Flame Off

Organised by Totally Beads and Tuffnells Glass, Flame Off is the highlight of the lampwork lovers UK calender.

The Location

Hosted at Uttoexter Racecourse, well situated in the heart of England and easy to get to by car or public transport thanks to the train station within walking distance of the venue. It isn’t the most modern of facilities but they provide the show with four well sized areas and a dining area.

There is plenty of car parking but you do have a slight walk from the car to the entrance which can be a disadvantage when you are leaving with loads of goodies (though this year the venue were allowing cars to drive into the grounds for collections.) You could take a shopper trolley of your own to prevent having to go back to the car every so often.

Cash Machine, yes there is one on site but it does charge you for the privilege, some of the vendors do cashback when you bought something but tesco and free cash machines were a short drive away.

First Hall

flame off traders stalls oneAs you enter the show the dining area is immediately in front of you, this is run by the racecourse themselves and does have a nice selection. I did enquire about allergens and they are happy to help if you have certain allergies but they also don’t mind anyone sitting with their own food as it isn’t always possible to cater for everyone’s needs. There was certainly plenty on offer though but as I am one of those full of allergy types I didn’t get a chance to sample any of the food. (Actually I barely got a chance to sample the food I bought with me either, I was on the go so much.)

To the right of the dining area is the first of the stalls, a few lampworkers, some fusing and a selection of suppliers this was an area I didn’t get into much (as I was in the other hall) but it was easy to move around and I managed to get what I wanted and say hello to a few people.

Second/Third Hall

flame off traders twoIf you go through the doors at the end of the first hall you come to an open space where you can access the upstairs and demo space if you have an access all areas ticket ahead is a door leading to the second and third hall.

The second hall was host to more stalls, a couple of general beading stalls, more lampworkers, a few supplies and the demo artists stalls were here to so those on buyer only tickets could browse their items as well.

The third hall runs on from the second and is where you find Tuffnells and the benches to have a go on the torches. The torches were only open to those that purchased an access all areas ticket but they could get really crowded after demos as people wanted to try out the techniques they had just seen. The artists also took to the benches as people found they had questions which always prompted a little gathering.

flame off torch benchesMost of the benches were set up for soft glass though there was a boro only bench for those that prefer to work on the dark side. Glenn spent a lot of time coming back here and showing off a few different things.

Marshals were on hand to light torches and ensure everyone was practising safe lampworking, they were also on hand for those having a go at lampwork for the first time guiding them through making their first bead. Tins of annealing bubbles meant that after half an hour your beads were ready to take out and remove from the mandrels so you could take them home.

I would have liked a go on the Bethlehem Champion (or even the bravo) but as there was only one of each of these torches I didn’t get a chance. (maybe next year) Though I suppose it may have been a good thing as I might have had to buy one if I had got a go on it.

Beyond that was a door to the outside where Mini Melt had the furnace going and you could have a go at blowing glass yourself to make a bauble. (something I did a couple of years ago and loved, my son enjoyed it the previous year too.) You could choose your own colours and blow it yourself with the guidance of Ann and Josh, they went in the kiln Friday for collection on the Saturday.

The Demo Hall

flame off 2015 glenn godden demoLast year all the demoing artists also had their tables up here but not having them there allowed for more seating and made the hall a lot quieter so you could hear everything going on in the demo. Lewis does a super job following the demos with the video camera to project to the screen for those further back to be able to see. I got lucky this year and for the one demo I did see (Glenn doing silver fuming) I got a front row seat.

Overall Atmosphere

One of the reasons I love flame off is the atmosphere. Everyone is there for the same reasons, to enjoy the glass. This year I even witnessed partners attempting the torch for the first time so that was a huge credit to the atmosphere of the show and the fantastic marshals on the torches making it accessible to those that weren’t really sure.

Everyone is always really friendly and helpful and it’s always brilliant meeting up with familiar faces as well as meeting new people.

Comparing it to last year it certainly seemed like there was a lot more people and because of the buyer only tickets there were also people coming in just to buy beads. Loosing the Sunday bead fair was sad because it meant we didn’t have that extra day but it certainly worked better.

