“Julia’s the patient one here, she keeps me mellow,” says Howell. Whereas Howell likes to make large, landscape glass pictures because there “is more room for error” as she says, Tachihara thinks that the glass works easier when it’s small.
She added that Tachihara has a core group of fans who come in seeking certain types of animal beads. Tachihara named her business “My Froggie Beads” because being a native of the Redwoods she has always interested in frogs and that was the first thing she experimented with in her bead-making.
However, now her favorite type of animal bead to make is an owl. “Owls don’t have to be their true colors,” she says of how the glass can change color when completed. Next to the owl, Tachihara points out a beautiful acorn bead, made with a copper wire end and a real acorn cap that’s been shellacked to keep its form.
Tachihara began doing glass art in the 1970’s, starting with custom glass and mosaics then learned glass fusing and bead-making. “I’ve always been interested in glass, it’s fascinating,” she says. “Stained glass is like putting together a puzzle. You can cold work (glass), cut it, polish it, fuse it together,” Tachihara adds.
Creating beads for over 15 years, Tachihara says that it’s nice to have Howell’s art studio to work from. She then turns on the propane tank and sits down at a work area, showing me how to make a bead.
First, we put on glasses that act as filters to be able to see through a flame. Then she turns on the torch and adjusts the oxygen to get a clean-burning, efficient flame. Then she takes a steel mandrel and a rod of glass, holding them both over the flame and wrapping the glass around the rod, constantly turning and “helping it fight gravity” says Tachihara.
Winding the glass around the mandrel, the glass molts at 1500 degrees and turns into a bright orange ball around the rod. Tachihara heats it up slowly (and the tools that she uses to morph it) so that the glass doesn’t get shocked and break. She shapes and rolls the bead on a graphite marver, only pulling the glass out of the flame for a few seconds or so.
Glass rods are sold in pounds, with basic colors averaging around $10-$12 a pack. Unique colors can cost up to $90 per lb. She also uses stringers, which are finer pieces of glass used to add a contrasting color to the bead. Once the dots are in place, you can manipulate them into other shapes using scissors, mashers, blade, or rake tools. It’s fascinating to see the bead transform from a glowing orange ball to a brightly colored bead.
Next, the glass goes through annealing- the process of slowly cooling after the object has been formed. Tachihara will place the bead in a blanket (cotton sheets) or in a kiln for a few hours to bring it down to room temperature. After a substantial amount of time cooling, Tachihara puts the rod in water and the bead will loosen and slide off the mandrel.
“I like playing with glass, it’s fun,” says Tachihara. “Sometimes it’s neat to see all of the different things you can do in one bead. I like being able to create and have something in my brain that I can translate into glass,” she says.
“Basically this is a retail store that does demonstrations where people can buy supplies, hang out and make art,” says Howell. Tachihara sells most of her beads at local craft shows listed on her website and also hosts weekly open studios at the 47 Glen Carran location. Tachihara’s back of her business card says it all with the message:
“Like a hobby? Something neat? Make glass beads, they’re so sweet. We’ll give you lessons, we have glass. Just come and take a bead making class. Think of all the compliments you’ll receive when showing friends your handmade beads.”
For more information about how to purchase beads or attend a workshop, visit www.myfroggiebeads.com.