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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ask StudioMarcy ~ Online Coaching #1 Bird Today and Penguins Tomorrow

Meet Fiona from
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in the UK. Her bead website is . She's my first online student and for someone who has been working on a Hot Head torch for 9 months and hasn't ever done a sculptural bead. I must say, she sure makes it look easy. I'm so happy to be working with her.

Fiona has made three beads, so today we'll work with her very first sculptural bird (ever!) and tomorrow we'll chat about her next two ~ which are penguins. This is your chance to try a penguin and then compare it to what we discuss tomorrow.

Fiona is left handed and holds the 1/16th mandrel in her left hand and her glass rod in her right. I'm sure that's fine, but it was an interesting point to me. Usually our dominant hand is the one that creates the details with the glass, while our less dominant hand turns the mandrel.

So let's look at this cute little blackbird. In one of Fiona's earlier conversations with me, she mentioned that she was happy with the bigger body and smaller head with the hole running through both. She liked the beak okay, but she said, "the wings defeat me". So here was my first email coaching that I sent back to her:

"Wings are like painting on commas with a thick stringer, depending on the size of your bead. I heat a gather of glass, make the connection at the main point where the wings will connect and then with one swoop, make a slightly curved wing with that hot glass. the rest of the body is relatively cool, so it doesn't come along for the ride. You might look here for an example,
You can see where I pressed down at the widest part and then pulled up into a point. I used a striped cane, so I would have some contrast between the bird body and the wings. The easiest way to do it is having enough glass in your hot gather for a big swish."

As you all can see, Fiona used a two donut shape approach to her bird body. One larger donut shape for the body and then a smaller one on top. I think it's cute and chubby this way. Next time, Fiona might want to consider adding another large dot on the lower back side to give it a little more bird booty shape in the back. I tend to add more glass in the back for back feathers. You need to decide what shape you want the tail to take. If you're doing a small tail, I add on more glass in a small "smile" shape and lay on a couple layers of it. Then I heat up just that glass, and use my pliers to shape it into extended tail feathers. Because it's a mass that is warm, you can pull it out a bit too, to give it more shape.

Make sure you know where your face will be, as this type of bead usually has a front, whether you plan it or not. Sometimes it just looks better when you inspect it.

Now for the face. It looks like Fiona used the same color as the beak and feet for the eyes. I understand that blackbirds have yellow eyes, but perhaps you might consider using a slightly lighter yellow next time for more contrast. I think your beak is great for the first time. Sometimes people make them rather pointed like in real life, but then it's harder for you to wear, as you don't want it too sharp and poking you. You might have it stand out a little more horizontally next time if you prefer that look. If it's hard to do, then try making one large dot and let it cool a bit then reheat the tip and pull it out with your yellow rod and hold it in place until it cools and you can gently break off the tip of the rod. Then flame heat the beak just a touch to get any remaining glass marks off of it.

Because we're chatting about more birds tomorrow, Fiona's penguins, we'll just touch on the feet for a minute. You have a couple of options here. I think that these are great for a first try. It's hard figuring out where you want to place them, (on the bottom directly under the eyes is a great way to "spot" where to put them). But perhaps you might have wanted to make them a larger dot, gently flatten them a bit with your marver from the bottom and either use your scissors to cut them a little or tweezers to give them a little more shape like bird feet. These are wonderful for the first try.

For those of you who want to try a bird and keep it even easier. Perhaps you might want to try this method.

Marcy's Simple Bird Tutorial

1. Make a good sized donut shaped bead. This will be the body of the bird.
2. Make a medium sized dot on the top shoulder of the bead (this will be the head)
3. Make another medium sized dot on the top shoulder directly on the opposite side of the bead and that mass of glass will become the tail.
4. While keeping the bead warm, add two simple black dot eyes on the head. If you are using a dark base bead, then you want to do a first tiny layer of white, and gently marver that down, so it's round and gets chilled into shape. After it's set, you can add the dark black mini dots on top of it. Keep the black pupils small.
5. Flip the bead over to the tail and warm up just that dot. Gently squish that glass with your pliers or tweezers first in the middle and then on either side of the first squish. As you squish, lift or drop the tail a bit in the direction that you want. Often I lift it up and pull it out a bit.
6. Still keeping your bird warm, make a medium gather of a coordinating glass rod color and make that comma motion that I mentioned on body of the bird where the wing would go. I always work on my less dominant side first. So when you repeat it on your "easier" side, you can match it up and feel more coordinated while doing it.
7. Add two dots of "feet" color under the body towards the front. Gently flatten them so they just peek out and give the hint that they exist, but aren't a major focal point on it.
8. Now the beak. Take your beak color- often I use a contrasting neutral- brown, ivory or black, and place a dot in the center part of the head. I let it sink in well and then reheat and gently pull it out with a small stringer of the same color. I gently pull the stringer off and reheat just the very point to get it in the right.
• • • • • • • • • • • •

Check back tomorrow for Fiona's penguins. You'll be amazed at her progress between the first and the second one. And please, leave some comments for Fiona. I think she deserves huge kudos for volunteering to be the first one coached and for her fabulous first sculptural bead.

And to see both of my easy online tutorials together, I have made a simple bird sitting on a cactus bead. It's here: