Exploring glass beadmaking – developing skills with Sarah Downton

Ref: S3D31360

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About this course

Build on your glass beadmaking skills and improve the placement of decorations. Make encased floral beads, complex twisted stringers and use dichroic glass, murrini and metal inclusions.

Course Description

Improve the quality and appearance of your beads, extend the variety of the beads you can make and explore some new techniques.

You will be shown how to adjust the size of dots, as well as how to place them in a more regular fashion. You will improve cylindrical shapes and explore shaping longer beads, together with using presses to help shape your beads. You will be shown different methods of encasing and gain an understanding of how the glass responds to the heat.

You will be incorporating various elements and techniques, such as floral decorations and complex twisties under encasing, as well as the possibilities of using dichroic glass and metal inclusions. This will lead to a wider range of bead styles opening up as your skills base is widened. You can then choose which additional techniques you wish to pursue from the many further possibilities.

By the end of the course, you will have gained confidence in your ability to make beads of a more consistent nature, explored new techniques and made many different beads to use in your own unique jewellery.

Techniques covered:

• Dots – even placement, even size

• Floral decorations using dots

• Improving encasing skills

• Encasing larger beads

• Stringers as a tool

• Cylinders – improving ends and shape

• Tips and tricks for stringer designs (optional)

• Twisted stringers, three or more colours, latticini (optional)

• Metal inclusions (optional)

• Using dichroic glass (optional)

• Using murrini (optional)

• Using press tools (optional)

• Hollow beads (optional)

There will also be time for any other items requested by individual students, and time to pursue your own ideas.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • General materials and glass used by the group as a whole

What students need to bring

  • Comfortable natural fibre clothing, e.g. cotton, or bring something cotton to cover clothes and arms. An apron or old cotton shirt can help protect against burning little holes.
  • Please wear closed shoes, no bare feet or flip flops.
  • Please bring something to tie or clip back long hair.
  • Reading glasses if you need them
  • A notepad and pen
  • 1 glass jam jar
  • Flame-worker's didymium or AUR-92 tinted glass safety glasses if already owned – glasses supplied by West Dean are available to use.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of general art and craft materials

Additional information

Please note: finished work will be fired overnight and the final pieces will be held until they can be collected by you. Pieces from the last firing can be posted or can be collected later the following afternoon. Your work will be kept for collection for six months. If you wish to have your work posted it will be done by recorded delivery at your own risk. Please ensure that your contact details are up to date as we will post to the address that we have on our system. Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no open toes or sandals).


Sarah Downton

Sarah started making glass beads in 2002 and teaching beadmaking in 2006. She sells at bead and art fairs, is a City and Guilds qualified teacher and four times judge of the British Bead Awards.
She is a member of the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen (where she sells her work), Glass Beadmakers UK and the International Society of Glass Beadmakers.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.