Making beautiful glass beads with Sarah Downton


Ref: SSS10557

Suitable for all

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About this course

Make glass beads in the flame using gas torches, coloured glass rods and techniques including encasing, using silver, shaping and press moulds. Practise increasingly complex designs and shaping to make several collections of beads.

Course Description

Glass bead making is an accessible way of working hot glass and this course delivers an introduction to this exciting art form. Learn to make beautiful glass beads in the flame using a gas torch, coloured glass rods and several decorative techniques and materials. Those with some experience will be able to hone techniques and learn more control of the hot glass.

By the end of the course you will have made between 50 to 100 beads, depending on size and individual speed of work, and a piece of jewellery or collection of beads created using some of these beads. The confidence and information gained will enable you to make beads independently and set up a torch at home. Those with prior experience will have refined their skills and have a deeper understanding of the process.

You will receive plenty of torch time and a good grounding to the processes, materials and safe working practice. Learning is done in steps to build up skills and make increasingly complex designs and shapes, or practice and improve existing and new skills. Tutor demonstrations will be followed by individual practice, and occasional group and individual discussions.

Repetition is necessary early on to help coordination and become more relaxed with the process. As the course progresses individual practice time will increase allowing you to pursue your personal ideas and consolidate skills.

You will be given basic technical information about glass, and will discuss tips for making better beads and the attributes of the perfect bead. A variety of books and the tutor’s beads will be available to view for inspiration.

Techniques include:

• Application of frits, powder, dots, stringer and metal.

• Surface manipulation including raking, twisting and poking.

• Hand shaping cylinders and hearts.

• Using presses to shape glass.

• Encasing.

• Your choice of techniques for those with experience.

A feature of the Summer School is an immersive learning experience with more time to develop your creativity and embrace further opportunities for creative development beyond your chosen course.

Several early evening creative sessions (5.10pm - 7pm) are planned throughout the week. Extra activities will differ this year in response to social distancing. A detailed timetable for your Summer School week will be given to you on arrival. This will include:

• Short inspirational talks by tutors and displays of their work

• Sign up early evening tutor-led drawing sessions in the garden

• Time to relax or explore in the tranquil West Dean Gardens

• Take a break from your course with some free time on Tuesday afternoon, from 3.30-5pm

• Informal end-of-course group reviews and displays of students' work in studios


Timetable for Summer Schools

Several evening events are planned throughout the week, a detailed timetable for the summer schools will be given to you on arrival.

Arrival Day

Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students should vacate their rooms by 10am please.

Course Materials


  • The course fee includes materials shared amongst the group; all fuel costs and glass that is stocked by the College.

What students need to bring

  • Collect and bring any visual inspiration and ideas for colours and designs for your beads and jewellery.
  • Please wear comfortable natural fibre clothing or bring an apron or old cotton shirt to cover clothes and arms and help protect against burning little holes.
  • Please wear closed shoes, no bare feet or flip flops.
  • Please bring something to tie or clip back long hair.
  • Reading glasses if you need them
  • Notebook or pad, pen and pencil
  • Jam jar
  • Any beadmaking and jewellery making tools you own, clearly labelled with your name. If you have didymium glasses please bring them.
  • Any jewellery making supplies you already have, e.g. stringing materials, findings, spacer beads etc.
  • Please note that lampwork beads are heavy so materials need to be strong.
  • Any beads or jewellery that you have made previously or that you aspire to.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A small range of findings and wires
  • Available from tutor:
  • The tutor may supply some of the materials such as fine silver foil and wire, a small amount of frit, and rivets to glue into big hole beads. This charge will be minimal and should be paid to the tutor before the end of the course.


Sarah Downton

Sarah started making glass beads in 2002 and teaching beadmaking in 2006. She sells at bead and art fairs, is a City and Guilds qualified teacher and four times judge of the British Bead Awards.
She is a member of the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen (where she sells her work), Glass Beadmakers UK and the International Society of Glass Beadmakers.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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