Just recently I had a student who had arrived for her studio rental with a package just purchased from Annie Rose. The package included enamel powders and mica powder aka pixie dust. I remember when I first started beading I bought a huge tub of pixie dust, I couldn’t wait to use it and no-one appeared to know what it did.
I made a round bead (well I was a beginner so maybe not too round) squished it into the graphite paddle swathed in this magical sparkling powder stuck it back in the flame to regain the shape I lost in my eagerness.
When the bead came out there was a murky brown cosmic smear and I was bitterly disappointed. In true beginner fashion I researched pixie dust on lampwork etc and found that most people had issues with it and many did not get the required result. The tub got placed on my bookshelf in the too hard corner and in two years I have never revisited it.
Now two years on my student has reignited the interest, out came the tub, dusted and cleaned ready for a second run.
Here’s what I found. In researching pixie dust I have discovered it is a form of mica powder and is sometimes referred to as such. Mica is a mineral that is mined and used in various industries. Sometimes it is actually used as a replacement to glass (huh?) yup they use mica sheets in greenhouses instead of glass as it has unique heat resistant properties. Without being an amateur scientist Mica is for all intents and purposes a fire retardant material. And in this statement lies the trick to working with pixie dust.
NB: Please refer to the information on safety before proceeding with these two products
First prepare the vessel in which you will be holding your pixie dust. I say this because if you are using a round bead and want the whole bead covered you need a deep rounded mould shape in which to hold the pixie dust. This is such that you can roll the whole bead in dust as opposed to rolling it over a surface. This will ensure you get the pixie dust all the way to the edge of the mandrel.
I used various vessels: shot glass to coat the whole bead when made at the end of the mandrel, a square shaped small bowl for bicones, a tea strainer for odd shaped beads, and a teaspoon for any shape where you wish the dust to coat the mandrel ends of the beads.
If you are creating a tube, square or flat surface bead then you would have your pixie dust laid out on a flat surface which you can then pick up on the flattened surfaces of your shaped bead.
Assuming you want an avant garde shaped bead it might pay to have your pixie dust in a container that allows you to sift or sprinkle the dust over your bead (important to have a catchment material such as paper or a large bowl under your bead so you can catch the excess pixie dust.
As a fire retardent you need to be sure that the bead is solid i.e. can hold it’s shape when you apply the pixie dust, but quickly flash your bead in the flame so the surface is molten or else the pixie dust won’t adhere.
When you have applied the pixie dust lightly tap your mandrel with a tool to ensure excess dust is removed from the surface of the bead. Excess dust that is not adhered to the bead will affect encasing as the encasing will adhere to the excess dust and not the bead leaving you with a bead that will crack between the excess dust and the encasing.
Once you have removed the excess dust, put your bead at the very back of your flame and slowly turn it, do not overheat it at this point, that results in the murky effect. Simply keep your bead out back and slowly work it until the bead gains a light glow. It is at this point you can either kiln your bead or you can encase it. Encasing the dust will protect it from further heating so you can marver, melt and decorate at will.