The show really is a must if you love lampwork, either making it or using it, just make sure you keep an eye on your budget, you can easily go over, with all the wonderful glass, tools and lovely, lovely beads.

List of Traders at Flame Off

List is in order they appeared at the show.

Bead Swap Beads

One of my favourite things from flame off is the bead swap. I love seeing what surprises come out of the magic bag.

Each day you put one bead labelled with your name in the bag and you get a raffle ticket.

Towards the end of the day you come back, present your ticket and grab a bead.

two lampwork lentil beadsDay one I got a lovely silver glass tornado bead made by Teresa from Tuffnells glass.
Day two and I must have had a bit of a theme going as it was another gorgeous tornado. Unfortunately it wasn’t labelled and I can’t remember her name but when she asked which bead she should put in the swap I said it should be that one so I’m thrilled to have got it.

I’ve amassed quite a collection purely down to swaps, all from a range of people. Beads from their first year lampworking up to signature beads from well known names, It’s also great when you get one from someone a few years later and see the differences in how their style has changed or how newer lampworkers have improved.

Because of my change of direction in lampwork I went with putting in two of my garden beads which was the same as last year but different people got them. Next year I hope I’ll be putting in some shiny and technically correct boro work. (though they won’t actually be beads.)

These beads are off to my wall of fame now (a little display in my studio), they keep me inspired and it’s nice to be able to just look at them and occasionally stroke them.

Different Types of Glass

Let me introduce you to some of the different types of glass and their manufactures that are commonly used in lampworking;

Borosilicate (33coe) – Borosilicate is a ‘hard glass’ it is also known as Pyrex, it has a high melting temperature and requires a dual fuel torch with a high flow of oxygen. Clear borosilicate is known for its clarity, though the colours are incomparable to any other glass in the soft glass range. Most of the borosilicate colours are natural shades but when placed in a light source the glass shows an amazing array of colours. There are many manufacturers of Borosilicate glass.

Simex produce clear glass and tubing more commonly used in scientific glass.
Northstar, Momka and Tag are the most commonly known coloured rod manufacturers.

Blowing Glass (90-96coe) – While some lampworkers do use this type of glass it is more common in glass blowing (furnace work) and for kiln worked glass. The colour pigment in this type of glass is stronger than 104 glass making it more suited for blowing and keeping it’s colour. It is because of this property though that lampworkers will use it as frit on their beads.

Gaffer and Reichenbach are common manufacturers of blowing glass

Soda Lime Glass (104 coe) – Soda lime glass is the most common glass for bead making. A wide variety of colours are available from a whole host of companies the most common of which are;

Creation is Messy (CiM) an American company that wanted to expand on the 104coe soft glass range and add more tone to the colour pallet. While the company is owned and run by an American family their production factory is in China.
Double Helix located in the Pacific Northwest, Double helix Glassworks are known for their highly reactive silver loaded glass. Compatible with all other 104coe glass but, dependant on what it is used with, produces many different types of reactions. Double Helix colours can be quite hard to get to work in their intended way and do produce a wide variety of colours when correctly worked.
Effetre an Italian brand of COE 104 glass, Effetre are the most commonly used brand of glass in lampworking. They supply a large range of standard colours as well as many special colours. Manufactured on the famous bead-making island of Murano. Effetre is also known as Morreti glass.
Reichenbach a German company producing 104coe and 96coe glass best know for Iris Orange (also known as Raku) their other reactive glasses such as magic, multi colour and their mystics range. Though their 104 range is a lot more limited than their range of 96coe glass.
Vetrofond another Italian brand of 104coe soft glass, their clear glass has been regarded the best clear for encasing. They also release their highly coveted odd lots (usually mixed batches of glass pulled into one rod, or colours that haven’t mixed properly and not resulted in the desired colour.)
Lauscha, Kulgar and Striking Colour are all other brands of soda lime glass.

Sometimes different brands with the same coe do produce compatibility issues, part of the artists job is to identify colours that don’t work together as well as those that do.