Elizabeth Bunn Braunsdorf torch

Lampwork beads are created using glass rods and a focused torch. They could take a matter of minutes or several hours to make.

CORNELIUS – Elizabeth Bunn Braunsdorf finds something relaxing about using a torch to melt glass rods to create something special.

For more than a dozen years, she has created handmade lampwork beads, and she’s continued in her customized home studio since she and her husband, Neil, moved to Cornelius in September 2017.

“It’s a Zen thing,” Bunn said. “It’s very soothing to melt glass. You get in a rhythm.”

Bunn is sharing a bit of her work at the Home Grown Art Exhibit, which features local artists’ creations at the Cornelius Arts Center through March 30.

“I felt I should do it,” she said. “I’m relatively new to the community, and it’s an unjuried show. I figured it’s something I should be a part of.”

lampwork beads Elizabeth beads

Elizabeth Bunn Braunsdorf shows off some of her lampwork beads at her Cornelius home. 

A lot of work went into making the beads, on a leather chord, that are shown there.

Her love of glass started in the 1980s when she made flat stained-glass panels and other items. She said she loved making large abstract pieces with a whimsical feel.

“I find (glass) attractive at a deep level – the colors and clarity and the way the light shines through it,” she said.

Bunn temporarily stopped her craft when her kids were young because of the potential danger of glass shards and toxic chemicals.

But she couldn’t stay away long.

Bunn attended a jewelry-making class at a bead store in the early 2000s. She took a private 5-hour class, bought glass and a small torch, and started practicing.

“I didn’t know the difference between an artist’s bead and a mass-produced bead,” she said. “But I wanted to learn. … People who take it up and try it either never want to do it again or are completely passionate about it and never want to stop.”

What Bunn loves about an artist’s work is that it is one-of-a-kind. She followed the same design all day, but each piece would still be a little different.

She purchases supplies from all over the world, including Italy, Germany, China and the United States.

A flame melts the glass, and lampworking tools and gravity shape it. There are some with different elements used to make a variety of colors and other special effects. Bunn prefers working with all colors, but especially cool shades like purples, blues and pinks.

She spends 20 to 30 minutes on a bead, though she’s known artists who have spent several hours on one. Then the beads go into the kiln to cool.

“Sometimes I have a plan. Other times I look at glass on the table and start going for it so it will become something,” she said. “Sometimes it doesn’t become anything. Sometimes it becomes a learning experience.”

People collect her beads or make other jewelry using them – something Bunn doesn’t currently do.

“I love seeing customers’ work and trying to promote them,” she said. “It’s an artistic outlet and not something I’m trying to make money off of other than covering supplies.”

In addition to selling her beads, she has used them for Beads of Courage, an organization that helps youths with serious illnesses tell their story through the colored beads they are given after each treatment.

Bunn also has interests in other mediums. She learned about Home Grown while taking a ceramics class at the art center. She also is interested in mosaic work, fibers and crocheting.

Bunn hopes to find a larger lampwork bead community in the area like she had in Texas. And she said other artists should give it a try.

“There are books and a billion YouTube videos,” she said. “I don’t think I could have learned without the private lesson. I have all of the first beads I made. A lot (of bead artists) say they have never taken a class. It can be done.”

Learn more about Bunn and her work on her Facebook page, Elizabeth Beads.

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