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Author Topic: AOTM June 2011 - Diana East  (Read 10878 times)
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I hold with those who favor fire.
Posts: 869

I'm working on a dream...

« on: May 31, 2011, 01:42:00 AM »

Diana East

How did you get started in glass bead making?

In a ‘previous life’ I was a jeweller with my own business.

A silver pendant with carved yew.

 Gold and diamond ring

I made this ring for my Mum. She wore it for very many years. I have it back now since she died. I found it hard going with my own shop, doing work for shows and commissions and repairs for jewellery shops in the city. Eventually I gave up and took a job with Specialist Crafts for a while where I produced all sorts of stuff for their catalogue. It was while I was there in early 1994 that I first bought some glass from Plowden and Thompson (still got the invoice!) and melted it with my Jewellery torch having seen what people were doing with glass beads in America. In late 1995 I got on a class with Winston Doull in Blackpool. That was my first introduction to the Hot Head. Like lots of people I was doing bead weaving with seed beads and even did a few fairs with friendship bracelets. I had tried to find stuff out about bead making but without the internet or any books I couldn’t even work out how to make the hole in a bead until the class with Winston! I had been to various glass makers and even up to the Yorvik Centre to look at Viking beads. I was a member of the Bead society of Great Britain and Carole Morris told me I would need to go to America. In 1996 M E took over my life and I left Specialist Crafts. When I started to get a bit better I was looking round for an alternative to precious stones and metals and decided that glass was for me.

Where and when did you light the torch for the first time?

I do remember melting glass in the flame of the gas stove when I was in my early teens and using the little globs in brass jewellery.
In 1994 I had the remains of my jewellery workshop in my attic and remember having a go at making a hat pin for a felt hat I had made. I also tried using my husband’s welding torch hooked up to propane and oxygen in the garden shed but needed ear defenders. Then after the class with Winston I tried the Hot Head but trying to melt the glass I had nearly made me give up. It’s fine with Venetian glass but I had no idea how to get hold of that. When I got my first Minor Burner it felt like getting into a Rolls Royce!

Have you had any lessons? Where do you get your knowledge from?

After struggling to find out anything much here in Britain for three years apart from the class with Winston I had the immense luck to meet Kate Drew Wilkinson ( who invited me over to the USA for two months in the Autumn of 1997. She was so generous and I owe my glass bead making career to her. I was again very ill for a while but as I recovered I took lessons as often and as many as I could possibly afford travelling to America and Switzerland and where ever I needed to go.

In 1998 I signed up for Techniques and Technology of Glass – a postgraduate course at the International Glass Centre in Brierly Hill. What a wonderful year! I thought I would commute but spent the first week sleeping in my car on a caravan site, then got some digs and finally a room – it was so exciting! I’ve been to Corning a couple of times too – exhausting but wonderful. I also did a post graduate course at Derby Uni, and Artist’s Access in the glass department of the University of Central England in Birmingham at the same time followed by Artist in Residence in the Glass Department at DeMontfort University Leicester.

Now I try to get tutors that I admire to teach in my studio and sit in on the classes to learn more.
I got a class with Gianni Toso  by default last summer ( I remember mentioning to the Universe that I would like to take that class but no money) when I was asked to TA for him out of the blue with only a few days notice – Wow – what an immense skill! I’m still processing all that. What a lovely man! I hope he won’t sue me for lifting a picture from his web site!

Are there any bead makers or jewellery designers you admire? What for?

I love the work of Peter Chang – he actually works in acrylics. The colours and strange designs really appeal to me. You can see the influence in a lot of my work.

Large bangle by Peter Chang
I am amazed at the wonderful bead makers we have now – there are just too many to name – I spend hours looking through facebook and places on the net at all the beautiful stuff – things just get better and better – way beyond my widest dreams of 17 years ago!
Recently  I’ve been looking at work by Alex Ubatuba!/media/set/?set=a.1452758955913.2065914.1141448521 fab murrini work.

and Ayako Hattori
Where do you get your inspiration from?

For many years I have been interpreting my understanding of how the human brain works.

"Chain Reaction" and "Loop"

The thinking behind these two pieces is based on a continuing investigation into the nuts and bolts of identity and consciousness and refers to the movement of positively charged ions in the tissues of the brain. I am aware that there is a strange loop here because I am trying to visualise the very process that I am using for visualisation.

’Action Potential 2’
Have you got a 'signature' style? How would you describe it?

I don’t think I have really got a specific style. I like to try lots of things but the ‘Aladdin’s Palace’ was the bead that everyone seems to remember.

