Carnevale Ends with the Flight of the Leone

Carnevale of Venice,Venice,Carnevale Costumes,Carnival of Venice

For those of you who follow VenetianBeadShop, you know that we are in Venice “working” and enjoying Carnevale. The weather has been beautiful, warmer than usual. Today is the closing and it ends with the flight of the Leone. When I first went to Carnevale, I thought someone dressed as a lion would slideup the wire to the top of the tower in San Marco…But it is the flag of the Republic of La Serenissima that flies closing Carnevale.

Carnevale Venezia

There have been some beautiful creative costumes and many of the classic well-known style. This costume with the moon is so clever and right on with the theme of  this year, but it was a bit difficult to manoeuvre through the crowds. My personal favorites are those people make themselves. But many people wear masks they purchased on the walk to San Marco Square.

On Saturday before the close of Carnevale, an estimated 60,000 people arrived in Venice, most of them for just a few hours. My solution to the crowds is to take a breather in the Correr Museum, gives you a great view of the crowds, surrounded by the history of Venice and while everyone else is trying to find bathrooms and food, I am enjoying wandering around an world class museum with lots of very clean bathrooms and a charming cafe with Prosecco, Wine, Tea, Sandwiches and best of all: chairs to rest and it is inside in case the weather is bad. (If you are handicapped, inquire for the elevator.)

Piazza San Marco,Carnevale Venezia,Carnival Venice,Venice

And while I am in the Correr Museum, I get a chance to learn a little more about the history of Venice browsing through the rooms filled with the collection of Teodoro Correr which he bequeathed to the city of Venice. There is also a collection of jewelry from a few centuries ago. And we thought we invented the tassel! It is clear that gold has always been in style.
Correr Museum,Venice,Piazza San Marco,Carnevale Venice

Some of my favorite costumes were the “Steam Punk” and a group about 50 people arrived from outside Venice on the train all in costume. We had a short phase of Steam Punk jewelry in the US, but apparently it’s a genre still very popular around the world. And in Venice there are tons of masks in case you want to have this costume for next year.

Carnevale Venezia,Venice Carnival,Steam Punk Costumes,VeniceSteam Punk Costumes,Carnival Venice,Carnevale Venezia,


And so Carnevale ended with the traditional flight of the “Leone”, the Flag of the Republic of Venice and the anthem, a somber finish to the fun and frolic of Carnevale di Venezia. (The Republic existed for over a millennium between the 7th century and the 18th century from 697 AD until 1797 AD when Doge Manin surrendered to Napoleon.) The fog which had obscured the tower cleared just in time for the Leone.

And my personal end to Carnevale is the last frittelle at my favorite morning coffee shop on the day after Carnevale ends as they will not be made again until Carnevale 2020.


Carnevale Ends with a Fritelle

Watch our short collection of the nearly 2,000 pictures I made of costumes and scenes from Carnevale 2019

Until next year…..

Cane Glass – Murano Style!

Murano Glass Canes, Cane Glass a centuries old tradition.

Cane Glass – Murano Glass

Cane Glass is really a version of the old Rosetta Canna – just a whole lot less complicated. The Rosetta Canes required many dips into the furnace pots for the added colors which later got carved away. The furnaces in Murano have been blowing and pulling glass rods for centuries.  The term rosetta first appeared in the inventory of the Barovier Glass works in Murano, in 1496. Today they continue, it’s something they do for example:

1) when they need to make the “s” curves for chandeliers
2)when they want to make chevrons – the Rosetta
3)when they want to make the glass rods for silver serving pieces.
4) when they want to make just about anything which has a hole in it….it all starts with the bubble in the first gather.

Just pointing out that cane glass was NOT invented in the US by ANYONE! And that I get slightly miffed when Americans think they invented beadmaking, or glass blowing. (Just saying)

This is a working furnace in Murano and the one where we produced the cane glass, our blown filigrana beads, wine glasses, vases, bowls, and bottles and a few thousand drawer pulls, wine stoppers, Christmas Balls, Glass Slippers and almost anything you can dream. This furnace has been making glass since the 1960s. It is a production furnace, supplying handmade Murano Glass all over the world. It’s hot, it is heavy, it’s dangerous and it is not for tourist.

