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Are you Twisted?
(or the long promised tutorial on Twisty Beads)

This is a very fun style to make. The process is quite simple, exploiting a distortion effect from a trail of clear glass coiled around a base bead. I'm excited to see the variety of color in the beads made using this tutorial, because the base bead is entirely up to you! Feel free to contact me with questions.

Step 1
Make a base bead in just about any style. For first practice beads at least, avoid colors that tend to bleed into surrounding colors. Though the “twisty” look will be easy to achieve with softer base colors, you may end up with colors bleeding underneath the final encasing, which usually doesn’t look so great. Many of the transparent Effetre colors work well, since they tend to be a little more firm in the flame than many Effetre opaques. I usually start with a base bead shape that is longer than wide, though I’ve done round shapes as well. For this particular bead I chose a base of transparent grey, covered in silver foil. After burnishing and then burning off the foil, I added a number of colors of reduction frit and melted them in.

Step 2
Heat a rod of clear in the flame. I use Lauscha clear, and its viscosity helps with keeping an even trail when making the bead. Holding the bead below the flame and the clear in the flame, lightly "catch" the rod of clear on the end of one bead and trail a long spiral of clear around the bead. Keep the base bead cool and the clear hot. Keep the trail as uniform in thickness as possible (this is a great exercise for heat control). Make sure that the trail doesn’t touch the previous coil of clear; this is important in maintaining the “twisty” part of the bead! However, I find the effect works best if the coils are fairly close together. Otherwise, instead of sharper ridges, the finished bead will have more of a spiraled “plateau” look (this can be neat too, but I like the sharp ridges better).
FYI: I use the end of the mandrel to wipe off any bubbly or scummy ends of clear rods.

Step 3
Repeat Step 2, directly over the previous trail of clear. The idea in doing this is to have thick ridges of clear so you can get a good distortion effect (this also helps to create sharp ridges and prevent “plateaus”). Working from one end of the bead to the other, melt in the clear spiral. Keep the entire bead in the flame (rather than just the coil), since the idea is to get the clear to melt into the bead and allow the base color to “bleed” in between the coils of clear.

Step 4
After melting in the clear, gently shape your bead to even out ends and get your desired shape. Cool slightly, and encase the bead, taking care not to smear the thin ridges of color you’ve formed in Step 3 (this is where it helps to use “stickier” base colors). I use a stripe encasing, running the clear parallel to the mandrel. I make one stripe of clear and add more stripes on either side to prevent any single area from getting too hot. Melt in the encasing, and gently marver to restore shape. I messed up the encasing on one end of this bead, so my “quick fix” was to add encaps in cobalt blue transparent glass.

Step 5
Using mashers, flatten the bead. This helps to make the “twisty” effect even more pronounced, by emphasizing the distortion effect from clear. Ensure that you’ve evenly flattened the bead. Remove any stress marks in the flame. Give the bead a final flame polish, and pop the twisty bead into the kiln.

And the finished piece:

© 2004-2005 Margaret Zinser
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