You remember a while back, when a neighbor kid smashed his mother's car into our tree (no one was hurt) and I made beads from the broken glass? Eventually I used up all that glass and had to find a new supply. I couldn't go around chasing car accidents. That would be creepy. So I went to Taos Auto Glass and the nice guy there gave me three car windows he couldn't identify, and therefore couldn't use. I was prepared to buy them from him, but he didn't want my money. He just told me to go to him is I ever needed a new windshield. That's my kind of deal. I'd give you a link to his website, but he doesn't have one. But hey, if you ever find yourself in Taos with an auto glass need, go see this guy. He's a peach.
So you might think free glass is actually free. I thought so too. But the process of getting glass from window form to bead form turns out to be rather lengthy, as do so many things that start out seeming simple. It's fun though, so I thought I'd show you how I do it. Here we go...
I start with a very clean car window. It has to be a side window because these crumble into nice little bits when they're broken. Windshields have a layer of plastic stuff laminated between two sheets of glass, so they don't break the same way, and would also put off a lot of toxic nastiness when the plastic was melted in the flame. Yuck. So side windows only please, if you decide to send me something.
Next I put an old comforter on the ground, wrap the window in it like a giant burrito, and then give it several good hard whacks with a heavy hammer. The sound is something like bang, bang, poof. The poof is when it finally breaks.
When I unwrap it, it continues to crackle for a while, and little bits pop around like rice crispies. Sort of amusing, at least to me. Then I put my gloves on and put it all in a big plastic bag. Voila! Now I have something I can work with.
The next step is to heat up the kiln and put a little pile of the broken glass inside to preheat for beadmaking.
Once it's all up to temperature, I light the torch, heat a steel mandrel to red-hot, and pick up a small amount of the hot glass with it. I heat it in the torch for a while, and shape it into a longer rod shape that's more suitable to make beads with. About now I start to look at all the ready made glass rods on my table, and wonder why I'm going to all this trouble...
But this is where it gets easy. Time to make beads! I usually put three on a mandrel, and will get maybe two mandrels full before I need to heat and shape more glass again.
Is it worth it? I think so. Sure, they're just simple beads, but they're beautiful and meaningful too. I like the idea of turning garbage into art, even if it takes a little extra effort. I've read that broken glass symbolizes some sort of breakthrough in our lives. It's not bad luck at all. It's actually good, if you want to be superstitious about it. I do, so I call these Breakthrough Beads.
And yes, I do cut myself when I'm doing this. Often. But we have an old saying in the beadmaking world...
You will get cut.
You will get burned.
Become a lampworker.