A Typical Murano Glass Furnace

And who better to make this glass, or so at least that is what I thought when I began a project with my dear friends at the furnace. Clearly having been a glass blower for some 40+ years, they could make the glass canes. Partly, the owner humored me, and partly he thought it was a good idea as well. Neither of us knew that the stubborn nature of Muranese and tradition would get in our way.

It is the same process as making the zanfirico or the latticino which is used in all furnaces as decorations, just put a bubble in the first gather. Many of these furnaces also pull their own mosaic – millefiori or murrine.  It just makes sense to “do it in-house”, you have the glass, the workers and then you know it is done properly and will be absolutely compatible with your other glass. And the famous Effetre Moretti who makes glass canes used around the world, well they too pull it the same way.

Murano Glass Furnace - Bubble

Claudio puts the bubble in the glass.

Here you see Claudio – who, over the years, worked as a glass blower and sometimes a waiter. Some of you who have been to Venice to the demonstrations of glass blowing near San Marco Square may have seen him there as he moonlighted on the weekends earning a little neri (cash under the table). He spoke about 5 languages and arrived on the vaporetto each morning from Pt Sabbione – not a native Muranese. He is preparing the blow pipe to bring out the mass of glass that becomes the bubble.

The bubble is crucial, because that bubble becomes the hole inside our cane glass. Now as you see, it is darn right difficult for us to control the exact size of the bubble and therefore we have great difficulty controlling the size of the hole! Once the bubble in inside, the next work, like making mosaics is to add on the layers of color or decoration. With each layer you add, your gather (the ball at the end of the punti) becomes larger and heavier. With the cane glass, we next add the color which is a thin layer when viewed from a cross section.

The ball become quite large and it’s a lot like making taffy (just at a much higher temperature). The size of the ball will determine how much glass rod you yield, a delicate balance between making production and being able to control the cooling process so you don’t break the glass.  When the ball is at the size you want, another glass blower arrives with a hot punti which he uses to attach to the other side of the ball, with the blow pipe still attached on the ball as well. Then it’s a ballet of blower and the glass to pull this ball out before it begins cooling. Here Franco is seen in the middle of the pull blowing cool air to cool the cane.

Pulling Glass Canes, Murano taly

Pulling the canes for Cane Glass

I might point out here that this is also the reason our can glass varies in diameter, exact shape as well as hole size. A bed of insulation is prepared to drop the cane for further cooling.

Next comes the conflict of tradition and need. The traditional way for canes to be cut is chopping, that’s right, like a guillotine. If you use this glass in the furnace, you do not need straight cuts, you heat it up and it become the decoration on an art piece.

But our jewelry makers want nice straight ends so their earrings, necklaces, etc hang just right. It was a loosing battle against centuries of “that’s how we do it”. We did come to terms on fire polishing the ends, though they still are not perfectly straight, probably a major concession in Muranese history. And we did find a glass manufacturer in the US who makes precision glass. However, once they discovered we used it in jewelry, they more than doubled the prices per cut.


Glass Rods In the Furnace in Murano

Here’s our inventory of glass waiting to be cut – no make that chopped!

So if you want to use our cane glass be prepared for a few irregularities on these absolutely – doesn’t get more authentic – Murano Cane Glass.  Enjoy them!

Venetian Beads and Pantone Winter Colors

Top10 colors Pantone Winter 2018/2019

Pantone Colors Fall-Winter 2018-2019

I can skip the yellows….my least favorite and it is a hard color for us to make in Venetian Beads. The “Quetzal Green” had me a bit perplexed, but I looked it up and it could either mean

  1. a bird of the trogon family, with iridescent green plumage and typically red underparts, found in the forests of tropical America.
  2. the basic monetary unit of Guatemala, equal to 100 centavos.

So I am going with the bird, for me it is a “teal” and our G6 or G26 will give you a similar color.

And below is a chart that shows you how we use metals to give us the colors. Gold Foil always makes the color richer, Silver Foil makes the color brighter and White Gold Foil gives us a soft/satin look. The numbers you see below the color names are the numbers for the canes of glass we buy to make the beads.

VenetianBeadShop Colors 24kt Gold Foil Beads

Color Variation with Metals

We have our own series of numbers which we use. Had I been clever enough when we started, I would have used the Moretti numbers as it would make working with our bead makers easier. Our color codes table you can find online at Color Chart (Click Here)  So for each color of Moretti Glass, we use the prefix “G” “S” or “WG” to achieve the results. Our Spring and Summer Line drops the Prefix for gold, silver or white gold because we only mix Moretti Colors for these.

