Fueling The Passion

Donna Conklin

Donna Conklin

Linda AmesPlease join the SCFS board members in welcoming our new featured artist, Donna Conklin.   

Donna is currently serving a term on the SCFS board as our treasurer. She also services our lampworking needs by being our favorite local glass “pusher”; owner of The Mandrel in Redondo Beach. Not only is this a retail glass store, but it is also a teaching studio featuring many renowned artists.

Upon her discovery of lampworking in early 2004, she took a gutsy leap and not only jumped head first into making beads, she also opened up a retail glass store 14 ½ months after taking her first class, with the help and support of her husband Jeff.

In April 2005 I opened The Mandrel in less than 500 sq ft.  We started off with 1 pound of every color COE 104 except the Vetro colors that were the same as Moretti (it didn’t and still doesn’t make sense to me to have the same colors in Vetrofond as Moretti).  I opened it because I was getting frustrated with ordering the same colors from different vendors because some vendors had/have a bad habit of changing the color names.  I wanted to go some place to see all the different colors and I wanted to be able to buy “just a little” to try out.  I figured I couldn’t be the only person sitting out in my garage making beads around here.   I had no intention of ever hosting classes and didn’t really know how to contact artists.  I found out a simple e-mail is all it takes.  We moved to a bigger place just over 800 sq ft 15 months after I opened the business.”

Her artistic career began as a very young child. Her talented grandmother began teaching her many skills from sewing to crocheting to seed bead work as early as she can remember. Always eager to learn, Donna grasped these lessons from her grandmother and put her heart and soul into her own creations. From there, she took over her father’s drafting table, and began drawing, eventually leading her into graphic design in college.

Armed with an associate degree in graphic design, she quickly determined that cramped cubicle space in an office was not her style. While raising her two sons, Michael and Anthony as a stay-at-home mom, she continued to pursue her love of the arts and went on to learn and design stained glass windows.

Intrigued with the idea of adding fused pieces to her windows, she headed over to Pacific Art Glass to sign up for fusing lessons. The next fusing class was months away, but…..a lampworking bead class was coming up very soon. LAMPWORK? What is lampwork? She’d never heard the term before, but took the class anyway. She’s never turned back since and has poured her heart and soul in glass beadmaking.

Donna started her beadmaking career on a Hot Head torch in early 2004, but quickly upgraded to a Minor. Today, she uses a Carlisle Mini CC, and works primarily with Effetre glass. Vetrofond Crystal Clear and German furnace glass completes her palette, along with silver that she incorporates into her beads. Her first beads are still in her possession on display in her studio, proudly shown to us in her photos.

After Donna’s first few beginner classes, she went on to take a class from Andrea Guarino-Slemmons. Also inspired by artists such as Michael Barley, Jennifer Geldard, Trey Cornette and Margaret Zinser, she also has had the opportuntity to benefit from the instruction of many of the artists teaching at her studio. Among those are, our own SCFS president, Judy Carlson, Tink Martin, Heather Trimlett, Kim Fields, Andrea Guarino-Slemmons, Larry Scott, Bronwen Heilman and many others.

Final words of wisdom for those aspiring to learn this art form?

“Have patience. Master the basic skills of bead making…practice one thing until it becomes natural, then move on to something new.Don’t get discouraged if you don’t become the next “it” beadmaker overnight. And I know beginners hate this but, practice, practice, practice.”

Additional examples of Donna’s work can be seen on her website, www.PrimaDonnaBeads.com .

Information on her store can be found at www.TheMandrel.com.


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