I Made the Beads: How I Started Making Glass Beads 24 Years Ago

Faux Opals Necklace by Janice Peacock

Faux Opals Necklace by Janice Peacock

Oftentimes when I’m wearing jewelry that I’ve made, I’ll get a compliment about it. Sometimes I simply thank the person, but if I’m ready to have a conversation about my personal adornment, I’ll say something like, “Oh, these beads? I made them.” Which usually leads to a myriad of questions like, “How do you make glass beads?”

That was a question I asked myself nearly twenty-four years ago. I had made a charm bracelet with beads I’d bought at a local shop but was disappointed in what I had to choose from. As I looked at the beads dangling from the chain around my wrist, I wondered who made them—and how.

This was 1992, and those of us of a certain age remember that there was a time when there was no internet, no Google, and certainly no Facebook page about lampwork beads. I was left with a telephone and a lot of perseverance to complete my research. The first person I called said I needed a glass furnace that runs 24/7, holds several pounds of glass, and costs thousands of dollars a month to run. That was not an option for me. The next person I found said he could teach me how to fuse glass in a kiln—sort of high-temperature cooking-baking, only with glass. This would have made a lot of flat things, plates and tiles and such, which was not what I wanted to make.

Finally, after many phone calls, I found a studio in Oakland, CA, just a few miles from my house. The studio owner was bringing in a guest instructor from Washington state. He was going to teach a class on how to make beads using a torch to melt glass. When I showed up at class, I had no idea was to expect. I watched, mesmerized, as the teacher melted a brightly colored rod of glass with his 2,000 degree torch. While the glass was molten he wrapped it around a thin metal wire and sculpted it. When the glass was cool, he removed the metal wire and a hole remained—a bead!

This was what I wanted to do.

As soon as I sat down at a torch to try it for myself, as soon as I melted my first piece of glass, I knew there was no turning back. I was hooked. I made a dozen beads that weekend, all lumpy, and all my own personal works of glass art.

I went on to buy a torch of my own, and over the years I have made thousands beads and created one-of-a-kind jewelry with them. There have been times when I’ve done other things creatively: knitted, worked in clay, and made quilts. Most recently, I wrote a couple of books (with more to come) about a glass beadmaker who solves murders in between firing up her torch to melt some glass. (You can learn more about the books in the Glass Bead Mystery Series at www.janicepeacock.com.)

But I always return to glass because it is my passion. And that’s why, when the moment is right, and a random stranger asks me about the colorful necklace I’m wearing, I’ll often say:

Thanks, I made the beads.

This article was originally posted at Cozy Up with Kathy on February 7, 2016.

A Bead in the Hand, Book Two in the Glass Bead Mystery Series

A Bead in the Hand by Janice Peacock

A Bead in the Hand by Janice Peacock

I’ve spent so much time talking about High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery that I’ve not spent enough time talking about the next book in the Glass Bead Mystery Series—A Bead in the Hand. Everyone who read High Strung has been eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, myself included. After self-publishing High Strung, and then re-releasing it with Booktrope as my publisher, A Bead in the Hand has been waiting in the wings, impatiently I might add. Now, finally, book two in the Glass Bead Mystery Series is ready to be released into the world.

The first thing you should know about A Bead in the Hand is that it’s the first novel I ever wrote—but it’s not the first one I published. The first time I sat down and said, “I’m going to write a novel,” I had the plot of A Bead in the Hand swirling around in my head. In October of 2012 I started writing as part of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo. If you’d like to learn more about NaNoWriMo, visit nanowrimo.org.) In a nutshell: People from all over the world commit to writing 50,000 words in one month. Each person – not all of us together.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that NaNoWriMo was in November not October. I worked for a couple of weeks on my book before I realized I was writing during the wrong month. I was already so far along with the manuscript that I thought: what the heck, I’ll just write my book anyway. And I did! I completed 30,000 words that month. Most of those words were what ultimately became A Bead in the Hand. Writing in October was a great warm-up for what came next.

Since I’d committed to NaNoWriMo I decided I’d write a second book during November. So, the following month I wrote High Strung, making it all the way to the end of the month and writing 50,000 words. After completing High Strung, I realized it should be the first book in the series because it takes place in Seattle where Jax, Tessa, and Val live. I thought it was better to learn about the characters on their home turf. In A Bead in the Hand Jax and Tessa travel to Portland for a bead bazaar.

A bead bazaar turns bizarre when jewelry designer and glass beadmaker Jax-2It took me a couple of years to finish High Strung, all the while A Bead in the Hand has been marking its time, ready and waiting. And now its time has come.

A Bead in the Hand will be released on December 5th. You can pre-order the ebook on Amazon right now using this link.


On December 5th, you’ll be able to purchase the paperback edition and the ebook editions on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.



Welcome, October

Some people don’t like Mondays. Me? I don’t like Octobers. I have my reasons.

The first was a car crash fourteen years ago when my Jeep was flung from the freeway after a car hit it. The jeep, my daughter and mother with me, rolled over a couple times, landing in a field at the bottom of an embankment. We were banged up a little, okay, maybe a lot, but we survived the experience. A CHP officer said at the time he was surprised that there had been no fatalities given the extent of the damage to my car.


My husband, in grey with sunglasses, being hoisted into a Blackhawk helicopter.

And then there was what we euphemistically call “the snow adventure.” My husband, father-in-law, and two neighbors were trapped in a snowstorm in the Sierras for several days in October, eleven years back. They were not lost, just unable to hike out from their camping spot. As the days passed, the reporters on my driveway became more aggressive in their pursuit of a quote from me, the soon-to-be-widow. News vans lined our small street. I received calls from the Sheriff, who told me that he couldn’t risk another life by sending someone into white-out conditions to search for my husband. I understood and accepted it, but it was difficult to hear, to say the least.

The men were rescued on a Thursday by a Blackhawk helicopter, which pulled them up on cables to safety high above the valley where they had been hunkered down. They were all fine, but shocked to see the media frenzy that had developed while they were stuck in the snowy wilderness. They survived, and their wives and children, relieved to have them home safely, had survived as well.

Each year, I’ve dreaded the arrival of October, and in the past have celebrated the ending of the month with friends who had also had terrible events occur during those rotten 31 days.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 11.08.28 PM

My new wreath from Target. 20 bucks well spent.

This year has been different. I’ve been excited for this October to arrive. To celebrate, I bought a spooky-silly wreath with eyeballs on it. I’m looking forward to getting my art glass pumpkins out and placing them on the mantle. I’m grateful for this: All of us are here today, having survived some awful experiences. We are alive to enjoy October, in all its autumnal glory.


Want to read about the snow adventure? Here’s a link:


Want an eyeball wreath of your own? Here’s a link:


High Strung is Out, Now Onward and Upward

On Monday September 14th, 2015 my first book, High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery was re-released by Booktrope. Here’s the link to Amazon, go check it out. I’ll wait.

High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery

Here’s a little blurb about the book:

High Strung by Janice Peacock

High Strung by Janice Peacock

After inheriting a house in Seattle, Jax O’Connell is living the life of her dreams as a glass beadmaker and jewelry designer. When she gets an offer to display her work during a bead shop’s opening festivities, it’s an opportunity Jax can’t resist—even though Rosie Perez, the store’s owner, is the surliest person Jax has ever met.
The weekend’s events become a tangled mess when a young beadmaker is found dead nearby and several oddball bead enthusiasts are suspects. Jax must string together the clues to clear her friend Tessa’s name—and do it before the killer strikes again.

I self-published High Strung in 2014. At the time, I was deliriously happy with my accomplishment and the reception the book had received. I hoped that I’d eventually find a publisher, but figured that would take years.

Last spring the stars aligned just right and I found a publisher that wanted me.  I recounted that story a few months back on this blog. There’s an even better version of the story on the Book Country Blog, where I was honored to be featured on my book’s launch day.


Do I get to rest on my laurels? (What a funny phrase—a laurel branch poking me in the bum—no thank you. But I digress.) There’ll be no rest for the weary as my Booktrope team and I shift into high gear to release the next book in the Glass Bead Mystery series before the end of the year.

Ohhh…you want to hear about that? Sorry, you’ll have to wait until next time.


Not in Wonderland Anymore


The infamous Deb Crowley and yours truly.

My head continues to swirl with ideas even days after Glass Stock has ended.  This year’s theme at Glass Stock was Alice in (Glassy) Wonderland, and last weekend was indeed a world of glassy wonder. A huge thanks to Deb Crowley, the mastermind behind Glass Stock.  She has created something beautiful—a collaborative environment for teaching and learning.

On Sunday, there were just a few events before we left for home.  With a gung-ho attitude I jumped behind a torch to do an elimination round.  What the heck is that, you may ask?  Basically, everyone gets a bag of mystery glass and a theme and then all the contestants have 20 minutes to make a small sculpture. The artists with the best sculptures move on to the next round, everyone else gets the boot. We all opened our bags and dumped out the contents. A tube, a rod, and a couple bits of color. It was all borosilicate glass— not my speciality. Although I do have some secret boro skills, they have not been used for many years.  Oh, and we could only use three tools to sculpt our masterpiece.  Our theme was “what grown-ups should not wear.”

I created a weird looking head with a blue mohawk (adults should not have mohawks, unless they are named Gremlin.) On the face of this lumpy head, I added a patch over one eye (adults should not wear eye patches like pirates unless they are named Dale Chihuly). This strange figure had a long, bizarre nose, nearly a chicken’s beak.  And, no, adults should not wear them.


Housemates: Donna, Leslie, (me!), Kris, Felicia, and Jennifer.

It’s probably no surprise that I did not make it to the next round in the elimination contest.  Those who moved on had such masterpieces as “The Mullet” and “Superman Underwear.” There were other entries that were, how shall I say…less suitable for my PG-13 blog posts, so we’ll just leave those to your imagination.


A gathering of plastic animals, sad to see the fate of their friend the gecko who apparently is soaking in vodka.

I made some terrific new friends during Glass Stock.  I especially enjoyed getting to know my housemates, and wished I wasn’t such a wimp that I needed at least 7 hours of sleep in order to be a functioning member of society.  Otherwise, I’d have stayed up to the wee hours with them.  We did discover who the trickster was. She continued leaving small toys in our bedroom over the long weekend.

Jennifer and I blasted home on Sunday, doing the long 8-hour drive all the way through, trading off driving duties every couple of hours.  I was happy to be home, back in my own Wonderland, ready to try some new things in my studio. Ready to play.

Two Fun Bracelets, Too Much Fun


Some of the fantastic bracelets made by students in my class.

We had another fabulous day at Glass Stock.  I started the day teaching a class I called  (not very creatively,) “Two Fun Bracelets,” in which we made, uh, two fun bracelets. One of the bracelets, called Ephemera, is a black stretchy cuff made of a series of small frames. You add pictures to each tiny frame before placing lenses on top of each image. I was impressed with the bracelets that my students made and am inspired to make more of my own jewelry in this style. That’s one of the best things about teaching—I am inspired by the work of my students, and learn at least as much from them as they learn from me.


Two Fun Bracelets class

The other bracelet I showed my students was called the Sprout. It looks a little like a furry beaded caterpillar. The students and I had fun choosing the perfect whimsical color combinations of seed beads that complemented the colors in their handmade glass beads which are part of the clasp for their pieces.

Today was the last day of classes. It’s been an exhausting experience here at Glass Stock.  I admit that I took a short nap in the car this afternoon, after I realized that I couldn’t focus anymore and found myself falling asleep during one of the classes I was really looking forward to taking.  Forutnately, after my brief snooze, I was able to come back to class and finish my project.

In yesterday’s post IIMG_0021 mentioned that I’d hit one of my glass beads with a hammer and shattered it while trying to complete a ring.  I finally had a chance to finish that piece and I love it! Here’s an image of my silver ring in aqua and transparent green, and Jennifer’s in orange and lime green.

One of the final events of the day included a drawing for each other’s beads.  I won a fantastic sea horse sculpture made by Donna Prunkard.  It was my lucky night!  I alsIMG_0022o won a beautiful paperweight, but we’re not sure who made it. I’m hoping we’ll be able to solve that mystery before we leave tomorrow.  Wait a second—tomorrow! So soon? Glass Stock—it’s been too much fun, but it’s time to return to reality

Riveted Rings, Felted Flowers, and Wacky Hats


Felicia is teaching us how to make a ring by riveting a handmade glass bead to a silver ring blank.

My second day at Glass Stock started with a class on creating silver rings with glass beads riveted on them, taught by the talented Felicia Warnik. I made some great progress on my rings, but sadly broke one of the beads while hammering on it to set a rivet. Glass beads and hammers do not mix. After crushing that bead, I didn’t have much time to regroup, and will have to work to finish my rings at another time this weekend. I promise to post pics just as soon as I have something to show for all my hard work, other than a pile of rubble.


In the afternoon it was my turn to lead a class about making felted flowers.  We abandoned the windy outdoor area at Cornerstone Glass, where Glass Stock is taking place, and headed to our gorgeous rental house, for a few hours of creativity with wool and beads, while sitting at a stylish dining room table, instead of in a tent in the parking lot. My students and I had fun turning long fluffy pieces of wool into flat coaster-size disks of felt. We rubbed the wool vigorously inside plastic water-filled baggies, then sculpted and embellished the felt into flower shapes. We added pin backs to create perfect little boutonnieres, and had lots of time to play and experiment.

No trip to Eugene is complete with some good local beer and food truck grub.  We headed over to Oakshire Brewery for a pretty damn good pilsner and a pizza from the food truck parked outside the pub, before wandering back for the evening’s Glass Stock events.


Jodie McDougall and David Houpt sporting their cool Alice in Wonderland hats…and David went all-out with the full Alice costume.

