Red Chair Gallery Presents Larissa Spafford ~ Jeweler

((Left) Implosion beads by Larissa Spafford (Right) Larissa Spafford in her studio | Photo courtesy of Red Chair Gallery)

Larissa Spafford has been making glass beads for more than two decades. During that time, she has experimented with many different techniques for forming vividly colored torch-made beads, yet she still is learning new methods to keep her work fresh. Her jewelry is showcased at Red Chair Gallery in February.

Her latest creations are made with the implosion technique which involves heating the glass in the torch flame “enough to flow just right and then cooling it off at the perfect moment so the design crystallizes before it’s ruined.” she explains. These beads invite you to look deep inside to see little wavelets or flames of color that almost seems to be moving. Over the years, Larissa has perfected many different types of beads and names each series after the movement or element of nature they resemble: water droplets, flowers, icicles, rainbows, sunsets or swirls. “I name them after whatever comes to mind as I’m making them,” she says, “but I especially love finding names from nature or gardening.”

But it’s not just beads that she makes. She augments her striking beads with other elements that she fashions from precious metal clay. This material combines sterling silver particles with an organic malleable non-toxic binder and water. It can be rolled flat, shaped, molded and textured. Once formed, it is fired, which burns off the organic material and leaves solid metal. Larissa fashions precious silver clay into bead caps, bezels, rings, bails, and leaves and then combines them with her beads to make finished jewelry.

Born in Southern California, Larissa and her family moved to Port Townsend, Washington when she was 11. She married her high school sweetheart, Robbie, and he bought her a bead making torch for their first Christmas together. She began learning to make beads, working out of a studio in her mom’s garage.

Soon thereafter, the Spaffords acquired their first house through Habitat for Humanity. To qualify for the house, the couple had to put in 500 hours of sweat equity. Since Robbie had a full-time job, Larissa did most of the sweat equity work, including painting, roofing and sanding dry wall. After the house was finished and they moved in, they built a studio there and she immersed herself in her craft. (Always appreciative of the opportunity to own a house, she has been donating three percent of her gross income to Habitat for Humanity in Bend for several years.)

During their time in Port Townsend, the couple became avid snowboarders, traveling to Stevens Pass on winter weekends. They decided they wanted to move closer to good snow and began looking at mountain towns in the Northwest, eventually picking Bend. They moved here with their two sons in 2009 and Robbie began working at Mt. Bachelor, where he is now assistant director of the ski patrol.

Besides being a member artist at Red Chair, Larissa sells her jewelry on Etsy and through her own website, If you want to see how beads are made in a torch or watch Larissa fashion shapes out of precious metal clay, check out the videos on her website.

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