Jan 25, 2007

I have received many emails over the past years asking how I made those little “barnacle” looking mini-murrinis that I used for the first time in my “Fossil Bead” series. Here are a few pictures, for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about:

Although Pati Walton is claiming to “own” that design I was very hardpressed to find it ever used in one of her beads. As a matter of fact, I learned this type of cane from one of the most generous beadmakers out there, Shirley Cook, who showed it to fellow artists at the first “Glass-Stock” meeting in Oregon several years ago.
A couple of years ago I had a little tutorial about it on my website, it’s no longer on the Dr. Corina page…but just for the curious among you, here is what I wrote BACK THEN:

I had several questions about a little design element I have been using lately – here are some of the original emails I got:

“I just love those fossil murrini and the sea-urchin looking murrini that you’ve been showcasing lately (specifically the sea urchiny guys from today’s auction).    Can you share how you make those?  I’m assuming it’s some variation of a striped cane that is then cut into small pieces, placed on the bead, and then encased.  Any information you can give will be much appreciated!”

this question came from a beadmaker in Germany, who writes in English to me, well, most of the time. Very cute:

“Today I would like to ask you something, what I really would like to know – I like the new design – I call it “Muschel-Design” (Shell-Design) very much – I mean the one you have for example made on the red bead of your new auction – die weissen Kreise mit den bunten Spiralen. (white dots with colored spirals) Would you mind to tell me how you are making this kind of design, …please…?

I already tried something, but I am not completely happy with the result. I made a big blob of glas – then a took some stringers of a second color and placed them around the blob – and then I pulled a new rather thick stringer
from the whole blob….then I use this stringer by turning it a little bit when I placed it on the bead – outcoming is a nice design – but it is not as nice as yours…

Is it the same method as making “Blumen-Stengel” (Stamen) decribed in your book – what would mean that you are making a blob and then you cool down the blob a little bit and cut some inserts (Einkerbungen) in the blob and just place
the stringers of the second color in this inserts…and then you make
stringers from it? Or am I totally wrong with this way?”

The answer to how these are made is actually astonishingly simple!!! There are lots of descriptions on how to make “Murrini” like this in books, and most of them use so-called “Optic molds”, little metal cups into which you drop molten glass to shape them in certain form – to make indentations to lay on the next color. These cups are fairly expensive ($ 80 and up), and they are BIG, even the small ones…so, you spend a lot of time making canes – and you end up having a years worth of a certain pattern. This is a lot simpler to make – it takes me about 5 minutes. Shirley Cook showed me how to do this – and it’s a “Duh” moment for you for sure! All you do is make a little barrel at the end of the rod (it can be even the full rod, if it’s on the thick side” – and then you lay on stripes from stringer  in a contrasting color. I added 8 stripes, here is a picture of the “end piece” of this cane (oh, it’s a black and white one I made, same thing). You can see that you get different sizes of diameter, depending on how you pull….

Now, the SECRET of the look you get is in the application…you see that I snipped it into little pieces, but you can also use the full cane, heat a spot on the bead, push the cane into the glowing spot, and then nip it off about 2-3 mm above the surface of the bead….Melt it down slowly, and once it is soft, but still sticking up, like a mole-mound (Maulwurfshuegel), POKE the center with a tungsten poker! that draws in the lines and gives it the “fireworks” look. If you don’t poke, you will have a single color center – like in the bead right next to the red one – there I added a little dot of blue into the center, to give some more contrast. In the bead on the right of that I placed the cane piece ONTO a larger white dots…which gives it the “rimmed shell” look….If you want to accentuate the shell look – cut the cane a little longer and let it “fold” sideways when melting it…and then poke the hole sideways as well… The very thin stripes in some of the beads are of course made with THE SAME cane! just used like a thick stringer. Pretty cool, hm? So, make some fun cane and show me how you used this simple technique! pictures are appreciated!

So, 2 years later I finally did the Step by Step tutorial for MAKING this kind of cane. I did try the Video, but I ended up with a 400 MB file, and my server doesn’t handle that kind of data, so, until I find a way to downsizing…pictures it will be. Here we go:


1. Build a barrel from DARK IVORY on the end of a thick uncoated mandrel.
1. Build a barrel from DARK IVORY on the end of a thick uncoated mandrel.

2. Roll the gather on a marver to make it into a nice straight barrel/cylinder

One of the important things about this barrel is that it has to be WIDE. Because you are going to place 8 stripes, so, if the barrel is too skinny, you are going to have a hard time placing all the stringer. Of course, you can place less than 8 stripes, but it just doesn’t look as good. Don’t make this barrel too LONG, because then you’ll get a monster gather and it will be hard to pull out.

3. Place the first stringer (I use dark RED BROWN, commercial stringer, which is 2-3mm)

Applying stringer is an art in itself, try to apply it fairly COOL, if it gets really glowy orange it’s too hot, it will get too thin!

4. Place the second stringer exactly opposite from where you place the first stringer. This is very easy if you point the left hand side of the barrel at yourself:

5. Move the barrel from left to right, underneath the flame, gently pushing down the stringer until it goes over the curve towards the center of the barrel….here are a few pictures that illustrate this motion (that’s when I tell my students “move the f…g barrel, NOT the stringer!!!!”

a) start by pointing the left side of the barrel at yourself…

b. hold the barrel fairly straight as you come towards the center…

c. tilt the barrel upwards (the outer side facing towards you) as you fold the stringer over…

d. After having placed the first two stringer, place one in each gap, and then one stringer each in the resulting gaps, so you and up with 8 fairly evenly placed stringer:

6. Keep the barrel warm in the upper part of the flame and heat a clear rod of a larger diameter (10-12 mm). I use Moretti myself, but I know people who prefer Borosilicate….it doesn’t really matter.. when the tip (about 1/4 inch) is really nice an hot, blob it (with force) onto the tip of the barrel, making sure that all the stringer ends are covered…

7. Now all you have to do is the heat up the gather and pull it out. A few “words of wisdom” for heating up a big gather like this: instead of heating it just “straight”, meaning holding it horizontally in front of you and maybe moving it left to right, move it diagonally, so the flame shoots INSIDE of the gather. that will give you a nice even distribution of heat, it is faster, and the surface of your gather doesn’t get all soopy…here are some pictures to illustrate this idea:

8. Once the gather is warm, pull it out gently – you don’t want to pull it too fast, otherwise it will get too thin. Also, try to get a pull in different thicknesses….thinner and thicker, that way you have a variety of Murrini sizes to use.

That’s it for part ONE of the Mini-Murrini…now I will have to show you how to USE it…click on this link: how to APPLY a Mini-murrini