Creating Distinctive Beads with the Powder Vibe System
We glass artists love to use different methods and techniques when creating our beads. I’ve not used enamels very often because of the safety issues. It’s usually hot and humid where I live and I don’t like to wear my mask. Because of this, it’s difficult for me to work with enamels. Scott Bowen of Bearfoot Art developed a tool, which allows artists to safely work with enamels and create stunning pieces of glass.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Scott created the Powder Vibe System after using a manual system to add frits to his bead. He says that way didn’t work too well for him, “I had been thinking of making my own tool for a long time, but hadn’t come to the right answer. That’s when someone showed me a Hummingbird Flosser and it just clicked with me that this was the answer. It was a ready-made tool that I could modify to suit my purpose. With the push of a button, I could produce the right vibrations and make it work as I had envisioned. Since then, the Hummingbird was discontinued and I had to reinvent the power unit. The new design is a sleek straight pen shape with the same magnetic tip as the original, but it has more power and a more sensitive switch.”
The Vibe loosens the granules of material so they flow. Scott says this is done by vibrations created by a small motor, “A sensitive fingertip on/off control gives the artist working the tool the ability to turn the ‘flow’ on or off as desired. The material flows when on and stops when the vibrations stop. Enamel is very round and pebble-like, whereas powders are like coarse aggregate. Aggregate packs more tightly and can be clumpy. You can see it plainly inside a jar if you turn it and roll it around while watching what’s happening. The enamel is more flowing, like sand in an hourglass. It doesn’t bunch up very easily and it flows well.”
Scott says there are several ways to use the vibe, including using it to apply smaller frits or enamels while the bead is spinning on the mandrel. You can draw on sheets of fusing glass for decoration, and even draw on graphite paddles, then pick the design up with the hot bead. Scott says artists even use it to create sand mosaics, “I have even seen it used outdoors by artists who make environmentally friendly and temporary art with the Powder Vibe and colored sand. They decorate, take a picture, and leave it for the wind.”
Varying Size Tips Allows for Specialized Uses
Four different tips allow different types of artists to create various designs. The tips come in small and large capacities and various shapes, including a slim fantip, a midsize fantip, the original (with a small hole), and a grande. Scott says the vibe system includes a power unit and a variety of tips, “They are sold by several of the bigger suppliers and at my website www.bearfootart.com.”
I own the Vibe System. I’ve always wanted to incorporate enamels into my work, but like I mentioned above, it’s usually too hot or humid to wear my particle mask. I’ve had the system for about a year and haven’t really worked with it…until now!
I purchased all the tips along with the power unit. I wanted to make sure I had what I needed when I needed it. The system takes two AAA batteries.
Getting used to the power of the Vibe system is a bit tricky. Like Scott says, the on-switch is very sensitive. I put just a little enamel into the larger-holed pen. That was a mistake! I made a mess and wasted my enamel. Smaller frits should go in that one! To correct my mistake, I added the enamel into the smaller-holed pen and it held it just right. It’s easy to get the enamel into the pen. I just took apart the system, scooped some enamel into the back of the tip, and added the motor. One thing is that the magnet that holds the pieces together is rather strong. Metal tools on my work bench were attracted to it!
I used the enamel on a bead that I was making. I like the idea of using the pen and applying the enamel, instead of having to sift the enamel onto a bead or roll my bead in enamel. I can’t guarantee that no enamel flies into the air, but for the most part, the vibe system keeps your work area cleaner. You should put something underneath the bead to catch the falling enamel.
As you can see from my video, it’s easy to add enamel to your bead. FYI, this is my very first video, so my apologies if it’s not cinematic! 🙂 And I know, my work bench is really messy!
Pros and Cons
As you can see from the above video, it’s really easy to use the system and the tips allow for less waste. However, there are some cons to the system. First, if you want to use multiple colors on one bead, you’ll have to buy several tips. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to switch colors while making a bead. Second, you will still have a little mess on your work bench from the enamel that doesn’t make it to the bead. Third, if you want a heavier coating, then you need either the larger-holed tip or you can take the time to continue adding enamel to the bead. This is where sifting the enamel onto the bead may be easier.
Like I mentioned, I’m not a pro when it comes to enameling my beads, but if you use enamels every once in a while, this may be a useful tool. Let me know what you think!