I’ve had some success “painting” birds on lentil shaped beads, using fine stringers to lay down dots and stripes of color. My initial attempts were inspired by my niece, Sydney. As a class assignment she wrote an excellent essay about a young schoolgirl, told from the point of view of a chickadee. I was impressed by her inventiveness, so when thinking about a birthday present for her I decided to try to “paint” her a chickadee in glass. A lentil shaped bead would give me enough room to work with, so I downloaded some photos and decided on a simple composition with the bird perched on a branch with berries.
After studying chickadee photos for a while I realized that the body is almost spherical, which I could create with a large off-white flattened dot, adding darker grey stripes for the wing primaries and tail, and then a smaller offset dot of black for the head. Then I could add a small dot of white, heat it and pull it to a point to form the triangular white patch. The final touch would be to heat the edge of the black dot and use a glass point to pull a very slight point for the tiny bill.
Easy in theory, but it took six or seven attempts to get one I was happy with. Before making any beads I blended custom stringers for the branch, the berries, and the various greys in the wings and tail, and blended ivory and white to get a cream colored stringer for the sides of the breast. I realized quickly that I needed to use “intense black” (Frantz 591066) for the head dot, because the standard Effetre black I used on the first bead is actually a very dark purple, which was apparent (and inappropriate) in the finished bead. I also struggled with stringer and dot placement, which has a powerful impact on the proportions of the birds. One promising bead cracked while I spent too much time working on the details of the bird. Heat control is a constant challenge when working with anything more complex than a simple donut, because a large mass of soft glass will crack if it cools too quickly, and especially if it cools and is then reheated. Even a simple donut shape will explode if you let it cool a bit and then put it back in the flame.
And to top it off, I didn’t get decent photos of the best bead before I sent it to Sydney! Several others I made at the time are pictured below, some I’m happy with, and others that will go in the “junk pile”.
I enjoyed this process, and have had requests for other songbirds since then, so I’ll be working on my methods. Thanks for the inspiration Sydney!