Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist

I have always loved glass. It’s just a magical material. Brittle or malleable, clear or colorful, it is described as a “supercooled liquid,” neither solid nor liquid, but having properties of both. I started in stained glass in the ’90’s and got into lampwork bead making around 2000. 

I first heard about Beads of Courage about a dozen years ago. Soda Lime Times, a wonderful lampworking tutorial magazine, did a whole issue on beads for donation. Beads for the program have to meet certain criteria – no sharp edges, no fragile easily broken bits, no metallic surface decorations that might lay against sensitive skin. There were so many adorable designs! I’ve donated a few times since then, but sadly my creative side has been a bit absent in this stressful year.

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist, Beads of Courage

Beads of Courage is such an amazing concept. It supports kids and teens during their struggle, marks milestones and gives them a little something to make them smile. When the ISGB (International Society of Glass Beadmakers) posted that their September creativity challenge was partnered with Beads of Courage and that the theme was “Stronger Together.” boxing gloves instantly popped into my head. They are the perfect shape, and a great symbol for kids who are, quite literally, fighting for their lives.

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist, Beads of Courage

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist, Beads of Courage

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist, Beads of Courage

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist, Beads of Courage

Like most ideas, it took a couple of tries to get a prototype I was happy with. The first test batch came out okay, but unfortunately there was a kiln error and they all cooled too quickly and cracked. The second batch turned out better, but I had been trying to re-create contrasting edging on the cuff and just wasn’t thrilled with the result. For the third batch, I just let the colors speak for themselves and couldn’t be happier with how they turned out.

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist, Beads of Courage

This year has been topsy-turvy for sure, and to be dealing with illness on top of the craziness has got to be an incredible challenge for these kids and their families. When I’m not making things, I’m a nurse in surgery. I knew before I went into nursing that working with kids was not for me, and I’m so grateful that there are nurses, doctors and caregivers that rise up to that call. I’m sure the medical teams are just as appreciative of the Beads of Courage program as the kids. I feel quite fortunate to be able to use my creative side to maybe brighten someone’s day.


Thank you ISGB and Beads of Courage for reminding me that helping others is the best way to stay sane, and for giving me the opportunity to share my love of glass with others. The first dozen beads have been sent off, but I’m having such fun making them that there are another 30 waiting to be cleaned to follow them, and I’m looking forward to making many more. 


– Karen Carlson, Beads of Courage supporting bead artist

1,000 Cranes Glass on Instagram


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Note from BOC: From June through September, we are shining a spotlight on four amazing communities of volunteer artists and crafters who support our mission year-round with their beautiful donated goods. The handcrafted beads, bags and bowls they donate strengthen our arts-in-medicine mission and bring beauty to the bedside of kids coping with serious illness. The beads shown in this post were donated to Beads of Courage and will be distributed to our member hospitals and programs as Act of Courage beads.

YOU can help with a monetary gift to the Summer of ART fundraising campaign. Be a rock star! Donate $50 or more and receive this awesome TIE DYE T-shirt as our exclusive thank-you gift just for Summer of ART supporters! PEACE. LOVE. ART.

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post – Karen Carlson, Bead Artist, Beads of Courage