Judith Johnston Lampwork Glass Bead Maker

Hi, I'm Judith Johnston. I design and make artisan lampwork beads and jewellery in my studio based in Hove, England. I have been making jewellery since 1998 and lampwork beads since 2002. What started out as a hobby when my children were very small quickly escalated to a full blown obsession. Over the years I have spent many, many hours at the torch, learning, playing and trying to perfect my techniques. 
I love making glass beads, the joy in making something small, intricate and fragile yet equally strong and durable. I find the play of light on colour, the reflections and the sparkles utterly enchanting and this is what I hope to share with you.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a small village in the heart of Epping Forest in the 60's, surrounded by nature but equally entranced by the bright shiny colours of the time, remember Bewitched and those long strings of beads favoured by hippies? My father was a talented watercolour artist so weekends were spent either roaming in the forest while he sat painting or visiting the galleries and museums in London, a  tube ride away. He taught me how to be still, using all of my senses to notice detail and nuance, to look for layers and hidden treasures. Making beads is a bit like painting with glass, putting down layers and hiding tiny details deep within, just waiting to be found.
lampwork torch flame
Why I Love Lampwork Glass Beads
I love melting glass in a torch flame, for me it's like meditating. Something about the glow of the molten glass, the way it moves like warm honey, trying to read the heat and giving it my full attention so I know when and how to work it and not burn myself - lol!

Molten glass

Glass really does have a mind of it's own, one minute exciting the next infuriating, I can never be entirely sure if something is a success until I open the kiln the next day. The thrill of opening the kiln door and finding something beautiful or unexpected never gets old.

lampwork glass rods from Murano
Lampwork Beads
Art glass beads are created using an ancient technique called lampworking. Rods of glass are melted in the flame using a special torch (the lamp) then the molten glass is wrapped around a thin steel mandrel to form a bead. The bead is made from the centre working out, building layer upon layer with meticulous care and attention to detail. Some of the complex beads can take several hours to complete and often feature inclusions of precious metals, cubic zirconia and murrini - tiny chips of glass containing pictures such as flowers, butterflies and fish.
Glass beads on mandrels
While it is possible to repeat a particular design in molten glass the results will always vary. Some differences in design, shape, size and colour are intrinsic to the glass making process which means that each piece is unique to you and truly one of a kind.
Artisan Jewellery
Once the lampwork beads are annealed, cooled and cleaned they are ready to make into jewellery. Using traditional silversmith techniques I combine precious metals with lampwork beads, gemstones and pearls to create unique glass jewellery. 


floral lampwork bead artisan necklace


To sum up, I absolutely love making glass beads and jewellery, it's by far my favourite thing to do. Do you know what my second favourite thing to do is? Talk about making beads and jewellery, seriously, I'm not even kidding! So any time you have a question or just fancy a chat please email me judith@judithjohnston.co.uk or click here to use my contact form