|Trip Report: India|
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Here is a trip report from India.
It was the first part of a longer trip that includes India, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and Taiwan. Currently in Hong Kong. In the end, this and other research will result in a book on 'Beads from the torch'.
In India we visited three bead places. First was Varanasi, home of Benares Beads, a major importer. Second was Purdilnagar, close to Agra. Third was Firozabad, also close to Agra. Torben Sode has visited here many times, and he is the one who put me in touch with Benares Beads, which made a huge difference. Thank you, Torben!
I have mostly been documenting current lampwork techniques. Here, the technique was taught by a Czech couple more than 50 years ago. It is still very similar to what I would consider 'Old school Czech'.
The burner is basically an oil lamp, working on kerosine. With a system of foot powered bellows below the table, air is pumped through the flame to increase the heat.
They cover the burner with a half round metal sheet and a piece of cloth to protect themselves from the heat. They make a small 'wall' of clay to reflect the heat back behind the burner, similar to the set up in Venice. The mandrels used in Varanasi were oddly enough made from copper. This conducts the heat, so the mandrel gets very hot, especially as they are making many beads on a single mandrel. They use leather finger coverings to keep their fingers from burning. To get even shapes, they use handmade brass molds for rolling and shaping the beads. These are oiled to stay smooth, and sometimes cooled at the bottom with some dripping water.
Two lampworkers working away.