Saturday, September 25, 2010


Serving as the heart of downtown Portland, Oregon is the judicial Pioneer Courthouse. At 141-years-old, the structure was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977, and still acts as one of four locations for hearings of the U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit. Oregon is also home to featured jewelry designer Judy Richards.

As shown in my profile, I was not what you would call a jewelry fanatic when I started this blog.

Aside from the “standards” like Neil Lane or Tiffany & Co., I did not know any other designer jewelry brands.

Of course now that has changed but even with all I have learned I am still discovering designer jewelry and unique jewelry styles that I would not have otherwise known.

Although I have featured designers such as Trace Palmer (Ireland), and Te Rongo Kirkwood (New Zealand) who create lovely pieces from blown or fused glass, I was not familiar with Richards’ lampworking technique that also requires the use of glass rods or glass beads.

Mandrels, striking, cold working, and annealing are just a few lampwork bead making terms I read about after doing a little online research. I also learned that this painstaking, “glasswork” art form is a centuries-old skill used in ancient Syria, Italy, and France.

Upon viewing some online photos of lampwork jewelry, it was clear that Richards’ jewelry is unlike anything I had seen.

She plays with organic forms and small sculptures giving her pieces whimsical originality. She even designs her own beads, such as her Hibiscus Bead, which are equally distinctive and quirky.

A member of the International Society of Glass Beadmakers (ISGB), Richards initially “started out bead weaving, and then wanted to include lampwork in my designs. I took a class here in Portland, and trained with the ISGB,” she says. “I also took a continuing education class with Dustin Tabor, and Stepahnie Sersich.

I use ribbon cane a lot and do a lot of sculptural lampwork with soft soda-lime glass—I like the colors in soft glass. I do flower beads, horses, cats and have tried other things such as sea creatures.”

Inspired by the colors and shapes of natural surroundings, as well as the “watery nature of glass,” Richards injects a bit of instinct and intellectualism into her unconventional, vivid designs.

“I like to use my own lampwork beads with mini macramĂ©, semi-precious stones, and precious metal clay beads. My approach is different in many ways and is truly my own. I am a very intuitive person so I follow my heart whenever I create a new bead or flower.

I also do a lot of thinking. The work can be difficult because I am working with hot glass. The glass has to be kept hot all the time so adding details to sculptural pieces like the horse has to be done quickly to avoid cracking.”

Along with her playful and somewhat off-center designs are more modern jewelry pieces of pendant necklaces and bracelets.

Like the mythical superhero, Richards plays dual roles enlisting two Etsy stores, Beads U Need, and Cats Paw Artifacts, as independent outlets for her modes of expression.

“There are two sides to me: one side loves simplicity, like transparent circle beads with ribbon cane; the other side is showy and loves to try new things and attract attention. I really love doing abstract lampwork.”
Photo 1 (top right): Lampwork 17-inch Ocean Jasper Necklace with Bone
Photo 2 (center): Lampwork Horse Pendant
Photo 3 (bottom left): Lampwork Amazonite Tibetan Prayer Box Pendant Necklace

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