’Aladdin’s Palace’
I suppose the ‘Little Thinkers’ were fairly typical of a lot of my work (so named at the time because they were ‘little stinkers’ to make – lots of juggling involved, the whole lot, feet and head made in one go)

‘Little Thinkers’

The concept for these beads was of an imaginary glutomate molecule (top) combining with a receptor which opens a channel to allow the flow of positively charged sodium ions into a brain cell (body)triggering action potential and Exocytosis (the leaping of neurotransmitter molecules across the synapse - feet). Part of the process of thinking. They stand up by themselves and seem to have taken on a quirky sort of persona hence the name.

'Apogee in Yellow’

I made two of these. Again they refer to Exocytosis. One now resides in the collection of the Museo del Vidrio in La Granja near Madrid, Spain.

A fairly recent brooch called ‘Red Apogee’

‘Inner Structure Revealed’

This is a large bead in a series about the sparseness of matter at a quantum level. I’ve used a flat lap machine to cut through the spirals and polish the front and back surfaces. I think it was about 90mm high.

What skill or technique would you like to learn - where would you like to take your art next?

There is so much to learn still even after all these years. I love to experiment which is why I can’t just seem to settle on a particular style as such. I love Japanese cane work and constantly try to improve my cane making and I’m using it in my ‘Sea Change’ work. Right now I love Ayako Hattori’s work – see   - I’d love to get her here to teach and I’ve always wanted to go to Japan.
I’m really hoping to get Lucio to come and teach here at my studio thanks to Sal who met up with him in Turkey, as sculptural work also interests me very much, and I would dearly like to go back to Venice to see him on his home turf!

Which bead or piece are you most proud of - can you tell us the story behind it?

I suppose the most fun piece and also the most profound for me has to be ‘Wavefunction’ It was made for the Biennali Exhibition in 2006. I’m very proud that it has been reproduced in Craft Arts Magazine and I won’t part with it. I worked with Jenny Parry on the Japanese braid she made for it, unfortunately not shown in this photo.


The brain works on a quantum level. At this level things don't do what we would expect at all.   Because sub atomic particles have wavelike properties apparently they are able to be in more than one place at the same time! The mathematical expression of a particle's wave like behaviour is called its 'wavefunction'.
I think it is all theory but still I find it totally fascinating. No wonder we can't get a handle on how the brain really works.

I’m also really proud of Tempest Exhibition. Next venue Denmark!

Caliban by David Reekie

Which of your personality traits comes through in your work, do you think?
I’m a Gemini – is that enough said? I’m also a bit of a ‘Trekki’ and love sci-fi/fantasy and really like to read science books – stuff abut quantum theory and neuroscience. Terry Pratchett J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman appeal to me too so I guess that type of thing comes out in my work. I also love David Attenborough type books and documentaries and much of my work is inspired by their visual content.  I’ve based set of beads on the First Life series and the wave patterns on ‘Wavefunction’ and ‘Sea Memories’ were based on a picture of a desert sand dune. I also love objects from history. Back in the 70’s I used to work for Leicestershire Museums and really enjoyed designing the Ancient Egypt Gallery among others.

Here’s a sort of mad composite of lots of wildly different work done over the years.

What are you currently working on?
Right now I am just playing with coral reef life type inspiration and the colours – I love looking at pictures in books and always wished I could dive. Sal’s shop in St. Ives, see  has inspired me to actually make something.

‘Sea Horse Pendant’

‘Coral Reef Pendant’
I am also working on pieces for the Glass Wear Exhibition at the Gallery of London Glass Blowing in June.

Two of the necklaces I will be submitting for the exhibition in London made with Double Helix glass
Then I’m hoping to get some work together for Art in Action at Waterperry where I’m going to support Sarah Hornik.

Where can we see more of your work?

My shameless plug would be for classes at my studio.


I want to give back to others some of the joy that glass has given me.

My web site is and I’m trying to put more of my work up there as well as the classes. It links in to which is my gallery site but it badly needs updating and only goes up to 2006. My CV only goes up to 2008 and so much has happened since then. I’ve been concentrating everything on teaching and organising classes over the last few years. I have however just put my first ever bead up on Ebay with Sal’s help – I’ve had the page - must be - for eight years! –Thanks Sal.

Ebay bead
Finally I would like to thank the Universe for taking me on this journey. It has been such a privilege taking me round the world and meeting so many wonderful people. Looking back over the past 17 years I am overwhelmed by it all. I hope that glass can bring other people even a fraction of the joy it has brought me.

‘Sea Change’ Paperweight


Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange.
The Tempest : William Shakespeare

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