On a quiet street in Norwalk, a torch hisses on a table in the basement of Tina Tveitnes’ home.
Brightly colored glass rods wait to be melted, stretched and molded by the lampworker. Tveitnes is an engineer at Whirlpool in Clyde, but spends her free time creating tiny works of art in the form of glass beads.
Early lampworking utilized a flame from an oil lamp, but Tveitnes modern-day torch setup uses an oxygen and propane mixture. It ignites with a hiss, a soft explosion of bright orange light and her work begins. She puts on green protective glasses which help to see her work through the bright flame. Glass quickly melts onto a metal stick which she turns to create a circular bead. She melds polka-dots, stripes, flowers, suns, anything she desires into the beads.
“It’s soothing. When I come down here and work on beads it’s a stress reliever,” says Tveitnes, “It’s also fun to see what happens next. Sometimes you don’t know what the bead’s gonna look like.” A red-hot bead quickly cools to blue when pulled away from the flame, revealing white stripes.
She forms her large collection of handmade beads into bracelets, necklaces and earrings. Large beads depicting underwater seascapes with starfish and coral suspended in clear glass are of her most intricate designs. They are like small cylindrical aquariums you can wear. Her signature bead is called “The Gracie,” which is striped white and brown with gold flecks in honor of her rescued bull terrier. She donates some of her works to organizations like the Humane Society and Campfire Girls to auction off. “I like the fact that I can help with my talents in that way too,” she says.
When she was invited to the Milan Public Library for a demonstration of her work, the children were excited for the presentation. “The minute the torch went on, there was dead silence, you could hear a pin drop,” recalls Tveitnes. The librarians laughed. “I said, ‘why are you giggling?’ they said ‘I’ve never ever had had the children be that quiet,’” she laughed, “They just sit there and take it all in and I think, ‘if I create one little artist, I’ve accomplished my task for the day.’”
She enjoys interacting with people at art shows, including Port Clinton Artists’ Club’s Arts in the Park, where she was awarded the “people’s choice” ribbon in 2013, an honor for her humble hobby that brought her to tears. “I didn’t start making beads until I was along in years. So you never know what life has in store for you or what you’re going to learn, you can always be learning something new.” She brings along her torch to showcase the fact that her beads are handmade. “A lot of times you walk past different venues and you think well all they did was string the beads on a string and sell it. I want the people to know I actually made the beads.”
See Tina Tveitnes and her work at Arts in the Park in Port Clinton this Sunday, August 3.