What is Lampworking?

Lampworking Glass

Lampworking is an ancient art that is thought to date back to the fifth century BC. It is used to make small glass objects like beads, vessels and figurines – often of animal and botanical subjects.

The term “lampworking” derived from the old oil-fueled lamps that glass workers used to use. They would blow air into the flame using a pipe. Today gas torches are used as a source of heat so this method is also called flame working or torch working.

Bead by Mandela Wheel

Intricate glass bead by artist Mandela Wheel.

Lampworking is a technique where glass rods are melted and manipulated using a single heat source. Lampworking and torch artists use gravity, tools and hand movements to manipulate the glass. Special glasses are worn to protect against eye damage from staring into the flame while working the glass. These glasses are like the sun glasses we wear to protect our eyes from the glare of the sun.

Modern torch set-ups allow for a high degree of control making it possible to create intricate and complex art forms. Often multiple layers of glass are painstaking applied to create these miniature pieces of art.

Bead by Joy Munshower

Beautiful glass bead by artist Joy Munshower.

Although art pieces created using this method are worked in a flame it is necessary to cool them evenly in a kiln down to room temperature to prevent stress fractures and cracks. This is known as “annealing” the glass.

I have taken lampworking classes and can appreciate the skill and artistry that is needed to create these small beads and art pieces. Trust me patience and concentration are also a must. Next time you are at an art fair look for these small glass treasures to take home. You can find some excellent glass bead examples on this Pinterest board I created called “Beautiful Beads“.