I picked raspberries as a child and even now I have a few canes in my yard, although the birds get all the fruit they produce. Thanks to our wonderful grocery stores I enjoy eating fresh raspberries almost daily, year-round. I think they are lovely to look at and to touch and would enjoy using them, along with apples and other fruit, as a beautiful display for my dining table. Alas, that can’t be done because the raspberries become moldy within hours at room temperature. It was my desire to have non-molding raspberries to enjoy as a display on my table that caused me, about ten years ago, to try making some in glass.
So far as I can tell nobody else then made (or does now, for that matter) realistic raspberries from glass. I had to discover how to make them on my own. It took me more than fifty attempts using many different techniques to make a glass raspberry that approached a real one in shape. The first raspberries I made from glass were red. This particular color of red glass has a property referred to as “Striking”. This means that the tone may be a light pink, a deep raspberry red or anything in between, depending on how hot and how long the glass is heated and cooled. It took another fifty attempts for me to gain some real control over the color. Now I use this selective heating and cooling process to make some of the red raspberries lighter in color than others and to vary the color of the cells (drupelets) on a single raspberry.
Finally I needed to address the surface texture. Natural raspberries do not have a shiny, glasslike surface. I make sure my glass raspberries have a matte surface just like real raspberries do. When the glass raspberries are handled, the natural oils from your skin enhance this soft sheen.
After I had discovered how to make the hollow raspberry shape, I noticed that I could deliberately enlarge the spacing between some of the cells. I made three raspberries with the holes strategically placed, and then threaded them on fine beading wire to make my first necklace. When I wore it strangers actually stopped me on the street - they wanted to know how I kept the raspberries from staining my blouse! I wore that necklace to a flameworking seminar taught by world-famous glass artist Loren Stump. When Loren bought the necklace as a gift for his wife I knew that the raspberries were convincing and that others besides me would enjoy wearing them. And so the glass raspberries became original inspiration for my whole line of glass berry jewelry.
Since then I have perfected the method for placing the bead holes up through the bottom of the raspberry cup. This vertical hole arrangement works best for hanging the berry from a head pin as you would do in making earrings. Recently I have also developed a method for making a solid raspberry with a copper wire stem embedded in the center. This produces a glass raspberry bead that is very strong and does not have any metal fasteners showing at the bottom so it is more realistic in appearance. I now use these in many of my jewelry designs.
Over the last ten years I have made many raspberries from glass. Since each is made by hand one cell at a time from glass rods, no two are ever exactly the same size, shape or color.
Several years ago it occurred to me that golden and purple raspberry varieties would be a lovely addition to my work. Little did I know how difficult that would be! At the present time, lampworking glass is not available in the specific shades of yellow, golden and apricot that one finds in golden raspberry cultivars. In addition the glass must be translucent but not fully transparent. I have spent weeks and weeks mixing together combinations of two, three and four commercially available glass colors in order to try to produce the right tones and transparency.
Through literally hundreds of attempts, I have managed to discover a proportional mix of three other glass colors that can mimic golden raspberry varieties. Because it includes two Striking types of glass, the final color of this mixture is hugely affected by the amount of heat and length of time used in the original mixing, in the subsequent forming of the raspberries, and even in the length and temperature of the annealing cycle. As a result, individual cells of the raspberries can be any tone from pale yellow to amber with plenty of pale pinks and apricots thrown in. I used the same three glass colors and the exact same mixing formula and method to produce all the raspberries you see below.
Unfortunately the digital photo process has replaced many of the pink and apricot tones of the real sculptures with colors that look more orange. But the photo should at least allow you to see the enormous variety of tones that can be produced from this one glass mixture. Some of these raspberries mimic the pale, cool yellow of the cultivar called “Anne”. Others look much more like a multicolored yellow raspberry cultivar called “Valentina”. A few resemble the most common variety “Fall Gold”.
Ongoing experiments are focusing on the purple and black raspberry varieties.
I make and sell several kinds of glass raspberry jewelry which can be seen on this page and beads which can be found on the Raspberry Beads page. If you would like to have a unique piece of glass raspberry jewelry designed especially for you, I would enjoy doing so. The Custom Jewelry page shows a few examples of what is possible. Please contact me by email or telephone as shown on the Ordering and Contact page so we can discuss your ideas.
Elizabeth Johnson Art Glass, LLC