with Ann Scherm Baldwin
Skill Level Guidelines

A beadmaker's skill level is usually a combination several factors, the most important of which is usually time spent at the torch. Artistic ability, fine motor skills and eye / hand coordination play a role also, but you just can't beat experience for pushing your beadmaking skills to new levels.

When we talk about skill levels, it is not a judgement on a beadmaker's abilities, but rather on their skill level right now, at this point in time. Skill levels are dynamic, ever changing, not static.

Skill level is also not about how many different "techniques" you have mastered. Understanding how to make a hollow bead or a murinne cane does not guarantee that you will be doing them well, with ease and precision.

Looking at it from the other side, a beadmaker could be making very technically precise beads, but they may not be particularly outstanding, due to lack of artistic ability, originality, or poor color sense. Those things are harder to learn and develop. Skill is nothing more than a progression of the understanding of and experience with hot glass, and the longer you're at it, the better your skill will be, regardless of your artistic abilities.

That said, unless you're completely new to beadmaking, classes listed for certain skill levels can be confusing. There is no commonly agreed upon set of skills that an advanced beginner, intermediate or advanced beadmaker should have. What "intermediate" means to you might not be what I mean when I say a class is for someone at the intermediate level. So, I have created a set of guidelines for what I consider the various levels of beadmaking.

These are guidelines only, (and only my opinion, of course...) because people develop skills at different rates, and in different areas. Sometimes a beadmaker might be very good with stringer control, and still not be able to get a balanced bead with even puckers on the ends. These guidelines are based on the usual progression of skills that I have observed in teaching for several years, but not everyone will fit a skill level exactly. That's okay - I offer these skill level definitions simply as guidelines to help students to choose the most appropriate classes that I teach for the skills they have already mastered, and the skills that they still want and need to work on.

Advanced Beginner
Basic Knowledge and Understanding
of Beadmaking
Information from internet, books and videos

Understanding of SAFETY issues, the annealing process, COE, and glass characteristics such as strain point, stress, viscosity and thermal conductivity.

Same as Adv. Beginner, but glass characteristics and properties have been internalized, and some basic skills in working with hot glass are becoming instinctive.

You are developing an understanding of heat base, precise stringer control, and use of gravity and simple tools for shaping hot glass.

Same as Intermediate, but long term experience with glass has developed your instincts and skills with hot glass.

Your knowledge of beadmaking has probably been expanded and enhanced by taking classes with other beadmakers.

Most likely, you have begun to develop a distinct personal style in your beadmaking.
Experience making beads
May have taken short course (intro) in beadmaking, or may not have ever made beads before
May have taken class in beginning beadmaking (or self-taught) and usually at least 6 mo. - 1 yr. experience in making beads on a regular basis.
Usually 1 - 4 years of experience making beads on a regular basis.
Usually more than 3 - 4 years making beads on a regular basis.
Skills you already have
Probably few or none
  • Able to wind glass evenly around the mandrel for a balanced bead.
  • Able to get and maintain good "puckers" (or, indentations) or evenly flat ends near bead hole.
  • Able to pull stringer of a useable thickness.
  • Able to put dots / designs on bead with control over placement and consistency of size.
  • Able to encase a bead.
Same as Adv. Beginner, but also:
  • Able to make balanced bicones, lentils, and 3D shapes using gravity and marver (not bead presses)
  • Able to control the heat level in the bead to allow for shaping and decoration.
  • Able to make fairly detailed and precise raised patterns and designs with stringer.
  • Able to encase with few or no air bubbles.
  • Able to duplicate a complex bead design over again.
Same as Intermediate, but also:
  • Skills have become more and more refined.
  • Very precise control of the hot glass.
Skills you may have problems with
  • Laying glass evenly on the mandrel
  • pulling stringers
  • getting bead to look balanced
  • nice puckered ends
  • putting dots where you want them to go.
  • Making balanced and consistent 3D shapes, such as bicones, hearts, etc.
  • Understanding how hot your bead should be when you are working on it.
  • Not burning / boiling the glass.
  • Pulling consistent and even twisties and latticcino cane.
  • Encasing a bead without extra air bubbles.
  • Using stringer to make even and consistent patterns / designs on the bead.

  • Skills are becoming, but aren't quite, second nature to you yet.
  • You are still having to think about how to achieve shape, balance, color, reactions you want.
  • Different beadmakers will have gaps in different skill areas, based on natural abilities.
Will vary by beadmaker, based on natural abilities
Skills you want to work on


  • Understanding heat control
  • Getting better at achieving consistent and even shapes.
  • Developing more precise and detailed stringer control.
  • Ability to make the same bead over again, rather than relying on "happy accidents" all the time.
  • Developing precision and ease of working with the glass
  • Being able to translate the vision in your head to the glass on your mandrel
Same as intermediate, only more so....
Bead Examples:
coming soon
coming soon
coming soon
coming soon

About taking a class that you are not quite ready for....
Some people think that even if a student doesn't have the necessary skills to get the most benefit from a class that is more advanced than their current skill level, they could still learn techniques and information in that class that they will be able to use later on.

While that is true, unfortunately, it isn't safe, and it isn't fair, to have students without the necessary skills in an intermediate or advanced level class. It isn't safe, because the instructor will not be prepared to give the less experienced student the attention and supervision necessary, and that puts both that student, as well as the students sitting nearby, at a greater risk of getting hurt.

It isn't fair, because someone without the basic skills or experience for a class can slow the class down, taking the instructor's time and attention away from teaching the curriculum that other students are taking the class to learn. If you have questions about your skill level and one of my classes that you want to take, please email me to discuss it, before signing up for that class.