Vivian Joyce displays the many colours of glass that she uses to make her beads. She heats the glass over a flame

Finding a purpose in life through art

Ponoka’s Vivian Joyce loves the challenge of creating lampwork beads that are unique and colourful

By Dale Cory

To call it an addiction would certainly be an overstatement — especially considering the term is usually applied to someone who is out of control and consumed by something not necessarily becoming of decency.

Ponoka entrepreneur Vivian Joyce may not be addicted to her work, although, it does consume her, and in many ways, it has taken control of her life.

Her business card pretty much says it all: ‘Special requests taken — I love the challenge.’

Joyce is into beadwork — in a big way.

Her new and thriving business — Creations from Vivian Joyce — specializes in lampwork beads, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants and single beads.

Joyce is the architect behind every bead she makes. She is in charge of the production line, and she could be found at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex every Wednesday selling her work to the public during the Farmers’ Market.

She got hooked on beads five years ago after taking part in a demonstration at an Edmonton studio that specialized in bead making, and allowed patrons to hone their skills on site.

“I just loved to do it,” insists Joyce. “I wasn’t going to do much, but one colour leads to another, you want to try something else, and the next thing you know, you have 100 shades of glass.”

Joyce now spends a good chunk of her day, and night, in the basement of her home, where her bead-making studio is located. She admits to getting out of bed at two or three in the morning, walking into her studio, firing up the torch, and proceeding to produce colourful bead after colourful bead. (That’s where the addiction part kicks in)

The process of bead making is very detailed.

First, Joyce takes a mandrel, a stainless steel rod on which the molten glass is applied to construct the bead. The hole in the bead comes from the mandrel. She then dips the mandrel into bead release, a type of mud that allows the finished product to slide off without being damaged.

From there, the sky is the limit. Joyce opens a drawer filled with Italian glass rods. There are hundreds of different colours, allowing the artist unlimited capabilities.

“You put your glass into the flame slowly so it doesn’t shatter. As it is molting, you just form it around your mandrel,” explained Joyce. “You can do pretty much anything you want with shaping. Once you’ve got your shape, you have to put it into a fibre blanket to cool down, then into a kiln for about eight hours. The kiln removes the stress from the glass.”

Joyce has spent at least a couple thousand dollars setting up her production line.

It takes her at least 10 minutes just to make one single bead.

Have you noticed the different colours in a bead?

Once the glass had heated to the point where it encircled the mandrel, she dipped it into frit, a ceramic composition that has been fused in a special fusing oven, quenched to form a glass, and granulated. There are many colours of frit, which, when heated into the still-forming bead, give the artist a design that simply cannot be duplicated.

A successful artist is creative to the extreme. Joyce has used coal slag, and silica sand, which is used on a golf course, to create her beads.

“The people who know what it’s taken to create these beads are in awe and really appreciative of what you’ve put into it. Those are the people we really like,” says Joyce with a laugh. “They know and understand what it has taken. When they see your jewelry, not only have you put it together, you’ve actually made the bead.

“You’ve really, in a sense, designed it all. They appreciate what goes into it, especially because there are so many cheap knockoffs on the market.”

As for that addiction, Joyce believes making the beads can be therapeutic in many ways. The process is all-consuming, with sufficient artistry thrown into the mix.

Does she consider herself an artist?

“Yes! Now I do,” says Joyce with a laugh. “I wasn’t going that way, but I recently left my day job, and I have a problem with this word retired. One day I was filling out some papers, and it came to occupation. My husband writes, ‘retired,’ and I go no, no, no — not retired. I finally put down glass artist, and I felt really good about it. So, that’s what I do. This is the first thing I’ve done that has no purpose except for enjoyment. That’s what I like about it.”

To find out more… To check out Vivian Joyce’s line of beadwork, call her at 403-783-8161, or e-mail: