I know there are numerous posts on blogs, forums and personal websites about this particular issue, I’ve read them. They all make great points. I decided to add my 2 cents as well. Mine won’t go into great detail about the actual prices of such things but will give a little bit of an idea of time and money spent. Let’s face it, no matter what hobby or business you ARE in, it’s not cheap. Supplies and other expenses just keep going higher and higher. I have a decent supply of glass that will last me some time however I needed a couple of colors recently. I went shopping at the place I usually buy all my glass. Talk about sticker shock ! I hadn’t bought any glass in a while so was taken totally off guard when looking. No matter, I needed the colors so bought them. I use to be able to afford buying by the pound – not so much anymore - unless there's a great sale going on but regular pricing, basic color glass such as white is $14.00 a pound. Beads with silver glass, you know, those super shiny, pretty color beads that seem to just “dazzle” or look like metal – Well, those beautiful glasses START at $100.00 a pound ! Then, and only then, if you master how to work the glass will you’re bead not look like mud. lol ! There’s more to that as well such as the torch you use, your flame chemistry and so on but that’s for another time.
Ok so here’s the list of what most lampwork bead glass artists/crafters have in their studio. Not everyone mind you but the alot. If you love to melt glass, you will have a well set-up studio with time, with everything you need and some extra’s. This list is in no particular order.
Torch ($200.00 and up), kiln ($400.00), GREAT ventilation ($500.00 give or take), controller for kiln (if your kiln doesn’t have one - $425.00 and up and a pyrometer if you prefer is $110.00), mandrels ($6.00 for 10), glass (No way to set price on this – different for everyone and can run into the thousands), bead release ($35.00 large bottle that you will need to replace as needed. Depends on how often you make beads), bead reamers (usually a dremel with diamond bit) ($50.00 and up), marver ($30.00 and up), eye protection ($80.00 and up), face mask plus replaceable filters ($10.00 and up plus filters), table to work on (???), chair to sit on ($125.00 – I use an adjustable chair), great lighting, protective surface on table such as steel plate, protected floor, oxygen tank ($175.00 plus $35.00 and up to fill every time) and/or oxygen concentrator ($450.00 and up), propane or gas ($60.00 for tank plus $35.00 to fill each time). Misc. items to add to your bead such as frit, murrini, enamels (hard to determine but could run well into the hundreds). Misc.tools such as knives, presses, molds for making murrini if so inclined, pokers, mashers, etc (Hundreds of dollars). Most beads you see these days are not hand shaped unless the person states that. Most are made with presses now. This can get extensive and expensive as there are many items that can be used for tools and shapers (starting at $30.00 and usually around $65.00). If you are going to sell your beads you need: a decent camera (hundreds), lighting ($30.00 plus), photo “box” of some sort (handmade using at home materials or $12.00 for a cheapie and up), probably a tripod, photo editing program (there are free ones as well but the better ones cost), computer, printer, printer paper, printer ink, some sort of online shop or website that have their own fees or go to festivals (whole other ballgame). Advertising –LOTS of time spent here, you need business cards as well. If you’re going to sell, you gotta be able to ship the bead somehow. So with that, you have to invest in proper packaging. Remember, this is glass you are shipping. Bubble wrap and/or “peanuts”, boxes, plastic bags to gather the beads and of course padded envelopes or possibly boxes to ship in.
Time – you need lots and lots of time to learn, practice, take classes, etc. Even the pro’s out there learn new things all the time. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, on and off (I don’t torch in the summer at all) and I learn new things all the time. :) With learning comes purchasing – books, tutorials, classes and webinars. Yes, there is tons of free info out there but believe me, you can’t learn it all from the free stuff. Just not possible. Time to clean the beads, photography, advertising, listing and shipping all have to be included. How does one value their time ? Taking all I’ve just listed into consideration, let's say it takes one hour to make a single focal bead with decoration, how much should that lampworker get paid ?
So there is my 2 cents. I know I’ve left out some things but you get the jist. It’s not cheap, in fact, it’s VERY, VERY expensive and the person you are purchasing that bead from is investing A LOT of their time and energy here. Also, you are getting something that is made with heart by someone who LOVES what they are doing. You can’t do this unless you have passion for it. Why spend so much time, energy and money in something you have no passion about ?
I love to make bellflower beads/headpins. Here’s what goes into making just one flower including the supplies needed.
List of supplies: ONE bellflower press, the ORIGINAL bellflower press, (these are EXPENSIVE costing $150.00 and up depending on the dollar) but worth every dime as they are a piece of art themselves ! ), glass, wire, pin vise to hold the wire, pickle (to clean the wire later), scrubbie to clean the wire later and small crock pot.
Prep: Set bellflower press out, cut wire (if you make 20 flowers, cut 20 plus wire). Choose your glass color. Turn on concentrator for 15 – 30 minutes to warm up for session and kiln to bring it up to garaging temp. Using lots of electricity here.
Ready to make flower: Turn on your ventilation (more electricity) ! Put wire in pin vise, tighten to make sure you won’t lose it, turn on torch and when ready, melt the amount of glass needed to make the flower, put the glass and wire in the press and press. Now, put it in the kiln to anneal. Annealing – At least a 12 hour process of ramping down, cooling, from holding/annealing temp of 950 degrees to room temp.
Ready to Clean the wire: Usually the next day. Warm up your tiny crock pot, add warm/hot water and pickle, add flowers. Wait for about 20 minutes or so, remove flowers, rinse in hot water. Dry and proceed to clean the wire further with scrubbie or Brillo pad. Now they are ready to photograph and post to your shop, Facebook page, website, etc or use in making jewelry or in a project.
That’s for just one bellflower and of course, more than one is made during a session.
What do I charge per bellflower - $3.00. :)
If you’ve read this far, thanks so much ! :) You now have a very basic understanding why handmade lampwork glass beads made by one person at their torch in their studio might cost what it does and might be well worth it. :) Again, I thank-you for your support.