While I was visiting the Best Bead Show in Tucson this year, I happened to see a small booth set up near the entrance to the show, full of some of the most mesmerizing lampwork glass beads that I have ever seen! The young woman behind the counter was happy to talk to me about the glass beads she and her husband made, and on my way out of the show, I made sure to stop and buy an amazing lampwork glass pendant.
|The pendulum hollow glass bead that I purchased in Tucson from Beau Barrett.|
The mesmerizing lampwork glass was created by Shani Barrett and her husband Beau, of Evolving Creations. And once I found them on Etsy and eBay, I realized that it would be hard to stop myself from adding to my collection of lampwork glass beads with items from their studio! As it turns out, I'm not alone — Beau and Shani seem to be the best-kept secret in stunning modern lampwork glass beads and pendants, and several of my friends told me that they've been collecting Beau and Shani's work for a few years now.
|Looking like a cross between an ancient drinking vessel and a UFO, Beau's work uses time-honored glass flameworking techniques.|
Beau's beads and pendants are done with borosilicate glass and are mostly blown, hollow pieces. The pendulum pendant that I purchased in Tucson is actually a hollow piece, precisely decorated with dots and spirals on the tip, and the second piece that I purchased from their Etsy shop is another hollow glass bead, decorated with more dots and swirl of fiery red, orange and deep yellow glass. Beau says that he enjoys taking glass techniques from antiquity and using them to create miniature works of glass art. He and Shani both look to their past work when they are trying to move forward with their designs. For them, the design process is always evolving, hence the reason for their business name: Evolving Creations.
So what I wanted to know was how did this amazing beadmaking duo meet and decide to dedicate their life to glass?
Beau learned how to braze metal from his father when he was ten, so working with a torch was something that just felt natural to him. Then one day he was at a friend's house where they were making some simple glass beads wound on a mandrel using a single-fuel torch. It didn't take long for Beau to realize that he could earn money for glass and supplies by selling his beads and pendants.
A few years later, Shani and Beau met while working at the Truckee River Rafting Company just after they both graduated high school. They spent their summer "getting tan, carrying rafts, and sending fun-loving folks down the Truckee river", according to Beau. Two year later, they were living together and Shani was trying to decide whether to go back to college when she decided to set up a torch. Shani took to the lampwork immediately, and it was then that the two decided to go out on a limb and become full-time lampwork glass artists.
|Shani's beads, with their precise dot placement, seem to glow from within.|
Shani's beads use a lot of reduction glass to get beads that look like they've been fumed with silver or gold. Her precise dot placement is the result of placing millions of those little glass dots over the years. Her recent series of focal Mala Beads uses exactly one hundred and eight dots per bead to honor the Buddhist prayer bead strands. The number "108" is deemed to be the most auspicious, as it reflects a perfect three-digit multiple of three. The Mala Beads were born by chance one evening in the workshop, and Shani now sells many of these amazing glass bead creations through Evolving Creations' eBay listings.
Starting out as new business owners, Beau admits that their only strategy was "make more beads". And while he wouldn't recommend their approach to everyone who wants to make lampwork glass beads for a living, things seem to be working out for the two of them. They list most of their glass beads and pendants on eBay, list a few of them in their Etsy shop, and have recently started traveling to some of the major bead shows. Over the years, they've built up a loyal customer base for which they are very thankful, and they are always looking for ways to adapt to the changing economy.
Even more astounding to me is that they are the parents of a young son, and have made the decision to work from home while choosing to forgo outside child care. It's always a challenge to get in the time they both need at the torch and in the office, but they manage their workdays with both grace and good humor.
|Beau's mesmerizing swirled glass pendants.|
For Shani and Beau, "the beads are a vehicle and a message, all in one. They bring attention so we can share our love. Beads bring people together in a mode of joy and inspiration. They add to or even seed their creative visions with our beads. When worn, they can act as a catalyst for human interaction."
Their attitude towards their work and their life comes through in the glass beads they create. Holding my latest acquisition from them in my hands (a silky opal-colored glass, fumed with gold and decorated with tiny black and large deep ruby bumps), I can feel a certain soothing sense of peace. It might be the perfectly annealed surface of the glass, or the smooth surface of each large red glass bump. The handmade lampwork glass beads from Beau and Shani's Evolving Creations studio seem to know that they are, in fact, destined for something great.