Meet the Designer - Grace Ma of Grace Lampwork

Grace Lampwork Beads

Grace Lampwork Beads offers amazing handmade glass lampwork beads that immediately catch the eye, whether they are used in jewelry or sitting on a bead mat, waiting to be used. Grace Ma, the founder of Grace Lampwork Beads and a self-taught lampworker, says, “With my beads, you can turn them into a piece of beautiful unique jewelry. There is too much similarity in the commercial world. My unique lampwork beads will show off your own character and personality, and this will make you feel good.”

Grace Ma of Grace Lampwork Beads and Artbeads Chief Jewelry Designer Cynthia Kimura at the 2018 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

It’s true that each Grace Lampwork bead is unique. Each one is brimming with exquisite details that are filled with mesmerizing colors. Care is put into making each one with a strict quality control process. Grace’s team anneals all of the beads overnight to ensure a better strength. This means you can add these incredible beads to all kinds of jewelry designs, from bracelets and necklaces to dangling earrings.

Peacock and Lily Beads

Just looking at these beads inspires! Each one tells a story that makes you want to start creating something special. Our designers love incorporating the beauty of Grace Lampwork Beads into their jewelry designs. There are so many ways you can showcase them in your projects. Today we’re sharing some ideas to help you use any of our Grace Lampwork items in your designs. We also had the chance to ask Grace Ma some questions about what inspires her as an artist. Read on to explore the beauty of Grace Lampwork.

Color Inspiration with Grace Lampwork Beads

Crystal Lime and Majestic Blue Color Party

Before we dive into jewelry inspiration, let’s take a look at the inspiring colors of Grace Lampwork Beads. The colors on these beads are truly enchanting, whether they feature swirls of glittering hues, stripes of solid colors, or colorful scenes of nature like the Dandelion Wishes bead at the center of this Color Party. Cynthia took inspiration from the airy blue and grass green colors of this bead and paired them with other beads that match perfectly.

Using Grace Lampwork in Jewelry

You may have noticed that Grace Lampwork beads feature larger stringing holes. This allows you to use them in a multitude of ways and our designers certainly have. They of course work wonderfully with leather and silk ribbon. Take a look at these jewelry ideas to see other ways to incorporate these artisan beads into your projects.

One way to make sure these beads are stabilized on something like jewelry wire is to use BeadAligners. These little caps fit onto the ends of your large-hole beads and help them stay in line with other beads on the strand that feature smaller stringing holes. Cynthia used them with some gorgeous Grace Lampwork beads in her sleek On the Metro necklace. You don’t have to use BeadAligners, though. Cynthia used the same beads from the necklace in her Sophisticated Urbanite bracelet and strung them loose onto the strand along with TierraCast love knot spacers. The result is a contemporary style that’s full of movement and mesmerizing texture and patterns.

You can also use other beads to ensure your Grace Lampwork items remain steady on whatever stringing material you’re working with. Cheri used 3mm Czech glass round beads on either side of the focal Grace Lampwork bead in her Autumn Afternoon bracelet. With the beads nested just outside of each end of the stringing hole, the lampwork bead is kept nicely in place on the strand. She used the same technique in her Giverny jewelry set, using crystal bicones and pearls to help keep the lovely Grace Lampwork Arctic Blue Floral beads in place. Gemstone beads also help keep the colorful Rio de Janeiro beads stable on head pins in Cheri’s Carnivale earrings.

Learn more about Grace Ma

We always enjoy working with Grace Lampwork beads and we wanted to learn more about the artist behind these lovely creations, Grace Ma. We were able to ask Grace some questions about how she makes her beads, what inspires her, and other fun facts. Read her answers to learn more about this amazing artist.

How did you get started making lampwork beads?

It was in 2002, and I was visiting my sister in San Diego. She brought me to Balboa Park where I saw someone make lampwork beads on a torch for the first time. I was fascinated by the pattern, and techniques. I bought some beads and came back to the Bay Area. I searched for classes and stores. At that time, there were no YouTube videos, and I couldn’t find a class nearby.  Fortunately, there was a glass supply store close by. Then I bought some books, a starter kit, a hot head torch, video tapes, and then started to make my own beads. I pulled out a cutting board in my apartment, put a stainless sheet on it, and lit up my torch. My husband looked at me, worried and warning me, “Do not burn the apartment!”

What’s the process for making a lampwork bead? How long does it take? (You don’t have to give us any bead making secrets!)

Set up the torch on the table. Hold a piece of glass rod in one hand (like holding a pencil), and hold a mandrel (a stainless steel string) in the other hand. Introduce the tip of the glass rod into the flame slowly. Be careful at this step because the glass rod could shatter, and the hot pieces could fly everywhere if you heat the glass too quickly.

When the tip of the glass rod starts to melt, wind the melted glass onto the mandrel. Melted glass looks very similar to honey. You need to keep rotating the mandrel so that the glass will form a rondelle shape bead on the mandrel. When the glass is hot, you can change shape, add layers of different colors, and twist or create textures.

What are your essential tools?

I use a Minor torch, which uses propane and oxygen. Mandrels, on which you wind the melted glass and some copper shaping tools and copper presses to change the bead’s shape.

What are some of your other hobbies?

I love drawing and painting. I’m self taught, too. I did a few pencil sketches for my family and friends. When I draw, I forget the time. One night, I started to draw at 11pm, and, after a while without any breaks, it was already 5am. I want to spend more time on painting. Below are two portraits I drew. (One is my husband, another is a friend’s daughter). I recently just replaced our dining chairs’ cushions with cow hides. My hobby is not limited to a single activity; it is taking on challenges, finding a solution, being hands on, creative, and solving the problem. I really enjoy the whole process.

Sketches of Grace’s husband and a friend’s daughter

Favorite color?

I love all of the colors. There are no ugly colors, there are only not-good color combinations.

Favorite animal?

Horse. My last name, Ma, means horse in Chinese. Maybe that’s the reason why I pay more attention to horses. I love dogs, cats, birds, and all kinds of animals. We’ve been debating for five years whether or not we should have a dog. I just can’t commit the time and responsibility. So, we got a kitten in April. Her name is Pepper.

What inspires your creations?

Everything. As long as I see something that has a beautiful color combination or pattern, I’ll take a picture. I have a flower bead inspired from a skirt, a black bird bead inspired from a curtain catalog, and a sunset bead from an oil painting. The beauty of the glass colors guides me too.

What keeps your creativity flowing?

I think the glass colors are like music notes. There are endless combinations in music, and the same goes for the glass colors. Playing with glass in the flame, you always can discover some surprising results like a child digging in the sand, picking up sea shells. It’s so fun. There’s a curious girl living in my heart. I just let her do whatever she wants, set her free, and let her have fun. Also, I ask my customers what they want. Always listen to your customers, they never go wrong.

There are so many wonderful ways to create with Grace Lampwork Beads and we love exploring the possibilities and learning more about the designer behind them. Make sure to shop our selection of these expressive works of art and keep your eye on our website to see what’s new from Grace Lampwork. If you’ve made something with these beauties, please leave a product review on our website. You can also tag us on Instagram. We love seeing what you come up with and you could even be featured on our social media outlets. Have fun creating with Grace Lampwork!