Kristen Frantzen Orr

Kristen’s handmade glass beads blend her love of nature with her background as a watercolor artist. A single bead can take hours to make, as she draws and sculpts with molten glass over the flame of an oxygen-propane torch. To add detail to her work, she makes special canes from multiple colors of glass, and by combining these component parts with layers of transparent colors, she creates depth and captures an exciting play of light.
After the beads have been annealed in a kiln to remove any internal stress, Kristen blends them into unique jewelry designs. This process, she says, is like framing a painting, giving the beads a beautiful setting as wearable art.
For some of her jewelry pieces, she crochets spheres of fine silver, copper or niobium wire. By stringing tiny seed beads onto the wire, she creates beaded-crocheted wire beads that resemble granulated gold.
Kristen’s work is in collections throughout the U.S., and in Japan, England, South Africa and Australia. Her work has been published in the books Making Glass Beads, by Cindy Jenkins; Bead Art, by Alice Korach; and The Society of Glass Beadmakers Exhibition Catalog from the Contemporary Glass Bead and Jewelry Show at the Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY; and in the magazines Lapidary Journal, Ornament, Beadwork and GLASS.
Kristen has a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno. She worked for several newspapers before deciding she “wanted out of the rat race.” She painted in watercolors for a number of years, and enjoyed a successful solo exhibit of her work at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko. After moving to Arizona in 1979, she “took some classes in pottery, stayed with that for a while, and then got hooked on calligraphy.” She was a calligraphy instructor at Mesa Arts Center for eleven years. At that time, she was also doing pencil illustrations of dogs. Her canine illustrations appeared in the American Kennel Club’s Pure-Bred Dogs Gazette magazine, and as covers for two issues of the Corgi Quarterly magazine. She produced notecards and t-shirts with her illustrations of Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and to expand her corgi line to include jewelry, she began taking metals classes. That led to looking for unique beads to use in some of the jewelry, and that in turn led to her pursuit of glass beadmaking.
Kristen says, “I think that with glass, I have finally found the perfect medium! I had a feeling of ‘coming home’ when I discovered I could use watercolor techniques of layering transparent colors to create depth and draw the viewer into my pieces. Making beads from molten glass gives me an opportunity to capture light and reflect it. When I am working at the torch, I become centered and my mind switches over to a quiet place where I can express feelings that are too deep for words. Beads are personal and intimate, both for me as an artist, and for the person who wears them.”

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