Brief Biography: Tim James

Tim James

Tim James is a glass bead maker and instructor. Originally from the US, Tim and his family moved to Italy in 2001, where he learned the ancient art of glass bead making.

In 2002, while living in Lucca, Italy, he began making glass beads after a course taken in a small village in Umbria. He had no idea at the time that it would go on to become his career and change his life forever.

~ Glass Bead Making Since: 2002

~ Client List Includes:

  • Chanel
  • Ferragamo
  • Escada

~ Teaching Since: 2005

“The last real “career” I had before leaving the United States was as the owner of a coffee house in Seattle, Washington. Cafes, though, Italy had in abundance.

Moving to the ancient Tuscan town of Lucca, Italy presented many obstacles, not the least of which was how to make a living. When my wife Lily suggested a lampworking (glass bead making) course offered in a tiny village in Umbria, I thought “why not?”. If nothing else it would be an experience.

As unlikely as it seemed, that “experience” become my next career path. I spent the next 2 years honing my craft, my beads going from just plain bad to a bit better and then better still.

During that period we’d opened a bead store in Lucca (Lily had had 2 bead stores in Seattle when we met, which we transferred to Tucson, Arizona prior to throwing caution to the wind and moving to Italy. We are the new gypsies!). My primary bead making client, and muse, was Lily. My goal each day was to surprise her with an ever-evolving array of beads. That, in turn, inspired her to create in new and different ways. Together we became a start-to-finish jewelry design team.

In 2005 we transferred our lives and business to Florence. In that same year I received a commission from Chanel of France to create thousands of hollow core beads for their jewelry line introduced in spring 2006. To say that we were overwhelmed would be an understatement.

Hollow core beads require the bead maker to work with glass in a different way, creating a cavity at the core which traps air, and that air, during the melt process, will heat and puff up the glass, giving it a natural, beautiful form.

I found through trial and error that this way of working with glass, using gravity and very specific parts of the flame, allowed me to consistently create naturally balanced and centered beads. My foundation was true, and therefore my designs were also consistent. And as a bonus, this process also makes for beautiful little dimples at the bead hole, which, as designers know, makes for a more beautiful finished piece.

From the Chanel order forward I began using those same techniques learned for hollow core bead making in ALL the beads that I make, because the same rules apply across the board. That order literally changed the course of my career.”

Tim and Lily now live in the Tuscan town of Camaiore, Italy.

Teaching Style

I am proud of my effective, no-pressure teaching style. I’m aware that we all arrive at the torch with various strengths and weaknesses, and while learning to make glass beads is challenging, I’ve never had a student who wasn’t able to learn, or in fact excel.

My goal when working with a student is two-fold: To impart information in such a way so as to give students a strong foundation on which to build the rest of their bead making career, and to celebrate the learning process itself. Working with glass is endlessly fascinating and fun!

Shop dog and constant companion Siesta

Whether your goal is to be a professional or hobbyist, it’s not how fast you learn but how well you learn that makes the difference.