Category Archives: Mari

Featured Artist–Mari Johnson

We chose Mari Johnson as our first Featured Artist for a variety of reasons.  She’s a very talented lampworker, seedbeader, and teacher.  She’s also the glue that holds our group together.  She opens her studio and her heart to us on a monthly basis.  For some of us, it’s the one time, the one place where we can get together with people who are like minded.  Mari encourages all of us.  Without her we wouldn’t be the group that we are.  Mari, we love you and we thank you.


How did you get started in lampworking?  What was the thing that made you interested?

I walked into a stained glass shop in Plymouth, Michigan, where I lived at the time, and as I was always interested in glass, I asked if they had any classes. The owner had just started teaching beadmaking classes and I took a four hour class on a hothead. The beads were awesome to me, although looking at them now, not so much. 

 How long have you been lampworking?

I’ve been lampworking for 8 years. But the first 4 years I probably lampworked 40 – 50 hours a week, now it’s more like 20 – 30. 

Is it a business for you or a hobby?

It’s a business.

What inspires you?

The glass inspires me, other media, nature, everything around me, really.

How do you get the inspiration/motivation back when you are in a slump?

One of my favorite things is to go to a paper shop or fabric store. I love the textures of paper, the colors and patterns of fabric.I look in magazines and occasionally in the Gallery of Lampwork Etc, and yearly when we buy in Tucson. Oh the brain is engaged then, all right.

 Who are your 3 favorite lampworkers? 

 Kate Fowle Meleney is my mentor. Kate’s work is truly cutting edge and thoughtful. Just like Kate! Andrea Guarino Slemmons. Andrea’s work is color, depth, design, style… you’d like to taste the glass, absorb it’s richness and detail.Tink Martin. Her work is tidy, stylish, artsy. Her exploration of glass is ongoing, she’s a fun, interesting person with great insight. 

I also love the work of Deb Crowley, Brent Graber, Chris Roesinger, Brian Kitson, Trey Cornette, Anne Ricketts, Kim Affleck, Anastasia… the list just goes on and on… 

What is the best thing about lampworking?

I still have to say the best thing is when the glass goes from solid form to liquid (Yes, we all know glass is never solid, but you know what I mean.) and back to liquid. That fluidity, the color, the immediacy and the practicality of glass is still a wonder to me. I adore it. 

The worst?

People in the field who would rather talk smack than appreciate one another. I gossip, we all do, but between the people who don’t want others to rise in the field and the ones who are forever claiming they invented this or that, … the glass grinches… well, I’ve seen how it stifles the creativity of newcomers to glass, and it’s a shame. This isn’t rocket science and it should be fun. It’s not stocks and bonds and money… it shouldn’t be cutthroat. I believe that if my hand is closed, then nothing is going in or out…you have to give to receive, there’s enough to go around, folks. There are more customers out there than any of us can handle, so what’s the problem?

What is the funniest or scariest thing that ever happened to you when you were torching?

Scariest and funniest is when hot glass goes down the cleavage. Funny to everyone else, scary to the girls.

What kind of set up do you use? Torch?

I use a Barracuda, the other workstations have a Lynx and six Mini CC’s. They’re all equipped with Creation Stations, Crowley Marvers and a basic tool set. We have a huge ventilation system, too.


What is your favorite glass?

I love the Black Nebula, Double Helix and Doug Remschnieder’s new glass,  oh and Raku! 

Do you have a favorite technique?

I think blowing shards and laying them on beads is about the most fun ever. I also love doing the implosions that Brent taught me.

What are your favorite color combinations?

Black and anything that silvers, oh and Raku. 

What technique makes you want to bang your (or someone else’s) head against the wall?

Smoothing out an encased floral slowly. I could scream sometimes. It takes patience, which I save for teaching.

Is there a shape that you really HATE to make?

I love all shapes, I’m quite happy with them all but see above. 

Do you have a ‘comfort’ bead?

Sometimes I just warm up by making long skinny tubes. I love doing it. 

How do you see yourself developing as a lampworker in the future?

I see myself developing more focus now that I’m on Lyrica for Fibromyalgia. I get more done in one day than I did in three just a few months ago. Running the store and workshops leaves less time for beadmaking and that’s what I love most, so getting the ducks in a row first and having a clean workspace is essential to my devleoping focus. 