VenetianBeadShop,MuranoGlassBeads,Making Beads

Making Beads is Hot Work

Having given you this detail guide, it is not quite so easy. Just so you know, each batch of glass as it arrives to our bead makers from Effetere (aka Moretti Glass) is slightly different. Reds are the most difficult of all. The amount of moisture in the air, the salt content of the air in the lagoon, the purity of the minerals used, and the heat at which they melt the minerals all contribute for a slight difference. And then there is the bead maker whose eye watches the bright red color, because that is the color of molten glass and knows just when it is ready. Again the temperature, how long they re-fire it and a myriad of other things affect the final bead. It is what makes these Murano Glass Beads!

Celebrating 25 Years @VenetianBeadShop

La Fenice Glass Furnace

Taking a walk down memory lane, 25 years ago in August we made our first buying trip to Venice. Now why our Italian son-in-law never thought to tell us that Italy is “Closed” in August is still a mystery. We arrived with our little indexed list of glass blowers, indexed by location and type of products all worked out with the Italian Trade Commission in Atlanta in the preceding months. No Waze or Google maps just our printed maps of the city which really didn’t have a lot of detail, so we drew them as we explored and our limited Italian language.

Making Beads

Just one night in the oven of a hotel where we stayed sent us searching at the Information Office for hotels with air conditioning a rare find in the early 90s in Venice. We discovered the Lido, a couple of hotels which were only open in the summer, catering  to the French and German tourists, which of course led us to discover the necessity of the vaporetto and restaurants on Lido where we still enjoy eating.

Alessandro Barbaro Maestro – Effortless Beauty and Perfection

So in the early morning we would head to Murano with our lists, only to discover most of them were closed. But there were a few wonderful suppliers who were gracious, though they were probably wondering about the crazy Americans who came in August. We still work with some of those suppliers. And I am sure many of our early suppliers thought we would be there once and never come back. Fooled them!

Effetre Glass Canes for Beads

They say love is blind, and luckily so is the love of Venice and Murano where we fell as they say head over heels in love with both the people and the glass. It has been a journey of discovery, joy and pain and fierce friendships.

Even Flat Stanley Enjoys Venice

We did not begin buying beads, that came later. We began with glass from the furnaces, vases, bowls and bottles, figurines, clowns (by the hundreds). While we bought these, we actually had little idea of how to sell the products. We had spent a lot of time learning about importing, customs duties and even attended a college class on importing. We researched the market and knew there were few people in our area who carried any Murano Glass.

Growing and Organizing

But selling it? We made the rounds of school events, church events, and yes, even flea markets. But we read in the paper, you know those things we all used to read in the morning with our coffee, that there was quite a well known Gem and Jewelry show in a town nearby, 3 days only, and 3 times each year. So on Friday afternoon, we went to the show to get a look and explore future show possibilities. The show promoter said, well I like what you have and it so happens that we have a booth where the vendor did not show, so if you can be here ready at 10 tomorrow am, you can have the booth.

My Favorite Red

That began a very long night of pricing our products, and amazingly, we sold almost everything we had. At the end of the show, the promoter came and convinced us to sign up for his next show, so now we had 3 months to get more goods….well that called for another trip to Venice, Italian classes and our house became a warehouse packed with beautiful Murano Glass.

To be continued…..

Glass Conference in Murano and Fashion Show

Murano Glass Fashion Show

Waiting for the Fashion Show

The island of Murano was host to the GAS (Glass Art Society) with world wide participation. Everyone who works with glass paid tribute to the heritage of Murano. This week it was evident and the pure joy and excitement of the students of glass as they wandered around the island was abundantly obvious. While I might not completely agree with GAS selection of artist and venues, I do not believe that anyone went home unhappy with the experience.

GAS Conference Murano 2018

I met artists from all over the world who paid $100+ dollars to tour Murano glass factories and watch maestri from around the world work alongside Muranese in the furnaces of Barovier & Toso, Venini, Effetre and Carlo Moretti. These are not your “tourist” factories, but truly production facilities and home to some of the most famous Maestri of Murano. There were presentations every day by the best in the business.

The Life Time Achievement Award was presented to the family of the famous Pino Signoretto as he unfortunately died late last December. His works are known around the world and many students from Pilchuck in Seattle were in attendance. 

One of the more important discussion panels focused on the environmental issues of the minerals used to achieve the bright colors we all love. The panel included academics in chemistry and physics as the making of glass involves both. Specifically, the use of Cadium, Arsenic, and Lead. Glass producers, large and small are attempting to find a substitute as it is an essential mineral for some of our favorite colors, like red, rubino and opaque colors. The major risk is not in the end use of the glass, but for those who work producing the batch (made from soda, sand, and minerals) which are a hazard to breath when making the batch; for those involved in the working of the molten glass and for those who reheat the glass (such as lampworkers).Inhaling cadmium-laden dust quickly leads to respiratory tract and kidney problems which can be fatal (often from renal failure). There is a race to resolve this problem, and I only hope that the first one to achieve this goal is not allowed to patent the process as that would prohibit small furnaces from making their own glass. For those who depend on the glass rods from Effetre Moretti, we hope they find a solution quickly.

But the best part of the entire conference for me was the Glass Fashion Show. The artist had made their own outfits, some costumes took as long as 5 months to complete and one weighed about 70 pounds.

Glass Fashion Show Murano Italy

Several were lighted like Christmas Trees and glowed beautifully against the background of the water. It is a tradition at the end of the conference, but this year, the models arrived in gondolas and floated down the Rio del Vetrai. Both sides of the canal were crowded with the attendees of the conference gleefully drinking Spritz (the local favorite). Locals were watching out their windows upstairs. I left the sounds from the crowd as it gives you an idea of how rowdy and enthusiastic it was.

The conference concluded with a giant party on the grounds of the San Pietro Church with local foods and drinks, music and dancing lasting to the wee hours. Sunday morning was quiet as every one recuperated!  The opinion of many was that Murano should be the host of the conference again soon!

Glass Fashion Show Murano Italy

Silver Fill versus Sterling Silver

The patent on Gold Fill (process which is the same as Silver Fill) was filed in 1900 in Providence Rhode Island, the birthplace of the costume jewelry industry in the United States.

Patent for Gold Fill

In case you weren’t clear on Silver Fill versus Sterling Silver, our Silver Findings are produced from either Silver Ingot or Silver Pebbles which are melted in the process before they are squashed, rolled, squeezed and otherwise manipulated into all those tiny round balls, earwires, charms, tubes or whatever you can think of.

Silver Fill seems an inaccurate name as you can clear see, there is no fill, that is the base metal, the silver sits on the outside.

Example of Silver Fill 1/20 and 1/10

Silver-filled, like gold-filled, consists of precious metal (silver) bonded to a base metal substrate (a red brass alloy, CDA #220). The 1/20 and 1/10 notation refers to the ratio of silver to brass core by weight, which is 5% and 10%, respectively.

The value of silver-filled is greater than silver-plated because silver-filled has an actual layer of sterling silver. The minimum thickness for silver plating is equal to 0.5 microns.

In 1/10 silver-filled, 10% of the total weight of the metal is silver.

In 1/20 silver-filled, 5% of the total weight of the metal is silver.

In single-clad sheet, the silver layer is bonded to one side of the sheet of brass.

In double-clad sheet, discs and other findings, silver layers are bonded to both sides of the sheet of brass.

The patent remains with US producers for Silver Fill and Gold Fill, so even when we buy some of our findings directly from our manufacturers in Italy, they actually trade materials with the US. So forget tariffs, forget International Trade Agreements….the metals houses have their own balance sheets and trading rules. And many of them hold patents on processes. (We’ll write more on that later.)

Melting Silver in Vicenza

Silver Fill became popular when the price of silver soared above $48.00, clearly it was less expensive to use a base metal and silver of only ~10% of the weight. So to meet the demand, Silver Fill findings were produced.

Silver Soared over $40

As you can see now silver fluctuates around $15 which means that the additional work required to bond the silver to the base metal negates real savings.

So once again Silver is popular and many of our suppliers have discontinued the Silver Fill in favor of Silver. When they discontinue Silver Fill, we will also as we sell out the existing inventory.

Dichroic Glass – It’s Magic!

Here’s a peek inside the dichroic facility of Sanberg Coatings, where all our Murano Glass goes for the added bling or as I think, the magic machine that gives us all these added colors.

