Setting Up a Lampwork Studio

setting-up-a-lamwprk-studioThank goodness for experiences – they make things so much easier! Back in Canada, I agonized over setting up a lampwork studio – it had to be perfect, pretty, and safe. All sounds reasonable, yes? And I built a GREAT studio, all from scratch (and I chronicled it all on a blog, which is now lost in cyberspace somewhere otherwise I’d send you there to take a look!!). I am still seriously proud of that accomplishment: assembling the actual building, drywalling, tiling the floor, building the workbench, etc… I had never done anything like that and I had a great group of friends to help and coach me along.

Fast forward now 2 years later: we have moved to Panama. Once I knew that I wanted to have my lampworking studio up and running, I didn’t even bat an eyelash at setting up a studio – I did it once (safely and successfully!) and I knew that I could certainly do it again! AND, I could correct some of the mistakes I made the first time around!

When we were house hunting, we found a lovely little house in the middle of a coffee farm in the mountains overlooking the valley of Boquete. And the BEST part: it  had the space for me to put a studio! My studio in Canada measured 8ftx10ft and this one is a bit smaller at about 8ftx8ft.

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When we first moved in, the studio ended up being the catch-all place for EVERYTHING! (it still sort of is…!)

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In Canada, I had a whole crew of handy friends who are happy to lend me a hand and some tools. Here, it took me a while to find someone who would help me get my work table built, but thankfully I did. With some 2×4’s, some screws and glue, and a table saw, I was able to transform a pile of lumber in to a work surface!

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Complete with a storage shelf below, the new table is 6 linear feet of work surface bliss!

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All packed up in Canada, the kiln was the most intimidating thing to bring down here. I transported my entire studio as “checked baggage” on 2 separate flights down. The kiln box measured 2ftx2ft and very likely weighed the exact weight limit for checked baggage for Copa Airlines (I had to pay an “oversize baggage fee” for this piece, but that was the only extra cost I had to pay to get my studio down here!).

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The kiln survived the voyage (goodness knows checked baggage on most airlines is subjected to some unbelievable abuse!) and is happily installed in its new spot.

In my Canadian studio, I invested in a high end greenhouse fan and it worked great (though it was noisy!). Because I couldn’t put a great big whole in the wall here, I rigged up a very affordable fan (to blow contaminated air cause when you melt glass, all kinds of toxins are released) out the existing window. After testing this ventilation set up with a simple smoke test (I burned a small piece of cardboard while the fan was running), I am amazed at how effective it is!

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Ventilation in, sheet metal covering the wood surface on the work table, and some more storage for hand tools (in the “silversmithing corner of the studio!).

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My biggest fear has been hooking up the oxygen and propane tanks (in Canada I used an oxygen concentrator instead of tanked oxygen and had a professional gas fitter connect the propane in the studio). After a field trip to the welding shop (the closest one is over 40 minutes away!) and a quick tutorial as to what to do/expect when hooking up the oxygen regulator, I felt much more confident tackling this job.

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Glass storage – I packed the glass for travel in the 12-in PVC pipes which was very secure. I then wedged the pipes in to some milk crates that I had lying around here so I can keep it close.

Lessons Learned From Setting Up a Lampwork Studio (the first time around):

  • Make sure that the make-up air comes from BEHIND you… In the studio in Canada, I had the make-up air coming from my left side, rather than behind me. This made the flame very jumpy and hard to work with,
  • Be close to water… Señor Luma is always less-than-impressed when I take over the kitchen sink to clean beads at. This new studio has an outdoor sink just outside.
  • Forget pretty… In my last studio, I was so concerned with having a beautiful and inspiring space and I spent so much time and energy making it look like some Pinterest image… Considering how messy I am in my studio (SERIOUSLY messy!), I have decided to focus on function cause it never is clean and looks “pretty” for longer than 10 minutes!
  • Set up your next studio in a TROPICAL country… In Canada, it gets really cold and really hot… This makes for a challenge when torching (the studio is either freezing cold or sweltering hot because the make-up air is bringing outside air in). Setting up a studio in Boquete (Land of Eternal Spring – temps are always between 17-25C!!) was a BREEZE!
  • When you think you have enough storage, add more… ALWAYS add more…!
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If I had the wall space, I would probably grab a second of these shelves – it has SERIOUSLY glorious organizeability (yeah, that’s a real word!) 😉

So, after a 6 month break from melting glass and creating in a studio, now is finally the time that I get back at it! Consider this a “soft opening” of the studio, as I spend the next few weeks working my way around and it making little tweaks to make it “perfect”!

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3 thoughts on “Setting Up a Lampwork Studio

  1. Oh Annie, you are amazing, you put me to shame. I just make beads, I don’t make benches or walls or extraction units, in my little world that’s all somebody else’s job. I need an ANNIE in my life! Welcome back, can’t wait to see what Panama has inspired you to create.

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