It was time for the hat contest. I created a hat, a crown, actually, covered in large red heart-shaped glass beads that I had made. It wasn’t bad, but being a newbie, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. It turns out, I should have had a whole costume to go along with the hat. I have tons of costumes and could have had fun pulling something together…perhaps a feather boa, a tiara, and a big pink satin dress…

Like they say, “What happens at Glass Stock, stays at Glass Stock.” Or something like that.  I’ll leave it to you to imagine what else happened tonight, because I’m not telling.


Glass Stock: Stump Suckers and Straight Lines


Jodie McDougall and I tag-teaming a mini-paperweight. I’m pre-heating the flower components while Jodie melts the clear glass.

I started my first day at Glass Stock with a class led by Jodie McDougall who was teaching how to create a mini glass paperweight. We started by making some small flower petals out of glass, and assembling them into a flower. Then we placed the little flower in a vacuum chamber, called a Stump Sucker.  (If you know the inventor, Loren Stump, this makes sense.)  Now things get tricky.  While you are heating the clear glass in a torch that will encapsulate your flower, someone else takes a torch and pre-heats your little flower.  Then you drop the molten glass onto your flower setup while sucking the air out of the vacuum chamber with a rubber hose (yes, you do suck).  It’s tag-team glass working at its finest.


JC Herrell with glass guru Bob Snodgrass. He’s helping her by gripping her arms tightly and jokingly as he tries to guide her.

In the afternoon, I took a class with JC Herrell, who has magic in her hands.  She can make a perfectly straight line in molten glass on a bead.  Heck, I can’t even make a straight line of ink on a piece of paper.  But, I was a trooper—we all were—and by the end of class all of us had made some beads with lines on them.  My lines were a little wonky, but I certainly made progress in using this technique.

I ended the evening by giving a demo on how to make an ancient mask bead and watched a demo on how to make a go
rgeous drinking glass with a geometric flower design in the base.

IMG_0013It’s getting late, and tomorrow is another day full of fun and learning.  I promise another missive from the wild world of glass in Eugene very soon.

On Our Way to Glass Stock


The first night of Glass Stock in Eugene

My beadmaking buddy Jennifer and I spent the last two days wending our way to Eugene, Oregon for an event called “Glass Stock”—several days of classes about melting glass, making beads, using turbo-charged torches, and yes, a little partying.

We spent last night in Ashland and saw a show called “Head Over Heels,” a Shakespearean-style play set to the music of the Go-Go’s.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Watch this space for a review of that show.  I promise to write one.  It will not be pretty.

We find ourselves now in Eugene, tired after a long schlepp and a little shoe shopping in downtown Ashland earlier in the day. We arrived just as the sky opened up and dumped rain on our heads—big, fat drops coming down hard.  I’d forgotten what it’s like to have so much rain fall. We don’t have that happen very often in California.  At all. Ever.

Tonight was the start of Glass Stock, with a kickoff meeting and the first of several days and nights of flame working fun. I hugged many of my beadmaking friends who I don’t get to see often enough, and met some new folks too.  We’re staying in a lovely rental house for this long weekend, and it’s bound to be fun, as it appears there is a trickster among us who left a rubber lizard under my pillow.

I’ll be back soon, as soon as I can turn off the torch and squeeze in some time on my laptop.

My Beads on the Cover of HIGH STRUNG

High Strung Final Cover Booktrope

High Strung’s New Cover

The release of the second edition of High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery is just around the corner. In case you missed it, here’s the new cover. I’m elated with the book’s bright and shiny new look. When I was working with my cover designer, Booktrope’s Greg Simanson, I sent him a picture of glass beads I had made so he could understand what I was talking about when I said I wanted lampworked beads on the cover of the book.

Here’s the image that I sent him. These are beads that I made back in the 1990s. They look quite different from what I make today, that’s for sure. When I saw the cover Greg had created, I was blown away—there they were, perfect renderings of my beads, on the cover of the book!

bead strand 2What’s up next in the world of the Glass Bead Mystery series? The new edition of High Strung will be out on September 14, at all major online retailers in both ebook and paperback formats. I don’t have a link for the book yet, but when I do, I’ll be sure to post it. Meanwhile, I’m working hard on the next book in the series. It’s called A Bead in the Hand. We are shooting for a launch date of sometime in November, just in time for holiday gift giving. Stay tuned for details!

One last thing: I’m having another Facebook Party! If you didn’t make it to the last one (which was smashing success, by the way), then you’ll need to stop in for this one. I’ll have a ton of swag to give away, you don’t want to miss it. The High Strung Launch Party is on Sunday Sept 13 from 10AM to 6PM Pacific time. Here’s the link…let us know that you’re coming.