It was a sunny day in Nina’s early childhood when she received a few packets of small glass beads as a gift. “It may sound trivial but this moment as a child was for me like birthday and Christmas for the past years altogether. It was as if my life had been created just for that moment,” she says. Nina remembers it like if it had just been yesterday. She was immediately captured by the warmth of those beads, like an embassy of feelings through their colors that made each one of them look as powerful as a sun which she took in their hands and, in no time, put them together in a necklace. Since then Nina carries within her that pride of taking something loose and turning it into something meaningful and beautiful.
Nina started her glass beads artwork self-learning process 12 years ago studying from American books. She proudly claims that through patience and practice her early potato-like pieces have turned into beautiful pieces of art. Her small workshop is packed to the fullest. She has found a way to accumulate an army of tools and materials to work with her beads as well as books and everything needed for her bookkeeping. The central piece is a gas burner that operates with propane and oxygen allowing it to generate flames reaching 1.500 degrees Celsius. The glass is melted and wound around a stainless steel rod. The rod holding the liquid glass must be constantly rotated to avoid the glass from dripping towards the ground.
Once the bead is finished it is ready to go into the cooling furnace. This is extremely important because during the bead making process it is necessary to administer very high heat to the glass. When making complex pieces one might need to apply different amounts of heat to localized parts of the bead, which can be compensated by very smooth but long rotation of the rod. Fortunately, it is possible to use an annealing kiln to do that job as well as the indispensable cooling down process. If the glass is left at room temperature right after such extreme heat exposure it would explode and break due to the drastic temperature difference. Therefore, the furnace is preheated to 520 degrees Celsius where the finished beads can rest for up to 10 hours being brought down progressively to room temperature.
“Beads look very different while you are working them over the flame, colors disappear and everything looks red or black. So even after so many years and endless working hours it is still an exciting moment when I take the beads of the previous day out of the oven,” Nina shares. Once finished, the beads are drilled with a milling tool to make sure all the holes are clear and clean. Then the work of turning them into pieces of jewelry, pens, bookmarks, bottle stoppers, key chains, etc. begins. When making jewelry Nina uses only the highest quality of sterling silver. For particular beads she uses rocaille seed beads to crochet sidepieces for necklaces and to centrally mount the glass work.
When asked why she specifically makes frogs Nina explains that the frogs did not come out of a master plan to create a frog brand. “My kids are responsible for that and that makes me very proud,” she remarks and continues to tell us that her children gather the frog spawn from their pond every year to put it in kegs so that they don’t end up as fish food. They then return them to the pond as soon as they become tadpoles and are big enough to survive. “When my frog-loving children realized that I can make various shapes out of glass they were quick to give me a mandate to make a frog out of a bead,” she concludes.
Some of her early frogs found their way to a few craft markets where they were received with immediate enthusiasm and, since then, they have found their home in many ears, necks, arms, pens, etc. Nina’s frogs appear to know no boundaries. She is something like a midwife through whom these little creatures come to birth. She never ceases to be delighted when she sees the smiles of every new frog mother. “Each bead has its own history and each frog has a particular expression. I love my work because it has a soul, encourages individuality and makes people happy,” she says with a smile. Nina’s frog family has grown quite a bit since its early beginnings when mama Frog and papa Frog fell in love and became a couple.