Serving Arizona State University Online Since 1995  Current Issue: Thursday, September 28, 2006





On the runway: Flaming fashion

Glasswork jewelry is red hot

 by Celeste Sepessy
 published on Thursday, September 28, 2006

This necklace made of blown-glass beads is from Nessel’s “Monster Collection.” The beads are meant to look like the skin of a lizard./issues/arts/697941
Photo courtesy of Laurie Nessel
This necklace made of blown-glass beads is from Nessel’s “Monster Collection.” The beads are meant to look like the skin of a lizard.


Laurie Nessel works with temperatures that reach over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a torch, she transforms glass rods into a molten flow and then back into solid form. But this time, the glass is in the shape of a bead or pendant.

But don't feel left out of the loop when it comes to Nessel's magic touch. With a bevy of glassworking classes and workshops offered around the Valley, anyone can learn to make their own glass jewelry.

Nessel, the lead glass instructor at the Mesa Arts Center, teaches beginning flame working. She instructs students how to manipulate glass with a torch to make beads and pendants to use for jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings.

"There is something really magical to watch glass melt in the torch and be able to manipulate it into a multitude of forms, colors and textures," Nessel says. Her classes can be taken for fun or for class credit through a partnership with Mesa Community College.

Similarly, Scottsdale's Metals Edge Studio offers various glass and jewelry classes that range from three hours to eight weeks long.

The studio is co-owned by Carol Berger Taylor and Terri Valencia, an ASU fine arts student.

Valencia, a glass fuser for eight years, says students range from 11-year-olds to senior citizens.

"Glass is a very seductive medium and very hot right now," Valencia says.

And with around 50 classes offered, the studio fulfills the need of everyone, beginners through professionals.

Starting Nov. 1, Valencia will teach a four-week course in beginning glass fusing, the "technique of layering sheets of compatible glass together and firing them in a kiln," Valencia says.

In the class, students will learn the basics and processes of glass fusing.

"Glass rods are melted in the flame and wrapped around a steel mandrel to make beads," she says.

Next, students can add embellishments like dots, fine threads of glass called stringers and raking, a technique of pulling a cold tool through hot glass.

The finished products are truly unique pieces, an aspect both Valencia and Nessel say is appealing.

"Students use the beads they make in class to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind jewelry," Valencia says.

Valencia encourages those "looking for a way to express their creativity" to consider glassworking.

"There is something hypnotic about watching glass go from a hard sheet or rod to this material that has the consistency of taffy and flows around a mandrel or fills a mold," she says.

If you go:

Flame-working with Laurie Nessel

Mesa Arts Center

1 E. Main St., Mesa or

for more information

Metals Edge Studio

2200 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Nov. 1 - 22

Wednesdays from 9 a.m. - noon, $200

For information on classes,

(480) 425-0026 or

Reach the reporter at

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