What are your goals?

To become more focused in my work, to be more organized so I can devote more time to beadmaking and less to finding things. The bead store has so many components its sick how much time I spend looking for stuff. To delegate more. 

What do you consider as successful?

If you are doing what you love to do, that’s success. If you feel scattered and unable to focus, you’re not there … YET! But it could be around the corner. Having people to love and that love you, laughing a LOT, that’s success to me. Being a great teacher, not letting my ego get in their way to learning glass, that’s success. Sharing what I’ve learned, not holding anything back. What success is not: It’s not getting published, speaking at the Gathering, being an Officer of the ISGB, making rules… that’s not my idea of success. It’s being in the trenches and helping others get set up and started on their journey. Promoting the love of glass. 

What is the key to getting there?

Ooooh Ooooh! I know this one!  Perserverance and enjoying the journey. Just keep doing your best and you’ll get there. Wherever ‘there’ is for you. It’s Practice, Practice, Practice, but enjoy the journey. Enjoy the people, sights, sounds and tastes. This ain’t rehearsal, it’s your life! Enjoy… take time and smell. Unless you’re going over the bridge in Joliet… don’t smell there. 

What would be your 3 best tips for new artists?

#1. Do set up your torch with safety and wear didydiums.

#2. Do your due diligence.. make 50 small round beads. If you are bored, decorate every 10th bead, but do them. You will be able to round and center your beads without thinking about it in approximately 20 seconds. Then you get to do the fun stuff like designing your masterpiece!

#3. Get a large 3 ring binder and put your inspirational photos, fabrics and textures in it. Include tutorials or tips and tricks you find on LE. 

Do you like to take classes from other lampworkers?

Yes, I do! I take classes every time someone comes to our studio and also when I go to Glass Stock every year. 

Do you teach?.

Yes, I have been teaching for seven years. 

Will you travel to teach?

Yes, I travel to Oregon to teach at Glass Stock every year, and would travel to other places, too. Email me at I’m a bargain. LOL!  

Mari Johnson

Blue Fire Beads & Jewelry

2534 E. Lincoln Hwy.

New Lenox, IL


Last day of shows, tomorrow we come home.

Keith is out shipping the boxes of treasures home, and I have a few minutes before we go to the Best Bead Show. We had a great time at the Holidome yesterday, plus stopped in at Tucson Store Fixture and grabbed some stuff for Brooke’s shows and for the shop. It was fun to see the display stuff in person.

So here are some pics I got at Holidome:


This is a pile of Keishi pearls, I love Keishi! They work especially well with seedbead designs.


This is a partial shot of Benny of Majestic Pearls… he is a great guy and we love to see him each year, he remembers us each time, and all customers love that, don’t we? Right after I took these two shots the PHOTO NAZI came up to me and yelled at me that there were no photos allowed. This guy was just working at the booth across the aisle from Benny. He had all his extra crates in the aisle, and I was parked in my wheelchair, which we rented because my joints are so bad right now.  I explained to him (only since I turned 50 was I empowered enough to do this) that I was taking simple photos of the show, for the folks back home who couldn’t attend but were in the biz. He was a jerk, he got really surly and I put the camera away. I understand about design protection but these were pearls in bags and Benny was ok with it.

Right after that he started re-arranging his crates and hit the wheelchair several times. I called to Keith and he moved me. I was pretty upset, it just felt bad, you know? So we finished up and went out for air and I was ok after that. I took the following outside, they’re not great photos but they give you an idea of the surroundings.


So after we had a bite we went back in and found these gemstone briolettes. Keith and I were looking for briolettes and found some nice Indian guys who worked with us on the prices. From  the top they are Green Amethyst, Pink Topaz, Citrine (2 strands), Blue Topaz, Amethyst and Garnet.


They are so much better in person, I am using Picasa to edit until I get home to load Photo Elements or something better. Hey it was free and I’m doing down and dirty photos on the nightstand!

Now I’d better get my face on before Keith gets back and then we’re off to Best Bead! I am taking photos there, so our little photojournalism stint will go out with a bang!

