Saturday, April 17, 2010

Inspired Beader: Ema Kilroy

Blue Butterfly Lampwork Bead by Ema K Designs

How many times have you had an amazing idea for a piece of beadwork, and had no idea where to get the focal bead necessary to create it? It happens to all of us from time to time, which is why the handmade marketplace is such a great tool for designers. Artists that create beads provide us with so many inspirations that the big manufacturers just can’t deliver.

Ema Kilroy’s lampwork beads are the perfect cure for beader’s block. Each one is a work of art, just crying out to be balanced with the right accents. I stumbled across her shop, Ema K Designs, while on the hunt for fun spring inspirations, and was not disappointed!

Inspirational Beading: How did you become interested in bead making?

Heart Lampwork Bead by Ema K Designs

Ema: I began making glass beads when my youngest child began school full time. I had been making jewelry for a number of years and decided it was time for me to explore a new direction in my work. My starting point was hearts. I have always loved to use hearts in my jewelry but I had trouble finding hearts which fulfilled the jewelry designs I wanted to create. I decided that if I took lampworking classes I could make my own hearts. What a wonderful adventure lampworking has become for me. I had no idea it would lead me in this direction and to all the wonderful people I have come to know.

Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite source for inspiration?

Ema: My inspiration can come from anywhere. I have a background in quilting. During a conversation with one of my quilting friends she made a matter of fact comment as to how she can look anywhere and be inspired to create a quilt. At that moment it occurred to me that this did not hold true for me and although I enjoyed quilting I knew I had not found my passion.

Sunset Tree of Life Lampwork Bead by Ema K Designs

I can now say I fully understand my friend's matter of fact comment. I can literally find inspiration for beads everywhere I look; a magazine, a printed advertisement, a TV show, quilt fabric, nature is a never ending source of inspiration, and the list can go on and on. I have found my passion.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite color to use?

Ema: My favorite color is blue. It has been since I was a little girl. I have to stop myself from using blue all the time but generally I create beads by going with my own flow, unless it is a custom order.

Inspirational Beading: If you could master any new technique, what would it be?

Green Swirled Lampwork Bead by Ema K Designs

Ema: I am working on creating a smoothness and flow within my beads. I currently use a soft glass referred to as soda lime glass. I think in order to generate the smoothness I am trying to achieve I may have to try a different type of glass, boroscillate. I have never used this type of glass but would love to give it a try.

Hot glass is unlike other art mediums, such as paint - it reacts differently than we are used to seeing. You can't just combine yellow and blue to make green, well not always anyway. Glass is a different medium and various types of glass, when combined together, can react in ways that are not always predictable. This can also be a very exciting part of the lampworking process.

Inspirational Beading: Who do you hope to inspire with your work?

Ema: First and foremost I hope to inspire jewelry designers. When I create a bead I often see how it will accent a finished jewelry piece. I don't always have time to create the finished jewelry but I hope other jewelry designers will find similar inspiration from my beads.

Monarch Butterfly Lampwork Bead by Ema K Designs

I also hope to inspire children, especially girls. I think the process of lampworking is really cool. I work with a torch, propane, oxygen, a 1200 degree flame and hot molten glass. I can do anything I want to do. I want girls to know they can too.

Ema Kilroy is a glass artist living in Central Massachusetts with her husband, three boys and her favorite female companion, her dog. Ema began lampworking in 2005, taking classes with Liliana Glenn at Worcester Center for Crafts. After learning the basics and setting up her custom workshop, Ema began developing her own style and designs as a self-taught beadmaker. For 2010, Ema has been working on fun Spring themed butterfly beads and some especially popular OM beads.

Green Tree of Life Lampwork Bead by Ema K Designs

Ema sells her work in the form of beads and finished jewelry. She can be found at local craft fairs in and around Massachusetts, a schedule of which is available on her website, Additionally, Ema's pieces can be purchased online from her Etsy shop, Ema K Designs, and followers can become a fan on her Facebook page. Ema belongs to the International Society of Glass Beadmakers (ISGB), and is an Associate member of Rollstone Studios in Fitchburg, MA. She also participates in an online community of glass bead artists who strive to support each other in the development and marketing of their art: The Fire Divas.

Copyright 2010 Inspirational Beading and Ema Kilroy


  1. Very nice beads. I especially like the tree.

  2. I LOVE Ema's beads! Her tree beads are amazing and the butterflies are perfect for this time of year. Wearable works of art on a glass canvas - gorgeous!

  3. really nice to read about EMA who is a friend IRL! Her work is lovely and immediately recognizable, which is the mark of an inspired artist....


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