Vacuum Coating Chamber – Cost ~$2Million

The technology is called “vacuum thin film deposition” and was discovered in 1887. It took military and aerospace needs to support the research and development of the expensive equipment to produce on a large scale. Tax dollars paid for the creation of these complex machines for use in optical equipment, lasers, fiber optics, optical recording, infrared guidance, photoelectric converters, Dolby 3d Projection and mundane things like eyeglasses or camera lenses.

Prepping for Coating

The coating process is done in a vacuum deposition chamber by vaporizing quarts and metal oxides with an electron beam gun and condensing micro-thin layers on the surface of the glass (or whatever you want coated) in a crystal structure.

Jerry Sandberg, an engineer as well as jewelry artists, worked at a high tech firm producing thin film components in southern California when he discovered that another artist, Murray Schwartz was digging through the trash at the facility for the small pieces of reject mirrors. He too began collecting the rejects and along with Murray, they began the development of the first three dichroic glass colors designed for the art glass industry: Cyan/Red, Magenta/Green and Yellow/Blue, colors which we still use today. It’s a bit confusing, the the first color is the input color, the second is what you see when it is fired. So if we want Red we buy Cyan/Red.

Sheets of Glass Coated

It was Murray’s wife, Rupama who put the first scrap of dichroic into her kiln, an experiment that led us all to today’s incredible array of art produced with the colors dichroic made possible.

The Warehouse – Full Sheets Ready

Like all our businesses, Sandberg needs to have sheets ready to ship. Here is there stock room. With the price of an average sheet about $150, it’s a sizeable investment. Since our glass comes from Murano, there is the added cost of the glass, freight, incoming Custom Duties so if you are wondering why our dichroic beads are expensive, here are the clues!

Sandberg Contest Winners

Since the coating are not done in heat, almost anything can be coated – expensive, but can be. Below are some pottery, glass, things you might buy at a thrift shop, a home decoration store. The only issue I see is that you can coat only one side (or you must flip and coat the other).

Examples of EveryDay Items Coated

I say it’s magic because the technical description defies my understanding and I am happy to have Sandberg work his magic for our beads and pendants.

Note: Sandberg sells through distributors, but if you want to take a class, you can find the classes available on their website Coating by Sandberg.

Colors of Murano Glass Beads – It Starts with the Canes

Effetre aka Moretti is the Beginning

Our beads all (except for the few borosilicate) start with the canes that Effetre produces in much the same fashion they have been doing since the late 1800s. That is not to say that Venetians and Muranese did not make beads before Vincenzo Moretti began his production of Murrine and subsequently branched into all colors of glass canes. The furnaces of Murano could all make glass canes. It starts with the batches they create each night. But the Moretti family concentrated the production, and made it easy for bead makers to buy in small batches.

Even today our bead makers go to the Effetre warehouse to buy canes by the kilo. It is a secretive place and definitely not open to tourist. Even the largest importer of Moretti canes in the US, Mike Frantz, tells me he has not seen the entire production areas. I sometimes get go with a bead maker, but definitely no cameras.  I count on the office manager to take care of delivery to the bead makers where we supply the materials.

Effetre Factory Warehouse

Catalog of Colors

Well the catalog is actually small pieces of canes in a binder. And if you are looking at newer colors, hand prepared, then they just cut off a piece of cane and put a sticker on it for you, like one of my favorites, Blue Inchiostro. It has yet to make it into the books! My office always is full of pieces of canes, millefiori and samples we have tried. Fortunately Moretti had the forethought to give the canes a 6 digit number, though most of us just use the last 3 digits.

Canes and our Bead Shapes Sample Card

It takes a good bit of imagination to work on beads. Like the artist pallet, there are always things that influence the outcome, the color. You can see in the chart below how the color changes just be adding Gold, Silver or White Gold.

Gold and Silver Change the Colors

Colors and Numbers

And you can see we have our own color codes which are almost uniformly. That’s because late at night I might give something a different number – but never intentional.

  • WG1 is Cristallo/White Gold
  • G1 is Cristallo/Gold
  • S1 is Cristallo/Silver
  • For more on our color codes, visit our VenetianBeadShop Color Chart

White gold foil beads are produced White gold which is an alloy of gold and at least one white metal, such as silver or palladium.

Yellow gold is measured in Karats. With Yellow Gold, there are two applications, interior and exterior and exhibit the same behaviors.

White gold tends to tone down the color, giving the colors a softer look. Think about the difference between Sterling Silver Jewelry and White Gold Jewelry, where the White Gold it has a much softer glow.