More later….


Thursday in Tucson…

Had a great day.. it was 55degrees and sunny. {Ducking}

We went to the Quality Inn Show, (formerly the Rodeway Inn), which is also a Gem & Lapidary Wholesalers Show. If you’ve never been to the Gem shows in Tucson, the G&LW is a wholesale only show, and not open to the public. You must have proof you’re a business but this includes designers. Basically you need a tax i.d.

So in case you haven’t been to a large show, the exhibitors are from all over the world, and you will hear many languages going at once. Some of the tents are like semi-permanent buildings, and some are quiet warm from all the halogen lighting. Shuttles carry the many thousands of people from parking lots all over. I have a handicapped sticker so we lucked out today and got a spot up front.

Some of the vendors have their stuff meticulously laid out and organized…


And some of them… not so much.



As you can see it was pretty slow at this show!

So we bought lots of goodies!

Hill Tribe and Bali Silver, Fimo and Furnace Glass, it was so much fun. It will take a couple of weeks to merchandise all the stuff! I also got some kewl fabric for Brooke’s show table. I almost got these awesome abalone shells for displays but I was too pooped, so I will get some at Holidome tomorrow if I can find them, or else go back and get em on Saturday.

Miss you all!


More pics.. Swarovski and Pansies

We had a wonderful day today… we went out to the Omni Golf Resort (stunningly beautiful resort), where the Swarovski Create Your Style show was. Well, we hooked up with a great wholesaler, one of their 5 star companies, and explored new ideas for us to merchandise, and of course, get better prices and selection. Sometimes we can’t get the colors we need or the newest shapes, etc., so we’re going to try this new company.

Here are some pics from their main exhibit… they were all in large vertical cases and I suppose they made them eye level, but I’m short, so eye level for me is somewhat lower.. I did my best to photo them.






This last one is a lobster! Amazing work there, this was only half of what was on display. There were also classes available, but I didn’t know, so next year I will register. The classes were affordable.. $50 and up including materials. There were a few rings, necklaces and bracelets I’d love to learn.

By now you’re wondering what the ? What about the pansies? Well, I went outside to sit, my back and knees are just killing me from all the walking, and Keith went to get the car. The weather is beautiful.. 50’s and sunny. Ya, I’m sorry Chicagoans, it’s gorgeous here, but I’m sharing these pansies which were in the planters outside.


I’ll post again soon. After the Create Your Own Style show, we went to the Whole Bead Show and I saw Karen Ovington, we had a nice visit… she was sharing a booth/room with Cindy McEwen but I missed Cindy, darnit! Love to all!


First pics from Tucson…

Well, thanks to Jason Jones, I found a pic resizer to use… by the time I got it loaded last nite I was too tired, so here are the first pics from your Tucson correspondent.

Hover over these thumbnails.. or double click. 

The condo, with the mountains in the background.


These are all turquoise, in cabs, some large chunky round discs that have a hole in them, for easy stringing, and the last one is something a customer requested, some large slices of turquoise.


Last is a stone that we got that is hard to describe… the pic doesn’t do it justice.. it’s unbelievably gorgeous, polished and just…. cool! Colors are black veining on opal grey.

So that’s it for yesterday… I didn’t have time/energy last nite to take pics of the pearls and other stones we got. At least 50 lbs in the three bags.

More to come… with people and shows…


We’re here!

Well, no pics yet… yesterday was pure vacation… relax, look around, etc. This morning we are doing Gem Mall and Holidome. Yikes. Lots of walking, I’m rested up, ready to go! On my list are turquoise, kyanite and pearls. Yay!

I will post later, if I can otherwise it’s tomorrow… with pics I promise!


For your inspiration….

ss10.jpgAs some of you know, I really love fractal images. I found a great site a while back and would like to share it with you. The color inspiration alone is worth saving or even printing to put at your bench or on the walls.

One of the things on my to do list is find a source for large inexpensive frames for the walls of the store and studio and an affordable large format local printer.. I have to do some research. I would love to frame some of these fractals to put on the walls of my studio to inspire me. I have stacks of them I’ve printed at 8 x 10 but I want larger.

So if you know of any sources… holler at me here.

OK, here’s the link: