Formerly a music professor at Siena Heights University, Susan Matych-Hager’s journey into art glass beadmaking, also known as lampwork or torchwork, began in 2001 with a class she took at the Toledo Museum of Art. Susan is now an accomplished artist, having been represented in the last seven annual juried exhibits by the International Society of Glass Beadmakers as well as several other shows, and
published in Bead & Button, The Flow, Ornament, and Profitable Glass Quarterly magazines. One piece, Promise of Spring, from her nature-inspired series of necklaces called The Seasons, has traveled for exhibits all over the United States and internationally for the last two years.Winter Dreams, from the same series, was awarded second place in the lampwork category of the 2013 Bead Dreams Competition by Bead & Button Magazine.
Susan began making beads strictly for her own use in jewelry making, and while she still designs and makes jewelry of her own to sell at shows, these days many of her beads sell to other jewelry designers. Her colorful beads range from simple “spacer beads” which are affordable filler beads for in between the flashier ones, to animal prints, metallics, and large detailed beads that are like little sculptures all on their own. She has thousands in her inventory, and each one was made by hand in her basement workshop.
Watching Susan make beads is nothing short of mesmerizing. Using a small mounted torch that sits on the table in front of her, she melts solid tubes of colored glass onto a small metal rod that she continuously turns in the blue flame. No matter the color of the glass, it soon turns bright red-orange in the heat. She keeps turning, building each layer and adding details. Years of experience have taught her how each little dot of hot glass will react to her manipulations. Circular dots become squares, and later hourglasses and lines, as she continues turning and adding different colors of glass. Each time she pulls the bead away from the flame to examine it, it quickly turns from molten orange back to its original color. When she is finally satisfied with her creation, she places it in a kiln to cool slowly. Glass doesn’t like quick temperature changes, and all her work would be lost with the slightest crack.
Susan says she doesn’t keep track of how many hours each of her elaborate showpieces takes her, but having watched her make just one bead, it’s easy to imagine that the time would be better figured in days or weeks – maybe even months. And lest you think that these creations are just for show, Susan says each piece is carefully designed so the weight will sit on the collarbones and not strain the neck, and they are meant to be worn. “Otherwise,” she asks, “what’s the point?”
To learn more about Susan and see her work, visit her website, and be sure to visit her booth at this year’s Art-A-Licious. She is also one of our demonstrating artists, so be sure to stop by and see her practicing her craft in Downtown Adrian!