Basic Colors in White Gold Foil

Basic Colors in White Gold Foil

The little pads of the precious metals are sold by the weight to the bead makers. It is expensive but fortunately it takes only small amounts for each bead.

Gold, Silver and White Gold Foil in Sheets

Every bead maker has a stash of canes.

Serious Work

Our bead makers have serious supplies of glass. There are a couple reasons. 1) We need lots of beads and 2) Effetre has a schedule for making the glass, and they NEVER deviate from this schedule. If we need Green and they are sold out, then we just have to wait. The batches are in about 250-300 Kilo and if we do not like the Red, then we still have to wait. Not only do we have to wait for the schedule, we also have to wait until they have sold all of the Red we do NOT like.

Blue comes in Many Shades

Now that we have the colors, then you must decide shape, size and decoration.

More about that later.

Dead Soft, Half Hard, Hard – How to Understand Beading Wire Terms

I feel like we have answered this question before, but we keep getting it. Now those of you who know me, know that beads, specifically Murano Glass Beads are my field of expertise and anything to do with glass, Murano, Venice. So to answer this question I had to do a little sleuthing, naturally on the internet. I came to the beading world because – well because they made beads in Murano!

SoftFlex Wire, Beadalon Wire,Wire Hardness,Wire Forming,Wire Wrapping

Choose Your Wire Based on What You Want To Make

The terms are used to inform you of the metal bending qualities of the wire. Hardness is actually just the measure of how much the wire resists bending.

  • Dead Soft is the most flexible, pliable and easiest to bend. It works great for wire wrapping, and forming spirals and free flowing designs. It will not make a right angle.
  • Half Hard gives resistance to forming, not easily shaped into those free formed spirals or designs.
  • Hard is just that, it can be forced into right angles but is too hard for soft curves or spirals.

From Wikipedia, comes the model used for analyzing the hardness of the wire.

“Since it is made of metal, wire has this same hardness property. Most modern manufacturers of jewelry wire make the wire with a defined hardness, generally a hardness of 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4. Historically, these numbers were associated with the number of times that the wire was pulled through a draw plate, becoming harder or stiffer each time it was drawn through the drawplate. A hardness of 0 meant that the wire had been drawn through only once and was as soft and as pliable as possible. A hardness of 4 meant that the wire had been drawn through five or more times and the wire was as stiff and as hard as possible. Most jewelry wire that is sold now is designated dead soft, half-hard, or hard, where dead soft is wire that is manufactured with a hardness of 0, half-hard is wire manufactured with a hardness of 2, and fully hardened wire is wire with a hardness of 4.

Dead soft wire is extremely soft and pliable. It can be easily bent and is excellent for making rounded shapes such as spirals. It is also excellent for wrapping wire around beads to make them look as though they are encased. The disadvantage of using soft wire is that the finished piece can be bent out of shape if not properly handled.

Half-hard wire is slightly stiffer than dead soft wire. Half-hard wire is excellent for making tight, angular bends, for making loops in wire, and for wrapping wire around itself. However, it is not very useful for making spirals. Finished pieces made with half-hard wire are usually more permanent than pieces made with soft wire.

Hard wire is very stiff and tends to spring back after being bent, making it harder to work with when using a jig; it cannot be used to make a spiral. Pieces made with hard wire have the advantage that they are not easily accidentally deformed.

As in many things, no single wire is perfect for all applications. Soft wire is easy to bend and shape, but the finished product may be bent out of shape if squeezed. Hard wire is difficult to bend but makes permanent shapes. Half-hard wire is a compromise between the two. Wire-wrapped jewelry can be made by wire which is initially soft, simplifying fabrication, but later hardened by hammering or by work hardening”.

Beadalon has the following chart showing the hardness of their craft wire.

Guide to Hardness

But then, even Dead Soft wire can be work hardened with proper tools and knowledge. So if you want to make some earwires and you have only dead soft wire. Working the wire will harden it. But it is absolutely easier just to buy the wire you need, but if you have an inspiration at midnight, there is a solution.

If you are really interested in the ability to work harden your wire, I suggest you buy some of each hardness so you have the feel for each and keep as a sample for while you are working the wire. If you over work the dead soft, it can break so it is good to know exactly how much you can work it. You can harden the wire (best on 22-28 gauge) using nylon jaw pliers and pulling the wire. We recommend you only harden the amount of wire you need for a project, otherwise you’ll need to keep it identified. Test the wire during the work hardening so you do not over stress it. Compare it to those samples of various hardness wire we suggested you keep*.

