important as the bead in carrying the artists’ statement. If they are going to be respected as beads, they should be designed to be worn, either as a necklace or a small, unencumbered piece. He said perhaps If beads had fewer elements and were better crafted with more attention to detail, they might read better than a piece all filled up with” fru-fru”. He stated that, people shouldn’t settle for caricatures when realism is possible; they must strive for perfection. Halem urged people to be true to themselves first, and chart their own path as an artist , before expecting their beads to be gauged as art. Time will tell if a bead is a piece of art or not. Frantz said contemporary bead makers should look more to historical beads and learn from what has gone before. She urged people to master, and surpass the historical references. She also expressed concern that many beads are too commercial and cartoonish in nature, which could cause them to lose credibility within the art world. She extended an invitation to bead makers to submit slides to the New Glass Review, an annual publication that tracks the path of art glass in our time.

Over all, this event opened peoples eyes as to what can be done within a bead format, and provided a forum for discussion of many of these topics in a supportive atmosphere. It will take time, but In this way, maybe bead makers will make their mark as micro-glass artists, gaining the respect of the contemporary art glass critics and collectors alike.

Wrap Up

Many beadmakers at the conference had their eyes opened to the wide scope of possibilities available through flameworking. I feel a new era about to be born for flameworkers. In order to keep up with the ever-expanding need for new information and creative stimulus, my column will shift its focus from strictly beads, to lampworking in general and try to explore those topics that have a commonality in both worlds.

I was informed that the slide show, “Flameworking: A World Wide Overview”, is an ongoing effort and will strive to keep up with an ever-increasing diversity and proliferation of flameworking as art. If anyone would like to have work included in this show, send slides to Robert Mickelson. Or if you had work in the show and want to send new work, that would also be acceptable. There are opportunities to show these slides many times a year to good audiences, so let’s show them what we’ve got!

Next years GAS conference will be held in Boston, June 6-9, 1996. Boston is home of the world famous Blaschka glass flowers at Harvard. If you haven’t yet seen these amazing wonders in glass, this would be a good time to do it. From the looks of it, there will be an even bigger flameworking presence next year; make your plans to attend now!

For fact sheets and the New Glass Review application form, write to:

The Rakow Library, Attn: Beth Hylen

For fact sheets write:

Glass Art Society,

1305 4th Avenue, Suite 711,

Seattle, Wa. 98101.


March 21, 1995

Gail Lacy

A Touch of Glass

Glass Art……

In your most recent edition there was an article by Brian Kerkvliet, Magic Kiln Tactics. On page 20 he says “To the best of my knowledge, there is only one controller available that’s a low cost, plug-and-go-type controller.” I would like to know the name of that controller. I don’t believe that he ever identifies it. Could you pass this on to him. Thank you.

I am enjoying your magazine tremendously. Keep up the good work.

Dear Gail,

The times they are a changing! The industry is starting to listen to us, the meager glass artists, in their cry for a low-cost controller. The totally perfect controller has yet to come out of the wood work, but there are at least a few more choices to look at. The one I was referring to in the article Magic Kiln Tactics is now available from Arrow Springs, model ASC/2. This controller was available off and on for a while it went through some design reviews. Basically, this controller is a 15-amp 120 Volt, set point controller with a knob that allows you to control the percentage of power given to the kiln with the aid of a solid state relay. Once you learn how your kiln works, you should be able to ramp the kiln up to temperature at a gradual rate. You may select whether you want the kiln to shut off when it reaches set point or hold the entered set point indefinitely. It doesn’t have the capability of ramping down or turning off after a defined amount of time. If you use this controller you must manually ramp down the work to below strain point before shutting it off. But for the price of $250, you can’t go wrong with this basic controller.

Jen-Ken Kilns has recently come out with a controller designed for the small kiln– a 25-amp mechanical relay that has three segments. It’s called the Perfect Fire ll. This controller enables you to have a delay start on the kiln for the first segment, ramp to a set point at a user defined rate during the second stage and hold the set point for the soak portion of an annealing. The thing about this is, just like the ASC/2 it doesn’t allow you to ramp down; the controller just shuts off when it is finished with the soak. This means, in most cases you would have to sit with the kiln and gradually turn down the set point manually until it is past the strain point. Other than that, the controller is priced well, and it has an easy-to-understand graphic key pad. It is priced around $299.

Another controller is available through Frantz Bead Co. It will allow you to ramp up and down at a user prescribed rate. This controller is also switched with a solid state relay and utilizes a ground fault switch to reduce the possibility of shock. The brain in this unit is a Watlow auto tuning 965 controller. This controller gives you very even control of your kiln, and the self-tuning feature allows it to learn how your kiln responds to the heat applied. It is slightly more involved to understand the operation at first but, quickly becomes familiar. This controller runs around $350.

Any of these controllers can be plugged into a timer, which would allow you to shut off in a defined amount of time.

I know of a few more low-cost controllers on the drawing board, but don’t hold your breath. I suggest buying one that are on the market now, and by the time the others come around, you will want another kiln and controller anyway. If we keep asking for these electronic wonders, eventually demand will result in supply.

low-cost set point controllers


5710 Kenosha St. ,

Richmond, IL. 60071.

Makes a nice, simple line of controllers that , can be mounted in a box with a relay. Check out these series: 365 analog set point, 935 digital set point with a timer, 965 digital set point with a ramp, 982 has six steps and four programs,at a good price.

Faith Holinda

Rochester, Pa.

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