I don’t actually hear this question very often – perhaps people are shy about this as they might think a handmade glass bead seller might be insulted by being asked. I am not insulted tho…..it is an opportunity for some education to take place. So here we go…..
Torch: This piece of equipment is at the center of all lamp working studios and can very well be the most costly item. I have a couple torches for my Borosilicate (Boro) glass work. My favorite all around is my GTT Mirage that sells for around $1800 these days.
Kiln: Love my little kiln but I do need something larger soon. Making beads and small glass jewelry components requires a special kiln with what are called bead doors on the front to easily place your finished pieces into it. It has a special computer controller attached that allows me to run scheduled cycles so that my glass is very strong – in the industry, we call it annealing and it is an extremely important step in the process. Perhaps a topic in another blog at some point. My kiln and controller were approx $1000.
Ventilation: MOST important aspect of any glass studio as you can become very sick and I suppose eventually die from the toxic fumes that come off the glass making process. I have a 10 inch hole cut into the side of my house attached to a powerful fan that is then attached to my large hood that I work under. Cost is well over $500 for the whole set up but I did purchase the hood – you could save a bundle if you fabricated something yourself.
Eye Protection: Crazy important – God gives you just one set of eyes…..seems that doing everything possible to protect them would be a no-brainer. My glasses……about $300! And….they are not prescription. These are what are called didymium lenses and they do much more than just protect from flying glass (yes…..sometimes a concern). The flare coming off the torch when working glass will damage your precious eyes very quickly….especially when working Boro glass as it works crazy hot.
Fuel: My torch runs on Oxygen and Propane – it is called a duel fuel torch. The propane tank I use is just like the one will see attached to most gas grills. Each one runs about $35 and it will last me anywhere from several weeks to over a month depending on what I am working on. I have three 5 foot oxygen tanks that I work from…..those tall green tanks you will see from time to time that look a little scary riding on the back of a delivery truck. 🙂 Oxygen is expensive! A two tank delivery is running about $130 these days and I can use one up in as little as 12 hours. Do the math…..in a busy month literally $100’s go out the door for Oxygen. When I calculate it down – one bead can end up using $1-3 in just Oxygen alone.
Glass: Borosilicate Glass is costly. Clear runs approx $10 a pound but the colored rods are anywhere from $60 to $120 a pound! Glass is very heavy……so there really aren’t that many rods in a pound bundle and the shipping from the distributor?? wowza. Which is why I try to stock up on my clear (think 50+ pounds) each year when my favorite guys from ABR Imagery come to Kalmbach’s Bead & Button show in Milwaukee. They kindly throw it on their truck that is coming anyway….whew – big savings!
About that Borosilicate Glass too – compared to other more familiar glass…The rods are more expensive, melts at a much higher temp so you need a bigger badder torch and more fuel, etc, etc…it all adds up quickly!
In addition to all of these costs, each sweet little bead has to be cleaned with a dremel tool, be beautifully photographed, marketed in some way as they just don’t make you any cash laying there on the studio table….etsy store costs, web costs….on and on. Another factor that many, even tho who sell don’t consider – eventually you will be asked if you sell wholesale. If your retail is priced at a “hobby” level how could you ever be thought as a serious business person by others who expect a real income from what they do?
So much to consider……I have yet to meet a glass artist who overcharges for their work so hopefully these little tidbits of info will help you trust that when you are purchasing a handmade lamp worked glass piece directly from an artist you can be assured you are getting a valuable piece of art.