Live Transformations of Glass into Art


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

The Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums hosted live demonstrations of glass beadmaking, offered by Julia Lukosaitis of Bedazzled by Julz, to showcase the transformation of glass into art. 

Lukosaitis melted a white glass rod onto a glass bead and poked and traced the bead to create a raised pattern. 

“You can leave it raised in a 3-Dimensional type-bead or you can melt it down,” she said, and then melted the freshly elevated white patterns flat to the bead, live and against an open torch flame. She used an arm rest for the hand that was still. “It really helps a lot for the steadiness,” she explained.

Lukosaitis explained the important history of glass beads and that people who once “set out to discover the world traveled with a lot of glass beads for barter to trade” for food and clothing. Additionally, during the Fur Trade, beads were used to trade for beaver pelts.

Viewing participants asked about how the eye-drawing colors are incorporated into the glass. Lukosaitis explained that “the color was already added in the glass rod,” when she purchased it. “It’s the minerals that they add into the glass that give each glass rod its color,” Lukosaitis added. 

Then Lukosaitis asked for anyone’s favorite color. One participant replied, “Purple.” Lukosaitis explained that the mineral added to the glass that gives it its purple color is manganese dioxide. 

She clarified that the mineral is added to clear glass during a very hot process that reaches 2,600 degrees. The minerals are added, which simply melt into the glass. “And then they just kind of stir it like a big pot of soup,” Lukosaitis said. To collect and form the melted glass into rods, a gathering rod is used to pull some of the colored glass out of the pot. Then, a metal rod is placed on the descending half of the glass goop to stretch the glass out into rods. 

These rods are then cut into six-foot segments, which is the length at which Lukosaitis purchases them. She then cuts the rods up using a stained glass cutter to size them down to fourteen inches each.

Lukosaitis has been working with glass for 23 years, and her favorite part of glasswork is working with beads. She said, “The beads are my first love. I think it’s because there’s so many different directions to go with it.” There are also many different techniques to try with beadmaking. “Beadmaking is like a lot of hobbies; I mean, I’ll never learn it all. There’s so much to do and learn. It’s fun,” she explained. 

The live beadmaking presentation included previously made glass work, such as orange, white and yellow layered glass that formed a triangle-shaped candy corn, necklaces with glass intricately melted into fine-lined designs and blown glass that formed beautifully translucent ornaments of different shapes and colors. 

Lukosaitis described how the glass ornaments were made. A blowing tool was put onto the end of the glass tubing. When she blew into the glass it either expanded in order to create a circular ornament or stretched to create an icicle ornament. Lukosaitis explained the movement of making an icicle and said, “It’s just a straight pull and then sometimes I like to twist it.” Lukosaitis will be hosting an ornament blowing class in December 2022. Currently, Lukosaitis teaches in Shakerag Alley, Door County, Land o’ Lakes and LaCrosse.