Found in the heart of the KZN Midlands in the small town of Howick is the studio of Barbara Magrath.
We have taken an ancient craft from the Northern Hemisphere –LAMPWORKING (specifically from VENICE) – and given it a very Southern African twist.
Lampworking – the most time consuming method of making glass beads as each bead is individually made over a flame resulting in beautiful one of a kind Lampwork glass bead. Its origins are lost in the mists of time but the first recorded reference to Venetian glassmaking was in 982AD. From then on the Venetians had a virtual monopoly of the craft. In the 17th Century the glass artists used an oil lamp and modern lampworking was born (Read more on bigbeadlittlebead.com)
I was introduced to Lampworking when I met Betsy Rowe at a craft market in 2007. She had recently returned from Venice where she had studied the craft. I was fascinated and studied under Betsy. For 3 years I practiced and learnt the techniques and in 2011 opened my first shop. Due to the lockdown I have had to work from home but I am passionate about continuing to make these beautiful miniature works of art.
I also offer lessons in my studio. These are one on one and a “Taster lesson” is offered as an introduction to what can become an addiction and lifetime passion. Lampworking is not for everyone – it is time consuming and expensive – all the raw materials and equipment is imported ,the glass mostly from Murano and the tools from Europe and North America although I have recently started using glass from glass bottles – specifically Bombay Sapphire gin bottles and any other colored glass.
The beads we make are inspired by our beautiful and amazing natural surroundings – from our wildlife to our magnificent coastline and ocean and our diverse and unique floral kingdom. We do also use inspiration from traditional sources such as Venetian trade beads.
Although we have certain traditional products customers are welcome to request their own designs and every bead is handmade and then annealed in a kiln overnight and then made up into earrings etc. I have always said that my customers always come up with the best ideas.