The Journey – Suzanne of Solar Flare Creations

13 03 2008

I came to glass beadmaking in a rather convoluted way, although, like many people it stemmed from jewellery making.  As I may have mentioned, I am a member of the SCA, a medieval recreation group.  There is something for almost everyone in the SCA – leather work, cooking, singing, brewing, sword fighting, archery, weaving, embroidery… the list goes on.  As I had no desire to get enormous bruises by being beaten up by big guys with swords, I was relegated to watching the tourneys, and for many of the women in the SCA, that means they are often spinning, weaving, sewing etc while they watch.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that I was a textile teacher, I hate sewing etc, particularly fine needlework.  I just can’t do it – I’m too messy for starters.


So, to entertain myself at SCA events, I started ‘merchanting’.  I sold feasting gear, fabric trim and handmade jewellery.  My ‘mundane’ (non SCA)  jewellery was made with purchased glass beads (ones I now know were mainly cheap imported beads from China and India) and silver plated findings, but my SCA jewellery was made with semi precious stones and pearls, as befitted the medieval period. When I eventually started making jewellery from my own beads, I wanted to produce a high quality product that did justice to my glass creations.  From then on, I only used sterling silver findings, semi-precious stones, and Swarovski crystals.


When I was at University, I had majored in Photography and Metalcraft.  When my husband suggested he get me a soldering torch for my Birthday, so I could return to silversmithing, an American friend in the SCA mentioned we could make glass beads on it.  I had never heard of lampworking, so that brief comment planted the seed that was to eventually turn into a fully fledged glass obsession. 


For one reason or another, I never did the get the soldering torch, but about a year later the same friend pointed out a lampworking course at a local TAFE (Technical and Further Education) college, and I immediately jumped on the chance to sign up.  I completed a 2 day beginner’s course with Kathryn Wardill, a wonderful Australian Beadmaker and Master Jeweller, who at the time, was one of the few people in Australia making a living from Glass Beads.  A few months later, I completed an advanced course, again with Kathryn.  I got a great grounding in the basic skills from Kathryn.  She ensured we understood safety issues, COE and glass compatibility, and insisted we learn how to hand shape a variety of forms, like tubes, squares, triangles etc.  She taught me that it is important to learn the fundamental skills that you can then build on as you acquire new skills and tools.



                        My first ever beads –  Day 1


                                    Day 2




I worked on a Hot Head torch for over 4 years, not being able to justify the additional costs associated with a surface mix torch, and not really feeling my HH was holding me back.  It did teach me patience, as I have always made large beads, but apart from extremely large vessels and sculptural forms, I never felt limited (although I could have done without the noise!).  Eventually I upgraded to what we beadmakers often affectionately call a ‘Big Girl Torch’ a couple of years ago, and I have enjoyed the increased flexibility (and the blissful quiet) that it allowed.

My glass journey has perhaps been slower than it could have been, had I not been a hobbyist with a full time career, but it has been enjoyable, inspiring, frustrating, fulfilling, enriching, expensive and rewarding in turns.  And it’s not over yet!



2 responses

16 03 2008

I recognize that last set!

17 03 2008
Art of the Firebird » Blog Archive » Best of the Week ending 3/16/2008

[…] always fascinating to hear about someone’s journey to glass. This week Suzanne Tate shares hers with Collective […]

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