What you want to make will determine which wire you need. Working with Venetian Beads, we often use the 20 gauge wire which is “Half Hard” because our larger beads are heavy.

Beadalon’s German Style Wire which many of our customers use in wire wrapping jewelry falls somewhere closer to Half-Hard than Dead Soft, which is probably because it has a copper core giving it greater strength.

*NOTE: Always wear safety glasses when working the wire.

Click here to see our selection of Wire for Wire Wrapping





What I Learned at the Italian Renaissance Fair

Actors and Singers

We did it, we packed our tables, some of our jewelry and some of our (I say some, because we have a warehouse full of these wonderful treasures) Murano Glass Vases, Bowls and Bottles, Mirrors, Animals, Fish, Aquariums into a large commercial van and drove over the bay. The last couple of days before the fair, the fact that it would be outdoors and in a meadow began to concern me. What kind of critters would invade our booth? Were there bugs, snakes or who knows? Clearly I have been living in the city for too long. I should have been worried about the slope of the ground and the holes found in all such pastoral locations.

There’s Plenty of Room! But it all slopes downhill!

We are used to doing large shows, inside hotels, convention centers around the US. So we expected a layout to be forthcoming showing us exactly where our booths would be. The engineer among us likes to take graph paper, little scaled to size pieces of paper representing the tables and lay everything out, calculating how many square feet will be available, allowing of course for foot traffic. Well having now participated, I understand the general casualness which I mistook for a lackadaisical attitude. It’s a pasture and space is plentiful and boundaries less rigid.

Tent City! Some took a couple of hours to setup

But it was an Italian Renaissance Fair, so no modern equipment such as tents, tent poles, folding tables, cash registers (alas all of you who have shopped with us know we bar code everything). A little research proved that burlap existed in some form in this period which takes in the 14th Century until sometime in the 16th Century. It existed, but the dust and particles from cutting it were not in our plans. Soon we were all sneezing. There were some elaborate tents, owned by the production group. It took several hours for them to put these up, complicated by the fact that the poles had been mislabeled by the last group, providing some entertainment for us.

Covering the tent poles with burlap

And costumes, we were given strict dress codes. No tattoos showing, no ear piercing (gauges), no steam punk costumes, no Mediaval, wrong century, no Elizabethan costumes, wrong country! But we were warned that the people coming to the show would probably have all of this and more (or less in the case of two guys who really had on no clothes, no joke) or the guy in the kilt with no top (and I will leave it to you to guess what he had on under the kilt).

Tent for the Sponsors, complete with foods & drink!

The weather was good except that we were near the bay (well where the Sacramento River flows into the bay) and we had 25 knot winds which gusted and swirled. For those of you who are not boaters, 25 knots is roughly 28.7695 mph. When the gusts persisted, our fragile wineglasses and vases got boxed up. The great outdoors is no place for our Murano Glass, even though it is certainly appropriate for the Renaissance era as the furnaces in Murano had been in production long before the beginning of the Renaissance.

Paid Performers or Volunteers

We learned that many of the properly attired people were part of the faire, that is to say, they are paid performers, complete with W9s (tax forms) at the end of the show.

There was plenty of food and wine. We even met a man from Treviso, Italy (near Venice) he was catering at the event and small world that Veneto is, we have mutual acquaintances. His wife is from a nearby town in California and they have a son, Luca. Emily, his wife, works on their bookings, they will even come to your house and prepare for you. In the true Venetian way, he was cutting about 15 pounds of calamari which he fried. It was sumptuous.

So here’s Marco and Emily’s facebook page address. InspiredinItaly

Yes they stayed in the tents.

My concern over security at the festival was wasted….Many of the exhibitors actually sleep in the festival. And they have weapons!

Security – Built In

In the booth selling drinks, their was Latte, but no cappuccino (surely they had this in the Renaissance era!) but I talked the barista into cutting the amount of milk for a cappuccino. Second day the owner was there. He said of course he made cappuccino, but they took it off the list because they got tired of explaining what a cappuccino is.

Now as to what I learned! Wear your costume, go have fun, eat the food, drink the wine, but NEVER EVER get talked into being an exhibitor in the great outdoors! Anyplace that doesn’t know what a cappuccino is, is not for me ;>)


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